Wrong exit, p.10
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       Wrong Exit, p.10

           Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan
 
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  Drake gave a long slow whistle. “I don’t know what you stumbled onto but my guys will need these cars.”

  Nick gave him the address and said, “CSU is here right now going over two other cars for me. I’ll have them start on your cars as soon as they finish.”

  “Are your drivers missing, too?”

  “One missing and three in body bags. Did you hear about this morning’s find at the brewery?”

  “Hell yes! These cars are connected to that mess?”

  “Looks like it. I’ll keep you posted.”

  Jen walked over to Nick. He was leaning against the car owned by Nadine Anderson. His phone signaled that Joy had just sent a message to his laptop.

  “This whole row of cars belongs to open missing person cases. Joy just sent the GPS histories to my laptop. Maybe we can catch a break.”

  Jen and Nick walked back to their unit and opened the laptop. Nick read off the GPS map locations for each car’s last two trips while Jen took notes. Each of the cars had eventually taken Exit 141 off 94. Each of the car’s last trips went from Exit 141 to the parking lot they were standing in.

  Jen looked up from her notes and said, “Looks like we’re going to Exit 141.”

  ******

  J.T. Barrimore dialed Derrick’s number.

  Derrick picked up on the first ring. He had just left Heather’s apartment. “Yes?”

  J.T. said, “I’ve decided to buy your program Doc but the price is now one million, not three.”

  Derrick’s voice pitch raised. “Why? We had a deal!”

  J.T. answered, “Yes, but your program failed. I’m sure you didn’t instruct Ms. Bronson to shoot a painting. Obviously, I’m going to have to invest in eliminating these bugs from the program.”

  Derrick cringed. How did J.T. find out about that?

  J. T. continued, “I want your bank wiring instructions now and I will send $500,000.00 immediately. My associate will be calling you within the hour. His name is Matt. You are to send him everything he requests on this program in addition to instructing him on the required sequences. Once he has received all of the data he will run a test program and clear you for the remainder of your payment. Do you understand?”

  Derrick had no choice but to accept J.T.’s terms. Heather’s surgery would cost him $500,00.00 but he had wanted the rest to replenish his own savings. He tried one last effort to negotiate. “The Mandarin program alone is worth a million!”

  J.T. laughed, “Why in the hell would I want that program? I am only interested in the ‘parasite’ program. You can keep your Mandarin host. I’ll expect you to call back in thirty minutes with your banking information. Are we doing business, Dr. Sanford?”

  “Yes.”

  Derrick thought about Peter Jarvis having already received the message to kill the mayor. He didn’t need to do that now. Oh well, it would be nice to see his program succeed in at least one assignment. Peter getting killed or going to jail would just be one less stock broker in Chicago.

  J.T. dialed his Indianapolis office, asked for Matt, and explained what he wanted Matt to get from Derrick.

  J.T. smiled as he used his tablet computer to access the file of secured banking ID’s he had accumulated on the ‘family’ members. There were many benefits to being the security vendor for the family. One very important one was full access. He went to bank accounts, found Lucas Costellano and wired one million dollars to Lucas’ account from his own offshore account. As soon as Derrick called with his banking information he would send $500,000.00 to Derrick’s account from Lucas. After Derrick completed the downloads to Matt he would send the remaining $500,000.00. When Lucas called the feds to leave a tip about Derrick’s program he would be turning in himself.

  ******

  Derrick screeched into his office parking garage space. He was so excited that he started to exit the car with his keys still in the ignition and the motor running. He had to hurry. His banking information was in his desk drawer and he only had ten minutes left.

  The elevator seemed to crawl to the third floor. When it finally opened, Derrick could see that Jason was still working at his desk. Why was he still there, it was after five?

  Derrick walked past Jason and closed his office door behind him as he shuffled through his center desk drawer looking for the envelope that held his banking information. He found it and dialed J.T.’s number. Within minutes he had received a confirmation email from his bank that the money had been received. Derrick took a deep breath and dialed Lucas.

  Jason watched Derrick’s closed door in his peripheral vision while the last of the ‘parasite’ program downloaded. He only needed about five more minutes to upload the videos. He had to stall Derrick. He walked over to Derrick’s closed door and opened it in time to hear Derrick tell someone on the phone “Yes. I have the money. I need you to schedule Heather’s surgery for as soon as possible.”

  Derrick frowned at Jason, and signaled with his hand for Jason to leave.

  Jason made an apologetic gesture and backed out of the room mumbling, “Sorry, sorry.”

  So that’s it. It was all to get money for Heather’s surgery. It seemed that Derrick had already sold the program to someone. He was too late. Jason slumped at his desk and watched the last of the video transfers upload to his device. Then it hit him. Who says there can only be one buyer?

  ******

  Nick and Jen took Exit 141 off from 94 and parked on the shoulder of the exit near the stop sign. Nick shut off the ignition and looked around. “Let’s try to get a feel for this.”

  Jen stepped out of the car. “I don’t see anything special, do you?”

  The exit ended at a four way stop in an impoverished neighborhood. The logical choice a driver would make would be to follow the main street straight ahead. Each of the cross street directions seemed to quickly disintegrate into residential blight.

  An elderly woman wearing a wide brimmed straw hat was tending a small flower garden on the corner. She shuffled toward them using her garden hoe as a cane and spouting high pitched cursing.

  Jen guessed the woman to be about 5’3” if standing straight, and about 4’9” the way she was currently bent. The woman got right up to them and waved her free arm while she caught her breath. She leaned heavily on her hoe and her beady eyes bounced back and forth between Jen and Nick.

  “I’ve had it with your people!” The old woman tried to straighten up as she pointed to her house and yard. “It’s bad enough you make them guys screw with traffic for no damn good reason, but you gotta drive across my flower bed every time, too!” The absence of dentures made it appear that the top of her chin touched the end of her nose when she talked.

  Nick put his hands up defensively as he showed her his badge. “Ma’am, we are police detectives. I can assure you we haven’t driven over your flower beds. You said someone has been messing with traffic here?”

  The old woman had raised her chin and squinted at Nick from under her hat brim. Suddenly her face widened with a big toothless smile. “Ooooh baby! Ain’t you just the pretty boy now? I thought you were here checkin’ up on those street workers. You look like a city boss in that suit.”

  Jen stifled a laugh.

  Nick smiled, “Ma’am, this is important. Has someone been interfering with traffic here?”

  “Pert near every other week. Sometimes more. They stand out here with their big signs wearing them bright orange city worker jackets and stop people from driving straight through. Half the dim wits drive over my flower bed tryin’ to get around that big van of theirs.”

  Nick and Jen glanced at each other. Nick asked, “What color is the van they drive?”

  “Grey. Maybe dirty white.” The old woman shook her head. “Never seen ‘em do a lick of work. They just stand here in the middle of the road and make people drive off to the side. Stupid. No wonder Chicago’s never done with road work.”

  Jen asked, “When’s the last time you saw them here?”

  The old woman to
ok off her hat exposing a few clumps of long, thin white hair. “This mornin’. Not here long today…just long enough to ruin my flowers.”

  Nick asked, “Which way do they go when they leave here?”

  The old lady pointed to the right. “They go that a way. Ain’t nothin’ down there but ruins. They call it a detour on their sign.” She made a tsk, tsk sound and added, “Most cars they make turn left which makes a big circle back to the main road a few blocks south. But every now and then they send a car off to the right and then they pack up their signs and leave. Dumbest thing you ever did see. That’s what our tax money does.”

  Nick asked, “What makes you think they work for the city?”

  “The orange jackets! Plus, they got all them big highway signs and that big van. Who else would it be?”

  Nick and Jen thanked her for her information and drove down the side street to the right. Two blocks from the intersection and they were already noticing the rough condition of the pavement and the overgrown vacant lots.

  Jen said, “This is a perfect place for a carjacking.”

  Nick stopped the car, put it in park and opened his door. “I think we just got lucky.”

  He walked a wide circle around the shoulder of the street and pointed to a muddy driveway of a vacant house. Jen had joined him and said, “Looks like a lot of tire and footprints here on the side.”

  Nick walked over to a clump of tall grass and reached down. “I thought I saw something…here.” He stood, a mud encrusted cell phone in his hand. He touched a couple of buttons. “Sharon Perez.”

  Jen could read Nick’s expression loud and clear. Now there was no doubt. Sharon Perez had been kidnapped by organ snatchers. Jen dialed Central Control and requested CSU staff to report to their location immediately. She crouched down and studied the footprints in the mud and pointed for Nick to see. “Drag marks that end at the street.”

  Nick nodded, “Three sets of shoeprints plus the drag marks.”

  Jen exhaled, “They’re a team.”

  Nick started thinking out loud. “They kidnap her here and throw her in the back of the van. They drive her car over to dump it and then head for the brewery to lock her up until they’re ready for her.”

  Jen interrupted, “Except today there were cops at the brewery.”

  Nick said, “They saw the cops, backed out of the alley and freaked out when Kevin started to follow them.”

  Jen and Nick said at the same time, “Sharon was in the back of that van.”

  ******

  Lucas Costellano’s cell phone messaged he had an email. He glanced at his screen and saw that Dr. Sanford’s payment of $500,000.00 had been deposited to his account. After paying Tony $300,000.00 and the family $100,000.00 it still left him $100.000.00 for his trouble. Not a bad afternoon’s work.

  Lucas dialed Tony. “I have the payment now for the kidney, pancreas transplant patient, Heather Sanford. Do we have a tissue match with your new donor?”

  Tony had been waiting for Lucas to call. All of the medical data was ready. The sooner Tony could get rid of Sharon’s remains, the better. “We have a very good match. Am I free to schedule this?”

  Lucas detected a nervousness in Tony’s voice. “Is there something you need to tell me?”

  Tony froze. If he confessed John’s screw ups to Lucas, there would be consequences. If Lucas already knew and Tony didn’t confess, he was dead.

  Tony answered, “Like what?”

  Lucas waited a moment before answering. “You tell me.”

  Tony’s throat began to tighten. It was entirely possible Lucas had heard about the brewery body bags being found by the cops, or about John shooting at some car. Tony took a deep breath. He had the situation under control. The cops would never trace John’s mistakes back to the hospital.

  Tony chuckled, “Unless you want to hear the boring details of being a hospital administrator, I don’t have anything to tell you.” He hoped his voice sounded confident and relaxed.

  Tony held his breath. Lucas was taking far too long to respond. Shit! He knew. He knew everything and was deciding what to do.

  Tony nearly blurted out a full confession when Lucas said, “Good. We’re all counting on you, Tony.”

  Lucas hung up and Tony nearly puked.

  He sat for a moment and collected his thoughts. He dialed his staff surgeon, Dr. Imus, and scheduled the surgery staff for Heather’s surgery for three p.m. the next day. That meant the donor surgery would begin around noon. Perfect.

  ******

  John was a nervous wreck driving the van back through the streets of Chicago to dump it. Juan and Vince were following him in Vince’s car. As soon as John turned the corner to head for the abandoned Conrail warehouse he saw a sea of cop cars four blocks ahead.

  He grabbed his phone and dialed Vince. “We’ve got cops crawlin’ all over the parking lot! Follow me to Logan’s Muffler on the Westside.”

  John cursed as he sped west at the first corner. He leaned down and grabbed the AK47 from the floorboard and tossed it on the passenger seat. He didn’t know how this was going to end but his gut told him their entire operation was in trouble. Not only did the cops know about the brewery and the bodies…now they had the car. All of the cars.

  He glanced in his rear view mirror and saw Vince’s car behind him. John’s mind raced. If he got stopped in the van what could he say? Tony was going to report the van stolen. Maybe he should just cop to stealing the van. It was better than what he was really guilty of. That guy he shot at for following him from the brewery bothered him. Why had he started to chase the van? What if he was a cop? Was he dead or alive? Could someone else have seen him shoot up that car? Had the cops connected the van to the brewery somehow?

  John’s mind felt as if it was going to explode with questions. He needed Tony’s advice. Tony needed to know the cops had the brewery family car. John looked at his phone and cursed. Tony was going to blame him for everything.

  John’s hand shook as he punched in Tony’s number. He was sick of being yelled at all of the time.

  Tony answered, “I just reported the van stolen. You’ve dumped it, right?”

  John exhaled as he carefully pulled onto another main street to head across town. “Not exactly. There are cops all over our dump spot. That brewery family rental car is there and that chick’s car from this morning. Actually, a handful of our cars are in that lot. I’m heading across town to Logan’s. He can have the van crushed.”

  Tony sat down in his office chair and fought the urge to scream. In all of Chicago there was only one place John could think of to dump cars? It was so stupid. Tony had never even considered warning John not to put all of the cars in the same place.

  It wouldn’t do any good to get John too excited, he would just make more mistakes.

  Tony rubbed his forehead and said, “Just don’t get stopped by the cops.” Then he had a thought. “Look, if you do get stopped just tell them it’s been a mistake. You took the van home and forgot to get permission. My sister would kill me if I got you arrested for auto theft.”

  CHAPTER 12

  Monday 6 p.m., 107th precinct

  Wayne dialed Nick. “Hey, we’ve got all kinds of new trouble here from those three hypnotized people. Any way you can slide back over here?”

  Nick glanced at Jen and mouthed ‘Wayne’. “What kind of trouble?”

  Wayne answered, “I’ll give you the short version. All three of them think they have been hypnotized by watching a Chinese language app on their phones. That artist shot her painting because the ‘program’ told her to shoot the first person that made her mad. Peter just got detailed instructions on how to kill the Mayor.”

  “Emanuel?”

  “The one and only. The Chief is all bunched up with the FBI because the mayor has been mentioned. Agent Phillips is here and wants to talk to you.”

  Nick turned their car to head back to the precinct. “Have you found out who owns the brewery yet? Or anything on those V.I.N.
numbers?”

  “Nothing yet. Sam’s been on it since this morning.”

  Nick hung up and told Jen what was happening at the precinct.

  Jen exhaled loudly, “Great. This was going to be an all-nighter already. Hey, can you pull into that burger joint and go through the drive-up window? I’m starving.”

  “Me too.”

  Nick got their order, took a big bite of his hamburger and eased the car back into traffic. Two vehicles in front of him was a grey van. A small red car closely followed behind. Nick took another bite and let another car get in front of him.

  “Check out what’s in front of us.”

  Jen grabbed a set of binoculars from the glove box. “Any way you can get in the left lane for a minute?”

  Nick eased their car into the left lane.

  Jen said, “Got it!” She tossed the binoculars to her side and wrote down the plate number. “First three letters are a match!’ She entered the full plate number to their unit computer.

  She looked at Nick, “Sunrise Specialty Hospital just reported it stolen.”

  “Those kids told Kevin they had seen that van at the brewery for several months. I don’t think the hospital realizes the van has been connected to the brewery or they wouldn’t have reported it stolen. They’re probably only worried that someone might have identified the van at Kevin’s shooting.”

  Jen said, “That’s assuming the hospital is involved. If their van was stolen, like they reported, then we don’t know who we’re following.”

  Nick shifted lanes for a better look at the occupants of the car and then shifted back to his original lane. “We have a hospital van that has been spotted at the brewery long before today and a dead family that the coroner says was cut by a surgeon. Logically, Sunrise Hospital is involved.”

  Jen dialed Wayne. “Our van was just reported stolen by Sunrise Specialty Hospital. Nick and I are following it now. Find out what you can about this hospital and call me back.”

  Nick let three more cars get in front of them. The van was easy to keep in sight even in the thick traffic. After ten blocks the shopping centers were replaced with light industrial, commercial buildings, and low rent apartment complexes. The traffic thinned out and the red Camry was still following the van.

 
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