Wrong exit, p.14
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       Wrong Exit, p.14

           Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan
 
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  Kevin wondered if Nick’s request to search the hospital had anything to do with Sharon missing.

  Kevin asked, “When did Stryker call?”

  Brian answered, “Just a while ago. I only found out because the judge is ranting about how the hospital saved his wife with a new heart and all.”

  Kevin’s mind flashed a large ‘Bingo’ sign. “They do organ transplants there?”

  “Yeah. It’s their specialty.” Kevin’s heart was pounding; Nick was on to something. Kevin thanked Brian for the tip and turned to tell Peter and the others when his phone rang again. He looked at the caller I.D., it was his editor, Jack.

  “Hey, Jack. What’s up?”

  “First, sorry you got shot at. You’re obviously alive, so I expect the story by midnight deadline. Second, I just got a tip about a shooting at the 107th precinct. Get your ass over there! Some guy conned his way into the holding area and shot three of Nick Stryker’s prisoners.”

  “What?”

  “Is it a hearing or a comprehension problem? Every time I give you an assignment you say ‘What?’, instead of, ‘I’m on it!’. Get over there!” Jack hung up.

  Kevin looked at the expectant faces of Peter, Cynthia, Darla and Dolly. There was no way he could be helping Peter, writing a story and going to the precinct at the same time. He looked at his watch.

  Peter leaned forward, “Is everything okay? What’s happening?”

  Kevin decided to trust that Nick was doing everything possible to save Sharon. His brother’s life was spinning out of control. Peter needed him. Some sick bastard had instructed him to shoot the mayor. He could help Peter now, and pray that Nick would call with good news about Sharon.

  Kevin looked at Peter and shrugged. “What’s happening? A bunch of shit that isn’t as important as you. Did you find an address for Sanford’s office? Let’s put this plan into action.”

  Cynthia whispered to Darla, “We have a plan?”

  CHAPTER 16

  Sharon heard voices. Two men. Traffic. She was in a vehicle. A loud motor vibrated beneath her.

  Voice one said, “What are we supposed to do? Just drive her around?”

  Voice two answered, “Lucas said to drive her around until he calls. Then we just take her back.”

  Voice one said, “Don’t you think this is kind of strange?”

  Voice two chuckled, “You’re going to question Lucas? With what we’re getting paid, this gig is golden. The cops won’t stop an ambulance. Just relax and drive.”

  Sharon peeked through her lashes. She was definitely in an ambulance. She could feel the straps that were binding her but she couldn’t feel any injuries. Why would these men be driving her around in an ambulance? Who was Lucas?

  She had a headache. The kind of headache she always got from medication. Someone had drugged her. Why? Her mind flashed images of her carjacking. Tears began to stream from the corners of her eyes. She had been kidnapped.

  Voice two asked, “Where did you put the dope? If she wakes up I’m going to shoot her up again. I don’t need some bawling bitch back there.”

  Voice one answered, “It’s in the box next to her head. The needle’s ready.”

  Sharon’s eyes darted to her right. A metal box with a medical insignia on the front sat strapped on a shelf next to her head. The sunshine blasted through the windshield creating shadows of two heads on the back door of the ambulance. They were sitting only feet away from her. Her head and shoulders were elevated slightly. She lifted her neck slowly about two inches and moved her head slightly to look to her left. In her peripheral vision she saw the back of a man’s head. Terror raced through her mind holding hands with her imagination.

  She forced herself to calm down. She had to pretend she was still drugged or they would drug her again. What could she focus on? Kevin. Kevin would figure out she was missing. Sharon began to pray.

  *****

  The orderly escorting Nick and Jen around the hospital called Tony and requested the code for opening the garage door and the elevator to the secured basement. Tony gave the garage door number, but not the elevator code.

  Tony answered, “Tell Detective Stryker he can have the elevator code when he gets a warrant. That’s a sterile surgical area.”

  The orderly apologized to Nick. “Sorry. The basement is off limits. I can describe it to you though.”

  Nick smiled. “I’d appreciate that.” Nick took out his notebook and pen and handed them to the orderly. “Can you draw me a map of the setup?”

  While the orderly drew a map, Nick took a few pictures of the inside of the ‘receiving’ garage and the elevator control panel. He could break the code once he had the device model number.

  Back outside, Nick’s attention was drawn to a black limousine parked by the front entrance. The back door opened and Elizabeth Hull stepped out into the sunshine.

  Nick said to Jen, “I wonder what she’s doing here?”

  The orderly’s eyes followed Nick’s gaze and answered, “Ms. Hull? She’s here to see her mom, Mrs. Schultz.” The orderly rolled his eyes and pointed to the third floor. “Mrs. Schultz is in the Presidential Suite. It looks like a 3000 square foot apartment. I’ve only been in it a couple of times.”

  Nick said, “Excuse me a minute.” He walked over to Elizabeth.

  Elizabeth’s eyes opened wide with recognition. “Detective. Oh, what wonderful timing!” She shoved a wad of tissue into her purse and grabbed Nick’s arm with both hands. “Could you please come with me? I’m here to tell mother about Marvin. You could answer mother’s questions and frankly I’m afraid of how she is going to take the news. She’s already very weak.”

  Nick asked, “How long has your mother been here?”

  Elizabeth answered, “Nearly a month now. She just doesn’t seem to get better. It’s her heart.”

  “Why is she at Sunrise?”

  Elizabeth looked surprised by the question. “Because they are the best private hospital in the area, of course. We couldn’t put her just anywhere.” She looked at Nick as if he should have known the answer before he asked the question. Then she asked, “Are you here to visit a family member?”

  Nick answered, “Business.” He thought about Elizabeth’s request and said, “Let me talk to my partner a minute and then I’ll go with you to tell your mother.”

  Nick walked over toward Jen and motioned for her to walk away from the orderly.

  Nick said, “Elizabeth Hull’s mother is here. She wants me to go with her to tell her mother about Marvin and his family.” Nick lowered his voice, “There’s a white SUV parked in the corner of the lot with two occupants. They were here when we arrived.”

  Jen glanced quickly behind Nick and saw the SUV. “Got it.”

  Nick said, “I left a bug in Scalla’s office. Lucas had an ambulance take Sharon.”

  Jen said, “I can put out a BOLO for ambulances with Sharon’s pic. Who do you think is in the white SUV over there?”

  “See if you can get a plate number without being noticed. It seems odd that they parked in the back corner in the shade of those trees. If I was Lucas, I would have someone ready to follow us when we leave. Also, call Sam and have him send us whatever he can find on Lucas Costellano.” Nick smiled. “Maybe you can charm our orderly and see what he thinks of working here. I’ll call you as soon as I’m done with Elizabeth.”

  ******

  J. T. Barrimore sat in his Gold Coast office on Michigan Avenue and watched the Chicago traffic transition from commuters racing to get to the suburbs, to early diners and shoppers leisurely walking the glitz lined sidewalks. If everything went as planned, Dr. Derrick Sanford would be dead this evening. If Lucas had truly tipped off the FBI to the program the money trail would lead back to Lucas, not him.

  J.T.’s cell rang with a call from his programmer, Matt, in the Indianapolis office.

  “You asked me to identify subjects ready for video commands. I have a group of five subjects that appear to have finished the program. Th
ey should be capable of taking a command at this stage.”

  “Have you reviewed their bios?”

  Matt answered, “There is a Gill Mackey that I think is the best of the group.”

  J.T. smiled to himself. This program was a hitman’s dream. “I trust your judgement. Send Mr. Mackey the video to shoot Sanford. I just spoke to Dr. Sanford. He is preparing to take his daughter to Sunrise Specialty Hospital. Provide our subject any information you can find that will be helpful; home, office, auto…everything. Send a photo of Dr. Sanford and have the subject act immediately. Suggest to him that he is an experienced, trained assassin. Boost his confidence.”

  Matt chuckled, “I knew this would be fun.”

  “You’re sure the program will delete from his device once he reviews the video?”

  Matt answered, “It’s fairly straightforward. There’s a code line that detaches the parasite program just prior to deleting the Mandarin program. If the Mandarin program is somehow reinstalled, the parasite remains invisible. I’ll send an alert message to his device instructing him to update his program. That way we’ll know when he receives the video.”

  J.T. responded, “Good. I want this done immediately. Emphasize that he needs to act quickly. How long until you can have the video sent to him?”

  Matt thought a moment. “The video is nearly ready. I’d say within the next ten minutes.”

  J. T. hung up and smiled to himself. Derrick Sanford was the only person that could tie him to the purchase of the program. Soon he’d be shot dead by one of his own subjects. Even if the police caught the shooter, J.T. was clean. J.T. decided to spend a couple of hours at the club. He would have plenty of witnesses there. It was the perfect alibi. Even the killer wouldn’t know why he did it.

  ******

  “Are you crying?” Peter stood in the doorway between his living room and the kitchen. Cynthia stood in front of the kitchen sink looking out the window dabbing a tissue to her eyes.

  She turned and nodded her head slightly. “I’m afraid. It terrifies me that someone was able to get into my mind. Someone has the power to make me do horrible things. What if it’s more than just the Mandarin program? We’ve been re-wired to obey.”

  Peter hadn’t really thought about them being vulnerable outside of the Mandarin program. It made sense that once they were programed to obey, commands could come to them from any number of innocent looking sources.

  Cynthia could tell from Peter’s expression that he hadn’t even thought about them still being vulnerable.

  She stepped closer to him. “I’m sorry. The last thing any of us needs is something else to worry about.”

  Her eyes looked so sad it was breaking his heart. The next thing he knew he was hugging her. “I don’t know the answers yet but you’re not alone. I’m here for you. We’ll all get through this.”

  Darla and Dolly stepped into the kitchen in a hunt for food and stopped in the doorway at the sight of Peter and Cynthia hugging.

  Darla winked at Dolly and they backed into the living room.

  Darla whispered, “Ain’t that sweet? Maybe someday we’ll have little baby fruitcakes.”

  Kevin shouted from the living room for Peter. “I’ve got an address for his office and his assistant Jason Little, says he’s supposed to return to the office soon.”

  Peter stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room with Cynthia next to him. “Then I guess it’s a go. Try to get him to send you some kind of an attachment through his email. I might be able to hack him.”

  Kevin was astonished that Peter had hacking skills. “Really? How good are you?”

  Peter’s smile was almost sinister, “You don’t get to be Broker of the Year, three years in a row, by using common resources.”

  Darla whispered to Dolly, “Dang.”

  ******

  Lucas didn’t trust Tony’s judgment. Tony should have realized that John didn’t have the temperament for the job. There was no place in Lucas’ organization for people he didn’t trust. After Heather Sanford’s surgery tomorrow, he would get rid of Tony. The organ business would have to rely on legal donors until the Family selected a new administrator. Dr. Elis, the chief surgeon would be his first choice. He was loyal to the Family and spent every penny they sent his way. An increase in salary and title of administrator would be enough to secure his loyalty.

  Lucas gazed out his office window as his mind ran a risk analysis of his current situation. How much could the cops really know? With the entire kidnapping team dead, there was no link left to the hospital. Detective Stryker might have suspicions but so what? Just the sheer volume of fresh homicides in Chicago almost guaranteed that Stryker would soon be distracted.

  His thoughts turned to J.T. Barrimore. In his opinion the Family had given J.T. far too much information and power. They didn’t know J.T. like he did. J.T. had no conscience and would come after any one of them if the price was right. It was only a matter of time before J.T. would manipulate the Family to take over Lucas’ position. Lucas conceded that with J.T.’s connections he could do a better job.

  Lucas smiled at his reflection on the window glass. He had just called the FBI with his tip about J.T. Barrimore buying a hypnotic program from Dr. Derrick Sanford. He made sure the FBI understood the potential dangers of the program before he hung up. Once the FBI confirmed the purchase transaction they would be all over J.T.

  The Family wouldn’t like that. J.T. would be done.

  ******

  Jen smiled at the orderly. “I hate to ask this of you but do you have a car here?”

  The orderly smiled back. He was obviously smitten by Jen’s attention. He pointed to a lot on the far right behind the buildings. “My car is parked in the employee lot. Why?”

  Jen asked, “My partner thinks that white SUV in the corner is suspicious. He wants me to get the plate number. I’d look less conspicuous in a car than on foot.”

  “Cool. I’ll drive.”

  As the orderly carefully moved items from the passenger seat to cover up the three joints in the console he asked, “Can I ask what the cops are doing here?”

  Jen answered, “You can ask, but I can’t answer. Do you like working here?”

  The orderly nodded his head as he eased the car from a back entrance of the lot and onto a dirt drive used by the maintenance staff. “Most days. It’s a job.”

  Jen asked, “What parts don’t you like?”

  The orderly scrunched up his face and looked at her. “The organ part, you know? We’ve got a whole room of machines hooked up to pieces of people. It’s kind of creepy.”

  “Do they have special staff for that room?”

  “Oh yeah. That whole side of the basement is off limits unless you’re on Dr. Elis’ team. He’s the primary transplant surgeon.” The orderly pointed to a row of shrubs. “We’re directly behind that S.U.V. now.”

  ******

  Nick held the door for Elizabeth as they entered the Presidential Suite. Polished marble floors echoed their steps until they reached the thick wool carpet of the massive sitting room. Mrs. Schultz sat on a tapestry print wing back chair next to a floor-to-ceiling window. A small walnut table to the right of her chair displayed a silver tray complete with a small tea pot and cup.

  She was fully dressed in a powder blue day suit. Her makeup was expertly applied and subtle. Nick saw the resemblance to Elizabeth immediately. Mrs. Schultz was a very attractive woman for her age. Seemingly out of place was an I.V. tube that ran from her forearm to the suspended bag hanging from the metal standing rack to her left.

  Elizabeth introduced him to her mother. “Mother, this is Detective Nick Stryker. Detective Stryker, this is my mother, Nadine Schultz.”

  Nick clasped his hands around hers and felt the coolness of her bony fingers. He held her hand for a minute and said, “Mrs. Schultz, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I wish it were under better circumstances; I’m afraid we have bad news.”

  Elizabeth burst into loud sobs
and Nadine’s eyes opened wide. “My Lord, Liz. Do compose yourself.”

  Elizabeth waved her hands in front of her face. “I can’t do this! You tell her.”

  Nadine looked squarely at Nick. “Tell me what?”

  Nick pulled a chair over from a nearby table and sat. “Your son, Marvin, his wife Carla, and your granddaughter, Allison, are dead.”

  “Dead?” Nadine looked at Elizabeth. “How? What happened?”

  Elizabeth whispered, “They were murdered, Mother.”

  Nadine placed her hands over her heart.

  Nick leaned forward, “Are you okay?”

  Nadine’s eyes filled with tears as she nodded. She looked at Nick. “Do you have their murderer in custody?”

  “No, Ma’am.”

  “Do you have any leads?”

  “Yes, Ma’am.”

  Nadine straightened in her chair and slightly raised her chin. “I want to know how they died.”

  Nick answered, “Their bodies were discovered this morning. The coroner has yet to determine the manner of death.”

  Nadine’s eyes scanned Nick’s. “Why then is this being called murder, Detective Stryker?”

  “The circumstances of where their bodies were found… and other factors. I’d rather wait to tell you more when I have the final coroner’s report.”

  Nadine’s eyes flashed. “I may not be in the best of health but I can smell missing information like a bloodhound smells a downed bird.” She pointed her finger at Nick and said, “I have a right to know exactly why you believe my son and his family were murdered, young man.”

  Nick could imagine this crusty old gal in a board meeting. “Their bodies were found in an abandoned brewery building. All three of them were in body bags and missing vital organs.”

  Elizabeth howled. Nadine closed her eyes.

  Nadine looked at Elizabeth and said, “Could you please see if Tony is available to speak to me? I believe he should be made aware of this development.”

 
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