The Case Files of Dr. Randall Herringwick
The Case of the Abducted Nudes
Chapter Two - Master Carpenter
CASE FILES - PERSONAL NOTES - PATIENTS 187 & 188 - DAY TWO
Jasper Reynolds was a bear of a man, well over six feet tall and easily 250 pounds. His dark head was shaved, and the effect gave his intelligent eyes a certain sinister air. He led us up the stairs of the third-floor walk-up and down a dark hallway, giving the wood panel door a sharp series of raps, three short and two long. We waited only a few seconds before the portal was opened for our admittance.
"Anything new?" he asked the man inside.
The operative shook his head as he put on his coat. He looked tired. "Nope. He's still in there. You need me to stick around?" It was obvious that he was really hoping for a negative response to that question.
Reynolds grinned. "Naw. Get outta' here. The office'll give you a call if we need you tonight. I got this."
Loretta and Margaret drifted over to the window, which had venetian blinds pulled down all the way to the sill, with the exception of a single slat, which had been removed. Duct tape covered the long horizontal gap, but a set of binoculars filled one portion of the space.
"Use those," Reynolds told Margaret. "Is that the car you saw?"
She sat in a chair in front of the instrument and pressed her eyes to the device. "I can't tell. I'm terrible at identifying types of cars. It's the same color." She paused, staring. "It's so far away! Is Gina in there? Have you seen her?"
"This is as close as we could get for a proper stakeout on such short notice. As with most things, the movies have got it all wrong. There's absolutely nothing that's more conspicuous than two men sitting in a car doing nothing. And no, we haven't seen her yet, but we've got a positive ID on him. And we have a witness that puts a girl that matches her description in the building with him. We're assuming it's her, though she's exhibited no distress. Our witness said that she seemed comfortable being with him."
I hadn't taken a look yet, but I had a feel for how far away we must be from our "target" by the size of the binocular-and-tripod setup. I had picked up a thin folder from the dining room table and was flipping through it. "Is this all you've got on the guy?"
"We're only twenty-four hours in on this one, Doc," he answered defensively. "Give our research team time, and they'll come up with more. Right now, we know that he's Serbian; but for some reason, he's taken a Russian name. He does have a degree ... our equivalent of a Masters Degree ... from the University of Belgrade. He's not licensed in the U.S., since he's never applied; and apparently, he's never practiced medicine, though everybody seems to refer to him as 'Doctor.' We've followed your instructions explicitly. No police involvement, and we're only interested in getting the girl back ... not with anything that's going to be used by a prosecutor. But things don't really add up here. Not in my mind, anyway."
I flipped the folder back onto the table's surface. "Like what?"
"The guy operates out of Jersey. Most of his ... uh ... acquisitions for the various syndicates come from the New York area. He seems to have come up here specifically for this snatch. From Ms. Tooey's description, he'd obviously already incapacitated the girl somehow ... we still don't know how he did it or what he used." He paused and studied me openly. "But you do, don't you?" I only gave him a tight smile in answer, and he continued. "Anyway, since he already had her subdued, why the hell didn't he take her back to his home turf? Why did he stick around here?"
I shrugged. "Spite. He knew that Margaret lives here, and he intends to ... um ... program the girl and then flaunt his achievement in front of the person he believes wronged him. It makes perfect sense, actually. And, for the price he demands for his ... um ... accomplishments, I would expect him to keep the women in several different locations. I'm guessing that he's rented this place under an assumed name?" Reynolds nodded. "And, I'm sure there are other places ... maybe several between Boston and New York."
"There he is!" Margaret shouted. "That's him! He's walking toward his car!"
The private detective gave her a rather undiplomatic shove to the right and pressed his eyes to the binoculars. "This could be our best opportunity," he said without looking up. "I really should call the office and ask for backup, but if you guys are willing, we could go try to get our girl right now. Up to you, Doc."
I hadn't expected this ... not this soon. "Do you have any idea where he's going or how long he'll be gone?" I queried.
"No, you didn't seem interested in the guy himself, so we decided not to put a tail on him if he left. Like I said, we can wait ... or you can go in and look around yourself while I stand watch."
"Now!" Margaret said firmly. "If there's any reason to believe she's in there, I say we go now! She's been with that monster too long as it is!" She was already out the door and sprinting down the hall. I grimaced to let Reynolds know that I wasn't too keen on this course of action, but I followed her, and we made our way back to his car.
The drive was only a couple blocks across an area that was mostly commercial storage buildings and seemingly devoid of human activity. In front of the structure (it was the first time I'd actually seen it, since I hadn't had a turn at the binoculars), Reynolds went to his vehicle's trunk and took out something that appeared to weigh a great deal. It was about four feet long and cylindrical, with handles on top. The man was built like a linebacker, though, and he hefted the thing up to the imposing front door, which I'd already tried and found to be locked. With a single swing of the thing, the door crashed inward, its lock twisted and useless. Reynolds then reached inside his coat and withdrew one of the biggest pistols I'd ever set eyes on.
"I'll be here if you need me," he said in his rattling baritone. "Don't waste time, if you can help it." He picked up the battering ram with his free hand and began lugging the device back toward the car.
Margaret and Loretta were already inside. Once again, I found myself following a group that I desperately wished I was leading instead. Despite the fact that the place appeared deserted, I didn't want to cry out to the women, who were already busy trying various doors that connected to the hallway we found ourselves in. None of them were locked, but each led to a dead end: a broom closet, and utility room, a small deserted office, and one huge, massively empty warehouse storage area. The door at the end of the hallway opened on a set of stairs; and once again, Margaret never hesitated before racing upward, taking the steps two at a time. It was a LONG stairway, and it dawned on me, as I rapidly lost my breath trying to keep up, that the storage space was several normal stories high, and that any additional office space was along the top of that area. Sure enough, when I finally reached the required elevation, my only option was to double back into another hallway that went in the opposite direction, and a row of windows overlooked the warehouse space below.
"What's WRONG with her!?" I heard Margaret screaming.
When I finally entered the room with the open door, I found Loretta looking on while Margaret desperately embraced a thin woman in her arms, rocking her slightly from side to side. The stricken girl simply stood there, her arms at her sides, completely unresisting and registering no emotion at all, staring unblinkingly straight ahead of her.
Panting heavily, I went to them and pried them apart with my arms. I examined the woman's face. Her complexion was smooth and unconcerned, her eyes vacant but her pupils undilated. She was a pretty woman, though her dark hair was unkempt. She was completely naked, and as I glanced down and twisted her body slightly away from me, her full breasts swayed enticingly. But it was her inner arm I was interested in, and it showed two puncture marks that were obviously recent. Back to her face, I turned her head first one way and then the other, finding a faint mark on her neck, as well. I nodded. That's how he had administered the first dose. That's why it had worked so quickly. I let go of the nude, allowing Margaret to seize her once again, and I strode to an open cabinet. Finding nothing important inside, I chose a small refrigerator, instead, and immediately found what I was searching for.
"What's wrong with her?" Margaret repeated.
"She's probably going to be okay," I told her, pocketing the small vial. "I'll have to do some blood work. She may need some psychiatric consultation, as well. But she's going to be alright."
"The door wasn't locked," Loretta was saying. "She was just sitting here ... alone, unrestrained, unguarded."
"There was no need for a guard," I said. "She had no will to escape. She has no will at all."
"What is it?" Margaret wailed. "What did he give her?"
"Vegetamin," I said, pulling the vial from my pocket to illustrate and then putting it back. "I'd read that it was still in use in some countries. Japan was the most recent to ban it. It's a different trade name for Thorazine." I glanced around nervously. "This whole place doesn't make any sense. It's WAY too big for a simple stash-house. It's got to cost a fortune, unless it's a really, really short-term rental. As in a day or two. He's in the process of moving her, I'm almost certain. He won't be away for long." I turned to Loretta. "Get back downstairs fast. Tell the detective we're about to make a quick getaway. Tell him to be ready ... and to be alert."
My nurse nodded once and sped out the door and down the hall. I could hear the fading sound of her feet on the stairs as I took off my sports coat and draped it over the nude figure. I wasn't about to waste time looking for her clothing. Gina gave absolutely no resistance, which was to be expected from someone dosed heavily with Thorazine, and between the two of us, we led her down the hallway toward the long flight of stairs.
We had just started down when we heard it. A loud POP, followed by a booming blast, followed by another pop. We froze, listening, and my blood ran cold. "Oh, God," I moaned. "Loretta!"
I left the two women and raced down the steps as fast as I could. I stumbled mid-way, and tumbled over several stairs before righting myself, then continuing. It was like one of those dreams you have sometimes, like running through molasses while the door in front of you doesn't appear to be getting closer. The hallway seemed endless. When I got to the outer door, I didn't even hesitate. I confess, I wasn't thinking very clearly. Bursting onto the porch overlooking the parking area, I was just in time to see a large black car speeding away. I glanced around. Jasper Reynolds was sitting on the ground at the foot of the concrete steps, his legs stretched out in front of him, covered in blood. His pistol was several feet away. He was watching the retreating automobile forlornly. Loretta was nowhere to be seen.
Seeing me at last, he worked a hand into his pants pocket and produced a set of keys. He threw them to me, and I caught them as I strode toward the detective's car. "He took Loretta!" he said softly, though audibly. "He tazed her. Don't lose them! Get going! Careful ... he's got a shotgun!" He reached into his coat pocket at took out a cell phone, but his fingers didn't work properly, and he dropped it.
As I reached the vehicle, I looked back at him. Then I looked at the retreating car that contained a vicious monster and the person I valued above everything else on earth. Then I looked at the keys again. And finally, I dropped my arms in utter, horrifyingly absolute defeat. I glanced once again at Reynolds. "Goddamn you!" I hissed. "Godfuckingdamn you!" And I went to him, knowing instinctively that the man had less than two minutes to live without my help.
It was a blur after that. I can remember ordering Margaret to fish my cell phone out of my pocket and telling her to dial 911. I can vaguely remember her arguing into the phone, telling them that she didn't KNOW the fucking address, but that they needed to get there real fucking fast! I can remember being impressed by the woman, who was obviously the type of person who wasn't afraid of getting a little blood on her while she kept pressure applied to the tourniquet I'd put in place around his massive thigh. In point of fact, she was a dripping red mess by the time the ambulance arrived. I can definitely remember screaming at the paramedic, who kept telling me to move aside and let a professional take over; and I said something very theatrical, like: "When I pull my finger out of this guy's femoral artery, you're going to have about twenty seconds to either clamp it or replace it with something else! You prepared to do that, dumbass!?" I can remember thinking that the ride to the hospital was excruciatingly long.
But, primarily, all I can remember thinking most of the time was: "Loretta."
CASE FILES - PERSONAL NOTES - PATIENTS 187 & 188 - DAY THREE
Oh, man, I was tired. For about the twentieth time, I took my eyes off the roadway ahead and I dialed Dr. Herringwick's cell number. Just like the previous nineteen times, it went straight to voicemail, and just like the previous nineteen times, I left a message.
"Doc, this is Rory Johnson. Again. Doc, I can't begin to describe how important this is! Call me back. Call me now. I hope it's soon, because my phone is almost dead. Call me, doc!"
I threw the phone on the passenger seat of the truck and took a deep breath. For the umpteenth time, I tried to take stock. Half a tank of gas, two bottles of water, one last can of Red Bull and a bag of Cheetos. And a little blinking digital gizmo that was plugged into the only power receptacle in the piece-of-shit old pickup truck. Why hadn't I tried to talk the doc into springing for a newer model? Why hadn't I bought the damn battery pack that went with the damn little blinking digital gizmo? What was I going to do if the cell phone died? WHEN the cell phone died! The stupid thingamajig had been beeping and blinking steadily since I'd purchased it, but sure as hell, if I unplugged it to charge my phone, I'd lose the signal. Sure as fuckin' hell.
When the phone rang, I reached for it so fast that I inadvertently swerved toward the right lane. A horn blared. Goddamn New Yorkers. "Doc? Doc, is that you?" I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard his voice.
"Rory, whatever it is, use your own discretion. I can't really talk right now. I can't think about the building! Just go ahead and do whatever it is you need to do. Something else has come up. Now, stop calling me, okay? I need to keep this line clear. Bye."
And he hung up! I couldn't believe it! I spent several long seconds staring at the phone, which earned me another honk from the same asshole that had blown his horn before. Then, I took a deep breath and hit redial yet again.
"Rory, I need to keep this line clear! Stop calling me! Just stay in the building, and I'll tell you all about it when I get home!"
"Doc, you stupid dip-wad! Shut the fuck up and listen! I'm not IN the fuckin' building! I'm nowhere NEAR the fuckin' building!"
I'd never used language like that before in his presence, and it had an impact. "Where are you?"
"I'm in New Fuckin' York! I HATE New Fuckin' York! And ... I'll very gladly get out of New Fuckin' York and drive back home if you just tell me that you know where Loretta is right now!"
He made a noise. A funny noise. I'd never heard him make any noise like it before. It was sort of a sobbing shout. Then: "You ... You know where Loretta is? Are you with her?"
"No. I'm following her. I've been following her for the past four hours. She's with a real creepy looking dude, doc. And, she looks strange. Real strange. She just sits there; in the seat beside this guy; and she stares straight ahead; but it's like she doesn't see anything. Like she doesn't FEEL anything. Does that make sense?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"Well, of COURSE I know where I am! I mean, I may be a deviant sexual pervert, but I've got a LITTLE sense!"
"I'm on the Garden State Parkway. I'm charging all the tolls to your credit card, by the way. I just passed mile marker ... uh ... 165."
"And you see her? What kind of vehicle are they in? He dumped his last car! You've got eyes on her right now?"
"No, not really. It's a long story, but I won't lose her, doc. I'm doing everything I can to stay with them without letting them know they're being followed. You don't want them to know that, right?" I paused, but he didn't respond. "Doc?" Again there was no answer. "Doc? You there?"
But, of course, the cell phone had died.
CASE FILES - PERSONAL NOTES - PATIENTS 187 & 188 - DAY THREE - CONTINUED
Somebody knocked loudly on my side window, and I just about jumped out of my skin. Oh, my God! I'd fallen asleep! How long? The knock came again, but I ignored it long enough to check my wristwatch. An hour. I remembered looking at it when it read six-thirty, and even though the sun was well up now, it only read a little after seven-thirty. The white SUV was still there, parked three blocks away. I gave a deep sigh and faced the man who was about to knock on my window for the third time; but he paused when he saw that I was giving him my attention, and instead made a circular motion with one finger, indicating that I should roll down my window.
He wasn't a cop. That was the first thing that popped into my mind. He LOOKED like a cop; or rather, he probably looked like a cop from a distance. But he wasn't. The jacket he wore looked like a policeman's jacket; but once again, up close, you could tell that it wasn't. He held out his palms toward me and took a big step back away from the pickup, then he made the motion with his finger again. He was a big dude, but he was doing everything he could to show that he intended no harm. I nodded. The ignition was already on to charge my phone, so I hit the switch and lowered the window.
"Rory Johnson?" he asked.
That really threw me. "Uh ... yes."
"I'm with the East-West Detective Agency. We represent Dr. Randall Herringwick. Is that our perp? The white SUV?" He never looked at it.
"Um ... yes."
"The blue house?" Again, he hadn't looked.
"Yes. It was still pretty dark, but I saw him lead her in there about an hour ago. She didn't seem to resist him at all."
He nodded. "Do you see the apartment building behind you? No, don't turn around. Look in your rearview mirror." I dutifully did so and nodded. "There's a parking lot around on the other side. Wait here for a minute after I leave, then drive around and park. Use the door on that side of the building. Room 412."
"How did you find me?" I asked.
"Cell phone. You obviously didn't plug it in until about an hour ago." He paused. "Haven't seen one of those in awhile." He motioned toward the tracking gizmo. "Why the hell didn't you use a GPS tracker?"
"My cell phone wouldn't support any of the models the guy was selling," I groused. "He had this one in some box in the back. Let me have it for thirty bucks. But I had to leave it plugged in the whole time. That's why my phone died; I couldn't charge it while I was using the tracker. The security shop was right across the street from where your ... uh ... perp stopped for dinner. The parking lot was pretty dark, so I just walked up and jammed the tracker behind the rear license plate."
"Did you put the hole in his right taillight?"
"Uh ... yeah. I figured it would make following him easier at night."
He nodded. "Good thinking. You get tired of working for the doctor, you come look us up. We can use a guy who thinks on his feet. Now, give me a minute before you leave. Okay?"