Her hands rested lightly on the steering wheel of the Carbon Black GMC Yukon Denali. The SUV handled nicely on 95 North as it crossed the state line from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. The speed limit dropped to 55 and she eased up just a bit on the gas, bringing her speed down to an honest 60. No sense in traveling too slow and drawing attention. Staties always seemed the most difficult to seduce, so why take the chance of getting a hard-ass if she was pulled over.
The SUV still had that new car smell which was accentuated by the pleasant scent of new leather. The dials on the dash were lit with a soft green, barely illuminating her brown cotton summer dress, embellished with a pattern of dark blue orchids. The cool air-conditioned air kept the heat of a hot July night abate while gently blowing and fluttering her shoulder length dark chestnut hair.
She glanced in the review mirror at the gunny sack lying in the back. The sack was motionless which was good considering the cargo. The woman inside the sack had been the riskiest abduction yet. Specially ordered and unlike anything she had done before, but the payoff was huge. That's all that really mattered, wasn't it?
The Piscataquis River Bridge rose up ahead signaling her approach to the Maine state border. Its green steel I-beam structure standing high above the surrounding city of Portsmouth and Kittery. Another hour to go before she reached the safe house.
She pulled into the garage and turned off the engine as the garage door began to shut automatically. Abby entered through a side door wheeling a hospital stretcher. She stopped, her head bowed in patient submission, at the back of the SUV. Rea pushed a button on the console and the rear hatch slowly rose as she exited the vehicle, straightening out the hem of her dress that had begun to stick to her thighs from sweat even in the air-conditioned coolness.
"It went well I assume?" asked Abby in a thick New York accent.
"Yes, very well. Almost too easy, some people just trust too much," she said as she helped transition the gunny sack to the stretcher. "Be careful with her though, she is worth a lot of money, a unique order from a very high-end client. We can't sell damaged goods."
"I know Rea, we will take good care of her. What is our transport date?"
"They must be delivered in 30 days."
"They, are there more then one person in this sack?"
"Only temporarily, soon there will be two. She is due to give birth in a matter of days. Make sure there are no complications or incidents, as both are required as part of the sale. Once the baby is born, do what you need to do to insure the mother is cooperative."
"Does Leon know about this?"
"Yes he has been informed and we were told is making the necessary arrangements. Be carful with sedation, there can be no harm to the child before birth. They are not to be handled in the normal manner. Both mother and child are required to be in excellent condition upon delivery."
"Understood Rea, we will see to it."
"And what is the status of 143?"
"She is available now, if need be. However we would prefer to keep her until the end of the week," said Abby as she began to wheel the stretcher towards a ramp that lead down to a doorway at the back of the garage.
Rea followed the forty year old woman dressed in black jeans and a white medical smock. She quickly made her way down to open a heavy steel security door and held it open so the stretcher could pass through. Beyond the door was a long corridor with a gentle downward slope. The white washed cement walls and floor kept the corridor cool, the only warmth coming from the florescent lights overhead. The 150 foot corridor ended at an elevator door of stainless steel. Rea pushed the down arrow and the door opened immediately. The elevator had only up and down buttons and she pushed the down button after the stretcher was over the threshold.
"I would like to see 143," said Rea as the elevator silently descended the thirty feet to what was called simply the hotel. "I will make an assessment and decide for myself her availability."
"Very well," said Abby as she pushed the stretcher into a well lit common room with plush black leather couches and easy chairs. A large HDTV hung on the wall with a shelf of DVD's under it holding the latest releases from Hollywood. "Make yourself comfortable while I take 146 to the Triage for examination."
Rea walked over to a bar made of raised burnt wood with a heavy varnish. Behind the bar were bottles of expensive scotch, aged whiskey and bourbon, spiced rum, tequila and several brands of vodka. She took a bottle of Stoli Elite from the shelf, poured a whiskey tumbler full and drank half of it in one pull. The clear liquid went down smoothly. She felt her body warm to the hint of citrus and caramel that made this her drink of choice. She refilled the glass, turned on the gas fireplace then sat on the cool leather couch. She finished the tumbler, removed her knee high black leather boots, and then lay stretched out as the warmth from the fireplace and the vodka washed over her.
Abby woke her sometime later to inform her that 146 was resting comfortably, awaiting examination from Leon, who would be there later that afternoon. Also that 143 was awake and she could see her when Rea was ready. Rea stretched her tired muscles then put on her boots. Abby went off to the kitchen to prepare meals as Rea opened a heavy mahogany door beside the bar and walked down a hallway of stark white washed walls and a dark blue Berber carpet. The hall had rows of metal security doors positioned across the hall from each other. The door she stopped at was marked by a clip holding an index card with the number 146. She turned as Abby entered through the Mahogany door with a tray of steaming soup and a salad. Abby stopped at the first door with a similar index card with the number 143 and inserted a key into the door.
"Abby," began Rea. "146 is to have a name if we are to be successful. Please refer to her going forward as Mommy."
Claire's Ford F-150 roared down the back country roads leading from Sebago to Portland Maine. The trees were a blur out the side window as I looked out from the passenger seat. Every so often I would glance at my cell phone, hoping to see the signal bar reappear from what appeared to be a dead zone. Maine was notorious for a lack of cell service, sometimes within sight of a tower.
Claire looked over at me with a worried look, "Another mile or so and you should have service again." She looked beautiful in her sun dress, which had drifted up to her mid thigh revealing her tanned legs. The sun dress was awash in a field of sunflowers of yellow and orange, a stark contrast to her darkly tanned body. Her Mexican heritage, along with the few days we had managed to spend in the sun on Sebago Lake, gave her skin a rich, almost milk chocolate brown tone.
"Three days since she's been heard from," I said more to myself than to Claire. "I need to call Boston PD and see what they have."
I had received a call from an old friend from High School while Claire and I were enjoying a much needed vacation at Jason and Shannon Wambaugh's place on Sebago, the largest lake in Southern Maine. My friend Chuck Casey was frantic on the phone, pleading for help to locate his wife Amanda. She was pregnant, nearing her due date and had gone missing while shopping in Revere, a suburb of Boston. The Revere and Massachusetts State Police had nothing to go on accept an empty car outside a shopping mall featuring a Best Buy and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Neither law enforcement agency had made any progress in the last three days. I wish he had called earlier, as the first 48 hours were crucial in any disappearance, especially when there hadn't been any ransom demands made and there wasn't any clear explanation on her disappearance. Chuck had insisted that Amanda was not the type to just go off on her own and, even though she was going through hormonal changes due to her pregnancy, she was not unstable in any way.
Chuck and I went way back to high school in Old Orchard Beach. We had graduated together in a town that boasted sixty-nine graduating students, I'm not making that up, but I think we convinced a fellow student to stay back so we could achieve that number. We weren't best friends but in a school system so small, well, you knew everyone and everyone knew you. He was a jock and I was not, but the line between the football stars and the burnouts was vague. I was technically neither, so for me, there wasn't any line at all.
Finally, as the truck came over a slight rise, my phone immediately had four signal bars, welcome to cell phone service in Maine. I called Captain Warren O'Reilly of the Massachusetts State Police Homicide Division to see if he could give me some information or at least tell me who could. O'Reilly picked up on the third ring.
"Captain O'Reilly speaking," he said with a distinct Massachusetts accent.
"O'Reilly this is Jack Chamberlain," I began but was immediately cut off.
"Jack how the hell are you? Nice job on the Spacey case. I always thought he was a prick with ears, but I didn't think he had completely gone off the reservation."
"Thanks, just glad it's over, along with my fifteen minutes of fame."
"Made all the Boston papers too, Sherlock. I don't think your fifteen minutes is quite up yet."
Sherlock Holmes was one of my favorite literary characters and during my days at the Maine State Police I had earned the nickname Sherlock, after solving two very difficult crimes. When I joined the Portland Police Department in Portland, Maine, the nickname had faded until the most recent case. The Spacey case had created a media frenzy, the nickname was reinstated by my friend and the editor of the Portland Press Herald, Jason Walbridge.
"Can you tell me anything about a missing person, Amanda Casey? She went missing out of Revere on Saturday."
"Yeah a little, although this got kicked up from Revere Police to the FBI. The missing woman, Amanda Casey, is the wife to a Vice President over at Sovereign Bank in Boston. She is pregnant and due in roughly 3 weeks. The Revere Police asked for FBI involvement real quick, expecting ransom demands. There haven't been any yet. The Agent in Charge is Francesca Rossi out of the FBI building over at One Center Plaza in Boston."
"Do you know her?"
"Yeah a little, real smart gal. I never worked with her but we have met a couple of times."
"Do you have a number for her?"
"I have her cell, let's see, F for FBI, ready?"
"Yeah shoot," I said as I pulled a small notebook and pen from the glove compartment.
"Got it. Anything else?"
"We have Mrs. Casey's picture all over every state and municipality in New England with a description of what she was wearing. We haven't received any tips yet, but I wouldn't necessarily know as the FBI is fielding all the leads."
"Right, what was she wearing?"
"Her husband reported she was wearing a light yellow maternity dress and cushioned brown sandals. She carried a large light brown purse that was found in her vehicle at the scene. Money and credit cards were still in it which is why it was immediately deemed as a kidnapping."
"I don't know to be honest. We aren't exactly in the loop. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that the abduction took place around three o'clock in the parking lot of Bed, Bath & Beyond."
"Alright, whose lead detective from Revere?"
"Clyde Stamos, old-timer with about thirty years experience. The number over there is 781-284-1212. He's at extension twenty twelve."
"Thanks O'Reilly and if anything comes up let me know."
"Hey Jack, what's your interest in this case, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Her husband Chuck called me this morning and asked for my help. He's an old friend of mine from high school."
"What are your plans? This isn't exactly your jurisdiction and the FBI might not be very open to you getting involved."
"I'm not sure yet, but I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for the information."
"Anytime Jack, take care," he ended.
I took a deep breath then reiterated the conversation to Claire. I called the number for Francesca Rossi and she picked up on the third ring.
"Rossi," she answered with a slight southern accent.
"Agent Rossi, this is Detective Jack Chamberlain with the Portland Maine Police Department," I began. "I wonder if you could help me."
"Very impressive work in the Spacey case detective. What can I do for you?"
"I am interested in Amanda Casey."
She seemed to hesitate for a moment before she began, "The investigation is ongoing and unfortunately we have very little to go on. What is your interest in the case?"
"Her husband is an old friend and I was hoping to get some information on how the investigation is progressing."
"At the moment not very well. We have nothing from the crime scene other than it does not appear to be a robbery. Her purse was in the car with two hundred thirty seven dollars in cash along with three credit cards. The car she was driving had a flat. It appears that the air was let out of the tire. The Revere Police Department determined that there weren't any punctures or leaks. We haven't located any witnesses and there were no surveillance cameras in the vicinity. We have not had any ransom demands either, which is strange considering he is a V.P. at a large bank. If this was a kidnapping, we should have heard something by now."
"What about sex offenders in the area?"
"There are six registered in Revere and each has been contacted to establish alibis. Everyone checks out. We have expanded the search to nearby communities. So far we have nothing actionable. "
"Do you have any theories?"
"Yeah, a dime a dozen. How well do you know Mr. Casey detective?"
"We went all through grade school together. Old Orchard is a small school so we knew each other but as acquaintances rather than friends. We see each other at reunions where I first met his wife Amanda ten years ago. Is he a suspect?"
"Theories detective, we are just trying to cover all the bases. If you are just acquaintances how do you know about her disappearance?"
"Chuck called me this morning asking for help."
"This is outside your jurisdiction detective and based on a prior relationship with the victim and husband, I would prefer you do not get involved."
I took a deep breath both understanding her point but a little irritated that she had made it anyway. "So what do I tell Chuck?"
"Please tell him that the FBI is thoroughly investigating the case and to contact us directly concerning any information he may have or might want."
"Thank you for your time, Agent Rossi. If I have any questions, can I call you?"
"Absolutely detective and I will provide you all the professional courtesy you deserve, but again, would appreciate your staying at arms length on this."
"I appreciate that Agent Rossi. Thanks for the information," I ended as I disconnected the call.
"What did I miss?" asked Claire.
"Not much except butt out."
"So what are you going to do?" She said as she pulled to the curb in front of my place.
"I'm not exactly sure yet. Why don't you head home and pack some clothes for a trip to Mass though," I said as I stepped out from the truck.
"Yeah, work clothes."
I located my personal handgun, a P2000 357, which had seen use recently, and placed it in my shoulder holster. I checked the two spare clips, found that they were fully loaded and placed those in a small shaving kit along with fifty rounds of ammunition. I also took a TDI ankle knife and expandable baton, which both had sheaths and placed them into the bag as well. Lastly I added my Leupold 10 x 25mm Compact Binoculars which would be helpful in long range surveillance if needed.
I removed the Dell laptop from its travel bag and began surfing the Boston hotels for a place for us to spend at least the remaining week of our vacation. The Marriott's Custom House was slightly above my normal budget, at two hundred and twenty five nightly, but I didn't want Claire in some fleabag hotel. Besides, it was within walking distance of Faneuil Hall which would afford some shopping and nice restaurants. Parking was another twenty five per day but we would need Claire's truck available to cruise Boston and the surrounding communities. I booked a room for six days that came with a king size bed and Jacuzzi tub. I hoped the tub would comfortably hold the two of us; I was on vacation after all.
I began removing the items I had packed for the trip to Sebago but stacked them neatly on the bed. The stay had been so brief that most of the items had not been used. The underwear and socks would just be going back into the bag anyway. I counted off eight sets of socks and underwear along with four t-shirts and shorts. I took my work suits from the closet and packed three in a garment bag, including six dress shirts and ties. I laid out my Monday close and headed for the shower. I was a creature of habit, without vanity, so my work suits were all identical except for the ties. It's easier than choosing what to wear each day anyway. Maybe someday I'll go shopping but it's not exactly on my to do list. I would prefer to have a root canal actually.
The hot water felt good and relaxing as it rolled over my hair and down my back. My mind drifted to Chuck and Amanda and the last time I saw them. We were all at the OOB fifteenth class reunion and having a good time. Someone had spiked the punch and I was pretty sure it was Mark Hanson who had done the same thing at our Senior Prom; I had four glasses.
During the reunion I danced once with Amanda in between dances with two of my ex-girlfriends. She was a good dancer, considering we were dancing to CCR which was more like just bouncing around to keep up with John Fogerty's throaty vocals. She was very pretty, well dressed in a white skirt and black blouse. She was very genuine, likeable and always smiling. I remembered commenting to Chuck that he was fortunate. He had replied that I had no idea. Although Chuck and I kept in touch with the occasional phone call I never saw Amanda again.
The reunion had been fun and had ended with Vicki an ex-girlfriend and I hooking up for a night at my place. She had learned a few new tricks over the years and one night turned into the entire weekend. On Monday morning she was on a plane back to Seattle and, just like all those years ago, she became a fond memory.
Claire arrived at just before noon, dressed in tight shorts with a jungle fatigue design, black military lace up boots and an Army t-shirt with the slogan "Be all you can be" across the chest. I wondered how many active military personnel could draw your eyes to the text on a shirt as well as Claire could. She finished off the ensemble with mirrored aviator sunglasses and an Army green baseball cap with a yellow and black Army Sniper School patch. She looked great as usual. "Ready?" she asked.
"Yeah, just help me with my stuff," I said as I hoisted my garment bag and she grabbed my suitcase. Ten minutes later we were headed down I95 towards Boston.
I looked over at her as we passed the Scarborough, Maine exit and was instantly reminded why I had fallen so hard for her. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever met. She stood at five feet one inch tall with dark skin that tanned quickly, a result of her Mexican heritage. Her jet black, wavy hair was tied in a ponytail and pulled through the back of her ball cap. When we were alone together, she would wear it down and it fell to the middle of her back. Her body was strong and well toned with a defined yet subtle muscle structure. When we had first met she had been my trainee. I had worked her mercilessly and she had never complained. She was a gifted detective, observant and inquisitive. During that time, we had gained a symbiotic working relationship and eventually a friendship. The intimacy of our relationship grew. Now we were lovers and I was a happy man.
"You're staring," she said as a broad smile appeared on her face, making my heart skip a beat.
"Sorry, I can't help it in the presence of such stunning beauty," I said and meant every word.
"Nice, flattery will get you whatever you want."
"I'll file that for later."
We rode on in silence and my mind drifted to the reason we were headed south toward Revere, a suburb just outside of Boston. Women just don't disappear, especially those near term in a pregnancy. Sure, hormonally they are going through massive changes in body chemistry, can have mood swings and cravings for strange foods, but they don't normally leave their comfort zone for the unknown. The odd thing was that no ransom demands had been made and, given the time that had elapsed since her disappearance, kidnapping for money was beginning to look doubtful. With her money and credit cards at the abduction scene, this was not a typical robbery. Whoever had taken her had a reason.
I took out a small notebook computer, turned it on, and opened to a blank word document. I typed on the top of the page the word abductions. "Claire we need a list of why women are abducted. Let's explore scenarios of women that survive the abduction based on type and those that are murdered."
"Do you think she's dead?"
"God I hope not. But for now let's brainstorm on why women disappear and why they are killed or kept alive."
Claire stepped on the gas to pass an eighteen wheeler with "Yellow Freight" written on the side. The hum of the big rigs wheels reverberated through Claire's black F150. I heard several small pebbles strike the door as we passed. "Based on the circumstances, a ransom demand would be the most logical," she began as she reached up and tucked a few locks of hair back under her ball cap. "He is a VP of a large bank, so money could be the motivation here."
"I agree that it tops the list, but three days without a demand isn't typical."
"Maybe the kidnappers want to make Mr. Casey sweat a little, drive up the price. She is pregnant after all. The closer she gets to term, the more risk involved to both her and the baby."
"Remind me to ask Chuck if her pregnancy was problematic. An abduction involving a difficult pregnancy could create a host of problems for the kidnappers that they may not be prepared for. What if she gave birth early?"
"Maybe they understand the risks because if not, they could lose both mother and child before they get their money."
"They would need to have set up some kind of birthing room. Nothing too elaborate maybe, but enough, just in case shit happens. I wonder how many medical supply houses there are in the greater Boston area?"
"There must be a ton with all the hospitals, Mass General, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children Hospital, Brigham Young's Women's Hospital along with a half dozen more university and research hospitals."
I took a deep breath, "I wonder if the FBI is looking into this. The kidnappers would only require a relatively small purchase for the supplies they might need. What would they need to cover both a normal birth and one with complications? The closest I have ever been to witnessing a birth is an episode of "One Life to Live"."
"Soap operas? You watch soap operas?"
"In an effort to maintain my manhood, I was sick and it was either that or Dr. Phil with the subject of "Why Does My Daughter Have So Many Piercings". I decided that a soap opera would be ok in-between my trips to the bathroom."
"Sure but now your addicted and TiVo it daily, right?"
"No, the only addition I have is a Mexican broad with a hot body and a smart mouth."
"Want me to take her out for you? She sounds like a real bitch."
"No, her smart mouth keeps me on my toes and her body I love. If you fuck it up somehow I'll hunt you down like a dog."
Claire laughed out loud, "Bastard. Back to birthing equipment, technically you really don't need much. The old movies that have people yelling for hot water and clean towels are more accurate than you might think. There are even companies that sell at home birthing kits that contain all you need for a birth without complications."
"So the supply houses might be a dead end. Wouldn't they need a doctor? Someone would need to at least be knowledgeable in how to deliver babies."
"They could hire a mid-wife maybe?"
"Possibly, some kind of medical professional at the least, with a big enough payout, the skills level increases."
"With all the medical personnel employed in and around Boston's various hospitals, it could be anybody."
"Right not exactly a task for just the two of us to tackle. Let's see if the FBI is looking into this at all."
"How about sex?"
"Really, now, do you want me to find you a place to pull over?" I asked knowing what she was really referring to but hoped she would say yes anyway.
"No. Abduction for sex," she said looking over at me with a killer sexy smirk. This was the look that first began to make me realize how beautiful she was and how much I loved being around her.
"You should really be clearer when you speak. Now I have to think about baseball," I said as I leaned back and closed my eyes. "Bottom of the first, nobody out."
"You've got problems," she added with an exasperated little laugh.
"It's a male thing."
"Maybe you should see someone about that male thing."
"I am but she's driving at the moment."
"Well we just hit the Mass border so keep your hopes up. Which reminds me, where are we staying?"
"Marriott's Custom House at 3 McKinley Square off Boston Harbor. It's about 15 minutes from Revere."
"Marriott in the center of Boston, sounds nice. You win the lottery or something?"
"No but you deserve better than some flea bag hotel."
She took her right hand from the steering wheel and placed it on my leg and gave me a big smile, "That's very sweet," she said. I immediately needed to think about baseball again.
"You're welcome, but partially as a means of distracting myself, let's get back to the list. You said sex, as in rape?"
"Not necessarily but we can start there."
"Who kidnaps a pregnant woman to rape her, for Christ sake?"
"Don't you think mommy's to be are beautiful?"
"Yes but not in a sexual way. More like an inner shine that pregnant women seem to radiate. A promise of life and hope through giving of themselves to create a new child."
"So are you saying if I was pregnant you wouldn't think of me anymore in a sexual way?"
"You're not are you?"
"No I'm not. Don't change the subject just answer the damn question," she said as she gave me a dark look from under the brim of her cap.
"This is different, we are talking about abducting a pregnant woman for the purposes of sex. I just don't get that. I love you, so I'm positive that I would still think of you sexually. Of course we couldn't have sex as it would just poke the baby's head, give it brain damage and we couldn't have that."
"Yeah, well, what do you think causes that soft spot? It's from getting poked in the head so often by the father that the cranium doesn't have a chance to fully form."
"Where the hell do you get this shit?"
"I don't know, it just sort of comes to me. Staying on the subject of sex, what about prostitution?"
"Kidnap a pregnant woman to turn her into a prostitute?"
"It does sound far fetched, but if you look at all the runaways that disappear every year, many are turned into prostitutes. This is certainly different being a kidnapping. She would technically have to be sold into prostitution or some form of white slavery. I wonder how good the Revere Vice squad is"
"Maybe ask your buddy at the State Police his opinion, as well as Vice in some of the surrounding communities, including Boston."
"Yeah I'll call him when we get to the hotel. What about the dungeon keepers?"
"The perverts who keep these dungeons where they hold women indefinitely for sex games. They lock them away, for sometimes years, until the woman dies or they are caught."
"I guess that would be a worse case scenario for us then wouldn't it?"
"Meaning?" I asked.
"If she is being held in some sort of dungeon, she could be nearly impossible to find, baring some extremely lucky break. Not to long ago a sick bastard in Dewitt, NY was found with a dungeon where he kept women locked in rooms beneath his back yard. You had to crawl through a hole beneath the cellar just to get to it."
"If I remember correctly his victims were kidnapped from places hundreds of miles away. If that were the case, she could be anywhere."
"No," I said as I heaved a sigh. I did not like the scenarios we were coming up with. The likelihood we could actually find her was becoming doubtful. "Let's look at this from the standpoint of looking where the FBI won't."
"How do you mean?"
"If this is a kidnapping and the kidnappers are just biding their time for a higher ransom, then the FBI will eventually get a call. I would also guess, but will ask, that the FBI and local authorities are rounding up every local pervert they can find and questioning them. Maybe they get lucky, find a dungeon keeper and she is there. So what is left? Sex for sale."
"You think someone is selling her for men to have sex with a pregnant woman?"
"No, I was thinking more about selling her and the child to someone."
"I have heard of baby selling but this is way outside of the norm. Usually women are paid to sell there babies after birth, but kidnapping and selling both mother and child? Maybe it's just the baby they want."
"If that were the case, wouldn't it be easier just to kidnap a baby rather than go through all the trouble of kidnapping a woman close to term? No I would think they needed to have both of them if this were the case."
"Why would someone want both mother and child?"
"Maybe the buyer can't have kids? Maybe he wants a subservient wife and how better then to hold their child hostage?"
"That's as creepy as it gets."
"I know. But we know selling for sex slavery happens and we know baby selling happens, why not a combination of the two?"
"So, is that the premise we begin under?"
"It's early to say, but finding out if there is an active white slave trade in Boston maybe a place to start. Here's our exit, route one Saugus."
As we took the exit I thought about the reasons we had discussed why someone would want to take Amanda Casey. For the average person, the workings of an often twisted criminal mind were difficult to understand. It was beyond comprehension why people killed, raped, stole, and injured each other in ways which sometimes paled the worst of horror movies. Having been involved in, what was thankfully rare in Maine, some of the most violent criminal investigations, I had the opportunity to track and question a few very sick individuals. The most disturbing of them showed no remorse, no conscience, and justified their every action. They would explain in great detail how their crimes were not crimes at all, but a natural order.
In one of my first major cases for the Portland Police, a man had kidnapped a mother and her three girls, ages ten, twelve, and fourteen. The man was well known to them and spent several evenings a week visiting with the girls even though he had a wife at home. One night, he took them all for an ice cream and proceeded to take them by gun point. He claimed that the two youngest were his children and shot both the mother and oldest daughter, execution style, in front of the two youngest girls. With the help of his current wife, he buried the bodies in the backyard of his home. He then went on the run with the remaining girls. After three days, they were found in an abandon barn in the rural community of Buckfield, Maine, through a tip from the local gas station attendant. A sniper from the HRT (Hostage Rescue and Tactical Unit) of the Maine State Police caught the suspect in his sights through a window. The bullet passed through his face, exploded through the opposite side, but spared his life.
I spent many days following his arrest at his bedside in the Androscoggin County Jail Infirmary, discussing his motivation for the crime. Through it all, he maintained a clear reasoning to the brutal murders and the abduction of children that he felt had been wrongfully withheld from him. He explained, in detail, how he had gained the trust of the family as he plotted to take what he perceived was rightfully his. Fortunately, neither of the two surviving girls had been harmed physically but mentally they would never be able to rid themselves of the torrid memories placed there by this demented individual.
The man was dead now. He lasted only a few weeks in a maximum security prison just outside of Boston. He was found dead, his tongue cut from his throat, his eyes removed from their sockets and his throat slashed. The warden had called it a case of Jailhouse justice. I remembered thinking that all though he deserved death, his was perhaps harsher than it should have been.
Rea smoothed out her summer dress before entering the room of 143. She had been deciding on 143's new name and had settled on Jade Aiko. The last name was only for her new identification package and would be seldom, if ever, used. Ironically, Aiko in Japanese meant child of love, which she was not but it would be appropriate for her new profession. She opened the door and walked into the thirty by thirty room which was furnished with a metal bed, a dresser that could have been found in any cheap motel and a captains dinning room chair. The walls were a stark white, without trim of any kind which met the white stuccoes ceiling that rose twelve feet above the floor. The carpet however was a plush brown fiber, soft on the feet, with a thick pad underneath. Totally devoid of windows, a vent constantly brought fresh air into the room and a ceiling fan with diming lights. The fan turned slowly circulating the air which carried the faint scent of human sweat. In the top center of the right and left hand walls were covered sound vents that allowed sound to pass from room to room. Currently these vents were closed, sealing any noises within the four walls.
In the wooden captain's chair sat a voluptuous girl of nineteen wearing only a white teddy, her head bowed with her long straight black hair shrouding her face. Her skin was exotically dark, caused by a mixture of Asian and African heritage. Rea knew very little of the girl's past except that she was not missed by any friends or family. Rea had found her in a Dallas homeless shelter, drug addled, with severe malnutrition, basically an empty shell of a person. Her exotic skin and eyes had caught Rea's attention however, and she was brought to the safe house to be transformed. The task with 143 had been to first curb the addiction then to break any spirit that might remain. Now it was time for her new life and turning from 143 to Jade.
"I see you are awake 143, very good," she said as she quietly shut the door behind her. Rea walked up to stand directly in front of 143 and lifted her chin up so that she was made to look directly in her eyes. At first she tried to avert her gaze, "Look at me," Rea said forcefully. The eyes that came up to meet hers were no longer the empty eyes of the waif of four months earlier but they did carry a fearful submissiveness that pleased Rea. "That is better. You have done well my dear, very well. Your new life now awaits you, a life where you will be well rewarded should you obey your new master."
"Yes Mistress," came her response.
"I have decided on your new name, one fitting of your beauty, a beauty that men will covet. From now on you will answer to Jade and if a last name is required it is Aiko. Please repeat this."
"Jade Aiko is my name," she said in a hushed tone.
"Stand and remove your clothing."
Jade stood with a graceful fluid motion, without hesitation and removed the white teddy, her chin again resting on her chest in submission. Rea took both her hands and held her arms out straight turning them gently over as she inspected them. Any signs of the many needle marks that had riddled her arms had disappeared. Her skin was clear of blemish or bruises, soft and smooth from the daily applications of body lotion. She let go of her hands and Jade dropped them to her side not attempting to cover herself in any way.
"Turn slowly," Rea said as her eyes searched Jade's body for any imperfection. Satisfied that from a physical standpoint Jade was ready, it was time to test her mentally. "Who do you love?"
"To whom do you owe?"
"Everything I am I owe to you, Mistress. My life is yours," she said as she lifted her head now and looked into Rea's eyes. "I am yours and will repay you for your kindness."
"What will you do to repay your debt to me?"
"Your command is my duty, Mistress."
Rea reached under her sundress and took a Ruger LCP .380 from her thigh holster. She held it out to Jade, "I want you to repay your debt to me." Jade gingerly took the small handgun from her and held it slightly pointed away from Rea. "Place the gun against your temple." Jade's reaction to the command was instantaneous as she quickly brought the gun up to her head and pressed it up against her temple. "Who do you owe," Rea said in a forceful voice.
"I owe you, Mistress," she stated in a strong voice.
"I said who do you owe?" yelled Rea.
"I owe you, Mistress," yelled back Jade.
"I said who the fuck do you owe!"
"I owe you, mistress!"
"Pay me, pay me now, give me your life. Give it to me now!" Rea's face was inches from Jade's as she glared into Jade's sparkling green eyes.
"My life is yours, Mistress!"
Rea heard the trigger and the pin engage an empty chamber. Once, twice and again a third time, "Enough my sweet Jade," Rea said as she reach up and took the gun from Jade's still steady hand. She tossed the handgun onto the bed and ran her hands down both sides of Jade's body in a sensual caress until they rested on the gentle curves of her hips. She touched her nose to the side of Jade's and took in the sweet subtle scent of her sweat then brought their lips together for a deep, passionate kiss. The erotic flavor of her tongue and lips sent a wave through her resulting in goose flesh on her skin. She pressed her lips to Jade's ear and whispered softly, "Please me."
Claire took the exit to Route One Saugus which quickly went from two lanes to one before merging with Route One south. The new right hand lane became two lanes again and the change in speed mixed with the merging traffic on the busy off-ramp, and bumper to bumper traffic, was an experience in white knuckle driving. Claire however handled it beautifully, as she laid on the horn and stomped on the gas, while the big V8 truck leapt forward causing others to simply back off. "Fuckers," I heard her mumble under her breath.
Just as we merged with traffic I saw the newly refurbished sign of the Golden Banana, a traditional stopping place during my younger days on many trips to see the Red Sox play. The Golden Banana is a strip club, called more commonly in this day an age of political correctness, a gentlemen's club. The place had been closed and rotting away to memories of days gone by for years, but now was reopened. I had not been in the place since my late twenties but knew when it reopened, they had hired an ex-guard from Portland, Maine's reform school, Jake Simson. Jake and I had met years earlier when I had captured Jason Wambaugh trying to swim the river that separated the school grounds from interstate 295. Jake and I kept in touch for awhile, meeting for drinks at Gritty's in the Old Port section of Portland or sometimes Pat's Pizza in Scarborough. I decided a conversation with Jake might give me some insight on the local cops and criminal elements in and around Boston; insight the local authorities might not provide.
"Claire there is a turn around up ahead on the right to get you onto Route One north," I said as I pointed to the turn off just coming into view.
"Sure," she said. "But why are we heading back north?"
"I have an old acquaintance that is head of security up the road. I'd like to ask him about the local PD's, who the local pimps are and where they recruit their girls." She took the turn off and waited for the light to allow us to cross the two lanes of Route One south. When I saw the giant banana sign I said, "There it is, pull in at the Banana."
"The strip joint? That's where your friend works security?"
"Yeah, ever since they reopened. Ever been there?" I asked while a quick vision of Claire dancing around a poll slipped into my head. I decided if she had she would have more dollar bills then the US Treasury Department.
"Last year at Meagan's bachelorette party, it was male review night. I'm no prude but some of the shit those women would do with the guys, was way friggin' over the top."
"They have a no touch policy so how bad could it have been?"
"No touch, fuck, they should have a no yank policy for ladies night."
"Remind me never to try out for the Chippendales."
"Baby, don't get me wrong, you look great, but these guys are ripped."
"And to think I was just thinking how good you would look spinning around a pole. I was going to search on-line to have one installed at my apartment."
She laughed and looked over at me as she put the truck in park, "That's very sweet," then her eyes narrowed, "I think."
"It was meant as a compliment. The only women I have seen more beautiful then you are in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and they have the advantage of air brushing."
She leaned in close and kissed me deep, her tongue gently exploring my own, then she looked into my eyes, our noses almost touching, "I can't wait to we get to the hotel, this won't take long will it?"
"I don't think so but we need to wait here a minute so I can stand up."
"You're going into a strip joint so you should fit right in."
We opened the door to a small room that separated the outside world from the inside world. The doors closed on the sunlit day, the foyer seemed as black as night before my eyes adjusted to the dim black lighting of the small room. To the right was a window where a scantily dressed blonde sat in a booth. Around the booth window were posters of coming attractions mostly former Playboy or Penthouse magazine models. A burly bouncer stood, arms crossed, in front of a set of double doors that entered into the main club.
I walked up to the window, nodded to Claire and said "two please."
"That will be twenty dollars," she said with a pleasant smile as she inked up a stamp to mark my hand as a paid customer. I gave her a twenty and she stamped my and Claire's hands. The stamp was a thumbs up sign that was only visible under a black light. As we approached the double doors, the bouncer nodded and opened one of them to let us in.
The room was dimly lit but our eyes had already adjusted to the light in the foyer. In my younger days the room would have been smoke filled but that was no longer allowed in bars nor, apparently, strips clubs. I did notice that it smelled a lot better than I remembered. The stage was the center of attraction, with its traditional pole, located in the center of a spacious room with 30 or so tables, with three or four high backed plush chairs around each. It was three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and the place was about a third full. To the left of the stage were two smaller round stages, each also with a pole and to the right a bar lined the wall.
The last girl had completed her routine and was walking off the stage carrying her discarded clothing along with a fist and garter full of money. The announcer began introducing the next dancer Lieutenant Lisa, who promptly came out in a cop's uniform, but wearing shorts that no Lieutenant would ever get away with. She strutted over to the pole, smiled at those in the audience that sat on chairs pulled up to the stage and removed her hat and tossed it on the ground. Long black hair cascaded down around her face as she trussed it up, throwing her head back.
"Do you want to sit by the stage?" asked Claire. "There are a couple of empty chairs."
"No, let's find Jake," I said though my eyes lingered on the stage for a moment longer as Lisa unbuttoned her shirt.
Behind the bar was an attractive petite Asian woman wearing a corset that barely kept her breast in check. "Can I get you something or would you prefer to have a seat and have one of the girls serve you?" she asked with a very nice smile.
"I would love an IPA if you have one on tap."
"We have Stoner if that is ok?"
"That's sounds great, the smallest size on that please."
"Sixteen ounce glass, and you miss?" she asked looking over at Claire. Her eyes ran the length of Claire's body as she spoke.
"A Samuel Adam's will be fine," said Claire returning the smile.
The bartender returned quickly with two frosty glasses handing one to each of us. "That will be fifteen dollars, would you like me to start a tab?"
"Yes, thank you," answered Claire as she accepted the sweating frosted glass.
"You are very beautiful," she said to Claire. "Amateur night is Wednesday night at eight. A five hundred dollar prize to the winner and a chance at a free professional photo shoot as a grand prize."
"Really, how do you win the grand prize?" asked Claire as I almost choked on the first sip of beer at her response.
"Every ten weeks we have a dance off and the previous nine winners vie for the grand prize. The photographer is very good. We have two Penthouse models and one fashion model from last year's competition." She stepped from behind the bar and simply said, "Turn for me."
Claire did exactly that turning slowly and running her hands through her hair as she did. "How's that?"
"You could win this I think. Certainly the Wednesday night competition, well if you can dance. Ever dance on a pole before?"
"No, I haven't," she answered as she looked at the stage where the now completely nude Lieutenant was holding herself upside down by her legs from the pole. "Is it difficult?"
"No, it does take a certain amount of body strength, which you look like you have the muscle tone for, and a little practice."
"Where would you practice pole dancing?"
"Here is my card," she said as she gave her a black card with gold lettering. "I give lessons here every Saturday morning from eight to eleven. If you're interested we could have you good enough for the amateur contest in four weeks or so. Seventy five dollars a session and my guess is you win the competition and you triple you investment."
"Thank you," Claire said as she slid the card in her back pocket. "I might just take you up on it."
I took a long pull of my IPA as I tried to decide if the Asian bartender just had a hell of a marketing pitch or if Claire could actually win. Claire was looking at me with an incredible smile and I realized few women would stand a chance in hell of beating her.
"Miss is Jake Samson here?" I asked.
Her eyes opened as if she was afraid she might be in trouble as she answered, "Yes he's in his office. May I ask why you want to see him?"
"I'm an old friend of his from Maine and heard he had landed a job here. Just want to say hello."
"Oh," she answered, clearly relieved. "Who should I say is asking for him?"
"Jack Chamberlain," I answered.
"The Sherlock of Maine, Detective Jack Chamberlain?" she asked.
"Well the Sherlock is a bit of a stretch but yeah, that's me."
"Don't be modest. He's brilliant trust me," said Claire as she wrapped her arm around me.
"I'll go and tell him, just wait right here." She went back behind the bar walking down its length and disappearing through a door at the other side of the room.
"Was that for real?" I asked Claire as she released her arm from me to take another sip of her now half empty beer.
"What the pole dancing? You don't think I could win?" She asked as she smiled, began turning and trussing up her hair as Lieutenant Lisa had done earlier.
"Actually I don't think anyone else stands a chance against you. I'm just trying to understand if you're really thinking about doing it."
"Would you think less of me, like I was a tramp or something?"
"No, it's just that I …" I looked over at the men gathered around the stage handing Lisa dollar bills an running their hands on her legs as she accepted them. "That's just not a vision I would be comfortable with."
"I see, guys coping a feel while I'm on stage?"
"Remember the last time that happened we got bounced out of a bar in the Old Port?"
She laughed and wrapped her arms around me and gave me a kiss on the lips. "How could I forget, Lancelot. As I recall you got bounced out, I just chose to go with you. Don't worry I'm not entering any pole dancing competition. Not sure about the lesson though. A great way to stay in shape and be agile."
The Asian bartender came over with two fresh beers and said, "Your tab has been paid. Mr. Samson's office is through that door and he would be happy to say hello."
"Thank you," I said as I slid a twenty across the counter. "That's for you," I said which brought on a nice smile as she took it and placed it in her pocket.