Windows All Around
CHARISS K. WALKER
Copyright © 2014 Chariss K. Walker
All rights reserved.
Windows All Around
The Vision Chronicles, Book 4
Chariss K. Walker
Sands couldn't leave Peaty without first getting some answers, even though she knew that Patty needed her. Her heart was torn between the two desires. She wanted to comfort Patty and stop the hysterical cries that came from the nursery, but Sands knew the best way to help Patty was to find out what happened to Kathleen. Danny went upstairs to find her sister and to offer consolation and support. When Peaty came around and could finally speak, she told Sands everything that happened before she was stunned with the taser.
"The doorbell rang and I went to answer it," Peaty began. "There was a young woman there with her head turned away from the peephole. I opened the door to see what she wanted, but when I did, she was wearing a mask and immediately pushed a black box into my chest. The pain was so terrible that I guess I passed out and went down. Amanda must've heard the commotion when I fell to the floor because there she lies nearby. The woman must've got her too. And then, poor Jesse must've been next. I'm so sorry, Senorita. I'm so very sorry. Did they take the baby?"
The ambulance arrived quickly, but it took them a while to do all the procedures they were accustomed to doing and the attendants didn't rush. It was nearly six thirty by the time they'd finished with Jesse and then insisted on checking Amanda and Peaty as well. Although Sands loved Jesse dearly, she wanted to conduct her own investigation and simply didn't have the privacy to do that while the EMTs were in and out of the manor. She tried to be patient and finally the paramedics left with Jesse in the ambulance. They relayed their findings to Sands before leaving. She was assured that Amanda and Peaty were fine, but that they should get plenty of rest. However, it was their opinion that Jesse should be taken to the emergency room to be checked out thoroughly because of her age. Sands told them to do it.
"A taser can do a lot of damage to the elderly, Miss Dawson," the EMT informed Sands as Jesse was loaded onto a gurney and put in the ambulance. "We just need to be sure she's alright and the doctor will probably want to keep her overnight for observation. We'll let her call you when we've finished running a few extra tests and have released her. That way you can send a car for her. Uh, Miss Dawson, was this a break-in? Do you want me to call the police?"
"No!" Sands said quickly. "It was a prank and we've got it under control. It's not necessary to call the police." Sands waited until the emergency crew had left with Jesse and then turned to James.
"How did you know this James? Did you get a phone call or ransom demand?" Sands asked.
"No, Sands," James replied. "I had this wrenching gut feeling and knew something was wrong. I can't explain it, but I felt as if someone stabbed me in the stomach and then twisted the knife a few times. The only thing that could cause me that much pain is that someone would harm my family, so I instinctively knew it had to be here since all of you were there at the shop with me."
"I know exactly what you mean; thank god you got the feeling when you did and listened to it. This tragedy occurred only a short while ago. They must've been waiting for Patty to return to work and then took Kathleen after she left. Come with me," Sands ordered.
She took everyone into the office located at the foot of the stairway. Sands opened hidden doors in a cabinet and rolled the security camera equipment forward where she could control the video feed. She rewound it to the scene where Peaty had answered the door and replayed it from there. A woman and a man had been waiting outside the door for Peaty to open it. The woman stood in front of the door with her face turned away, but the man was flattened against the wall out of view of the peephole. The cameras only showed the courtyards and nothing beyond it and Sands muttered that she'd have to get that fixed. As soon as Peaty opened the door, quick as lightening, the intruders were inside and charging the house.
The woman came through first and after she'd applied the taser to both Peaty and Amanda, she motioned for the man to continue checking the downstairs area. She stopped at the bassinet and picked up the sleeping baby while the man proceeded to check the house and found Jesse in the kitchen. Jesse was turned away from the door slicing vegetables on the cutting block when he put the taser in the middle of her back. She never knew what hit her or what happened because he'd walked in with stealth and cunning. From his movements, he might've had military training.
Next, the video showed the woman slip out of the house with Kathleen in her arms. She waited outside on the courtyard for the man to join her. She didn't remove her mask and neither did he. They left together and then they were out of the security system's cameras and out of view.
"Sands, I hate to say it, but I think I know who that woman is," James said thoughtfully.
"So do I James, so do I," Sands replied.
James and Danny never made it to Juarez Friday evening; their family needed them in Las Cruces. James and Sands reviewed the security video footage of Kathleen's abduction more times than either of them cared to remember. Each time they saw the footage, his heart jumped into his throat as the two assailants simply slipped away and out of sight of the cameras with Kathleen tucked in the woman's arms. James was stunned, but so was everyone else.
"Do we call the police?" Danny asked.
"No," Sands was quick to reply.
Patty had come back downstairs with Danny and after she saw the footage she began to cry again. It was akin to the keening heard in those of Irish descent. Her heart was broken and there was no mending it until her baby was returned. Sands tried to comfort her, and when she failed, Danny tried also. But, Patty simply couldn't be consoled. Danny took Patty to the breakfast room and made her a coffee. She sat holding her sister's hand and speaking softly to her as if crooning to Kathleen. James and Sands continued to replay the video again and again. Sands repeatedly cursed herself each time it ended at the limited view of the courtyard and vowed to have that fixed as soon as possible.
It was difficult to deny that the woman responsible for kidnapping Kathleen had the same hair color and cut as the nanny from the orphanage. She was also the same size and build. James wondered about the reasons behind Kathleen's abduction. Why would Missy do such a thing? It was absolutely bizarre. For one thing, Missy knew that Kathleen didn't take her formula from anyone other than Sandra Dawson, her employer. She knew that Sands had brought Kathleen home with her to make certain the baby thrived. Why would she take her from the one place that was making certain she was nourished and cared for with love? It simply didn't make any sense, but it had to be Missy on the video. Neither James nor Sands knew her accomplice, but they were determined to find out.
"Ok, we think we know who did this, but the real question is why would Missy in particular do this?" James finally asked. "She had to know that Kathleen was better off here with you. Not only that, Missy had to know she couldn't get away with it unless…" his voice trailed off as the realization struck him. Missy would only do this was if she planned on disappearing after the deed was done. He could tell from the look on Sands's face that she'd come to the same conclusion.
"Ransom money?" Danny asked.
"It's too soon to tell, but somehow I think she has another agenda," James replied.
"We have to find her," Sands said. Her voice was filled with apprehension and worry.
"Aren't you going to call the police?" Danny asked again.
"No, darling," James replied. "I think we have as good a chance as anyone to find her and I'm sure Sands wants to keep this quiet." He looked at Sands and she nodded. The worst thing they could do was to let other would-be kidnappers know they were vulnerable. And, neither of them trusted the Las Cruces Police Department. It was too corrupt.
Throughout the entire discussion, Patty remained silent. She rocked back and forth with her arms wrapped around her midsection as if something had been ripped away from her, and it had been. Everyone was concerned for her, but their thoughts were centered on rescuing the baby. They believed that if Kathleen was rescued, the hole in Patty would mend. They did the only thing they knew to do; they kept going with their efforts.
"I think we need to pay the orphanage a visit. Perhaps, we'll find out more there. Someone has to know who might be her accomplice and what she's been up to recently. I think we should go now, Sands," James said.
It was already late on Friday evening when they reached that decisive point in the discussion. They were also pretty sure that all personnel, not associated directly with the children, had gone home. Sands didn't let that stop her. She was determined to find out. She called Kathy Webber, the secretary, and demanded that she return to the orphanage. James told Danny and Patty to stay by the phone in case a ransom demand came in, but he suspected this had nothing to do with a ransom. He urged them to call immediately if that happened. James kissed Danny lightly and then looked over at her sister. Patty was white with shock and nearly hysterical. He knew that she needed Danny with her now more than ever. Sands talked to Patty calmly assuring her that she'd get Kathleen back and to stay strong. She then pulled Amanda aside.
"I need you to go to the hospital as soon as you've recovered from the taser blast. Go check on Jesse," Sands said.
"I'm fine, Miss Sands; I can go now," Amanda replied.
"Good; stay with her until she's discharged and then bring her home," Sands said as she patted Amanda on the arm.
James and Sands left to go to the orphanage in both of their personal vehicles. When they arrived, Sands used a key to get inside and headed toward the office where the records were kept. James stayed close on her heels. By the time Kathy arrived, Sands was ready for her. She'd already pulled Missy's personnel records and anything at all with Kathleen's name on it. James and Sands questioned Kathy with such intensity that the secretary became frightened, but she quickly answered everything they asked and even volunteered additional information when it was called for. They discovered that both Missy Jones and a male instructor had called in sick today. James and Sands shared a mutual nod of understanding. Apparently Missy had the help of a co-worker.
"Who's the male instructor that was absent today?" James asked the secretary.
"His name's Stephen Miller," Kathy replied.
"Were they close?" James asked brusquely.
"Yes, they were dating for some time now," Kathy replied. "I know it's against regulations, Miss Dawson, but Missy was so lonely with no family in the area and she and Stephen hit it off right away because he was lonely too. We turned a blind eye to their romance."
"Pull his personnel file, quickly. We need his address and any phone numbers he has listed, any relatives listed as next of kin also," James instructed. Then he added, "Just give me the entire folder. We've already pulled Missy's." Sands continued to question Kathy to find out which of those on the list of prospective adoptive parents had been most interested in Kathleen. Kathy gave her the top three names from the list; those who'd already been vetted. Next, Sands wanted to know whether or not Missy had been in contact with anyone in particular.
"Yes, Miss Dawson. It was the couple in Florida, Mr. and Mrs. Buckingham. The man, Mr. Buckingham, called Missy nearly every day. He wouldn't talk to anyone except Missy," Kathy replied. "The Buckingham's are from Miami and they wanted the baby desperately. Missy complained that you were holding the adoption up and she was very upset about it," Kathy said.
"You were sent a certified letter telling you that all matters concerning Kathleen were being handled by her court appointed guardian ad litem, Stanley Smith. Didn't any of you understand that to deal with prospective adoptive parents was a waste of time and potentially illegal?" she asked Kathy heatedly.
"No," Kathy protested. "We didn't get any letter like that. At least I didn't."
"Give me Buckingham's file," Sands demanded. Kathy did as told and when James and Sands had all the files in hand, they went into a back office to look over the paperwork in both Stephen's and Missy's folders. It was a complete picture and James was thankful that it was. He was fairly certain that when they'd filled out their applications and other forms necessary for employment, neither one of them had any intention of kidnapping a baby and fleeing with their soul mate.
"He's from New Orleans, Sands. That's about halfway from here to Miami. Maybe they're meeting Mr. Buckingham there. Maybe they plan to hand over the baby for a large fee and then disappear in The Big Easy." James said as he tried to figure out what the two of them had planned.
"She's from Lake Charles which is very close to The Big Easy," Sands said thoughtfully as she tapped the folder with her index finger.
"I think we can assume they're headed in that direction," James said. "We have to find out the make and model of the car they're driving and try to find it."
"We'll hire a helicopter to fly over I-10 East and look for the car. Hell, we'll hire an entire fleet of helicopters if we have to," Sands said frantically. "We don't want the police involved, but there has to be a security company we can trust to find them. When they've been pulled over, all we'd have to do is show the court document proving our legal custody of the baby. No one would refuse to give her back to us." Sands had rung her hands with anxiety. James reached out to console her and patted her hands, but she continued to blame herself. "I should've known Missy was up to something when she called and wanted the baby back at the orphanage. I should've known she was working on a deal. If I'd told the orphanage I had custody of Kathleen, Missy would've known that she couldn't finalize an adoption without my approval," Sands said gasping and trying to hold back the panic. James patted her hands again and then her shoulder.
"You had no way of knowing any of this, Sands," he said. "Look, you have to keep it together for Patty's benefit. We'll find Kathleen and we'll return her to the manor where she's well-loved and cared for, but you have to keep the faith. That's what'll get you through this and that's what I need from you right now. I need you focused and totally with me if we're going to get Kathleen back."
"I don't want the police involved," she said firmly. "If they get involved, there could be a high-speed chase and Kathleen could get injured. Oh, god James; I don't know what to do!" Sands was frantic at her feeling of helplessness.
"I don't think you really want helicopters chasing them down either then," James commented. "There's always the chance of injury there too."
"Then, what the hell am I supposed to do?" she asked frantically.
"Why don't we just call them and offer them double whatever Mr. Buckingham is paying them?" James asked. His 'magic' was working fine even if he hadn't seen another vision in the window's pane yet. Sands looked at him dumbfounded for several minutes and James remained silent as he let the simple solution sink in.
"Occam's razor again," Sands muttered. He smiled and nodded.
"Look, we have their phone numbers from the file. We also know what kind of vehicles they drive and their home addresses. They're in one of those cars. We need to go over to Missy's apartment and see if her car's there and if it isn't we need to check Stephen Miller's apartment and see if his car's there. They're using one of the cars," James repeated and then paused. He studied Sands carefully to make sure she was on the same page. She was nodding thoughtfully, so he continued, "The more we know, the more it will scare the hell out of them. They won't keep at it when we have so much information about them. You can tell Missy that you have her and Stephen on security camera footage injuring three people and taking Kathleen from the bassinet. Tell her that if you have to call the FBI that you will; they'll be facing serious criminal charges. Hit her hard and she'll either cave or she won't, but then tell her that if she'll return Kathleen to you that you'll pay double whatever she was offered to kidnap the baby. You might also tell her that you have court ordered custody of Kathleen and that no one can adopt her without your express authority. That the errand she's on is foolish and pointless. We have to help her to the understanding that she doesn't have all the information and she's made a bad choice that can be corrected if she does the right thing."
"Ok," Sands replied. "Where do we start to gather the information we need?"
"I'll go to Stephen's apartment and you go to Missy's. We'll meet back at the manor. You take their files with you and the one on Buckingham too. If you have to call him to put a stop to this, then we plan on that option also. He needs to know that he can't adopt Kathleen even if she's delivered to him," James said as he continued to study Sands and check her composure to everything that'd happened.
"Yes, he needs to know just how seriously he's breaking the law and that what he's doing is pointless because the orphanage doesn't have custody of Kathleen," Sands said and James breathed easier because he could see that the plan was giving her hope. Sands was already more positive about what they knew. She could now hope that Kathleen would be returned to her and Patty.
"Then let's get going," James said and put his hand under her elbow to help her get moving again. When they left the orphanage, James entered Stephen's address in the GPS navigation system and followed the directions. According to his employee records, Stephen Miller drove a 2004 white Jeep Cherokee. The address wasn't far and James found his apartment number and searched the numbered parking spaces for the vehicle. It wasn't there and his assigned parking space was empty, but James drove the entire complex parking lot making sure Stephen hadn't parked it somewhere else. Next, he called Sands and gave her the update. She was just pulling into Missy's apartment complex, and when she found the numbered parking space, she also found Missy's 1994 Honda Accord. It made sense that they'd take the Jeep over the older model Honda. James and Sands both headed back to the manor.