A Nation of Sheep by Jon Wesick
A Nation of Sheep by Jon Wesick
Boom, boom, boom! Boom, boom, boom! The sound of synchronized clapping and foot stomping shook the convention center’s walls. Harsh camera lights cut through the darkness to illuminate the audience. A pinch-faced woman held up an abortion-is-murder sign while a fat, bearded man held another that said, “Keep your commie hands off my guns!” Young men with black suits, white shirts, and ties ushered a man in frock coat and tri-cornered hat through the doors. On stage a man with a white teeth and graying hair combed in a pompadour made his way to the microphone.
“Quiet! Quiet!” He raised his arms by the clapping and stomping didn’t stop. “We can’t continue until you’re quiet.” The audience calmed. “It’s my great honor to introduce one of the Freedom and Liberty Action Committee’s most loyal friends, a man who helped build the Tea Party revolution ten years ago. When the American people needed to make Congress listen, he was there! When we defeated a Communist president, he was there! Ladies and gentleman, the man who’s always had our back, Mr. Conrad Spectre!”
The crowd cheered the tall, gangly man who stood and walked with a stork-like gait to the podium. Despite being one of the richest men in the world Spectre dressed humbly in slacks and a loose, tan sports jacket. The only jewelry he wore was a simple wedding band. Framed by wire-rimmed glasses and a thick head of gray hair his gaunt face seemed to be made only of planes and angles.
“I’m a man of few words and cannot match the eloquence of the speakers who already talked to you. Like the senator from Texas,” Spectre pointed to a man on the dais. “I believe an out-of-control federal government is the biggest threat to liberty we face.” He paused for the applause to die down. “Like the congressman from West Virginia I believe global warming is a criminal fraud perpetrated by a liberal conspiracy of so-called scientists to weaken America so the world government can take over. And like President Sanders I believe the nation’s number one priority should be to put an end to job-killing regulations so we can ensure our children’s future.” He waited for the applause. “But I said I’m a man of few words. Actions speak louder than words. Tonight I pledge one hundred million dollars to the Freedom and Liberty Action Committee! Get the damn government off our backs!”
After his speech Spectre ran the gauntlet of handshakes and pats on the back and took an elevator to a private level of the parking garage where fluorescent lights turned the concrete walls and his black limousine eerie colors.
“Will you be going home, sir?” The stocky man in a black suit and cap opened the car door for his boss.
“Yes, Frank.” Spectre slid into the back seat and poured himself a single-malt Scotch from the wet bar.
He leaned back on the leather seats and let the thirty-year-old Islay whisky calm his nerves. Despite decades of behind-the-scene political influence, public speaking still terrified him. He would have much rather met privately with the campaign managers but Sharky Rowan had insisted he speak to the crowd. It had gone well. Once home he’d reward himself with a steak dinner and a long soak in the Jacuzzi.
Frank avoided the crowd by taking the performers’ exit. He turned right on Hillyard. Tumbler in hand Spectre marveled at the city lights. What a testament to the free enterprise system. There were restaurants, clothing shops, and computer stores that sold goods from all over the world. Unleashed capitalism was the road to prosperity. If only we could get those meddling bureaucrats off business’s back. They passed a man wrapped in a winter coat sleeping on the steps. Spectre sipped his Scotch. So many of them these days. Whatever happened to the Protestant work ethic? Those Feminazis who wrecked family values sure made a mess of that!
Frank took a right on Wabash and stopped. Spectre looked up. An accident had blocked the road. A VW Jetta had crumpled its fender against a light blue van. Both drivers were outside their vehicles shouting and gesturing. One pushed the other who responded with a wild roundhouse punch that caught the first in the jaw and sent him reeling. Wasting no time the puncher kneed his opponent in the groin, knocked him to the pavement, and began kicking him.
“Excuse me, sir.” The key alarm chimed as Frank stepped out of the limousine to break up the fight. “Hey! Knock it off!”
Spectre heard low voices and then two pops. Frank staggered and fell. A half dozen men each wearing a ski mask and carrying an assault rifle burst from the back of the van and surrounded the limo. One gunman pulled the handle of the door nearest Spectre as the billionaire reached for his cell phone. It was locked.
“Open it!” The gunman pressed the rifle barrel to the window.
Spectre put down his cell phone.
Spectre pushed the latch. The gunman grabbed Spectre’s collar, pulled him from the seat, and sunk a punch into his gut. Doubled over and trying not to vomit Spectre felt something tear in his shoulder when his captors yanked his arms behind his back and handcuffed him. They wrapped duct tape over his mouth, put a smelly bag over his head, and led him away. Blind and hurting he stumbled as his captors hustled him into the van.
After they tossed him face down on the floor, the driver pulled smoothly away. There were no sharp turns, squealing tires, or speeding – nothing to attract police attention. For an instant Spectre enjoyed the warm, comforting feeling in his pants until he realized he’d wet himself. One of the captors pressed the hard barrel of a gun to the back of Spectre’s neck.
“You need to get something straight,” he said. “You’re not in charge any more. The people are. Do everything we tell you and you’ll be okay. Disobey and we cut off a finger. Try to escape and we cut off your balls. Understand?”
“I need you to acknowledge that you understand.” The captor pressed the gun barrel harder into Spectre’s neck.
“Ugh! Ugh!” Spectre nodded his head.
Spectre’s twenty-six-year-old son Darryl touched the tablet controller to open the attachment the kidnappers had e-mailed. The flat-panel display on the wall ceased the presidential campaign coverage of challenger Senator Robert Reeves as the software infiltrated the home computer network. Also in the mansion’s entertainment center were Spectre’s second wife Joanne (only a few years older than Darryl), Detective Justin Page, and a technician bent over a laptop computer and peripherals in the corner. The latter looked up and shook his head.
“Virus just shut me down.”
“Any chance of getting back online to trace the webcast?” Detective Page asked.
“I’ll try but I doubt it.” The technician turned back to the computer.
A live image of Conrad Spectre filled the wall display. Only a white screen could be seen behind him. The billionaire was sitting at a table with his hands chained in front of him. Aside from messy hair and rumpled clothes he appeared unharmed.
“As you can see we have Conrad Spectre,” an electronically altered voice said over the speaker. “Our demands are simple. In exchange for one hundred million dollars, we will return him to you.”
“Who am I speaking to?” Detective Page asked.
“You may call me Beretta.”
“All right, Beretta. How do we know that’s really him and not a video loop?” Page asked.
“Talk to him,” Beretta said.
“Conrad?” Joanne moved closer to the wall display. “Conrad, are you all right?”
“Joanne!” Conrad looked up. “You’ve got to get me out of here!”
“Mr. Spectre, your wife tells me you have trouble sleeping,” Page said. “Have you been able to get any rest? It’s not too noisy is it?”
“No more talking,” Beretta said. “Detective, I’m disappointed in you trying such an obvious ploy to get information.”
“That may be true,” Page said, “but it’ll take the family a while to get the money together. In the mean time Mr. Spectre needs his heart medicine. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Spectre?”
“So is there any way we can get it to him?”
“No,” Beretta said. “If you’re worried about Spectre’s health, pay us quickly. Last night he spent one hundred million dollars buying our government. He can afford another hundred million to buy back his life. Call it participatory democracy. You have three days.”
“Just one thing.” Jaw clenched Darryl stepped forward. “See that nothing happens to my dad or you’ll pay.”
“Really?” Beretta said. “You rich people’s arrogance never ceases to amaze me. It’s time you learned a lesson, boy. The people are in charge not you but we’ll give you a choice. Shall we cut off your father’s ear or his finger?”
“Wha?” Darryl’s mouth fell open.
Detective Page spoke up. “Look Beretta, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull but…”
“Come one, you businessmen are always bragging about how you make tough decisions. It didn’t take much deliberation for you to eliminate our pensions, send our jobs overseas, or bust our unions. So what’ll it be? Finger or ear?” Beretta said. “Choose or I’ll cut off both.”
Darryl stood paralyzed.
“Take his finger!” Joanne yelled before bending over sobbing.
A man in a ski mask carried a pair of both cutters in front of the camera.
“Please! Please!” Spectre tried to pull away but the manacles kept his hands in place as the kidnapper positioned the bolt cutters on his little finger.
The handles closed, Spectre screamed, and the video feed went to black.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Spectre.” Detective Page placed a hand on Joanne’s shoulder. “We’ve got our best team working on this. If anyone can get your husband back safely, we can.” He turned to the technician. “Get whatever information you can and meet me back at the station.”
After Detective Page left, a maid entered the room. Wearing a black dress with white apron she would not have been out of place in the nineteenth century.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Spectre.”
“Denise O’Brien is here.”
“Who?” Joanne asked.
“Wife of the driver who was murdered when they kidnapped Mr. Spectre.”
Of course,” Joanne said. “Show her in.”
The red-haired woman who entered had obviously seen better days. Her face showed the toughness that comes from a lifetime of low-wage jobs and her body had begun to put on weight in middle age. Sensing the tension in the room her eyes betrayed a moment of hesitation before she approached Joanne.
“Mrs. Spectre, I’m so sorry about your husband. Have you heard anything?”
“They want a ransom,” Darryl said.
“Bastards!” Denise said. “Death penalty’s too good for them!”
Without looking at Denise, Joanne fumbled in her purse and took out her checkbook. “I appreciate your loyalty and hope this small token of our gratitude will help with your expenses.” She set the check on the table and turned away.
In pain Spectre pulled against his manacles, the steel digging into his wrists, until the older kidnapper called Glock limped to the table, unlocked his hands, and gave him some gauze smeared with antibiotic ointment.
“Hold that tight until the bleeding stops.” After putting on latex gloves, Glock placed the severed finger in a plastic bag and then in an envelope addressed to Sprectre’s family. “I know you miss your finger but what you lost is nothing.” Glock rolled up his pant cuff to show an artificial leg. “Iraq, twenty years ago after your pals sent me to get rid of some nukes that didn’t even exist.”
“Please!” Sprecre said. “I need a doctor.”
“A doctor!” Glock laughed and turned to one of the others. “Hey Smith, can you afford a doctor?”
The kidnapper shook his head.
“How about you, Wesson?” Glock asked.
“You’re living like the rest of us now. Worse happens to most people every day. On the bright side, you’ll be amazed at your body’s natural healing power.” Glock motioned to the others who led Spectre to his living area and locked him behind the chain-link fence.
Glock removed his ski mask as he walked away. He exited the loading dock of the abandoned warehouse, let the steel door slam behind him, and found Beretta smoking a cigarette on the concrete steps outside.
“What the hell were you thinking cutting off Spectre’s finger like that?” Glock shook a cigarette loose from the pack and lit up.
“Had to. If the cops don’t fear us, they’ll play us. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“What’s gonna happen if the bleeding doesn’t stop or if an infection sets in? There’s no way we can bring a doctor here.”
“Won’t be a problem.” Beretta flicked his cigarette butt away. “Now that we got their respect, they’ll pay and pay quickly. By the end of the week we’ll be knocking back brews on the beach at Mazatlan. You’ll see.”
“Hope you’re right.” Glock took car keys out of his pocket. “I’ll go see if our friendly pharmacist has some medicine for our guest.”
Detective Page parallel parked his police Toyota and got out. The neighborhood was crap – run down houses, messy yards, and the faint smell of sewage.
“Hey son, could you tell me…” he asked a shirtless boy with a soccer ball but the kid merely walked away.
Yes, the neighborhood was crap all right. Few houses displayed numbers making it hard to find the address. After walking up the block he resorted to his smart phone’s map feature. He didn’t bother with the commercial sites. They only listed addresses in more respectable areas. He went straight to the police site, which showed him the way.
The O’Brien house was a small, one-story unit. Unlike their neighbors’ yards, the O’ Brian’s was neatly mowed and had no children’s toys scattered about. A red Mazda Z-Type was parked out front but Page couldn’t tell if it belonged to the O’Brien family or the neighbors. He knocked on the front door and Denise answered.
“Mrs. O’Brien,” he showed his badge. “I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Detective Page from the Middleton police. I’m wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”
Denise opened the door and stepped aside. As Page entered he looked back at the street.
“Beautiful sports car. I always wanted to get a Z, either that or a Miata but on a public servant’s salary… How does it handle?”
“Like maple syrup on pancakes,” Denise said.
Bingo! Page followed her into the living room and found a free space among the throw pillows crowding the couch. Sitting leg apart and leaning forward over the coffee table he began his questioning.
“Mrs. O’ Brian, I’m sorry about your husband’s death and I want you to know we’ll bring his killers to justice. You could help us by answering a few questions. How long did he work for Mr. Spectre?”
“Fifteen years. Can you believe it?” Denise gulped red wine from a juice glass. “Frank worked for them for fifteen years, gave his life for them, and that teenaged, trophy wife gives me a check for two thousand dollars.”
“Did your husband get along with Mrs. Spectre?”
“I don’t think she even knew he was there.”
“How about Mr. Spectre? Was he a good boss?”
“He paid all right. It’s the reason we could afford this house. Of course, Frank earned every penny of that money, working late at night, always at Spectre’s beck and call.”
“Did your husband mention anything suspicious lately, someone watching Spectre or any odd phone calls?”
Denise shook her head.
“Did he gamble?”
“Did your husband make any new friends recently?”
“No.” Denise smoothed her hair.
“Did he come into any money?”
“I think I know what you’re getting at and it’s time for you to leave.” Denise stood.
“Mrs. O’Brien, I’m sorry but these questions are routine. I have to ask them just to rule out…”
When Page returned to the station Lieutenant Jackson summoned him to his office.
“There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” The lieutenant gestured toward a heavyset man in a rumpled, tan suit. “This is Agent Hunter Johnson. He’s our liaison to the FBI.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Agent Johnson shook Page’s hand.
Page looked at the agent with disdain. Johnson had not combed his hair, his shirt was stained, missing a button, and his pant cuffs dragged on the carpet. What was the FBI coming to? Then again, maybe a slob like Johnson would have to be pretty sharp to avoid getting tossed out of the Bureau. “Let’s go back to my desk and I’ll fill you in. Care for a cup of coffee?”
“If I drink any more coffee, I’ll set my shoes afloat.” Johnson waddled after Page and pulled up a chair next to the desk.
Detective Thomas whose chair he’d taken entered the office, scowled, and left.
“How many people are working the case?” Johnson asked.
“Seven, now that you’re here.” Page pulled up some pictures of the abandoned limousine and dead driver on his computer’s display. “Kidnappers stopped the limo and shot the driver four times with a 9mm handgun when he got out. We’re keeping the story out of the news so we don’t complicate the ransom.”
“Came from a Glock stolen two years ago from a gun shop in Phoenix. No fingerprints on the shell casings.”
“Any surveillance video?”
“Spray paint on the lens and no there’s no video of the vandals.”
“Lots of homeless in the area but we didn’t find anybody. Nothing much in the way of tire tracks. No fingerprints on the limo. We think the kidnappers wore gloves. We took blood samples in case not all of it belonged to the dead driver. They’re at the lab being processed for DNA.”
“What time was the kidnapping?”
“Somewhere around 8:30 PM.”
“Great!” Agent Johnson stood. “I’m going back to my motel. See you back here at 8:00.”
Tired from his nine-hour shift Detective Page drove Agent Johnson to the crime scene on Wabash. The burger he’d eaten sat in his gut like a sumo wrestler holding a hundred-pound bag of concrete. They’d already interviewed the homeless and nobody had seen anything. Still, Agent Johnson should see the scene and Page could use the overtime.
“Limo stopped here.” Page pointed to the site and brought up the photos on his smart phone. “Spectre was coming from that direction. Kidnappers probably drove straight to the highway.”
Johnson nodded, began walking, and stopped after a block to talk with a shopping-cart woman.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Were you here two nights ago?”
“No, I was in my mansion in Beverly Hills.” The woman chuckled at her joke until her laughter turned into a deep, rattling cough.
“You know anybody who might have been here?” Johnson held out a five-dollar bill.
“I might.” The woman reached for it.
Johnson snatched it away. “The money’s yours whether you know anybody or not. Just don’t waste our time with a made-up story. If you do point us to someone who helps us, I’ll come back and give you a twenty.”
The woman didn’t know anyone but after several interviews and sixty-five dollars Johnson tracked down a man who’d seen the kidnapping. Unfortunately, Roger had consumed most of the vodka in the plastic bottle sitting beside him on the sidewalk.
“Yeah, I seen them guys take some dude.” Roger was bearded and wore a stained T-shirt and baggy, brown pants with tears in the knees. He sat on a plastic bag that most likely contained all his possessions. “Blocked the road with some sort of van and made him stop. Then I heard shots and ducked around the corner.”
“Did you see their faces.”
“Nah, but they was army or something. They called each other the names of guns like Mr. Remington, Mr. Kalashnikov, and so on but one guy slipped up and called the other one sergeant.”
Roger refused Page’s offer to put him up in a motel so they left him with twenty dollars. True to his word Johnson returned to the man who’d helped him find Roger and gave him twenty dollars too.
The next day Page and Johnson visited the Spectre mansion. After the introductions, the maid interrupted and said there was something on TV they needed to see. They went to the entertainment room where the Madeleine Crocker Show was already playing.
“Today, I’m speaking with Denise O’Brien whose husband was killed defending his employer from kidnappers. Mrs. O’Brien, tell about the last time you saw your husband.”
“It was Tuesday morning when he left for work. Frank and I had argued about his souvenirs from when he played football in high school. They were cluttering up the storage and I said some things I shouldn’t have. It was stupid really. I made a nice dinner to apologize but Frank never came home. Him being late was normal because he was a chauffeur for Conrad Spectre but he’d never been this late before. Then the police called,” Denise began to cry, “and said Frank was dead.”
“What else did they tell you?”
“That I should keep quiet because Mr. Spectre had been kidnapped.”
“And why are you coming forward now?” Madeleine’s voice dripped with phony empathy.
“To clear my husband’s name. The police never even talked with me until they sent someone who accused Frank of being involved…”
“Lying bitch! She’s only interested in what they’re paying her. ” Darryl changed the channel to another news program showing the remarks of the presidential candidates.
“For too long America has been soft on crime. I know it and the public knows it,” silver-haired President Sanders said. “Where were the surveillance cameras and why don’t we apply terror laws to these criminals? Make no mistake the kidnapping of a prominent political donor is an act of terrorism. In my next administration you can be sure America won’t be held hostage by domestic terrorists.”
Next came the challenger.
“Senator, senator, how do you react to the kidnapping of your opponent’s main financial backer?”
“I’m praying for Mr. Spectre’s release and extend my sympathies to his family.” Senator Reeves made his way through the throng of reporters.
“But senator, you said Conrad Spectre’s campaign contributions were an abomination…”
Darryl changed to the business report.
“On news of Conrad Spectre’s kidnapping the value of Spectre Enterprises stock continues to plummet.”
“How are we supposed to raise a ransom now?” Darryl turned off the TV and dialed the phone. “Yes, this is Darryl Spectre. I’d like to speak with Sharkey Rowan. Mr. Rowan, I’ll cut to the chase. We’re having trouble raising ransom money for my father and would like you to return the money he donated to your political action committee.” Darryl paused and frowned. “I see.” He hung up and stared blankly at Joanne. “He won’t do it.
The drugs did nothing for the pain. They only made Spectre sleepy and dizzy. Of course, sleeping was the best way to spend his time. There was nothing else to do but stare at the wall, smell the stench from the bucket he used for a toilet, and worry. At first only the stub of his finger hurt but now his whole hand was swollen and tender. He knelt on the concrete floor and bowed his head.
“Lord, look after my family and give me strength to prevail over my persecutors. Most of all bring them to justice. Amen.”
A key rattled in the lock. Spectre scrambled onto his bunk before the door opened. It was Glock. The masked kidnapper entered and set down a tray holding a hamburger, fries, and bottle of water.
“Let me look at your wound.” Glock examined Spectre’s swollen hand. “Looks like you’ll need some different meds. How’s the pain?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.” It hurt like hell but Spectre didn’t want a narcotic so strong he’d lose control. “I can tell you’re a decent man who just got caught up in this. Even if you and your partners get away with the ransom, you’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. I have money and friends in high places. If you get me out of here, I’ll see that you’re not arrested and make you so rich that you’ll never have to work again.”
“I’ll be back tonight with some new meds.” Glock looked into Spectre’s eyes before letting go of his hand.
Darryl answered the phone.
“Mr. Spectre, Sharkey Rowan here. Listen, I’m sorry about the other day. Of course, we’ll return your father’s donation. Conrad’s been a loyal friend. Nothing’s more important than getting him home safely. You’re all in my prayers.”
A question had nagged at Detective Page since the video feed. Who would supply confidential medical care to Spectre after the kidnappers cut off his finger? Legitimate doctors would report something like that. That left only medical students and doctors who’d lost their licenses. Page hadn’t told Agent Johnson about his theory because his team had yet to turn anything up. The homeless man had said the kidnappers were ex-military. What if one was a former medic? He’d need supplies. A dodgy druggist perhaps? Page checked the pharmacist licensing records for disciplinary actions. One name topped the list, Bradley Henderson. He had quite a record of missing inventory but somehow always managed to keep his license. Page had just the way to ensure his cooperation.
It was a slow day. Brad Henderson was standing behind the prescription counter when the woman dressed only in a bikini top and baggy jeans approached.
“I need some antibiotics.”
“Do you have a prescription?”
“It’s for my brother.”
“I’m sorry I can’t dispense drugs without a prescription.”
“The thing is he got hurt doing something he shouldn’t have.” She leaned forward giving Henderson a generous view of her cleavage. “You know how doctors are, always overreacting.” She placed a wad of bills even more generous than her cleavage on the counter. “Are you sure there’s no way you can help me?”
Henderson looked at the money, her cleavage, and then her face. “Is he in a lot of pain?”
“A lot of pain.”
“Meet me out back.”
After the woman walked away, Henderson dispensed pills, gathered some bandages, and placed them in a bag before walking out the back door where he showed the woman the bottles.
“Give him one of these four times a day. The others are for pain. No more than three a day. If his bleeding doesn’t stop or he goes into shock, get him to an emergency room.” Henderson took the money and handed over the supplies.
A man in a suit was waiting at the counter when Henderson got back.
“These micro video recorders are great! Take a look.” Detective Page played the video of the transaction that had just taken place on his smart phone. “You could lose your license for giving out drugs without a prescription, Bradley, but I’m not interested in you. I’m looking for an ex-military medic who bought supplies to treat a wound. Oh and, by the way, I’ll need the money back.”
Agent Johnson had waited in his car for six minutes when a beige Hyundai drove onto the third floor of the parking garage and pulled into a nearby space. A man got out, limped to Johnson’s car, and got in the passenger seat.
“How’s to hostage?” Johnson asked.
“Alive but he needs a doctor,” Glock said.
“Won’t be much longer now.” Johnson handed Glock a slip of paper. “Number of a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Have the family transfer the ransom there.”
Glock took the paper and reached for the door handle.
“Tim, our side needs the cash,” Johnson said. “If there were any way to fight these bastards by playing fair, I would have done it. It was the only way.”
Glock nodded and got out.
“We found him!” Detective Page said when Agent Johnson got back to the station.
“How’d you do that?” Johnson raised his bushy eyebrows and leaned against Page’s desk.
“Followed the kidnapper who picked up some meds from a crooked druggist back to an abandoned warehouse of Garfield. I’ve got a team watching them now.”
“Good work! We’ve got to think of the best way to handle this.” Johnson started pacing. He’d just met with Glock too. This was getting too close. “I’ve seen more than my share of these things go belly up when the rescue team goes in guns blazing. The best time to catch them would be after they dropped the hostage off. Yeah, that would be best. Our priority has to be getting the hostage out alive. That said, it would be best to keep your team out of sight or even pull them back some. There’d be hell to pay if the kidnappers spotted them.” Johnson stopped pacing and stroked his eyebrows. “Yeah, there’d be hell to pay. How about this? We’ve got some great surveillance gear, real spooky, NSA stuff like flying cameras the size of bees. Pull your team back and my guys will put the kidnappers under surveillance. Then we’ll follow them when they leave the warehouse. Once the kidnappers drop the hostage off, we move in.
“Of course, you were there when the kidnappers first made contact. You’ve got to be there when the call to collect the ransom. We wouldn’t want to spook them.” Johnson took his smart phone from his lapel pocket. “I’d better inform the Director and arrange for the surveillance.”
“Got it!” Beretta shut down the laptop computer after confirming the ransom had been transferred to the Caymans. He stood up and exchanged high fives with the others. “We’re taking our country back!”
Smith and Wesson began packing up while Beretta erased the computer’s memory.
“Come on, Conrad.” Glock opened Spectre’s cage. “You’re going home.” He covered Spectre’s head with a cloth bag. “Just be cool, now. It won’t be too long.”
Spectre let Glock take his elbow and lead him. He stumbled over something on the floor.
“Careful.” Glock caught Spectre before he fell.
More steps, the sound of men’s banter and the garage door opening, the warm sun on his arms. Spectre wanted a warm bath and the feel of his wife’s arms around him. Just a short ride and he’d be home. He’d send all the doctors away and ask JoAnne to put on that black negligee he’d bought her in Paris. God, it’s been so long. A popping sound similar to the one that had killed Frank put an end to Sprectre’s daydream. The hand on his elbow let go as he heard several more. Then he was standing alone in darkness and silence. He felt as if he was standing atop a tower and any false step would plunge him into the chasm below. It seemed like nothing happened for the longest time. Carefully Spectre pulled the bag off his head and squinted in the sunshine. A dozen men in black uniforms, helmets, and Kevlar vests held rifles ready while the kidnappers lay dead at his feet. Spectre smiled. Served the commie bastards right! He felt a little sorry for Glock, though. Life in prison would have been good enough for him. When he got back to his office, he’d call Sharkey Rowan to discuss law and order. Maybe he could suggest some candidates who would make the streets safe again. Yes, those kidnappers had definitely pulled the tiger’s tail when they’d messed with him. Spectre smiled just before a sniper’s bullet shattered his skull.
After watching the scene from a remote video feed, Agent Johnson dialed a secure satellite phone.
“Mr. President,” Johnson said. “It’s done.”
“Federal agents arrested Senator Reeves’ campaign manager, Norman Delaney, on charges of kidnapping, money laundering, and racketeering after revealing that ransom money paid for the release of slain billionaire Conrad Spectre had been traced to the senator’s campaign committee. When questioned by reporters Senator Reeves had no comment but President Sanders had plenty to say.”
“At the turn of the century our nation responded to an attack by foreign terrorists with the Patriot Act. We now find ourselves facing domestic terrorists. And make no mistake about it violently disrupting a political campaign is terrorism. I’ve asked my cabinet to come up with concrete proposals to deal with this threat and promise to deliver them to Congress next week. May I add that I hope we name the new law after a true American patriot? I suggest we call it the Conrad Spectre Act.”
“Hey Justin.” Detective Thomas pulled up a chair by Detective Page’s desk. “Didn’t you interview a lot of homeless down on Wabash as part of the kidnapping investigation?”
“Ever see this guy?” Thomas set down a photo of a dead man with a beard.
“Yeah, name’s Roger. He witnessed the Spectre kidnapping.”
“Found him last night,” Thomas said. “One shot to the back of the head. Now why would anybody kill a homeless guy assassination style?”
Copyright Jon Wesick 2020