The sun beat down mercilessly but I ignored the sweat and fatigue weighing on my limbs. The heat curled my hair so sporadically that the short black locks tickled the tops of my ears and I swatted them away. Urgency spurred me on, yet after several miles on foot, my pace dragged. I had a child abductor to catch, and possibly a killer. Nothing would slow me down.
I tottered off the roadway as a car approached from behind, but the hum of the engine stalled out beside me rather than passing on. Alicia rolled down the passenger window and crawled along beside my staggering progress.
“Screw you. I’ve come this far without you.”
“Yeah, not very far at all.”
I lurched to a stop and raised my chin at her. “Don’t you have some slimebag to arrest? Isn’t that why I’m out here walking in the first place?”
“Once officers got to the scene, I handed it off to them.”
I blinked, dumbfounded. “But that was your arrest. You’ll lose the credit.”
She pursed her lips. “Well, someone got in my head about the possibility of missing boys needing our help, so I’m giving up the win for their sake.”
I wanted to stay angry, yet her sacrifice softened me more than I liked to admit. “Thank you.”
“Where are you trying to go anyway?”
“Back to the station to demand those files from Jamie. It’s clear more than ever that this isn’t a game and he needs to hand over what he knows now.”
“I thought you were going to do it without the files on Mullohan, like some point of pride or something?”
I set my jaw. “This isn’t about me anymore.”
“Good,” she mused. “It shouldn’t have been about you at any point so I’m glad you caught up to where you’re supposed to be.”
I sighed. “So to the station?”
She smirked. “I’m not saying this because of your feud with Jamie. Like I said, the whole thing is nonsense. But I actually don’t think you should waste your time thumbing through paperwork.”
“What else are we supposed to do from here? Time is of the essence.”
“Exactly, which is why every minute we sit around reading useless misdirects is another minute we’ve lost.”
“Then where do you suggest we go next?”
“Scene of the crime.”
“The boys went missing outside their school. We scoured the area back then, followed every possible clue, and after two years, anything useful has definitely been worn away.”
She raised a coy eyebrow. “I wasn’t talking about that crime.”
A chuckle broke from me. “You wanna go to the Mullohan murder scene? I really don’t think we’re supposed to do that. Jamie will be pissed if we go traipsing around his scene without his permission.”
She shrugged. “Let him be. He didn’t give us the info we needed, so we went and got it ourselves. Who can blame us for that?”
“There might not be much left for us to investigate.”
She reached across and kicked open the passenger door. “We won’t know until we try. And don’t you wanna give Jamie this middle finger?”
I fought off a mischievous grin. “You know me too well.”
I slung myself into the seat beside her and we sped onward. After only thirty seconds of silence, I noticed Alicia turning the wheels in her mind with an intense vigor.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Just thinking about this situation with selling the kids.”
“Messed up,” I murmured.
“Obviously, but that’s not what I meant. I’m more thinking about this specific scenario with Curtis and Owen. He jokingly offers to give them up for two hundred grand.”
“Yes,” I trailed in, unsure of her conundrum.
“It’s too much of coincidence that he gets the money he asked for which means it was almost definitely seen on the website, we know that. But why?”
“Who would go to the trouble of a) tracking this specific website user down, b) arranging a premeditated abduction for Sawyer’s kids whom the kidnapper has never met, and c) actually giving the dad $200,000 at the end of it all? If someone wanted kids that desperately, I would think there was an easier way to get it done. They could have kidnapped any kids off the street at any time, anywhere, but they specifically chose to follow through with these kids, Curtis and Owen who, for all they knew, could be the worst behaved kids on planet Earth. Why go to so much trouble? And they didn’t actually have to pay out. They already had the kids. Handing over the money seems idiotic, or almost mocking.”
“You think there’s a reason that the Canns were targeted.”
“Don’t you? It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
I bobbed my head, considering. “If that’s the case, then it makes our job a little easier. Instead of searching for every crazy parent wannabe in the country, we can narrow it down to someone that had a connection to Sawyer or the boys.”
“But those sorts of theories were ruled out during the initial investigation,” she grumbled. “Anyone with a personal motive to go after them was questioned and cleared.”
“Including Risa Mullohan,” I nodded as I flipped to her place in the Canns file, as I had so many times over the last two years. “She was the first suspect. A mom that didn’t win custody of her kids. Of course she would steal them back. But her alibi checked out and now, with this new information about the cash out, I don’t think she would have paid her exe for the custody that she felt she deserved in the first place.”
“And now she’s dead,” she pointed out, “which only helps your hypothesis. If she was murdered, that would mean someone else was likely involved in all this. Who would want to take the kids and murder the mother? Someone out to get Sawyer?”
“Or someone helping out Sawyer,” I pondered. “He seemed like he was sick of his kids based on his online presence. They give him a wad of cash and relieve him of his fatherly duties. Then they wipe his exe out of the picture.”
Alicia drew herself up solemnly. “Someone who cares about him. Cathy?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. But she seemed out of the loop on the whole thing. My gut says no.”
“If we change our minds, she’s in custody, ready to be grilled. Accessory to selling children.”
I judged the rickety apartment complex that she steered us into, my skin crawling at the thought of setting foot inside. “This better be worth it. Risa Mullohan better give me some answers.”
“Just from a glance,” she admitted. “I’d say there’s as much of a chance that a junkie capped her for no good reason at all. I hate to break it to you, but this might not be your break.”
“It is,” I growled. “It has to be.”
To be continued in Bridges 5...
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber