An Emily Stone Thriller
Tuesday 1030 Hours
Intensity overrode the room’s rising humidity. The claustrophobic staleness of the tight quarters pushed the confrontation between interrogator and suspect to the extreme.
Emily Stone calmly watched her partner from her cramped vantage point.
His eyes, dark and piercing, focused on the suspect. Sculpted biceps appeared pumped and ready for action – nerves heightened. He showed restraint, but clearly wanted to unleash mayhem.
“Where’s the little girl?” Rick Lopez demanded with his jaw clenched.
“I… I… don’t know who you mean.” The man’s voice wavered and he couldn’t keep eye contact.
“You know where she is. Give me the address. Now!”
Rick pushed the skinny, young man backward against the wall. Cornered. Sweat saturated his receding hairline of straggly, sun-bleached hair as his shoulders slumped forward making him appear older. Weakening, he would cave in and spill the truth.
Time stood still for the trapped man.
He rubbed his stubby fingers tightly against one another on the bottom fabric of his loose Hawaiian shirt. The bright yellow pineapples and colorful surfboards twisted and morphed on the garment beneath his sweaty hands.
Rick took a deep breath. He backed up a couple of feet from the man and averted his gaze for a few seconds, hands slightly trembling; obviously he wanted to pummel the guy’s face out of pure hatred.
Time ticked away for a nine-year-old girl.
The corner of the cramped depot conveniently used for storing small sailboats, catamarans, and kayaks remained still and silent. Cluttered with miscellaneous parts, the room waited, quiet like a strange fiberglass tomb.
A calming breeze wafted in with a comfortable, steady eighty-degree temperature. Trade winds never disappointed in the time of need as the distinct trace of Kauai’s moisture integrated into the atmosphere, from the concentrated outside plant growth, daily rainfall, and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Emily stood in the corner, shifting her weight somewhat from side to side, and continued to observe her partner’s interrogation. She surveyed Rick closely as his frustration level accelerated. All of his typical warning signs radiated in the room with his clenched jaw, brusque voice inflection, prominent vein in his forehead, and a stare that could stop an angry mob dead in its tracks.
She loved Rick for his skill and perseverance; but most of all, making her passion of hunting down serial killers, child abductors and pedophiles his own.
She loved him.
She knew Rick felt at a disadvantage without his trusted Glock pressed firmly in his right hand.
The exhausting clues for three days led them to Kauai from the San Francisco area; the island provided a stopping point for child slavery brokers. They were able to determine that this man provided transportation and they weren’t leaving until he gave them all of the information he knew. They hoped that they weren’t too late and that the little girl wasn’t already on her way to another country, only to disappear into the mass culture of black market slavery.
Emily’s fists clenched as her knuckles protruded an ashen white. Occasionally, her hands brushed by her side out of habit. Absent of her own Beretta, she couldn’t get used to being unarmed and vulnerable on the island paradise. Her petite body braced. She waited for the right moment to move into the conflict, as her unwavering eyes never averted from the weakening man.
The young man began to weep. “Look, I don’t know…” He slowly sank to the floor with his head in his hands.
Forcefully, Emily stepped forward with purpose and thrust a photograph into the suspect’s face. “Where is she?” In the picture, a beautiful little girl with long brown hair and wispy bangs smiled sweetly at the camera. The photo represented a much happier time taken during a family picnic at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
The man couldn’t bear to look at her, but finally focused his gaze on the innocent, shining face.
The man knew. Eventually he would break.
Emily slapped his face with the photo and insisted, “Where is she!” The picture with dog-eared corners and moisture damage from the humidity shook slightly in her hand as she waited for an answer.
* * * * *
The sickly sweet, rotted tropical fruit and moldy earth filled her nose and burned her eyes. Tears welled up and spilled over, falling down her tender cheeks. She clenched her fists against the dank soil underneath her. Tightening and releasing her tiny hands and slim fingers, she held her breath. Each compressed grip helped to stable her heightened fear and kept her from screaming, but it didn’t stop an escaped whimper or two. She didn’t want to alert the bad men.
Cassie Thompson listened for them, frightened of what they were capable of doing to her. Knees pulled up in front of her weak body, she pressed her spine up against the weather beaten foundation of the basement. The cool, mustiness of the structure chilled her bones even though she was hot to the touch. Her teeth chattered slightly. The sound of her stomach grumbled from the lack of food for the past several days. Her lips were dry from thirst. She managed to find a piece of a mango that wasn’t rotten, but that was hours ago.
Her time neared.
Cassie listened, poised, not ready to accept the terrible things in the mind of her captors. The floors creaked and groaned above her, one set of beams moved with a heavy footing.
When they had removed her blindfold and tight plastic restraints after the long plane ride, the stocky, dark haired man with black, smeared tattoos on his neck, face, and arms tried to touch her in a groping manner. His long ponytail mesmerized her and she thought about how she wanted to grow her own hair longer, but her mom had said no.
The other man, tall, clean cut with a slight British accent looked like someone’s dad, stopped the burly man and stated he shouldn’t touch the girl. He stressed the importance of untainted merchandise and receiving top American dollars.
The weakening floorboards stopped momentarily just above her head. Muffled voices engaged in casual conversation with idle laughter and raised voice inflections every other sentence. Wooden chair legs scraped across the floor, stopped, and then followed with a heavy affirming creak. Lighter, quicker footsteps moved away and faintly disappeared to another part of the house, perhaps out the front door.
Desperation filled Cassie again. She crawled cautiously on her hands and knees to the one area of the basement that revealed a crack of light filtering through. Dust particles swirled around like delicate confetti through the spotlight of freedom, which drew the little girl closer to its precipice. She stopped for a moment to listen for any incoming danger.
Wiping her tear stained face with grains of putrefied earth, she willed herself to continue. She softly told herself that she could do it. Remembering a story about a young girl, about her age that survived under the rubble of a building after an earthquake. Cassie could survive this horrible situation too.
Letting out a breath stifled from a whimper, she inched toward the light as the crawlspace narrowed above her head. The native island soil pushed between her little fingers and packed down firmer into the earth, it felt warmer to the touch than from the other side, and the distinct odor increased in intensity to more of old garbage and feces.
A few small gnats and flies buzzed about their business, swooping around her head.
Cassie leaned toward the tiny crack, focused her eyes and prayed it was a way out. At first she couldn’t see anything but a brown color and a blinding light. Realizing that it was a palm tree trunk, she moved her gaze farther to the left and surveyed the yard and saw miscellaneous junk, tires, and an old car mixed between the overgrown jungle foliage.
Humid heat and daily rainfall deteriorated and molded anything in its wake. It appeared to be the back yard of a home, long forgotten and neglected.
Her heart sank.
Who would ever find me now?
Her right hand touched something smooth and cool poking up from the dirt basement. Looking down, she gasped in horror as she followed the outline of a small skull, smooth, whitish, and right beneath her vantage point.
Thoughts of horror flashed through her mind. There were vivid, gruesome thoughts that no nine year old should ever have to realize or contemplate. Cassie’s breathing quickened and she fought to keep from fainting. Faint light specs floated around her vision like tiny, blinking stars.
The soft whirring of a motor broke her defeated attitude. Her vision cleared. The sound was faint and then the engine stopped altogether, but Cassie knew she had heard a car approaching up through the back way of the property.
Someone drew near.
She willed herself to peek out through the prisoner’s spy gap again.
Please help me.Excerpt from Dark Mind All rights reserved. Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Chase
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