Chapter 34

SO MUCH FOR A QUIET SATURDAY MORNING WITH THE kids. Jason McThune studied his feet on the rug next to his bed, and tried to focus on the clock on the wall by the bathroom door. It was almost six, still dark outside, and the cobwebs from a late night bottle of wine blurred his eyes. His wife rolled over and grunted something he could not understand.

Twenty minutes latec, he found her deep under the covers and kissed her good-bye. He might not be home for a week, he said, but doubted if she heard. Saturdays at work and days out of town were the norm. Nothing unusual.

But today would be unusual. He opened the door and the dog ran into the backyard. How could an eleven-year-old kid simply disappear? The Memphis police had no idea. He just vanished, the lieutenant said.

Not surprisingly, traffic was light in the predawn hours as he headed for the Federal Building downtown. He punched numbers on his car phone. Agents Brenner, Latchee, and Durston were roused from sleep and instructed to meet him immediately. He nipped through his black book and found the Alexandria number for K. O. Lewis.

K. O. was not asleep, but neither was he in the mood to be disturbed. He was eating his oatmeal, enjoying his coffee, chatting with his wife, and just how in the hell could an eleven-year-old kid disappear while in police custody? he demanded. McThune told him what he knew, which was nothing, and asked him to be ready to come to Memphis. It could be a long weekend. K. O. said he would make a couple of calls, find the jet, and call him back at the office.

At the office McThune called Larry Trumann in New Orleans, and was delighted when Trumann answered the phone disoriented and obviously trying to sleep. This was Trumann's case, though McThune had worked on it all week. And just for fun, he called George Ord and asked him to come on down with the rest of the gang. McThune explained he was hungry, and could George please bring some Egg McMuffins.

By seven, Brenner, Latchee, and Durston were in hioffice gulping coffee and speculating wildly. Ord arrived next without the food, then two uniformed Memphis policemen knocked on the door to the outer office. Ray Trimble, Deputy Chief of Police and a legend in Memphis law enforcement, was with them.

They assembled in McThune's office, and Trimble, in fluent coptalk, got right to the point. "Subject was transported from the detention center by ambulance to St. Peter's around ten-thirtylast night. Subject was signed in by the paramedics at St. Peter's ER, at which time the paramedics left. Subject was not accompanied by Memphis police or jail personnel. Paramedics are certain a nurse, one Gloria Watts, female •white, signed subject in, but no paperwork can be found. Ms. Watts has stated she had subject in ER intake room, and was called out of room for an undetermined reason. She was absent for no more than ten minutes, and upon her return, subject was gone. The paperwork was gone too, and Ms. Watts assumed subject had been taken to ER for examination and treatment." Trimble slowed a bit and cleared his throat as if this were somehow unpleasant. "At approximately five this morning, Ms. Watts was evidently preparing to leave her shift, and she checked the intake records. She thought of the subject, and began asking questions. Subject could not be found in ER, and Admissions had no record of his arrival. Hospital Security was called, then the Memphis PD. At this time, a thorough search of the hospital is under way." "Six hours," McThune said in disbelief.

"I beg your pardon," Trimble said.

"It took six hours to realize the kid was missing." "Yes sir, but we don't run the hospital, you see." "Why was the kid transported to the hospital •without security?" "I can't answer that. An investigation will be undertaken. It looks like an oversight." "Why was the kid taken to the hospital?" Trimble took a file from a briefcase, and handed McThune a copy of Telda's report. He read it carefully. "Says he went into shock after the U. S. marshals left. What the hell were the marshals doing there?" Trimble opened the file again, and handed McThune the subpoena. He read it carefully, then handed it to George Ord.

"Anything else, Chief?" he said to Trimble, who had never taken a seat and had never stopped pacing slightly. He was eager to leave.

"No sir. We'll complete the search, and call you immediately if we find anything. We've got about four dozen men there right now, and we've been checking for a little over an hour." "Have you talked to the kid's mother?" "No sir. Not yet. She's still asleep. We're watching the room in case he tries to get to her." "I'll talk to her first, Chief. I'll be over in about an hour. Make sure no one sees her before I do." "No problem." "Thank you, Chief." Trimble clicked his heels together, and for an instant looked as though he wanted to salute. He was gone, along with his officers.

McThune looked at Brenner and Latchee. "You guys call every available agent. Get them here right now. Immediately." They bolted from the room.

"What about the subpoena?" he asked Ord, who was still holding it.

"I can't believe it. Foltrigg's lost his mind." "You knew nothing about it?" "Of course not. This kid is under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. I wouldn't think of trying to reach him. Would you want to piss off Harry Roosevelt?" "I don't think so. We need to call him. I'll do it, and you call Reggie Love. I'd rather not talk to her." Ord left the room to find a phone. "Call the U. S. marshal," McThune snapped at Durston. "Get the scoop on this subpoena. I want to know everything about it." Durston left, and suddenly McThune was alone. He raced through a phone book until he found the Roosevelts. But there was no Harry. It tie nad a. number, it was unlisted, and that was perfectly understandable with no less than fifty thousand single mothers trying to collect unpaid child support. McThune made three quick calls to lawyers he knew, and the third one said that Harry lived on Kensington Street. He would send an agent when he could spare one.

Ord returned shaking his head. "I talked to Reggie Love's mother, but she asked more questions than I did. I don't think she's there." "I'll send two men as soon as possible. I guess you'd better call Foltrigg, the dumbass." "Yeah, I guess you're right." Ord turned and left the office again.

AT EIGHT, MCTHUNE LEFT THE ELEVATOR ON THE NINTH floor of St. Peter's with Brenner and Durston following close behind. Three more agents, decked out in a splendid variety of hospital garb, met him at the elevator and walked with him to Room 943. Three massive security guards stood near the door. McThune knocked gently, and motioned for his small squadron to back away. He didn't want to scare the poor woman.

The door opened slightly. "Yes," came a weak voice from the darkness.

"Ms. Sway, I'm Jason McThune, Special Agent, FBI. I saw you in court yesterday." The door opened wider, and Dianne stepped into the crack. She said nothing, just waited for his next words.

"Can I talk to you in private?" She glanced to her left-three security guards, two agents, and three men in scrubs and lab jackets. "In private?" she said.

"We can walk this way," he said, nodding toward the end of the hall.

"Is something the matter?" she asked as if nothing else could possibly go wrong.

"Yes ma'am." She took a deep breath, and disappeared. Seconds later, she eased through the door with her cigarettes, and closed it gendy behind her. They walked slowly in the center of the empty hall.

"I don't suppose you've talked to Mark," Mc-Thune said.

"He called me yesterday afternoon from the jail," she-said, sticking a cigarette between her lips. It was not a lie; Mark had indeed called her from the jail.

"Since then?" "No," she lied. "Why?" "He's missing." She hesitated for a step, then continued. "What do you mean, he's missing?" She was surprisingly calm. She's probably just numb to all this, McThune thought. He gave her a quick version of Mark's disappearance. They stopped at the window and looked at downtown.

"My God, do you think the Mafia's got him?" she asked, and her eyes watered immediately. She held the cigarette with a trembling hand, unable to light it.

McThune shook his head confidently. "No. They don't even know. We're keeping a lid on it. I think he just "walked away. Right here, in the hospital. We figured he might have tried to contact you." "Have you searched this place? He knows it really well, you know." "They've been searching for three hours, but it looks doubtful. Where would he go?" She finally lit the cigarette and took a long drag, then exhaled a small cloud. "I have no idea." "Well, let me ask you something. What do you know about Reggie Love? Is she in town this weekend? Was she planning a trip?" "Why?" "We can't find her either. She's not at home. Her mother ain't saying much. You received a subpoena last night, right?" "That's right." "Well, Mark got one, and they tried to serve one on Reggie Love, but they haven't found her yet. Is it possible Mark's with her?" I hope so, Dianne thought. She hadn't thought about this. In spite of the pills she hadn't slept fifteen minutes since he'd called. But Mark on the loose with Reggie was a new idea. A much more pleasant idea.

"I don't know. It's possible, I guess." "Where would they be, you know, the two of them together?" "How the hell am I supposed to know? You're the FBI. I hadn't thought about that until five seconds ago, and now you're asking me where they are. Give me a break." McThune felt stupid. It was not a bright question, and she was not as frail as he thought.

Dianne puffed her cigarette, and watched the cars crawl along the streets below. Knowing Mark, he was probably changing diapers in the nursery or assisting with surgery in orthopedics, or maybe scrambling eggs in the kitchen. St. Peter's was the largest hospital in the state. There were thousands of people under its varied roofs. He'd roamed the halls and made dozens of friends, and it would take them days to find him. She expected him to call any minute.

"I need to get back," she said, sticking the filter in an ashtray.

"If he contacts you, I need to know it." "Sure." "And if you hear from Reggie Love, I'd appreciate a call. I'll leave two men here on this floor, in case you need them." She walked away.

BY EIGHT -  THIRTY, FOLTRIGG HAD ASSEMBLED IN HIS OFFICE the usual crew of Wally Boxx, Thomas Fink, and Larry Trumann, who arrived last with his hair still wet from a quick shower.

Foltrigg was dressed like a fraternity pledge in his pressed chinos, starched cotton button-down, and shiny loafers. Trumann wore a jogging suit. "The lawyer's missing too," he announced as he poured coffee from a thermos.

"When did you hear this?" Foltrigg asked.

"Five minutes ago, on my car phone. McThune called me. They went to her house to serve her around eight, but couldn't find her. She's disappeared." "What else did McThune say?" "They're still searching the hospital. The kid spent three days there and knows it very well." "I doubt if he's there," Foltrigg said with his customary quick command of unknown facts.

"Does McThune think the kid's with the lawyer?" Boxx asked.

"Who in hell knows? She'd be kind of stupid to help the kid escape, wouldn't she?" "She's not that bright," Foltrigg said scornfully.

Neither are you, thought Trumann. You're the idiot who issued the subpoenas that started this latest episode. "McThune's spoken twice this morning with K. O. Lewis. He's on standby. They plan to search the hospital until noon, then give up. If the kid's not found by then, Lewis will zip to Memphis." "You think Muldanno's involved?" Fink asked.

"I doubt it. Looks like the kid strung them along until he got to the hospital, and at that point he was on home turf. I'll bet he called the lawyer, and now they're hiding somewhere in Memphis." "I wonder if Muldanno knows," Fink said, looking at Foltrigg.

"His people are still in Memphis," Trumann said. "Gronke's here, but we haven't seen Bono or Pirini. Hell, they might have a dozen boys up there by now." "Has McThune called in the dogs?" Foltrigg asked.

"Yeah. He's got everyone in his office •working on it. They're watching her house, her secretary's apartment, they've even sent two men to find Judge Roosevelt, who's fishing somewhere in the mountains. Memphis PD has the hospital choked off." "What about the phones?" "Which phones?" "The phones in the hospital room. He's a kid, Larry, you know he'll try to call his mother." "It takes approval from the hospital. McThune said they're working on it. But it's Saturday, and the necessary people are not in." Foltrigg stood behind his desk, and walked to the window. "The kid had six hours before anyone realized he was missing, right?" "That's what they said." " "Have they found the lawyer's car?" "No. They're still looking." "I'll bet they don't find it in Memphis. I'll bet the kid and Ms. Love are in the car." "Oh really." "Yeah. Haulin' ass." "And where might they be haulin' ass to?" "Somewhere far away."

AT NINE -  THIRTY, A MEMPHIS POLICEMAN CALLED IN THE tag number of an illegally parked Mazda. It belonged to one Reggie Love. The message was quickly sent to Jason McThune at his office in the Federal Building.

Ten minutes later, two FBI agents knocked on the door to apartment Number 28 at Bellevue Gardens. They waited, and knocked again. Glint hid in the bedroom. If they kicked the door down,. then he would simply be sleeping on this lovely and peaceful Saturday morning. They knocked the third time, and the phone started to ring. It startled him, and he almost lunged for it. But his answering machine was on. If the cops would come to his apartment, then they would certainly not hesitate to call. After the tone, he heard Reggie's voice. He lifted the receiver, and quickly whispered, "Reggie, call me right back." He hung up.

They knocked the fourth time, and left. The lights were off and the curtains covered every window. He stared at the phone for five minutes, and it finally rang. The answering machine gave its message, then the tone. Again, it was Reggie.

"Hello," he said quickly.

"Good morning, Glint," she said cheerfully. "How are things in Memphis?" "Oh, the usual, you know, cops watching my apartment, banging on the door. Typical Saturday." "Cops?" "Yeah. For the past hour, I've been sitting in my closet watching my little television. The news is all over the place. They haven't mentioned you yet, but Mark's on every channel. Right now, it's simply a disappearance, not an escape." "Have you talked to Dianne?" "I called her about an hour ago. The FBI had just told her he was missing. I explained he was with you, and this calmed her a bit. Frankly, Reggie, she's been shocked so much I don't think it registered. Where are you?" "We've checked into a motel in Metairie." "I'm sorry. Did you say Metairie? As in Louisiana? Right outside of New Orleans?" "That's the place. We drove all night." "Why the hell are you down there, Reggie? Of all the places to hide, why did you pick a suburb of New Orleans? Why not Alaska?" "Because it's the last place we'd be expected. We're safe, Clint. I paid cash and registered under another name. We'll sleep a bit, then see the city." "See the city? Come on, Reggie, what's going on?" "I'll explain it later. Have you talked to Momma Love?" "No. I'll call her right now." "Do that. I'll call back this afternoon." "You're crazy, Reggie. Do you know that? You've lost your mind." "I know. But I've been crazy before. Good-bye now." Glint placed the phone on the table, and stretched on the unmade bed. She had indeed been crazy before.