Callahan nodded. “I considered that, but my main goal had been to maintain the family’s privacy and to keep them out of the media circus while they struggle.”
“Think some more about it,” Sanford said. “They don’t all have to come. I think at least one person might be helpful.”
“I’ll run it by them. What if I read a statement from them? Would that work?”
“It’s better than nothing. It might be beneficial for the public to see the family.”
Callahan’s shoulders straightened as he looked hard at Sanford. If he’d had his cowboy hat on, Ava could imagine him tugging down the brim to intensify his stare. “You want the public to see the family, or you hope the kidnapper will? Their pictures are already all over the news. Do you really need them?”
Sanford blinked. “It’s up to them. I’m trying to utilize every tool we have to keep that girl safe. If a kidnapper gets a twinge of guilt because he sees her mom crying on camera, I’m going to use it.”
“He’s got no guilt,” Callahan snapped. “He grabbed a little girl off the street. We aren’t dealing with a normal human being. This is a screwed-up sicko.”
The trio turned to see Jake. His eyes were wide, and his lashes trembled.
“You know who took Henley?” he blurted.
Ava squeezed Jake’s upper arm and turned his attention to her. “No, Jake. We’re discussing what kind of twisted human would do this.”
Jake looked at Callahan and Sanford. “Have you found anything?” he asked Sanford.
The special agent took a deep breath. “We caught an image of a vehicle on your street in the time frame Henley went missing. We’ll find it.”
“Could you see Henley in the vehicle?” he asked, his voice shooting up an octave.
“No, son.” Callahan put a hand on his shoulder and pointed at the computer monitor. “That’s what they’ve got. Look familiar to you at all?”
Jake studied the screen, and Ava watched his reaction. His eagerness rapidly faded to disappointment. “No. I can’t even tell what kind of minivan it is.”
“Toyota Sienna,” Ava told him.
The teen shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve seen it before. Can you find it off that partial plate view?” His nose wrinkled as he leaned closer. “What are the last two numbers?”
“A two and a four. We cross-referenced those numbers with that model and got a list,” stated the agent seated at the monitor. “We’ve narrowed the list to the Portland metro area, and we’re sending out teams to knock on doors as we speak.” He glanced at his watch.
“Nice,” commented Callahan. “We need to get back to the house. I want to talk to Lucas about the press conference. I think I know what his reply will be, but I’ll ask.”
“Oh shit,” swore the agent at the monitor.
“What?” asked Sanford, Ava, and Callahan at the same time.
“I’ve got a report of a stolen Toyota Sienna, dark gray, with a two and a four at the end of the plate number. It was stolen two weeks ago in Salem.”
“Two weeks ago?” muttered Ava. She looked at Sanford. “Someone’s been planning this for quite a while.”
Mason’s brain throbbed. His day was continuing on a downward shitty spiral. Not only did his fellow officers wonder if he was involved in Josie’s death, now Henley’s kidnapping looked like it’d been carefully planned. They probably weren’t dealing with a spur-of-the-moment kidnapper who’d grabbed her from the street on a whim. Those slobs were the easy-to-find perps. They acted fast without thinking, were sloppy, and made mistakes, practically begging the police to find them. Now, it was possible that someone had meticulously planned the abduction for weeks.
He’d ridden back to the house in silence with Jake and Special Agent McLane. Ava. She’d asked him to call her Ava, but he kept forgetting. Probably because she kept calling him detective. They were living in the same house; it was time for first names. She’d been great with Jake today. For someone who didn’t have kids, she seemed to have an instinctive knack for knowing what the teen needed to hear. There was still some power play going on between her and Sanford, but she didn’t let it interfere with her work. The fact was, Sanford’s responsibility was to manage the command center, and Ava’s job was to keep the family in hand. Two very different positions. And it looked like they were both doing their part.
The announcement of the stolen van had elevated the energy in the room. Though the thought that someone had possibly mapped out Henley’s kidnapping for weeks was upsetting, the bureau looked at the theft as a possibility for leads. Two teams had immediately been sent to Salem to interview the theft victim and dig up what information they could on the crime. That didn’t mean the first list of minivans with those plate numbers had been abandoned. Agents continued to pursue those leads.
Mason’s mind boggled at the sheer manpower needed to rapidly process every lead. Thank God the FBI made child abductions a priority. An immediate AMBER Alert had gone out. The full plate number of the stolen minivan was announced on electronic highway signs, TV, and radio, and also sent to every cell tower in the Portland area. It’d been eerie to hear the pings and vibrations in the big room as his and every agent’s phone received the alert within a few seconds of one another.
Fuck those people who objected to getting AMBER Alerts on their phones and took steps to deactivate the public service. If their kid had been missing, they’d be screaming at the police to send an alert to every phone in the nation. What type of asshole got upset when a missing-kid announcement landed on their phone?