Will would adjust his watch up another twenty minutes before he went back in with the man. Jenner was clearly exhausted. The last two times Will had checked on him, he’d been asleep, his head on the table. He’d clearly lost track of time. Another five minutes skipped forward. Another ten. There was no telling what the magic hour was, but Will would keep leading Jenner along, moving the time ahead, until Jenner felt like he was safe.
Their only hope was that they’d have enough time left to save the girl.
Abigail had been missing for three hours now—at least that they knew of. There was no telling where she’d come from before that, whether or not a mother and father were looking for her. Eleanor Fielding had worked in social services. Maybe Abigail was a foster child.
So much for the image of Abigail in her mother’s arms.
Predators tended to pick easy targets, and the foster system was so bereft of funding that caseworkers could barely keep up anymore. Many of them didn’t have cell phones, laptops, or sometimes even offices. Seattle alone had seen dozens of child deaths in the foster system. Florida had a habit of losing their kids. Washington, D.C., had so many neglect cases on the books that they could barely adjudicate them all. There was no telling whether or not Abigail was one of the missing.
At this late hour, she might already be one of the dead.
The doors behind Will slid open. Faith sat down beside him on the bench. She had a radio in her hand. It was tuned to the Atlanta Police frequency, the volume turned down low. Will could hear the soft murmur of cops chattering back and forth.
Faith said, “Nothing,” because she knew that was the first thing he’d ask. “Is that her shoe?”
Will handed Faith the ballet slipper with its pink trim and smiling Hello Kitty.
“It’s so small.” Faith pressed her lips tightly together. She had a daughter in diapers and a son in college. As hard as these cases hit everyone, they seemed to hit Faith doubly so.
Will asked, “How old do you have to be before you dress yourself?”
Faith sighed as she thought it through. “It varies from kid to kid. You’re pointing things out that you want to wear around two, two and a half, but you can’t dress yourself. Three or four, you’re putting stuff on, but sometimes it’s backward or you put the wrong shoe on the wrong foot. By five, you’re pretty much able to dress on your own. Unless you’re a boy. Then, you can’t do it until you’re at least twenty-five. Maybe thirty.”
Will allowed a smile at the attempted levity, but all he could think about was Abigail picking out her clothes. This morning or yesterday or whenever it was, she’d taken the flowery dress, the matching tights and shoes, and put them on herself. He imagined her smiling at her reflection in the mirror, maybe twirling around.
Faith interrupted his thoughts. “The FBI is chomping to take this over.”
“I’m sure Amanda’s happy about that.”
“They’re not being assholes,” Faith allowed. “They’re giving her everything she’s asks for. Nobody wants this thing blowing up in our faces.”
Will didn’t say that he thought it had exploded a few hours ago. “I keep thinking of her with her mother.”
“That’s something good to hold on to. I’m going to think about that, too.”
“You know it’s not likely.”
Faith said, “I don’t care if it takes the rest of my life, Joe Jenner’s going to end up in jail.”
Will nodded, hoping that didn’t end up being their consolation prize.
“I don’t see how you managed to sit across from the smug prick without beating him senseless.”
“It’s what he wants,” Will realized. That was why Jenner kept antagonizing them. Part of it was the lawyer’s sense of superiority, but a greater part was the satisfaction he got from seeing the police so out of control.
Faith said, “It’s the only crime I don’t understand.” She handed back the shoe. “Robbery, murder, even rape I can sort of get. But a kid?” She shook her head. “It’s disgusting. Something is seriously wrong with a person who would do that.”
Will didn’t know what to say. It seemed pointless to agree with her.
He sat back on the bench and stared at the underground parking garage. He’d spent the last thirty minutes going through each step he’d taken after he followed Jenner outside. He did it again now: The cop. The Cowboy in the red truck. Running into the garage. Jenner had changed his appearance. How long did that take? Removing the wig and glasses would take two, three seconds, tops. Reversing the jacket and zipping off the bottom part of his pants while still holding on to the girl would be another matter.
Abigail wouldn’t have just stood there while he changed. She would’ve run. Will was certain of that.
Regardless, they hadn’t found the wig or any of Jenner’s disguise in the many trashcans that were placed around the garage. The stairwells were empty. The spaces between cars absent his stash. Maybe Jenner’s hand-off partner had taken everything, but the question remained: how did he or she escape? Every single departing car had been checked. Every exit had been sealed off.
Logic dictated there had to be something they were missing.
Vanessa Livingston had sent a team of men to run the license plate of every vehicle inside the parking structure. According to his driver’s license, Jenner had a black Bentley Continental registered in his name. A quick call to the parking attendant at the Ritz-Carlton verified the Bentley was in the residents’ area of the garage.
Abigail wasn’t secreted away in a vehicle. She wasn’t taken out in a service vehicle. She wasn’t inside the airport. Was she locked in the trunk of a car? Did Jenner have another automobile hidden in the parking structure? Was his backup plan to simply let the girl suffocate?
Will’s throat worked. He felt overwhelmed with the uselessness of it all. The fuzzy picture of mother and child was being replaced with a darker possibility. Will had seen dead children before. The image was hard to get out of your mind. It was the sort of thing you saw when you went to bed at night. It was the sort of thing that popped back into your brain for the rest of your life. Especially times like now.
Why hadn’t Will taken her from Jenner? Why hadn’t he at least talked to her in the restroom? So what if Jenner had ended up being her father or stepfather or grandfather or uncle. If Will had been on the other side of the situation, if Will had a daughter and some cop stopped him to ask what was going on, he might be mad at first, but then he’d have to appreciate someone looking out for his kid.
Faith, as usual, read his thoughts. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I should’ve talked to her.”
“If I was in the airport and you leaned down to talk to my kid, I’d kick you in the face so hard your eyes would be spinning before you hit the ground.”
“That’s different,” Will said. Women were more cautious around children. Especially women like Faith Mitchell, who ran a background check on her mailman because she thought he was too friendly.
“It’s not different,” Faith said. “You did everything you could, Will. We’re all doing everything we can.”
He hated the defeated sound in her voice, mostly because it mirrored his own feelings.