Amanda picked up from there. “The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would also like to talk to you regarding your transportation of a child across county lines.” She added, “And, of course, since you traveled across state lines—many state lines—that puts you directly in the crosshairs of the FBI.” She mimicked Jenner’s snarky smile to perfection. “I trust you understand what I’m saying, Mr. Jenner. It’s always refreshing to talk to someone with a brain in her head.” She corrected, “His head.”
Sheriff Phil Peterson took out his handcuffs. He was almost a foot taller than Jenner and twice as wide. His deep baritone rumbled in Will’s eardrums as he told Joe Jenner, “Turn around, little man. I’m gonna let you see what it feels like to be dragged through the airport.”
Will paced underneath the gates at the E concourse. There was a small waiting area inside, but he was too anxious to be confined. Even the wide-open space of the great outdoors wasn’t enough.
He just wanted it over. He wanted Abigail with her mom. He wanted the bad guys in jail. He wanted to go home to his girlfriend and spend the rest of the night listening to the soothing cadence of her heartbeat.
Will stopped his pacing as a plane touched down. He watched it taxi down the runway, then turn toward one of the other terminals. He resumed pacing, thinking about all the people above him who were oblivious to what had happened today. It amazed him that the world was still spinning on its axis. Wide-body jets were parked nose-in to the gates, lining up like soldiers for international flights. Jetways were locked in. Catering trucks were extended on scissor lifts. Suitcases loaded. Flight attendants got on board. Occasionally, a pilot would walk out, examining every inch of the plane as part of the preflight safety inspection.
It was as if nothing had happened.
Will looked at his watch, feeling a moment of panic before he realized he hadn’t bothered to set it back.
Abigail Brannon was safe. That was all that mattered right now. Faith had called from the hospital to let Will know that the little girl had checked out fine. A few scrapes and bruises were the only physical injuries she’d suffered.
The same could not be said of Eleanor Fielding, who’d had the bad sense to try to evade arrest. A battalion of cops had chased her through the Lakewood Arms. She’d finally climbed on the balcony and threatened to jump. When no one seemed interested in stopping her, she’d followed through on her promise. Unfortunately, the woman had survived the three-story fall. Her busted pelvis and legs would mend, but she’d spend the rest of her life in prison.
Just like Joe Jenner.
Will had to smile every time he thought about the shocked look on the man’s face. It was always the smart ones who ended up tying their own nooses.
The doors slid open. A ground-crew worker came out. His orange vest hung loose around his waist. He gave Will a nod and headed toward the men waiting for the next landing so they could collect baggage off the plane.
Will couldn’t pace anymore. He leaned against the wall. His back ached. His head was pounding. He was pretty sure he was getting lung cancer from the constant odor of jet fuel.
He was punch-drunk from exhaustion. And anxiety. And relief.
He took Abigail Brannon’s slipper out of his pocket. He’d found some glue to fix the trim. He’d taken the other shoe out of evidence. He’d give them to Faith. He doubted Abigail Brannon would want to see him. She’d seen Will twice—in the bathroom and on the train. Both times she’d looked at him with longing in her eyes, begging to be rescued. Both times, Will had failed her.
At least she’d be in her mother’s arms soon. Will would have to stop calling New Age believers freaks after this. He had visualized Abigail Brannon in her mother’s arms, and that was exactly what was about to happen.
A wealthy Idaho farmer had donated the use of his private jet so that Rebecca Brannon could fly straight to Atlanta to meet her daughter. The charter pilot had been given special permission to divert to the E concourse so that the press couldn’t bother them.
Will could only imagine what was going through the woman’s mind right now. The flight was over four hours long. That was a lot of time to think about the fact that Paul Riggins, the man she’d been dating, had sold her daughter to a ring of pedophiles. He would probably spend the next ten years in prison.
That seemed light to Will. None of these bastards ever got what they really deserved. It was the one instance where Will was one hundred percent in favor of the death penalty. He’d advocate bringing back a firing squad if it meant he’d be the one to take out Joe Jenner.
The man was already working the angles. He’d hired one of the top lawyers in the state. He’d probably end up with five years. The rumors about what happened to pedophiles in prison were true, but still that was not enough to satisfy Will’s desire for the man to be punished.
The doors slid open again. Amanda and Vanessa Livingston were shoulder to shoulder, talking in low voices. They’d worked together longer than Will had been alive. The women shared a bond in the way of soldiers who’ve been bloodied in the same battles.
Vanessa held a police radio in her hand. It squawked as soon as the doors closed. She put her ear to the speaker, nodding as if the person on the other side could see her. Finally, she told Will, “The plane just landed. Faith’s on her way down with the girl. We’ve had some more enterprising reporters who booked flights so they can get into the terminal.”
Amanda added, “Rumor has it they’ll be at the T concourse.”
Vanessa grinned. “I wonder who told them that?” She winked at Will as she walked over to the ground crew.
Amanda stayed with Will. They watched a small jet plane make the turn toward the gates. There was a large green logo on the side. Will couldn’t make out the words, but he guessed from the yellow stalk of corn in the middle that this was the wealthy Idaho farmer’s plane.
Amanda said, “And people say the one percent don’t do their share.”
Will wasn’t in the mood to joke. He wasn’t going to be able to breathe again until Abigail and Rebecca Brannon were together.
The engine roared as the jet turned toward them, nose pointing at Will’s chest. The plane idled for a second, then inched forward, stopping a few yards away. The engine wound down. One of the ground crew rolled out a blue carpet. The door was twisted open. A set of stairs came out like a tongue.
The pilot got off first, then an older man, probably a grandparent. He was leaning on a cane. The pilot held out a hand to help him down. Once the old man was on the tarmac, he turned around and held out his hand for the next passenger.
Will recognized Rebecca Brannon from her news conference. She looked even more frail in person. Her eyes were almost black. Her nose had been broken, as had her ankle. She handed down her crutch. Both men had to help her hop down the stairs.
Amanda told Will, “It’s a good outcome.”
“It should’ve never happened in the first place.”
“Take the win, Will. Cases like this, that doesn’t usually happen.”
Vanessa had her radio to her ear again. She jogged ahead of the Brannons, handing Will her keycard. She told him, “Run to the top of the stairs to let Faith in. I don’t think the mother can make it up.”