And then he was gone.
Will bolted up the escalator, taking the metal stairs two at a time. As usual, most people either didn’t know or didn’t care that they were supposed to move to one side for those who weren’t content to stand. Will absorbed his share of nasty comments as he pushed his way to the top of the concourse.
The airport didn’t advertise the exit through the T concourse, probably because the top of the escalator was already packed with people coming out of security. Most of them had absolutely no idea where they were going. They stood at the display boards with their mouths hanging open, unable to remember their flight numbers, let alone figure out how to locate their gates.
Will had to move people aside as he broke through the milling crowd. He went to the desk just past security and showed his badge to the TSA agent. And then he couldn’t think what to say.
The guy asked, “What is it, buddy?”
Will thought about the little girl, the fear in her voice when she said she wanted to go home. The way the man dragged her along like a rag doll. That triumphant smile on his face as the train pulled away.
Will said, “I need you to call Commander Livingston and tell her there’s a possible child abduction.”
The agent grabbed the receiver and started punching numbers. He told Will, “Takes fifteen minutes to shut this place down.”
“Green jacket, tan pants, brown wig. The girl’s six or seven, flowered dress, white Hello Kitty shoes—ballet slippers. Can I borrow your cell phone?”
The man handed him his cell as he spoke into the landline. “Code Adam. I need Livingston pronto.”
Will didn’t wait around. He headed toward the exit, feeling the eyes of hundreds of cameras following him. Commander Vanessa Livingston was in charge of the Atlanta Police Department’s airport precinct. Her officers augmented the TSA, addressing the many thefts, assaults, and petty crimes that you could expect in a place that saw nearly a quarter of a million visitors every single day. The cops manning the cameras had probably already tracked Will through the airport, on the train. There would be footage of the man and child. They’d probably show it at Will’s formal hearing, where he’d be fired for harassing an innocent father and his daughter.
Will dialed Faith’s number into the TSA agent’s cell phone. She picked up on the first ring.
“Did you get the picture?”
“Yes. What’s going on?”
“I think—” Will stopped, but it was too late to equivocate. “I think the girl is being abducted.” He mumbled an apology as he bumped into a traveler. “He had her in the bathroom. I don’t know, Faith. Something’s not right.”
“I’m on it.” Faith ended the call. Will tucked the cell phone into his pocket and quickened his pace.
A revolving door led to the South Terminal, which led to the parking decks, which led to the exit. Will didn’t wait patiently in line, instead swinging through the door before anyone could stop him. The terminal was filled with noontime travelers. Ticketing lines lazily snaked inside velvet ropes. Red Coats stood by to keep the traffic flowing smoothly. Will jogged toward the large escalators that delivered exiting passengers up from the train. He stopped at the chauffeur waiting area. The folks behind a USO sign started waving and cheering as some soldiers reached the top of the escalator.
“Uh-oh,” one of the chauffeurs said. “Trouble brewin’.”
A cop on a Segway zoomed by. Two more came on foot, hands to their guns to keep them from hitting their hips as they trotted toward the escalators. Commander Livingston was probably on her way down, too. She’d started on the force with Will’s boss a thousand years ago. They were still close friends. Amanda was probably already on her way to the airport from her downtown office. Faith would be putting out a Levi’s Call, Georgia’s version of an abducted-child alert. The entire airport was grinding to a halt.
Eighty-nine million passengers a year. Five runways. Seven concourses. Over a hundred restaurants. Twice as many shops. A people mover. A train station.
All shut down on a dime because Will had a hunch.
He felt a bead of sweat roll down the side of his face. Will found himself in the peculiar position of actually hoping a crime had been committed.
The USO crowd cheered again as more soldiers arrived. Will glanced into baggage claim, wondering if he’d missed the man and child. The exit through the T concourse was faster, but Will had stopped for God only knew how long at security. He checked the other side of the terminal, the lesser-used North Terminal. A few stragglers stood around gaping at their phones, probably not realizing that the chauffeurs were on the other side.
Will turned back around. He nearly tripped on a suitcase a woman was dragging behind her like a tail. Her head was down. She was reading her email, mindless of the fact that she was making everyone else dart out of her way. Which was a good thing, because Will would not have seen the man and child otherwise.
The green jacket was what finally caught Will’s eye. The man was fifty yards away on the other side of the baggage claim area. Will saw the top of his head, the distinct bad wig and thick glasses, as the man rode the escalator down to the lower parking level.
A surge of people pushed against Will as he ran across baggage claim. A well-timed jump over a cart of suitcases was the only thing that kept him from falling flat on his face. That didn’t stop people from yelling at him. One guy even grabbed Will by the arm, but he easily shook him off as he headed down the escalator and into the underground tunnel.
Up ahead, Will saw the man again. He was pulling the little girl. She looked as if she’d gone limp. Her feet dragged across the tile floor. She lost one of her shoes, but the man wouldn’t let her stop to get it. The double glass doors slid open. The man looked down at his watch. He walked through the door, then looked down at his watch again before he disappeared from Will’s view.
Will waved his arms in the air, hoping to catch the eye of whoever was watching the security cameras. He scooped up the girl’s shoe as he jogged through the tunnel. Will slowed his pace outside the doors, keeping his distance as he followed the man into the underground breezeway.
As with the T concourse exit, the breezeway wasn’t known by many travelers. It was a relatively private space, though it was about the length of a football field. A four-lane road separated the main airport from the bottom level of the parking garage. This time of day, the area was almost completely deserted.
Instead of crossing the road toward the garage, the man headed up the sidewalk, going in the same direction as traffic. Will put the little girl’s shoe in his jacket pocket. The thing was so small that it fit in the palm of his hand.
Cars weren’t allowed to stop underneath the airport, but many risked a ticket, idling in the breezeway in order to avoid having to pay steep parking charges. The exit was a straight shot ahead, and you could either merge onto the interstate or loop back around the airport. It was the perfect rendezvous point if you wanted to get out of here fast.
Will saw a gleaming red truck parked several feet ahead. A University of Georgia bumper sticker was on the fender, and an NRA decal was stuck to the back window of the cab. The driver was wearing a cowboy hat. Will saw the man spit into a red plastic cup as he walked by. The Cowboy nodded. Will nodded back.