“All right,” the Cowboy said. He had a Sig Sauer pointed down at them. Nine millimeter. Will guessed he kept it in the glove box of his truck. Most of these guys did. “You gonna tell me what this asshole did?”
Will couldn’t talk yet. He gulped air. His lungs rattled. Finally, he was able to force himself up. It was a challenge not to fall back over. Will’s nose was bleeding. His ears were ringing. Every muscle in his body ached. Still, he forced his knee into the man’s back, pinning him flat to the ground. “Where is she?”
The man shook his head side to side. His mouth opened as he gasped for air.
“Who did you give her to?” Will pressed his knee harder into the man’s back. “Where is she?”
Low moans came from his open mouth. His head was turned toward his wrist. He was looking at his watch again. The glass was shattered. He made a strangled sound. Will thought for a second that the man was crying.
And then he realized he was wrong.
The man was laughing.
“You’re too late,” the bastard said. “You’re too late.”
Both the Clayton and Fulton County sheriffs’ departments were called in. The Hapeville Police Department. The College Park Police Department. The Atlanta Police Department. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Every available law enforcement office with any jurisdiction over the airport had sent all available resources.
And still there was no sign of the girl.
Every car leaving the airport had been checked. North, South, West, Gold, Park-Ride—every vehicle in every parking structure had been examined and reexamined. The service alleys and cargo areas had been searched. Trash collection. Delivery vehicles. Shuttle parking. Rental car parking. Employee parking. Checked and checked again.
They found nothing.
All they had was the man, who wouldn’t speak except to say that he would be acting as his own attorney and that his client had no comment.
His pockets were empty. No ID, no cash, not even a piece of gum. They hadn’t found his glasses, wig, or the zippered-off legs of his cargo pants. He’d refused the offer of food and drink. He’d said he didn’t smoke. He obviously knew these were common tricks employed by the police to obtain fingerprints and DNA, just as he obviously knew all he had to do was wait out the twenty-four-hour holding period, after which they had to either charge him or let him go.
Amanda Wagner hadn’t transferred the man to the downtown jail. She was keeping him at the airport precinct, which was just as good as her home turf.
Will could tell his boss wanted to beat the man senseless. They all did. Every cop who passed the window looking into the cells seemed tensed, ready to break the glass and do as much damage as they could before someone stopped them. Not that anyone would stop them.
Will sure as hell wouldn’t. It brought him nothing but pleasure to see the blood dripping from the man’s mouth where Will had slammed his face into the concrete floor. If given half a chance, he’d pull the rest of the teeth out with his bare hands.
“Run it through for me again,” Amanda told Will. She was normally composed, but today she was pacing, her three-inch heels catching on the cheap carpet inside the airport precinct offices.
“They were in the bathroom,” Will began. “I heard them in the stall next to mine.” He went through the story a second time, telling her every detail, from the photo he took with the pilot’s phone to his leap off the Cowboy’s truck.
Amanda wasn’t testing him. She was making Will talk it through in case there was something he’d missed, or something that she would look at differently.
Will could see her silently repeating his story back in her head as she watched officers running back and forth across the squad room.
Finally, she said, “We need to find that disguise, figure out how he managed to sneak her out right under our noses.”
Will thought the “we” was fairly generous, considering the girl had gone missing under his watch. He was about to say as much when the door opened. The room snapped to attention.
Commander Vanessa Livingston usually kept her long hair braided into a bun that stayed hidden beneath her hat. Today was her day off, though, so instead of wearing her uniform, she was dressed in blue jeans and a flowing blue blouse. Obviously, the men who normally worked under her were taken aback by any sign of femininity in their usually severe boss. None of them could look her in the eye, though they all seemed to be in suspended animation as they waited for her to speak.
“Nothing,” she said. “I checked the international terminal myself. The incinerator hasn’t gone off yet.” Will knew that customs was required by law to burn anything illegally brought into the country—usually fruits and vegetables. “I had one of my boys climb around inside, but it was just the usual crap people try to bring in.”
“It was worth a shot.” Amanda sounded as disappointed as they all felt.
Vanessa snapped her fingers at the men assembled in the room. “Report?”
The sergeant stood up. “The rental car companies and shuttles were a dead end. We called all the chauffeur services—legal and illegal. None of them report picking up a single adult with a child, two adults with a child, or a child alone.”
She nodded for him to get back to work, telling Amanda and Will, “It’s Monday. We generally see children traveling on weekends and holidays, so a kid would stick out.”
Amanda walked over to the map of the downtown corridor that was pinned to the wall. She tapped her finger on various points as she caught Vanessa up on their actions so far. “Marriott. Embassy Suites. Renaissance. Hilton. Westin. Holiday Inn. We’ve got at least thirty airport hotels, more if you stretch to College Park. I’ve pulled in all GBI field agents and invoked an Action Alert so that local police forces can help search. This, as you know, is our problem.” She traced a circle around I-75, I-85, I-20, I-285, all the major arteries that led away from the city. “We’re assuming the girl was handed off approximately forty-five minutes ago. That’s enough time to reach the Alabama state line. If he’s heading to Tennessee or the Carolinas, we’ve got approximately two more hours before he’s out of our jurisdiction. I’ve alerted Florida in case he’s going south.”
“Screw that,” Vanessa said. “We’ll take care of these assholes ourselves.”
She used her keycard to buzz them into the command center, which was euphemistically called the Cold Room.
Will let Amanda enter ahead of him. He felt the temperature drop as soon as his foot crossed the threshold. The Cold Room was kept at a cool sixty-five degrees so that the banks of computers could work at their most efficient levels. Every camera at the airport fed into this one room, which looked as if it had taken its design cues from NASA. Rows of desks were tiered like stadium seating. Each station had three monitors, and since that still wasn’t enough, dozens more monitors lined the front wall.
Will guessed the room was the size of a basketball gymnasium, with an upper level that looked down on it all like a suite at a stadium. This is where Vanessa stood, Amanda at her side, Will behind them. They watched the real-time action of the airport, which was slowly revving back up.
Almost fifty percent of Delta’s intercontinental flights laid over at Hartsfield, which meant their schedule had been shot to hell today. None of the passengers on the monitors looked happy. They were all taking it personally that their flights had been canceled or delayed. That a little girl had been snatched seemed a bad justification for missing their flight out. Vanessa’s team had already broken up a nasty fistfight in front of one of the ticketing desks.