Vanessa explained, “We’ve got every inch of the interior facilities covered. The parking garages are spotty—we’ve got most of the pedestrian walkways covered and of course cameras are on every car that enters and exits. I’ve already instructed my people to run every image through the face recognition software.”
Faith Mitchell stuck up her head from the sea of desks. She told Amanda, “We’re ready to go.”
Amanda glanced at her friend, on whose turf they were standing, but Vanessa only grunted, “Please.”
Faith looked back down at the desk. She’d always been good with electronics. A few taps on the keyboard and she was in complete control of the system.
The largest monitor on the wall flickered, and Will saw himself peering around the bathroom exit. The next monitor in the row showed the man wearing his bad wig and glasses. He was dragging the girl across the concourse, making a beeline toward the escalator. Will heard the tapping of keys as Faith isolated the images. Yet another monitor showed a frozen still of the man’s face. His wig was skewed. His glasses were halfway down his nose. Then came the girl’s face. She looked absolutely stricken.
Will felt all eyes on him. Looking at it from a distance, the crime was obvious.
Amanda mumbled, “It was a tough call,” which was probably the most generous thing she’d ever said.
Faith hit some more keys. The middle monitor sped back up, tracing the path Will had followed through the airport. When Will exited at the T concourse, the train camera tracked the man until he exited at baggage claim. He struggled to get off the train quickly, but was beaten in the rush to the escalators because the girl was holding him back. Instead of climbing the stairs, he took the elevator. The corner-mounted camera inside the car showed him furiously pressing the button to close the doors even as an older woman in a wheelchair approached.
The doors closed in her face. Again, the man looked at his watch.
Amanda asked, “How late was his plane?”
“Fifteen minutes,” Vanessa said. “It was one of the first out, so we know he didn’t put the girl on a connecting flight.”
They had already tracked the man back to his arrival gate in the C concourse. His American Airlines flight had left Seattle’s Sea-Tac International Airport this morning. It was a smaller airport, but fortunately was in compliance with Homeland Security’s new safety protocols. Every passenger who’d ever flown in a plane knew that their boarding pass was always scanned by the gate agent. What they didn’t realize was that there was a camera trained on their face the entire time so that the footage could later be matched to a name.
Sea-Tac had emailed the digital files ten minutes ago. Four techs were already working on finding the man’s identity.
Vanessa said, “Neither Seattle nor Tacoma PD have taken a missing child report matching our girl’s age range in the last seventy-two hours. They’ve sent a notice to all schools within a hundred-mile radius. It’s on the airwaves. Her photo’s everywhere.”
Amanda asked, “Seattle’s what—a three-hour drive from Vancouver?”
“We’ve already coordinated with the Mounties and border patrol. If she passed through one of the four main checkpoints into the U.S., they’ll find her.”
“There’s no telling where she came from,” Amanda pointed out. “She could’ve been driven up from Tijuana, for all we know.”
“LAX is running film for us. All the international airports from here to the West Coast. It’s a needle in a haystack, but they’ll comb every piece to find a kid,” Vanessa said. “Let’s pull up her picture again.”
Faith did the honors. The photo of the stolen girl took center stage. There was a pause, then a flurry of typing as people went back to work. Will stared at the girl, his mind filling with all kinds of what-ifs. What if he’d grabbed her in the bathroom? What if he’d stopped the man, questioned him?
About what? Why he wanted the little girl to hurry up and use the toilet?
“Got him!” someone yelled. “Joseph Allen Jenner.”
The little girl’s photo disappeared and in its place was the man. He stood in line behind a group of travelers in matching yellow shirts, probably part of a cruise trip en route to Florida.
Jenner was wearing the same jacket, green side out. His hair was white. No wig. No glasses. No baseball cap. Will guessed from his bulky jacket that these items were in the pockets. Security couldn’t stop you for traveling with a wig.
Faith asked, “Where’s the kid?”
She was right. Jenner was alone.
“Scan back through the passengers,” Vanessa ordered.
“Already on it,” a man answered.
Faith turned back to her keyboard. Her work showed on one of the smaller screens. She was running Jenner through CODIS, the FBI’s national DNA database of convicted offenders. “Nothing,” she said, though they could see as much for themselves. She ran Jenner through the state system, then the regional, trying to find any record of arrest or registration as a sex offender. Finally, she Googled the man.
“He’s a tax lawyer,” Faith said. She clicked and scrolled through various articles in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, calling out her findings as she skimmed the information. Jenner wasn’t the type to fly below the radar. The guy did pro bono work for a children’s charity. He coached little league baseball. He was a certified lifeguard who helped out at the local YMCA.
“Typical,” Amanda muttered. “They always hide in plain sight.”
“Found the kid.” The Sea-Tac footage sped up, and a short, round woman was shown holding the girl in her arms. The child was obviously too big to be held. The woman nearly buckled under her weight.
“The woman is Eleanor Fielding,” the guy supplied. “Kid’s listed as Abigail Fielding.”
Vanessa asked, “Is she still with the kid when they land?”
The footage cut back to the gate in Atlanta. Will saw a line of passengers exiting the boarding door. They looked tired and confused, the way most people did when they sat in a metal tube for five hours and landed in a completely different city. All of them searched for signs, looking for either the exit or their next gate.
Fielding was in the second wave of passengers coming up the jetway. She didn’t look confused at all as she walked into the terminal. She headed off with purpose, almost jogging toward the escalators to the underground train.
Vanessa ordered, “Stay on the door.”
The film sped up, but not so much that they couldn’t make out the faces. The tech was good. The film was back at normal speed when Joseph Allen Jenner’s face came on-screen. He was one of the last passengers off the plane. He was holding the girl’s hand, dragging her along. Instead of heading toward the exit, he took her to an adjoining gate. A second and third camera tracked their progress as he led her to the back wall and forced her to sit in a chair. The girl was still groggy. She yawned, looking around with seemingly unfocused eyes.
“She looks drugged,” Amanda noted.
“That’s fairly common,” Vanessa supplied. She’d worked at the airport long enough to know how these people operated. “We had a kid abducted on the West Coast last year. Drugged out of his mind. Flight attendants assumed he was sleeping, which is what you want from a kid on a long flight. He was passed off at the international terminal and on his way to Amsterdam by the time LAX tracked the internal flight.”