“Did you recover him?” Will asked.
Vanessa nodded, but Will could tell from her expression that the kid hadn’t escaped unscathed. Not many of them did.
Stranger abductions were rare—statistically, a kid was much more likely to be harmed by a family member—but the Internet was making things easier for predators. Will had been involved in a sting several years ago where a man took photos of kids on the playground and posted them to a private chat room. His plan was to snatch a kid that he could trade with another predator. It was a pedophile’s version of the old Sears Wish Book. The man had been arrested, but these assholes were like cockroaches. For every one you caught, there were thousands hiding in the walls.
Like Joseph Allen Jenner.
On the security footage, it was obvious that the little girl was coming around. She was more awake now, taking in her surroundings, fidgeting in the chair. Jenner was visibly on edge. He kept looking at his watch, checking the time against the clock on the wall.
“He’s waiting for something,” Vanessa said. “Fast-forward.”
The tape sped up almost ten full minutes. Jenner took another look at his watch and snatched up the girl by the arm. He tried to move her forward, but she stopped, standing rooted in place. Her mouth moved as she spoke, probably asking to be taken to the restroom. Jenner looked furious. She was throwing off his perfect timing.
He dragged her into the bathroom, where security cameras could not reach.
“Where’s Fielding while all of this is happening?” Vanessa demanded. “I want to know how she got out of here.”
“We lost her,” one of the techs said. “Fielding left through the North Terminal. We don’t know where she went from there.”
Will said, “Jenner disappeared in the South Terminal.”
“Put more people on the parking exit videos,” Vanessa ordered. Will knew more than two hundred cars had left the airport in the forty-five minutes between the Seattle plane landing and the airport being shut down.
“Fielding’s got a record,” Faith said. She pulled up the woman’s mugshot. “Simple battery, child neglect. Two years ago in Jackson, Mississippi. She’s off probation. No registered Atlanta address.” The mugshot was replaced by Eleanor Fielding’s arrest report.
“My God,” Amanda mumbled. “She was a foster parent.”
“We got her at the exit,” the earlier man said. “She was one of the first cars we stopped. Fielding left through long-term parking, North Terminal. Black Mercedes.” He flashed up the car, which had been captured on the security camera at the main exit to the parking area. The Mercedes was thoroughly searched. The trunk was popped. The back seat and floorboard were checked. A mirror was even dragged under the car to inspect the chassis. The woman stood there with her hands on her hips, conveying what a huge inconvenience this all was.
Will checked the time stamp on the footage. Twelve fifty-two. He remembered Jenner checking his watch twenty minutes later.
“There she goes,” Amanda said as Fielding got back into her Mercedes and drove off. The camera tracked her to the split at the interstate. She took 75 South.
Faith said, “Fielding paid for the flight for her and the girl with her AmEx card. It goes to a local address on Lake Spivey. The Emerald Drive address matches her driver’s license.”
“Call Clayton County and tell them to bring her in,” Vanessa told one of her men. The guy jogged toward the door.
Faith said, “She flew out yesterday afternoon, so it was up and back.”
Amanda asked, “What about Jenner’s flight?”
There was a pause as Faith looked up the information. “Up and back, too. He left three hours before Fielding did. His flights were booked with a Visa card,” she said. “Belongs to Eleanor Fielding. Tracks back to the same Emerald Drive address.” Faith gave an incredulous snort. “She used her SkyMiles to upgrade their tickets.”
“Fewer questions in first class,” Vanessa noted.
“It was an overnight trip,” Amanda said. “Where did they stay?”
Faith did some more quick typing. The screen showed a credit card receipt. “Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center,” she said. “Two-hundred-six-dollar charge.” She pulled up the website for the hotel. After a few clicks, she’d managed to pull up the room options. “A two-double-bed room with the light-rail package that takes you to and from the airport is a hundred thirty-four bucks. With tax, meals, I’d guess that’d put them at around the two-hundred-dollar mark.” Faith went back to the credit card receipts. “No rental car on either credit card. Looks like they stayed at the hotel and waited.”
Amanda said, “And then someone delivered a little girl to their door.”
The room went silent. They all stared at the photo Will had taken of the little girl. Abigail. Maybe that was her real name. They would want to make sure she responded if called. These were the types of people who thought about such things. They booked the tickets ahead of time. They coordinated the exchanges. The Emerald Drive address was probably nothing more than a drop. Eleanor Fielding wouldn’t be there. No one would be there.
Will felt the enormity of the situation start to overwhelm him. The little girl had been so close to him in the bathroom. He could’ve reached out and grabbed her. He could’ve knelt down and asked her if the man was her father. He could’ve punched the guy in the face and taken her away from him.
Vanessa said, “He’s invoked legal counsel. We can’t talk to him. What’s your plan?”
Amanda didn’t hesitate. “We talk to his lawyer.”
Joseph Allen Jenner was a fifty-two-year-old widower. His wife had passed away three years ago. Her obituary listed natural causes, though a call to a sympathetic records supervisor at Emory University hospital revealed she’d had a heart attack at the age of forty-eight. No children were mentioned. Her only survivor was listed as Joe Jenner, lawyer, philanthropist, president of the Jenner Children’s Foundation, which helped underprivileged children get access to after-school literacy programs.
Amanda sat across from Jenner in the interrogation room of the airport precinct. The walls were a crisp white, absent the usual scuff marks, cobwebs, and dirt that Will saw in just about every police station he’d stepped foot in.
She said, “I’m Deputy Director Amanda Wagner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This is my associate, Special Agent Will Trent.”
Jenner held a bloodied rag to his mouth. His voice was muffled but clear. “I’m not required by law to say anything to you.”
Amanda said, “You obviously know your rights, Mr. Jenner. I would expect nothing less from a tax attorney.”
Jenner’s eyebrow went up, though that was the only indication of surprise that they’d already learned his name. He took away the rag. “In that case, I’d like some ice water, please. And some aspirin.”
Amanda nodded toward the two-way mirror. Will guessed Vanessa Livingston was repeating the gesture to one of her minions.
Amanda told Jenner, “You came in on American three-sixty-two this morning. You boarded the plane alone. Your partner, Ms. Fielding, boarded behind you. She was carrying a child whose boarding pass identified her as Abigail Fielding.”