Chapter 7 – The Hunt
I had to pull myself together, sitting on my couch crying over Pam’s lost sense of self, and the possibility of her loss of life, wasn’t going to solve this abhorrent puzzle. I grabbed the diary and my car keys and held my cell phone to my ear as I locked up my apartment. It rang and rang as I bounded down the stairs. Eventually the call was picked up.
“Eric, I need to get Pam’s diary to the police. There’s information in there, not just names but places and dates. We were wrong not to turn it over in the first place.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll get Ginger to cover for me and meet you at the station. We’re in this together Sookie, we both hid the diary’s existence from the cops, we should both take the rap for it.”
“I don’t care about that Eric; they had set her up to be sold – just like we were afraid of. I’ll tell you everything when I see you; I’m just getting into my car.”
I hung up without saying goodbye and tried to clear my head so I wouldn’t have an accident. The police station wasn’t too far away, but my eyes were burning from my tears and my head pounded with the stress of our dire situation. I parked haphazardly in the small lot and ran up the steps into the building, tripping over my feet a couple of times in my rush. I got to the front desk and panted, the look of horror on the desk sergeant’s face told me I looked as bad as I felt.
“I have important evidence and information on the disappearance of Pam Ravenscroft-Compton and the death of Holly Cleary. I need to speak to Detective Arlene Fowler.”
Another man came out of a door behind the desk; he was in plain clothes but had a security badge telling me his name was A. Polson. “I’ll take it up to her; I was heading to that floor.”
That voice! I recognised it but it took me a few seconds to work it out. It was the same voice as the man, Andre, had in Holly’s apartment that day. The desk Sergeant and I both narrowed our eyes at him as he reached out and grabbed at the journal I had been waving around. I snatched it back out of his reach and hugged it to my chest.
“No! I’ll give it to her myself; we have a lot to talk about.” I tried to convey my fears to the Sergeant but he just looked at me like I was crazy.
The front door was flung open and Eric ran in. Noting my terrified expression, he gathered me into his arms. Without thinking I pointed to the person who had scared me and shouted.
“That’s him! It’s Andre, he’s the one who sold Pam.”
Andre stepped back with his hands in an ‘I surrender’ gesture. “Look, lady, I don’t know who you think I am, but my name is Andrew Polson. I don’t sell people; I’m just an administrator here.”
Through the exchange, the desk Sergeant had been on the phone – hopefully to Det. Fowler. He told us to calm down and take a seat and suggested the ‘Andrew Polson’ should leave us alone. He looked back at us before he walked back into the office he had come out of, the hate in his eyes make me feel sick. But instead of scaring me completely, it only confirmed that I had been right in my assessment.
“So, let me get this straight.” Det. Fowler leaned on the table and poked a finger in my chest. “You had this evidence all along but didn’t think we’d be interested in it?”
“No … we … it was Pam’s personal thoughts. We were scared she’d be arrested.” Eric reasoned.
Det. Fowler was angry; her cheeks were almost as red as her hair. “Do you realise we could have brought these fuckers down days ago if you’d handed this in?”
“We didn’t realise there was so much information in it until I read the whole thing. We thought we could find her ourselves.”
“Well that was fucking stupid! You know that people trafficking is a federal offence? We could have had a hundred men on this case if we knew. We could have found her by now.” She massaged her temples with her fingertips and took a deep breath. “Detective Bellefleur will be in to take your statements while I call the feds.”
The rest of the day and night were a blur, Eric and I got separated to write our statements and I hadn’t seen him in hours. I had told our story several times, to a number of law enforcement officers. I didn’t know how many hours I had been awake; it was evening when I went to the station but now I could see the pinking of the sky as the sun rose. My stomach was in agony from the multitude of vending machine coffee I had consumed and the lack of decent food. When Federal Agent Norris came back into the room, I felt woozy. I was holding on to the table in front of me to remain upright.
“I believe, Miss. Stackhouse that you and Mr. Northman had the best of intentions by not handing over the evidence. It’s not the first time we’ve seen friends or loved ones try to protect the … reputation of someone who is missing or dead. Since there was no malice or desire to derail the investigation, we won’t be charging you. But you have to keep out of this now. No more running around trying to find these people and your friend. You’ll just get in the way and end up hurt.”
I nodded slowly; I really couldn’t manage to summon up enough energy to be enthusiastic about being let off with what amounted to a slap on the wrist. I was led back to a waiting area where Eric was sitting with his head in his hands. I went to him and looked up at me, his face was tear-streaked and his eyes were red rimmed. We embraced; the way Eric was holding me tightly to him showed that he felt the same as me. I just wanted to be close to him, I needed to feel him against me after being alone for so many long hours.
Agent Norris got one of the station officers to take care of us. She told us her name was Officer Clarke and took us to a small room with very comfortable looking couches. She brought us some tea from a little room off the one we were sitting in and handed us a cup each. Agent Norris came in and handed us our cell phones. I thought it was strange that they weren’t with the rest of our belongings but he explained that they had to search through the text messages and other things.
“You guys look exhausted.” She smiled warmly. “Just sit tight and chill, I’ll organise a car for me to take you back home and you can pick up your vehicles after you’ve had some rest.”
We nodded and sipped at the tea. It tasted bitter after all the awful coffee I’d had. I could see Eric grimace a little as he drank too. About ten minutes later, I was glad to see Officer Clarke, I felt woozier than ever – close to passing out. I hadn’t realised I was quite that tired. Once she got us in the back of a squad car, I must have dozed off.
The first thing I noticed when I woke up was that I was freezing cold. The next thing was that I felt like I’d been sleeping on a very hard surface for a very long time. When I opened my eyes and blinked, I thought it was strange for my room to be so cold and dark. I tried to sit up my head was aching so much the action made me whimper.
“Eric? Why are you whispering?”
“Because I don’t know where we are.”
I tried to look around in the gloom but nothing was recognisable. “I don’t know either. What happened?”
There was shuffling from a corner of the room and whispers in a language I couldn’t understand before a female voice spoke to us in hushed tones.
“You two need be quiet. Mr. Andre come here and punish if you shout.”
Her English was broken but the message was clear. I felt around me until my hands hit something soft and hard at the same time. Hands patted at my arms, making their way up to my shoulders before pulling me towards whatever I’d felt.
“We’re in deep shit, Sookie.” Eric’s voice whispered right in my ear.
Deep shit wasn’t the words I’d use to describe the situation. I remembered ‘Andrew Polson’ and the look he’d given me. Then I remembered Officer Clarke with her red hair pulled into a neat French roll, handing us bitter tasting tea and taking us away. Being probably drugged and definitely kidnapped could not be covered by a simple ‘deep shit’ description.
“Eric, what will they do with us?” I tried to keep my voice as low as possible, praying that we wouldn’t be overheard.
“I don’t know Sookie. I … I just don’t know.”
There was no concept of time in that room. It could have been midday or midnight. I was so terrified the sound of my stomach growling made me whimper in fear. Eric and I held each other and rocked on the cold floor. We’d established that our cell phones had been taken very soon after I woke up. We had tried crawling around on the floor, trying to find a door or a vent or anything that might resemble a means of escape. When we had given up our search, we went back to holding each other. Later, it could have been hours or minutes, there was a screeching noise and the foreign whispers and shuffling kicked off again.
Halfway up the wall, a hatch opened. The small amount of light that came in was blinding and I blinked rapidly, trying to work out who was there. The voice gave him away before my eyes could acclimatise to the receding darkness.
“Who’s ready for a little drive?” Andre wasn’t offering to take us to the beach, of that I was certain. A small ladder was pushed into the … hole that we occupied but neither Eric nor I moved. “It wasn’t a request, if you don’t move … now … I can go and get help and drag you out of there.”
I looked around and saw a group of girls, some of them seemed very young, and they all looked to be of Asian or Middle-Eastern descent. Slowly, they crawled to the ladder and ascended one by one. When one got to the top, she was thrown to the side so Andre could pull the next one out. Eric and I stayed where we were. When the two of us were the only ones left in the hole, Andre crouched in the small doorway.
He turned his head and beckoned to someone before coming through the hatch and jumping down the ladder. He moved faster than I anticipated, I had no way of dodging his foot as it was swung toward my stomach. I bent double in pain and heard a scuffle before a dull thud. When I opened my eyes, Eric was on the floor in front of me, unconscious with a small trickle of blood running down his forehead.
“Wybert, get your ass in here.” Andre shouted before lowering his voice. “We don’t have time for this shit.”
The security guard from Holly’s apartment block came in and Andre ordered him to take me out then go back and help him with Eric. Wybert wasn’t careful or gentle, my head was bumped against the doorway and my knees were scraped against the edge of the hatch as I was pulled out of the hole. A bag was put over my head almost as soon as I was out, before I was blinded I saw Officer Clarke, if that was even her name, holding out ropes to bind my wrists.
Because I couldn’t see, all of my other senses were heightened. Whether my fear made it more noticeable was anyone’s guess. I could feel the fresh air on my hands and smelled the sea but it wasn’t clean, it smelled dirty. The noise of an engine running, a big engine, maybe a big van and voices shouting to each other caught my attention.
“Is he waiting?” The woman holding me shouted.
“Yeah, he said he’d take care of those two since they were both blonde and blue-eyed too. Guy was more than happy to be getting three for the price of one and said he’d wait as long as was necessary.” That was Andre’s voice; they must have gotten Eric out of the hole.
“Greedy fucker, he knows not to hang around as soon as we’ve delivered doesn’t he? The feds are on the prowl, we can’t have him getting caught and it leading back to us.” I didn’t recognise this voice; it could have been Wybert because it was male and deep.
“What did you do with their phones?” Officer Clarke asked. That’s what I’d like to know too.
“I left them with Amelia. She said as long as they were turned off it was cool.” The other male spoke again.
We stopped walking suddenly. My arm was yanked back to prevent me moving away.
“And where is Ames?”
“Back inside, setting the fires … oh fuck! You said the Fed gave them their cells back right?”
“Stupid bitch! They were probably tagged, I told her to dump them with the squad car.”
I was pushed from behind and landed hard on the rough surface beneath me. I could hear Officer Clarke’s shouts for Amelia as she got further away from me. I was picked up and carried; I could hear the sloshing sound of water and a bumping noise. It reminded me of when we used to walk down the pier to go to my Dad’s fishing boat. I tried to let the noise of the waves and creaking wood calm me, struggling now could be fatal. But there was another noise, it distracted me, and it must have distracted everyone else too. I was dropped onto something warm, I felt with my fingers that it was wood, and tried to concentrate on that distracting noise.
It was a helicopter. But there were other noises – sirens.
Sirens meant the police. After my recent experience, I could only hope that the Police meant freedom.
I rolled onto my knees, thankful that my ankles hadn’t been bound, and tried to get the hood off. It was tied loosely with twine around my neck, probably to stop it from falling off while I was bundled around, I couldn’t untie the knot but managed to pull the ends of the bag out from the twine and pull it off. The daylight was blinding. I stayed on my knees while I blinked away the pain in my eyes. There was more shouting, more voices, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying over the gunfire.
Suddenly I was pulled to my feet; I turned to see it was a very large Arab. He was snarling and yanking at my arm as he fired rounds from a shiny hand gun and walked backward. I turned to see a yacht and realised that was where the engine sound had come from. Not a big van. The Arab dragged me up the gangway and threw me onto the deck, right on top of Eric and … Pam!
He was still leaning over the edge and firing his gun, there were screams of pain mixed with the shouting and the gunfire and the helicopter. It was overwhelming and strangely gave me a new sense of survival and optimism … and rage. I shakily stood and rushed toward the Arab with my arms straight out in front of me. I shoved him as hard as I could and he toppled over the edge of the yacht and onto the gangway. My eyes widened in horror as he turned his gun on me. I fell backwards, back on top of my friends, as he righted himself and aimed at me.
I closed my eyes and felt my thighs become warm and wet as my bladder gave way to my fear. I screamed as the gun was fired.
I felt no pain, just a weight on top of me. I blinked open my eyes to see Agent Norris getting to the top of the gangway, gun in hand and the Arab sprawled on top of me with half of his head missing.
I don’t know where I found the energy to scream and kick and wail like I did. All I know is that I kept going until the EMT put a needle in my arm.