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Authors: Rod Hoisington

5 Alive After Friday

BOOK: 5 Alive After Friday
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Alive After Friday

 

A Novel

 

Rod Hoisington

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Rod Hoisington

All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means,
including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in
writing from the publisher.b11y07y13B

 

Cover design by Mark Hoisington

markhoisington.com

 

Editorial Assistance:

Karen L. Hoisington

 

For Vanna

 

 

Sandy Reid Mystery Series

by Rod Hoisington

 

One Deadly Sister

The Price of Candy

Such Wicked Friends

Chasing Suspect Three

Alive After Friday

Chapter One
 

 

S
andy
Reid slammed the brakes hard when the dark colored SUV cut in front of her and
screeched to a stop. Her eyes flew to the rear view mirror hoping the driver behind
could stop. All she could see back there was the bright glare of headlights rushing
in on her. She tightly gripped the steering wheel of her Miata convertible and clamped
her jaw waiting for the impact.

Nothing.

Somehow, the vehicle behind had stopped mere
inches from her bumper. She exhaled and relaxed her grip. The SUV in front
stayed motionless. No sign of the idiot driver. No further movement—nothing
happening. “Hello! Can we do something this year?”

She swallowed the urge to get out and start
yelling. Best not to flip off an obscene gesture into the Florida darkness,
where the driver might be sitting with a Glock 22 in his lap. Relieved that her
car hadn’t been damaged all she wanted was to get on her way. Turning in the
seat looking back she couldn’t make out the vehicle behind at all, but could
see her small sports car was tightly sandwiched between the two larger vehicles.
She felt a wave of claustrophobia even though she was sitting in the open-air
on a pleasant Florida evening with a clear sky above.

The driver behind kept his blinding headlights on
high beam. With the convertible top down, she was clearly visible and didn’t
enjoy being on display to both drivers. She shrugged in resignation, put her
car in reverse, looked over her shoulder and shouted. “Hey! You’ve got me
trapped here.” That accomplished nothing. The vehicle behind didn’t budge. The
driver must be watching her and must have seen her backup lights come on, yet
gave no indication of moving back.

Something about this was all wrong. This wasn’t a
case of standstill traffic, and she had given them plenty of time to move. She quickly
reached over for her phone. A car door slammed. Then another.

Her heart started pounding and her eyes widened as
she suddenly realized what was about to happen. She slammed the shift into Park.
Flipped loose her seatbelt, and jumped over the side of her car. Too late.
Hands grabbed at her from behind. Her scream was squelched when they clutched
at her mouth and throat. That’s when the black hood was jammed down over her
head.

Chapter Two
 

 

“S
andy
left our law office here around five today,” Martin Bronner said, “headed over
to her apartment to change into something more festive. She should be here
soon.”

Detective Chip Goddard crossed and uncrossed his
arms. “I expected her to be here waiting for me. It was her suggestion the
three of us go out to celebrate tonight.”

“Relax. We’ve been talking for two years about how
we’re going to celebrate after winning the Banks-Olin lawsuit. She’ll be here,
nothing will stop her.”

“Winning a two million dollar wrongful death lawsuit...now
that’s worth celebrating.” Chip leaned forward, pointed to the newspaper
article spread out on Martin’s desk and pretended to be reading aloud, ‘Martin
Bronner and Sandra Reid, incredible local attorneys-at-law, pull off a big freaking
deal for a couple of small town Florida lawyers and get showered with money.’”

“You should put her name first. She made it all
happen.” Martin tapped the newspaper with his pencil and frowned. “Not a large
amount for many lawyers, and it took us almost two years to settle, but it’s a
big deal for us small towners. I wish the paper hadn’t published anything about
us. Sometimes publicity attracts the wrong sort of attention.”

Chip thought it was a good point, yet most of the
town was already aware of Martin’s considerable wealth. “I don’t blame you for
not wanting your financial details divulged to the public, but it is rather
sensational news at least around our little town of Park Beach. On the other
side, Sandy loves the publicity. Said the recognition is going to make it
rain—isn’t that what you lawyers say, when new clients pour in? If she had her
way, that news item would be on the front page of every newspaper in the
country.”

“After trial expenses our client gets one million,
two hundred thousand.” Martin explained, “Sandy and I will split four hundred
thousand for our legal fee, less something for our office expenses here.” He
glanced over at the desk clock and continued tapping the pencil.

“How about the way Sandy has pulled together her
law practice?” Chip said. “Last year at this time she was pinching pennies. Now
she’s caught up on her bills and has money in the bank.”

Martin nodded. “She’s been doing remarkably well,
but you can’t build a meaningful practice on a string of five hundred dollar
fees. Now with this added two hundred thousand dollar share she has enough to
expand and operate the way she’s always dreamed.” He knew it wasn’t like Sandy
not to call if she were running late. “I hope she’ll start spending some of it
on herself.”

“Remember when her standard outfit was jeans,
T-shirt and sneakers.” Chip grinned. “And maybe that pink baseball cap she wore
when the top was down on her MX-5. I’m not complaining she sure looked hot.” He
ran his fingers through his thick dark hair and checked his watch. “I’m going
to give her a call.”

“Let’s give her another ten minutes before we
start bugging her.”

Chip continued, “Back when Larry Moran was state
attorney, she’d drive him bonkers. He’d make a big production out of ordering
her to his office. You know what a stuffed shirt he was. He’d be all puffed up trying
to impress upon her the importance of his high position. And she’d show up
wearing jeans, T-shirt and sneakers.” He looked at his watch, then stood and
walked to the window.

“She’s changed since passing the bar,” Martin said,
“and takes her look more seriously. Still might wear jeans but with a jacket. Sneakers
are out. Now it’s sandals or low heels. Still a long way from the cover of
Vogue, as if she cares.” She always looked wonderful to him but he didn’t say
that aloud. “She wears suits, if she’s going to court, but rarely appears in
court. She prefers to operate behind the scenes to get her clients off the
hook—searching for evidence, interviewing reluctant witnesses, tailing bad
guys—.”

Chip interrupted, “You left out kicking ass and
doing trash hits.”

“Trash hits?”

“Dumpster diving. Amazing the incriminating stuff
people throw away. If she believes something might be in someone’s trash, she
won’t hesitate to jump in and dig for it.”

“Sounds like Sandy,” Martin said. “By running
around uncovering facts, her opponents often settle immediately to avoid facing
her in the courtroom. She loves being a lawyer, but I believe she’d rather run
around investigating than be in the courtroom.”

“She’s the original whatever-it-takes girl,” Chip
loosened his necktie, came back and sat in the classic brown leather armchair. “I
don’t mean she’s devious, she knows where the line is. It’s just that sometimes
crossing the line is so damn convenient. She operates right on the edge.”

Martin said, “My impression, from talking with
her, is that you are a steadying force in her life. You keep her from straying
too far off center. I have it from the very best authority that she loves you.”

“I believe so. We had some commitment issues early
on that I feel are all resolved.” Chip stared at his phone. “I’m calling
her...something isn’t right.” He frowned when there was no answer and the call
went to voice mail.

“Maybe she’s still getting ready,” Martin said, not
actually believing it.

“The men wait while the women dress routine.” Chip
stood, paced around the office and again ran his fingers through his hair. He
phoned again. “Where the devil is she?”

“Considering her new found fame, perhaps she’s out
interacting with some new people.” Martin tried with his phone. “Why isn’t she
answering? She knows we’re waiting.”

“Something’s wrong.”

“It’s been only forty-five minutes.”

“What do you mean
only
?” Chip said.

“Let’s give her another thirty minutes.”

“No, fifteen.”

“Okay, then we’ll check her apartment. No,
you
check her apartment,
I’ll
check the hospitals.”

“Let’s go now.”

Chapter Three
 

 

I
n a
flurry of movement, strong arms dragged Sandy backwards and dumped her onto the
rear seat floor of the vehicle. Her thrashing arms and legs meant nothing as strong
arms held her as they tied her hands behind her back. In the instant when they
replaced the hood with a tight blindfold and duct-taped a gag in her mouth, she
detected she was in an SUV. No doubt the dark SUV that had stopped in front of
her car.

With no traffic noises and an uneven road, she
sensed they were taking her out into the rough country. The irregular sounds of
the roadway told her they weren’t on the north-south Interstate. Since the
ocean was east, and they’d been traveling for so long, they must be headed west.
Heading west from the Atlantic coast in south Florida means the dry land will
soon dissolve into a soggy swamp and you’ll find yourself in the Everglades;
the tropical wetlands natives eloquently describe as the “Sea of Grass.” Repulsive
swamp critters call it home. Why did they want her out in such a miserable marshland?

She assumed struggling and making muffled sounds would
not only be futile but would interfere with her being aware to all that was
happening. She tried to keep her senses alert to memorize anything that might
later be useful in identifying her captors or their destination—the place where
whatever was going to happen. She had started counting to estimate how long
they had been driving but for some reason, perhaps nervousness, she soon lost
track. If being blindfolded heightened her other senses, her fear deadened
them. Above all, she had to believe she’d stay alive to talk about it later.

An average speed would take them into the
Everglades in less than an hour; she guessed they’d driven at least that long. The
ride abruptly became rough. Swayed and jostled, she knew they were off the road
and into an isolated locale. The vehicle stopped. She heard the side door slide
open and the humid air instantly blasted her with the heavy stench of a
multitude of flourishing and decaying creatures. A jangle of swampland sounds ranging
from incessant buzzing to howling mournful, almost-human sounding shrieks
engulfed her ears.

They pushed her out and with her hands tied behind,
she couldn’t catch herself and fell face first into the warm soggy grass. Immediately,
she felt a sting on her arm, then another on her neck. She hoped they were mere
mosquitoes and not some exotic, deadly insect.

Without words, someone gripped her arm and dragged
her roughly away from the vehicle. She felt it must have been a strong man. The
heavy hand on her shoulder then forced her to kneel in the mushy muck. For a crazy
instant, she thought about her new pants and designer shoes that had cost a small
fortune being soaked and ruined; she had gotten all dressed up for a kidnapping
in an alligator infested sawgrass swamp.

He put a firm hand on her head and then she felt
the sharp sting as he ripped the duct tape away from her mouth. With hands tied
behind, she couldn’t reach her face to tell if any skin had come off with the
tape. Then he yanked the gag from her mouth.

“Why did you bring me here?” she spat out words as
best she could. “Why are you doing this, what do you want?”

No one answered.

She flinched when the cold barrel of a gun pressed
against the back of her neck brought her to a new reality. Behind the
blindfold, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut. Her first impulse was to yell
for them not to hurt her, but that would be a waste of breath.

“Whoever you are, you’re foolish to be out in the
Everglades after dark. This is the heart of gator country and you don’t have to
be this far out to stumble over them. I hope you have a big shotgun to go with
that pistol. Don’t you realize people in Florida back over gators in their
driveways? Will you please tie my hands in front so I can protect myself some
from these flying bugs?” Not likely they would try to make her comfortable.

Memorize details of your captors, she thought,
some small thing might help. There seemed to be two of them. One was certainly
a powerful man. And she was certain she’d breathed in the essence of a woman
sitting beside her during the drive out there. At least she wasn’t in the hands
of two men—still not necessarily good but she’d take it. One man is better than
two, a man and a woman are better than just one man—although in the end it might
make no difference.

Memorize your surroundings, she told herself, so
you can find this location again. Nothing could be seen through the blindfold. Warm
and humid—nothing unusual about that, the sweat trickled down the back of her
neck. She was kneeling in the province of snakes and the other nightmarish
critters she’d heard about, especially alligators. She doubted gators made much
noise as they approached. She couldn’t have heard them anyway above the sounds
of the sweaty swamp plus the bugs buzzing in her ears, and her own panicky
heartbeat. Gators would have already caught the scent. By now they could be
watching. Is this how it ends, face down in the sticky Everglades muck waiting
for the gators to slither over? She’d rather have a quick shot to her head.

Her mind raced through explanations for the
kidnapping. A mistake perhaps? They have the wrong woman. Money came to mind,
of course, but she was certainly not a wealthy target; everything she owned
would easily fit in her little sports car. Was this a payback for some offense;
a punishment for God knows what? Was she there to be assaulted and severely
thrashed? Some sexual purpose was unlikely, as they’d just driven past hundreds
of more suitable locations for a sexual attack. Still, she did recall the man
had drawn his hand across her breasts while shoving her into the vehicle. With
more serious things to worry about, she hadn’t thought much of it. And it might
have been accidental with all her jerking around and kicking at the time.

There was another chilling possibility. An execution.
After all, they had her blindfolded with hands tied behind her back and kneeling
with a gun against the back of her head. Kneeling in front of your executioner
is usually the classic last step. The perfect crime. Just drive away and let
the gators tidy up the murder scene devouring the last small bit of human
evidence. How many persons disappearing in Florida without a trace would that
explain? Yet, bringing her out here to fire a bullet through her brain didn’t
make sense. Of course, that was her own logical thinking. They may not have
logically considered the consequences of what they were doing. One thing was
certain: No one was going to come looking for her; at least not for several
hour. Even then no one would think of the Everglades. That thought sent another
wave of terror sweeping over her. She felt sick. It was extremely likely that
she was about to die.

“You don’t want me dead, do you?” More a wish than
a question.

Why weren’t they answering?

Perhaps she could make a deal with them. “You can
ransom me. I have money.” Geez, she dearly hoped this was about money.

The cold metal was lifted away from her neck. Had
she said the magic word?

She could breathe again. “Yes, I can pay you. I
have over twenty-five thousand dollars in my savings account.” Of course, that
didn’t count her half of the gorgeous four hundred thousand dollar check she’d
soon deposit. They didn’t need to know about that. Although, she’d give it all
just then for a can of mosquito spray. She could hear them slapping the
mosquitoes, as well.

“Not a good time to be lying.” At last, there was
a voice. A funny sounding male voice with a ridiculous twang. As though holding
his nose.

Another voice, “That was Dick and I’m Jane. You
know, like fun with Dick and Jane.” The second voice belonged to a woman,
high-pitched and also falsely nasal. Quite effective for disguising a voice. “Go
ahead, tie her hands in front so she can swat some bugs.”

Sandy noticed the woman was giving the orders. Probably
good. The man untied her wrists. Her arms were stiff and cramped and it took a
few seconds of stretching to loosen them. In that moment of freedom, she ran her
hands rapidly up and down over her arms and through her hair for a moment of
blessed relief from the mosquitoes. He immediately grabbed her wrists and tied
them in front. Much better. Nothing could be done about the mosquitoes now
biting through the back of her blouse and on her arms, but at least now she
could raise her tied hands and brush them from her face.

In his phony voice, the man said, “We know you got
four hundred grand.”

Sandy took a deep breath. Shit, they knew about
the lawsuit settlement money. How much more did they know about her? But thank
God, this was about money. “I didn’t get all that money.”

Geez, why did she say it like that? If she
insisted on talking about only her two hundred thousand share, they might go
back and extort Martin for his half—or more. Four hundred thousand was the
amount mentioned in the paper. So, that’s what this was all about. Two or four hundred
thousand, either amount was incomprehensible to her anyway; she couldn’t
visualize that much money. She hoped they didn’t know too much about Martin.
People assumed he had money; most didn’t know his affluence stretched out
beyond belief.

The man’s voice was low-pitched with the same
false nasal twang. “Your splits aren’t our problem. Four hundred grand came in
and we’re taking it.”

He sounded young. Maybe from the south. He had
said ‘fer hun-durd gran.’ She hoped they weren’t aware of just how fond Martin was
of her. He would gladly pay a million, or even more, to ransom her. She didn’t
want them thinking about him. Quickly she said, “You’re right, you’re right. I received
two hundred thousand and can get the other half. I can get it. It’ll be a fast
and clean score for you. Just take me to the bank or...whatever.”

“Whatever...is always the problem part,” Jane said.
“Kidnapping and ransom are full of whatevers.”

“But the kidnapping part is interesting,” the male
voice said. Sandy felt a hand softly squeeze her shoulder, then his fingers
gently slid up her neck and stayed touching under her hair. She shrank away from
his touch, but he grabbed a handful of hair at the back of her neck and slowly rocked
her head down and back up suggestively, as if her head were just an available
plaything. Her skin crawled, when she heard him suck in his breath. Why
couldn’t he just be an obnoxious criminal? Pushing her around roughly she
expected, what he had just done violated her. Why must he distort everything by
also being a pervert? She knew then that the hand drawn across her breasts
earlier hadn’t been an accident. She’d let that part go but vowed to never
forgive him for moving her head like that.

“Hands off, Romeo!” the woman said sternly.

The woman had slipped. Her words came out clear
and undisguised. Sandy tried to place her normal voice and memorize it at the
same time but it was difficult. Just another female voice; not identifiable
with any particular part of the country.

“Just let me go. I’ll get the money and give it to
you. If I don’t, you can kill me then. Kill me now you get nothing.”

“We
are
going to let you go now. And you
are
going to get the money for us. Here’s how you should be thinking,” Jane said. “Concentrate
on getting us the money. After that, you can do all your clever
tracking-us-down part. All that forensic evidence from our vehicle and this
location here. All the sounds and smells you’re trying to memorize right now.
All the usual criminal investigation shit. But don’t think about that part yet.
That all comes later. You’ll have plenty of time for that. Just worry about
getting us the money.”

The woman seemed cool and clever. Was that good or
bad? Clever meant she’d be unlikely to do something really stupid like start shooting.
It also meant she’d be difficult to outsmart and bring to justice—assuming
Sandy ever got the chance. “And if I don’t come across with the money, you’ll
shoot me.”

Dick was quick to say, “No, we shoot your man,
Goddard isn’t it?”

Sandy almost freaked. Kill Chip? She hadn’t
thought about that switch. “Not him! No, he has nothing to do with this. If I
don’t give you the money, you kill me. Okay, you kill me?”

Jane said, “Now you’ve got the angle. With your
own life on the line, you might decide to take a chance and bring in the police
before you pay us. If you did, it’d be your funeral, yet I can imagine you
doing it. This way, you’ll be deciding whether Detective Goddard lives or dies.
If you decide to take a chance and call the police, it’ll be his funeral.”

Sandy protested, “You’d kill a cop? You must be crazy.
Half the world would come down on you. They’ll get you sooner or later, they’ll
never give up.”

“We have a special way of handling that and I imagine
sooner or later we’d get a clear shot at him. Even so, maybe we wouldn’t be
successful. You want to chance that? Your big problem is to keep Goddard alive.
So don’t call the police until after you give us the money. Got it? Then you
can get on with your pretty life. If you get any wise ideas, just picture him stretched
out on a slab.”

Sandy felt the blood drain from her face and a
wave of nausea slide through her stomach. She started to sweat. She retched
forward, trying to keep her balance and vomited wildly.

“Jesus! You’re disgusting,” the guy yelled, not
disguising his voice.

She choked, gasped and finally caught her breath. “Don’t
worry...I’ll give you the money.”

“And you’re not going to call the police until
after
you give us the money. Now say it again,” Jane ordered.

“I’m not going to call the police until
after
I give you the money. How much time do I have?”

“Today is Wednesday. We’ll call you Friday with
instructions,” she said. “Get ready with the cash. If you bring in the police, the
feds, or tell that detective boyfriend of yours—he won’t be alive after Friday.
That gives him only seventy-two more hours to live, unless you do it right.”

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