As usual when the call came, I was covered in grease. I wasn't always covered in grease, but Betty Jo ,seemed to know just the wrong times to call. I looked at the caller ID before I answered, so I knew who was on the line. "Hello Betty Jo, what's on the schedule now."
"You aren't going to like it," she said with a smile in her voice. Betty Jo loved to rattle my cage.
"Then I just won't do it," I suggested. I wasn't her employee, even though almost all my real income came from Executive Security Company.
"Of course you can refuse any assignment, I have just never seen you do it. You are my most trusted agent."
"Then why do I always get the crap nobody else wants?"
"Because, my dear Richard, you don't have a squeaky clean background." We both knew what she meant, so I didn't bother to ask for an explanation.
"That is true enough, but you don't seem to mind when it is a crap job."
"Only the crap jobs, as you call them, will accept you."
"Yeah I know, so what is it this time?"
"Just another brief case delivery."
"Really is it legal?"
"If it were legal, I could get one of the others to do it."
"One of these days I'm going to get jacked up, and I'm taking you all with me."
"You might be planning to try, but I doubt that you will. There are far to many perks to taking the heat all by yourself."
"Money isn't much good to a man in prison."
"Then don't get caught doing anything illegal," Betty Jo said.
"So give me the details," I demanded. There was no sense arguing with Betty Jo. She had all the answers. I was the unarmed man in the battle of wits.
"There will be a ticket to Atlanta at the airport for you. You have two hours to make it to the airport."
"How about my gear?"
"You will have to improvise. That's what you do best isn't it?"
"So you keep telling me. Is anyone going to meet my plane?"
"The client will send someone. Good luck Richard."
Betty Jo was right about one thing. I didn't like riding shotgun in a money drop. It wasn't just dangerous, it was working with a civilian. Most often it was working with someone who was in a highly agitated state of mind as well. Not only that it was someone who thought that for the five grand, they should get a nursemaid, an assassin, and someone to solve all of his or her problems.
I cleaned up as best I could, then topped off the travel bag. The quarter size black duffel bag stayed mostly packed all the time. The working gear, that could pass through airport screening, stayed in the bag. I added a couple of shirts and some underwear.
From the time I got Betty Jo's call until I left my shack in the woods less than an hour had passed. I arrived at the local airport just in time to clear security. The flight down was uneventful, and it even arrived on time.
The woman, who held the sign with my name on it, looked no more than twenty. She had to be an employee, it was obvious that she hadn't put up five grand for an escort.
"Richard Ames," I said to her. She didn't speak just nodded. Since I always carried the small duffle bag onto the plane, we were out of the terminal in moments. We were in the Limo when she finally spoke. "Mr. Ames, I work for Mr. Richie's firm. He asked me to meet you and fill you in on the way to his office." That time I just nodded.
"Mr. Richie's son Edward has been abducted. Since Mr. Richie is a well known criminal lawyer, he fears one of his less law abiding clients in involved. We have defended some rather nasty characters over the years. He called your boss to arrange for someone to actually make the drop."
"So Mr. Richie won't be going along. is that okay with the kidnapper?"
"They were still negotiating that point when I left for the airport."
"Either way it's all the same to me." I replied. Actually I preferred to go alone.
"Mr. Ames," the just past middle-aged man in the five thousand dollar suit said as a greeting.
"Mr. Richie, I presume." It was the best I could do at being serious. Richie might be my better in some things, but we were playing on my turf. At that moment he was the rookie.
"Yes, Jay Jay filled you in I hope." He nodded to the woman as a signal for her to leave.
"She gave me the bones."
"Do you need more?"
"That depends on what you expect me to do."
"Deliver the brief case with the money and then bring my son home. Not more no less."
"Then you don't want me to make the arrangements?"
"No, the meet is set." I didn't like that at all. I would have preferred to set up the exchange myself. "I need to see the place where the exchange will be made before I walk in there."
"I'm not sure that is such a good idea. They said to play it straight or my son would die. They may be watching the site."
"If I can't see what I'm walking into, then you can take the money yourself, or maybe send in Jay Jay." I gave him a minute, When he didn't respond, I turned to the door. It wasn't a bluff. Seeing the spot in advance was the bare minimum of preparation I would accept.
"Alright, I'll have Jay Jay take you."
"In her car not the limo," I answered emphatically.
"Very well," he replied.
The car was a modern midsize piece of plastic. It wouldn't stand out at all. The exchange was to be near the car parking area of a small upscale neighborhood park. I could imagine how it would go down. The kidnapper would see the money, then he would bring the kid, and it would be done.
Of course, it stank to high Buddha. If it went down that way, I would see one of the kidnappers and their car. The car could be stolen of course, and the kidnapper could be disguised, but it still seemed very amateurish. Amateurs worry me, because they are easily spooked.
Something about it just plain reeked. No kidnapper, no matter how amateurish, would bring the kid to the meeting. Just too much chance the cops could roll them up right after the kid was delivered. Richie had to know that as well. Something about this was really ripe.
If it was a fake, why would he need someone else to deliver it. No he really thought there was some danger in the delivery. The kidnappers had to know for a fact that Richie was going to go along. How could they know that he wouldn't call the FBI?
The only answer that made sense was that it wasn't a kidnapping. It was a simple exchange. Money was going to be exchanged for something of value. Something Richie didn't want the cops to see. Something being held by a dangerous man. The kidnapping was just a ploy to prevent anyone from knowing that he was being blackmailed. He would get sympathy instead of whatever he would get, if the information got out.
The fact that it was blackmail only mattered to me, because it meant that it could be really bad guys making the exchange. It ruled out some friend of his son's trying to make a quick buck. It also meant that I could expect the blackmailer to act reasonably. That is as reasonably as blackmailers act.
After a good piece of steak at a nice restaurant, I went to the park. I sat on the concrete bench as I had been told. I also tried to read the newspaper, as I had also been instructed.
"You got something for me," the woman with the baby stroller asked.
"Yes, do you have a package for me?"
"It's in the stroller."
"You managed to get a teenager in the stroller?"
"What teenager? I have an envelope in the stroller, that's what this is all about."
"I need to call the client to be sure that is what he is paying for," I suggested.
"Okay, but do you see that man by the green car?"
"Yes, I assume that he will shoot me, if I don't hand over the money?"
"That's right," she said.
"You know that bluff would work on a lot of people. It just won't on me. But lady it's not my money. Let me call the man, if he says do it, then it's your money as far as I'm concerned."
I made the call on my cell phone. "So this isn't your son after all, it's about saving your ass. Do you want me to make the exchange for an envelop."
"If the envelop has a pistol inside, do it," Richie demanded.
I opened the brief case and took one of the money packets. "Call this my charge for being threatened."
"The deal is off." she said angrily. She tried to remove something from her purse. I knew it was a weapon. Even though she hadn't been expecting me to lift the money, I had been expecting her to pull something. I had a very heavy, thick blade steak knife. It was a souvenir left over from lunch. I spun her around, then I held the steak knife to her throat. I also arranged her so that her body shielded me from the car park.
I carefully reached into the stroller to remove the thick manila envelop. The envelop had some large, heavy metal object inside. That was a good thing, since papers can be copied easily, hard evidence is another thing altogether. I walked backwards while dragging her along the bike path until I was out of sight of the car park. I pushed her hard and climbed aboard the Wal-mart Mountain bike. I had hidden it in the trees before I went to lunch. It's the kind of thing you can walk away from, if all goes as planned, if not you can use it as an escape vehicle. Obviously, I was riding it into the sunset. As Betty Jo said, I knew how to improvise.
"What have you done?" Richie asked.
"I saved you eighty grand, and I got your pistol."
"Those people will kill me."
"If they wanted to kill you, they wouldn't have blackmailed you. Just tell them I dropped off the pistol, and you had no idea that I stole the money. Tell the rest is between them and me. It's a total win, win for you."
When it sank in he asked, "Don't you want to know why the pistol is so important?"
"Hell no." I said.