He leaned back in a wobbly wooden chair, downed a shot of Tequila, and scanned the sleazy Tijuana bar for potential conquests. Prostitutes were easy marks for someone temporarily flying under the radar.
An overweight redheaded hooker eyed him, but she was not his type. He needed a sweet young thing.
Just before he stood to leave, she sauntered in. Much better. Slender, cute. She can’t be more than eighteen. He beckoned her to the table with a nod and a wink. “¿Cuánto por la noche (how much for the night)?” he whispered in her ear as he inhaled in her cheap perfume.
Marshall Reeves, aka Adan Fredricks, stood in the shower, watching the blood flow down the drain. Once dressed, he left the dilapidated apartment, walked three blocks, and hailed a cab. “Legacy Suites, Paseo de Los Héroes, por favor.”
There, the first-shift hotel clerk handed him a receipt, which was illuminated by the midmorning sun streaming in through the lobby windows. “We hope you enjoyed your stay, Mr. Reeves. Shall I call the airport shuttle?”
Fredricks smiled. “I won't need the shuttle. A taxi to the border will do. I have a friend in San Diego who wants to see me.”
She pressed a button and heard a familiar, mocking voice. “Hello, Detective Keegan. Just checking in.” Beads of sweat dripped from her brow, and her body tensed. The voice continued, “Mexico is lovely but boring. Ready for Round Three? The bell will ring soon, and it's just for you.” The glass dropped from her hand, and red wine formed a blood-spatter pattern on the white tile.
She settled herself, reached for her revolver, and released the safety. A search of the house showed no sign of intrusion. All windows and doors were secured. She jotted down the number from Caller ID, and then pressed redial.
The call went directly to voicemail. “Hello again. You must have received my message. Let the games begin.”
She ended the call and made another. “Lieutenant, this is Keegan....”
The lieutenant cut to the chase. “I’m sending a patrol car to pick you up. If he has your number, he probably figured out where you live. I don't think he's stupid enough to show up there, but I don't want to take any chances.”
Dallas rolled her eyes. “Lieutenant, I appreciate your concern, but I'll be fine. There's no sign of a break-in, and I have the alarm on. I'll call in and have the number traced, but I'm sure he used a prepaid. He's not going to make it that easy.”
The lieutenant sighed. “If you want to stay there, fine, but I'm sending an officer to patrol your neighborhood. Get some sleep, and we'll talk about it in the morning. If you get another call, contact me immediately. Good night.”
She cleaned the floor before pouring herself another glass of wine and carrying it into the bathroom. The hot bath combined with the alcohol made her drowsy, and she nodded off. She was jarred awake by a slipping sensation just before her head hit the water. Great, Dallas, drown yourself. She dried off, threw on a terry robe, and grabbed the revolver from the toilet seat. After double-checking the alarm system, she placed the gun on her nightstand, picked up her rosary, and crawled into bed. “Hail Mary....”
Before she got to her desk, she heard the lieutenant call out, “Keegan, my office.”
She immediately obeyed, and he motioned for her to sit down.
“I contacted the task force to find out how in the hell Fredricks got out of the country—let alone back in, if that's what really happened. What did you find out about the phone?”
Dallas brushed a stray hair from her face. “As expected, it was prepaid, so tracking is out of the question. My gut is telling me he’s close. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have called.” She stood up. “Now that Fredricks is in the vicinity, can we work the case?”
The lieutenant flashed a knowing look. “I had a feeling you would ask. I brought that up to the task force. We don’t want a jurisdictional battle, so we’ll team up and share the load. The guy in charge is Special Agent Hatcher.”
Agent Hatcher could wait a few minutes. Dallas dialed another number first. “Hey, partner, how's it going?”
Twyla told her all was going as expected. Her daughter, traumatized by the kidnapping, refused to be left alone. “We're going to see a counselor this afternoon, but she's a tough cookie. She'll be okay. What's up?” She listened as Dallas recounted the recent events. “Dang it, Keeg, wish I could come in and help. Is there anything I can do from here?”
“Worley, you just take care of Emerson. I'll be working with the task force, and hopefully we'll nab this animal before you get back.”
“We’re releasing a revised nationwide BOLO based on new information we got from the East Coast, where Fredricks was last seen,” Hatcher informed her. “One of our agents was assigned to check crime reports in the area and came across an incident that happened a few weeks after your run-in with Fredricks in Connecticut. A pawn shop owner about twenty miles from your retreat compound was found stabbed and robbed. During the search of the shop, the local police found equipment in the back area used to produce false documents. Fortunately, someone from the bar next door noticed a guy go in and out of the shop around the estimated time of death.”
“Agent Hatcher, are you sure it was Fredricks?”
“Detective, call me Brad, and yes, we’re sure. The witness was able to describe the suspect to a sketch artist. Although he had a different hairstyle and a scar running down his cheek, the facial structure similarity was too close to be a coincidence. Plus, the body type was spot-on. We just sent out the e-mail. Your lieutenant should have it, but the clincher is the pharmacy break-in a block away from the pawn shop. Antibiotics and pain and anti-rejection medications were missing. Sound familiar?”
Dallas switched the phone to her other ear. “I'm Dallas, and yes, it has to be our guy. Now he’s near our backyard—Tijuana or the northern beach areas. I’m betting on Tijuana.”
“Go ahead and work Tijuana, Dallas. We'll cover the Baja beach communities.”