(Note: Since the client I wrote this part for has never responded back to me, I have decided to make it free for anyone who wants to read it. This story in not appropriate for those under the age of 18.)
SIX WAYS FROM SUNDAY, PART 3
It’s Tuesday, Boot thought to himself. Tuesday and I’ve only managed to get one of those bastards back. If I don’t get the other five back by this weekend I’m going to lose everything.
Bringing in the first fugitive in was a bit of luck. Boot had a hunch someone in The Organization could be found in Staten, given its reputation for vice. And he had been right. But he could have grabbed both of them at once. Frank Dugger was behind bars, but Becky Mayfield had surprised him by fleeing in the Yugo. The next time he was going to be prepared. The next time he had a hunch or tip, Boot was going to bring enough firepower and cuffs to take down the other five. He made a mental note to bring along his revolver the next time, more for back-up than anything else.
He had gone to Corrine’s house after taking Dugger over to the police station. Coit had been thrilled Boot had saved the citizens of St. Louis the trouble of hunting down a dangerous criminal, but was furious he’s crossed the state lines to do it.
“Boot!” he’d yelled at him in his office. “Do you realize transporting him across the bridge made it a federal issue? Now we’re going to have the FBI involved!”
“Add them to the DEA and everybody else looking for these scum bags,” he answered. “Maybe you’ll find them before I will. Save me the trouble.”
“You’re not getting a hunting license from the city of St. Louis!”
“I didn’t ask for one. I didn’t ask the dead lawyer to come to me for the bonds either.”
Coit had made all kinds of threats and kicked Boot out of his office. Boot didn’t care. The trouble he’d get from the city was nothing compared to what he’d receive if the escaped criminals weren’t delivered to the police in a few days. The little market he desperately wanted to buy was slipping away in the distance.
He woke up next to Corrine again. Boot had arrived at her house last night after dealing with the cops and wasn’t in a mood to drive back to his place. She never seemed to mind him coming by unannounced. Her car was working now and she wouldn’t have to take the bus into the office. At least it was working until the next time it broke down. He had arrived just in time for dinner. She didn’t feel like cooking so he took her over to the Chinese place on the corner. The food was decent at Henry’s Chop Suey. It was a family affair with Mr. Lee’s kids helping out and his mother working in the kitchen. Boot had collared some local kids trying to shake him down one night and they received star treatment at the little restaurant.
“I have to find out where the rest of them have gone to,” he told Corrine over a pot of tea. “Most of the informants I have on the streets are looking around, but they haven’ seen anything yet. I’ll call my answering service tonight and see if they’ve phoned any tips in.”
“They can’t have gone far,” she pointed out. Corrine was looking mighty fine this evening in her leather top and matching hat. Boot had picked it up for her last month and liked the way it looked on her. “Where would they be hiding around here?”
“If they’ve gone down to the Ozarks there are plenty of places to hide,” he responded. “And that’s The Organization’s home turf. They have all kinds of family down there to hide them. All I grabbed yesterday was a minor figure.”
“And the police have him. Maybe they’ll get him to talk?”
“Maybe. And maybe not. Even if he holds out for a deal it could go on for months. I don’t have that much time.”
“But you found him and the other lady”
“She got away. I found him because I knew she had a connection to the massage parlor rings around town. It only made sense to ask questions where they parlors are located. I stumbled across them. A few minutes earlier or later and I wouldn’t have even Dugger.”
They had gone home later and watched the news. Corrine told him about the customers who had been by earlier in the day while she was holding the fort down at the office. It was the usual crowd of petty thieves and bad drivers. She gave Boot the forms to sign and let him see the credit reports on the people who had come into the office and posted bonds. Everything was in order.
The TV starting getting static about eight in the evening. Boot had tried to get Corrine to have cable installed, but she refused saying it was an expense she didn’t need. He knew what was wrong: the antenna. Boot took a ladder out of the closet and went to the side of the house. It took him a half hour to find the connection to the antenna on the roof. With a few tools out of the shed, he was able to reattach the connection which had gone rusty over the winter. He climbed down the ladder and placed everything back into the shed. The aunt Corrine had inherited the house from had plenty of household tools in the shed. Her husband had been a school janitor.
Boot went back into the house and checked the TV. Now the signal was coming in strong and clear. Even channel thirty, which could be tricky to get in. Corrine had saved her money last year and bought one of the twenty-five inch consoles from the place near the mall last spring. The picture was starting to look clear and he didn’t need to make any more adjustments.
“Corrine, I got it to working!” Boot yelled from the living room. She was probably in the bathroom. He turned around to see where she was.
Corrine was in the hall entrance again, this time wearing a bikini. But this bikini was made of leather and had metal studs across it. She placed one hand on the wall and looked at him in her special way.
The bikini was made out or suede leather, Boot found out later. She’d picked it up at a new store off the Miracle Mile which specialized in seductive clothing and sex toys. He didn’t find out what else Corrine had bought until later when she pulled something out of the bag she had to plug into the wall.
“What’s this?” Boot asked her as they lay on the bed and she handed it to him, “Some kind of back massager?”
“You can use it for that,” she said taking the wand and running it over his taunt chest. “You can use it for a lot of things.”
He almost went numb when she turned the control on it up to maximum. Boot suspected she was the one getting the benefit out of it while Corrine was screaming her head off later in the bed. He hoped her neighbors wouldn’t call the cops. Why did this woman have to act like a porn star?
A few hours later, Boot got out of bed and checked his answering service. Nothing phoned in from his contacts except some people who thought they saw a Yugo driving down the street. There where plenty of Yugo’s out there and he couldn’t chase down everyone. He went back to the bed where Corrine was still sleeping.
They got up the next morning and Boot checked the news on the radio for any sign of the escaped fugitives. He didn’t hear them mentioned, so he went and turned on the TV. After a few minutes of news about the local economy and ads for the riverfront he turned it off. Nothing. Either there was nothing to report or the FBI and police were keeping quiet about what they knew. Boot guessed it was a little bit of booth.
He kissed Corrine good-bye and told her he’d check in around noon by calling into the office. She could continue to take notes and field calls. It usually wasn’t that busy this time of the month. Boot pulled his VW out of her driveway an hour later; still no leads from the answering service. He considered going to see the congressman who ran politics in the north side. He owed Boot a few favors, but he decided now wasn’t the time.
Instead, Boot chose to drive to the one place where he could think: Shaw’s Garden.
Shaw’s Garden was a huge botanical center taking up acres near the Tower Grove neighborhood. It had been built by Henry Shaw in the 19th century and was one of the major attractions in the city limits. It was open to the public and Boot would go there when he wanted to chill and think something out. He found the grounds to be peaceful and the exhibits on display enlightening. He’d been a supporting member for many years and would help out on the occasional fund-raiser. He felt out-of-place around all the Ladue housewives, but it still gave him a sense of focus.
He parked his VW out in the lot and went through the gate, flashing his membership card as he went into the walled garden. It was early in the week, but he passed a bridal party having their pictures made as he went in. He hadn’t been to it since last year’s Japanese festival where he’d sat for an hour watching the drummers and kendo fighters. It had reminded him of the better parts of Vietnam.
Boot walked along the paths, trying to think were the crooks would have fled. It was too easy to assume they all went to the Ozarks or left the state. He stopped on a bridge over a pond and watched the fish. Where would he go hide in St. Louis if the feds and local cops were after him? He waited a few minutes and decided to make a phone call from the nearest pay phone. By now one of his informants should know something.
“I’ve got a lead for you” the answering phone lady told him. Boot’s answering service used three different women to handle his private calls. He had tried to learn all their names, but it wasn’t easy because they all sounded alike to him.
“Okay,” he told her. “Let’s have it.”
“The train station,” he was told. “I just had someone who works at the hotel phone in a sighting. He thinks he saw someone matching the description of one of the fugitives.”
“Which one was it?”
“He didn’t know but it sounds like that Al Cinder guy. The descriptions match.”
Boot thanked her and hung up the phone, heading to his car.
Cinder was one scary career criminal, he discovered from leafing through the reports he was caring with him. The man had no empathy whatsoever and would torture to death a victim just because it sounded fun. The Organization had used him extensively to find the police informers and plants in their midst. His picture showed a shaved head in his forties with a whole list of convictions running back twenty years, usually involving assault with a blunt object. He’d ran with a few Midwestern auto theft gangs back in the seventies and was recruited by The Organization to consolidate their heroin trade around and in St. Louis. By the time he was done, no one even dared to sell smack around town unless The Organization had a cut. There were photographs of snake tattoos on his arm, so Cinder should be easy to spot if he was at the train station.
Boot couldn’t understand why Cinder would go to the station. It didn’t seem like much of a place to hide.
The train station had been remodeled last year and was reopened as an indoor mall. It was right across from the Downtown Center which had opened at the same time. Although the station, which was called Union Station, had been closed to regular train service for years, special trains were brought in from time to time by Amtrak. It was a beautiful facility with a new hotel built into it. Boot enjoyed walking around it with Corrine when he had the opportunity. At one end a multiplex theater was going up. It was all part of the latest plan to revitalize the city.
The station had been built in 1895 and was at one time the largest commuter railroad station in the world. But air travel had made it obsolete and by the seventies the place was close to falling apart. Boot could still remember when it was a glorious place to visit, even if black folk were restricted to where they could go when he was a kid. It was nice to see it back and running after the city had declined over the years.
He parked his VW in the lot and walked up to the steps which had been the main entranced once upon a time. They still were beautiful to see and he winked at the maintenance guys cleaning the outside of the facility. Why would Cinder come here to hide? He could only speculate Cinder was trying to hide in plain sight, an old tactic from years gone by.
Boot walked into the grand hall of the old station and looked around. It was quiet. The foot traffic during the week at Union Station tended to be low. Most of the patrons of it were working further downtown or in the suburbs. The stores and restaurants were still open, but traffic was light. If Cinder was anywhere in it, he should be easy to find. A scary looking white guy with tattoos would stand out.
He took the elevator to the upper gallery and walked around, trying not to be obvious he was searching for someone. Boot stopped in a little map store and pretended to look at the maps of places he’d like to visit. No luck, he didn’t see a single person walking around who resembled the escaped man.
Next he went in a store that sold designer jeans and acted like the wanted to try on clothes. With his height, Boot was always having a hard time getting fitted. The sales girl tried to help him find something and he was able to get some information. But she hadn’t seen anyone matching the descriptions of Cinder.
In desperation he went to the lower level and looked in at the bookstore. Cinder didn’t strike him as someone who read a lot, but it was worth a try. No one had seen “his friend” either. Boot spent some time leafing through the magazine rack keeping an eye on the traffic near the train tracks. It was a walking area and no trains were anywhere near the building. If Cinder was anywhere in the station, he was doing a good job staying hidden. He needed to find out who had phoned in the lead…
And then he saw something which told him his job had just increased in difficult by several orders of magnitude: three men in identical suits walking around the grand hall. They were trying to be as unobvious as possible, but who they were was plain to Boot: federal agents. They had somehow received the same tip he had and were following in his trails. Boot knew there would be hell to pay if they found him trying to do their job, even if he had already caught one of the fugitives.
He walked back out into the parking lot, trying to avoid the federal men as best he could. If Cinder even suspected the feds were here he’d flee quickly. Any ruse he was trying to create to hide in the last place they would expect to find him would be useless.
He spotted a parking lot attendant and went over to the man.
‘Hey, there,” he called out to the brother, “you see anyone driving one of those Yugo’s around here.”
“I might,” the man returned. “I just had some guys in suits asking the same thing. I might be able to remember better if I had some help.”
Boot sighed and pressed some bills into his hand.
“Does this help you remember anything?” he asked.
“I’ve seen a lot of Yugo’s this week,” the man told him. “Any particular one you’re looking for?”
“One driven by a scary looking white guy with a shaved head. He’s got tattoos all over his arms.”
“Could be I did this morning. And could be I saw where he went. You have any more where that came from?”
Boot produced another bill, but held onto it.
“The money train ends here. You get it if you tell me where he went.”
“I saw him walking in the direction of the hotel. I don’t know where his car is now, but I’m thinking he has a room in the hotel.”
Boot handed him the bill.
He headed over in the direction of the hotel which had been built into the station. It was one of the big success stories of the city, even if it was expensive. Boot had looked into getting him and Corrine a room there last Memorial Day weekend, but it was out of his budget. He ended up taking her somewhere else instead.
The lobby was quiet when he walked into it, much the same as the rest of the station. A desk clerk saw him walk in and fixed her hair as he made eye contact. Boot walked up to the desk and introduced himself.
“Afternoon, ma’am,” he said. “Is it too late to book a room for this weekend?”
The clerk smiled back at him and said she would check. While she looked it up on her computer, Boot scanned the lobby. If Cinder was at the hotel, he’d have to come back through the lobby sometime, it didn’t have an entrance or exist anywhere but through the front.
The desk clerk was a young lady in her twenties with no ring on the finger. Boot had dressed for the part of a business man, before he left Corrine’s place, with some cash to burn. He wore a blue suit with a matching tie and a pair of oxford shoes. One thing he had learned over the years was that the people at the front desk, no matter how low their position, could be the most helpful. Woe be to any man who had the unfortunates to piss off an office receptionist. He had lost count of the office managers who were in love with the married business owner and had fielded all kinds of interference against investigations. It was usually pretty obvious: he had one receptionist on a case when he was with the police pull him aside and tell him if anything had been needed by the owner of the company, he would have already told her. And this was after he’d handed her the subpoena.
“So, Mr…?” she started to say.
“Williams,” he filled in.
“Mr. Williams,” she continued. “Will you be staying with someone or by yourself?”
“I had planned to stay by myself,” he told her. “But if I had a good reason, I might have someone else there with me.”
“Just string them along,” he once heard an old police detective say, “and they’ll give you everything you want.”
The desk clerk’s eyes lit up and she almost moved her hand on top of his. She was young, no more than twenty three and in very good shape. Her jacket hid her body, but Boot could tell she’d been working out a lot. The hotel had its own gym and she must’ve used it frequently. She was the color of hot caramel and had big eyes. Boot speculated she was used to getting men to do things for her. The job she had didn’t pay much, but the clerk position had all kinds of benefits the average customer didn’t see. He looked down and noted an expensive manicure on her nails. Someone was paying for her extras. Scratch that, someones were paying for all she enjoyed. She was looking at Boot as a potential source of revenue.
“I’m new in town,” Boot lied to her. He looked at her name tag. “Does little Kenya know where there are any good clubs around here?”
“Well it all depends, Mr. Williams” she sweet-talked to him. “It all depends what you are looking for?”
“A man gets lonely on the road,” he told her. “I run the sales division for a computer company you never heard of, and I have been out for two straight weeks. I could use some company for the company, if you understand what I mean.”
“I might just know all kinds of places,” she told him. “Did you need anyone to show you around?”
Damn, this is getting complicated, Boot thought. All he wanted was to haul Cinder’s ass back to lock-up and get on to his next target. But here he was trying to get in the pants off of a girl half his age. It was business, but if Corrine found out not only would he lose his best office worker, but a good woman. He tried not to think about his ex-wife. That fiend from hell was far to the north and out of the picture. She had driven him into the arms of other women from her incessant nagging. Was he in the process of screwing up again or could he write this little fling off as an expense
And Corrine did his books. Imagine him trying to fly this one past her: “Oh, honey; wasn’t nothing but a thing. The hotel room, the trip to the pharmacy and the charge at the adult book store. Don’t mind it at all, I got the bad guys in the end and we’re going to get married.”
Somehow he didn’t see it happening. Or what might happen if the hotel clerk found out he wasn’t “Charles Williams, PhD”, of Willtronics Computing, as his fake card read. He even had a credit card he could use to make it match.
“As a matter of fact,” he said, handing her his card, “I would. When is your shift over?”
“In half of an hour,” she told him. “It’s your lucky day.”
Or not, he thought.
Boot waited around for her to get off shift after he had the receipt for the credit card. It also allowed him the chance to see if Cinder was anywhere in the hotel. If the man he was looking for made a run for it, Boot would be forced to drop character and grab him. He was carrying right now. The fact he had a gun strapped under his pants leg was bad enough; he’d already violated too many city ordinances by having it with him in the hotel anyway. He could only imagine what Coit was going to say downtown at St. Louis central.
But no one fitting Cinder’s description came through the lobby. Either he had found another way to leave or was holding up in a hotel room. Boot was betting on the second option.
“Would you like to see your room Mr. Williams?” he heard the seductive voice of Kenya say to him as he sat in the lobby chair. He looked up and she had changed into a set of tight jeans with a sheer cotton top to match. This had to be her other work clothes.
“Of course,” he said. “Let’s go have a look.”
She took his arm and they walked to the first bank of elevators. The smell of her perfume was over-powering. Boot wondered how often she did this. If Kenya kept up the big brown eyes scam, she could pull in a huge amount of money. This girl was the very definition of an evil genius.
The waited for the elevator to come up and stood by the steel doors. Boot glanced at Kenya who was giving him bedroom eyes. In his mind he was trying to justify everything. If he didn’t get his man today, it would be that much harder to bring him in tomorrow. And then he would’ve lost another day. It was crucial he have the cuffs on Cinder by the evening, no matter what.
The door opened to the elevator and they stepped in. At the same time another man stepped in with them. Boot turned to see who had just walked in before he punched the button on the elevator.
He turned around and found himself face to face with the man he was looking for: Cinder.
He was wearing a suit and tie, just like Boot, but Cinder couldn’t hide the shaven head and tattoos peeking out from his sleeves. Boot took a deep breath and pretended not to notice the torture expert for The Organization. Cinder, on the other hand, was turning in Boot’s direction trying to figure out where he’d seen him before.
There was only one thing Boot knew to do.
He grabbed Kenya, put his lips to hers and shoved her into the corner of the elevator. While the fugitive tried to avoid snickering, Boot had his hands all over the hotel clerk. She didn’t push him away; instead Kenya grabbed him by the back of the head and put her tongue down his mouth. They were all over each other while Cinder pretended not to notice the display of passion taking place a foot step from where he stood.
When the elevator had stopped moving, Kenya had one hand unzipping Boots fly and was trying to get his belt undone with the other. Boot played along and grabbed her butt, biting her neck as he did so. Kenya moaned in pleasure and told him to do it again as Cinder exited the elevator with a big smile on his face.
When the doors closed, Boot turned around to make sure of the floor number, pushed the button for the next floor and released Kenya.
“You surprised me, Mr. Williams,” she said. “I thought you were going to wait until we got up to your room. You have been on the road a long time.”
“Girl,” he said, pushing the button for the floor where Cinder was getting off, “you have no idea what I need.”
“Take me back to your room,” she said in his ear from behind, “and I’ll give you more than you ever wanted.”
Boot tried to act like he was still interested, but he needed to see which room Cinder was using. As the elevator door opened, he looked down the hall and saw a room door close. It had to be Cinder’s.
He looked at the receipt for the room in his hand: miracle of miracles! His room was two doors down from the fugitive!
“Let’s go,” he told Kenya, pulling her along. “I’m ready if you are.”
With the desk clerk smiling all the way, Boot pulled her along till they got to his room. He unlocked it and took her into the room. He flipped the light switch on and looked around. There was no way to see what was going on in the hallway from inside the room. He would have to listen at the door for Cinder leaving again and try to jump him. Boot stood by the door, trying to see through the peep-hole into the deserted hallway.
He heard a shuffle behind him and turned around. Kenya was gone. Getting a little worried, Boot walked through the vestibule of the hotel room, looking for her.
He found Kenya lying on the double bed in the room with her clothes on the floor. She pulled a leg underneath her and put one finger in her mouth, giving him the most “take me” look he had ever seen. Boot was floored by how quickly the desk clerk had stripped down. She had also done it in silence, taking him completely by surprise.
She looked even more stunning with her clothes off. Boot noted she was shaven completely between the legs. Yes, this was something she pulled on a regular basis. The devil over his left shoulder said: “Why not? You have time.” The angel over his right shoulder said: “Corrine”.
This time the right shoulder won.
“Look darling,” he said to her. “I would very much like to, but there is something I need to get done first. Can you get them back on and come with me now?”
She frowned. “And I was going to give you a special rate.”
The devil over the left shoulder neglected to mention the manner of a fee.
He waited by the peep-hole as Kenya got her clothes back on.
As Boot stood by the door he heard Kenya come up behind him and put her arms around him.
“You sure you don’t have time to play now?” she said. “I can show you some things that would make your earth turn.”
“I’m sure you could,” he said while waiting, “But I’m looking for someone. When he comes by I need to go.”
“Are you a detective?” she suddenly asked him. “Like that Mike Hammer guy on TV?”
Boot turned around. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you act like one. I get some money from a guy who comes in from the counties every few months. He works with a divorce lawyer. Someone they want to get the goods on checks in and I show up an hour later. They come by with a hidden camera after I’ve gone to work on him. I get my cash payment a week after.”
They broke the mold when that girl was made, Boot thought.
“No sweetheart,” he said. “I’m just trying to locate someone.”
“Can I still stay with you? I don’t have anything else to do this evening.”
Boot sighed. The last thing he needed was this little cobra breath following him around. If Cinder was armed, it could get real nasty and deadly. But she insisted, so might as well. If Corrine ever found out, however…
He waited for an hour before the door opened down the hall. Sure enough, it was Cinder and he was in motion. Boot watched him go down the hall by himself and past the peep-hole. It was almost too perfect, but he needed to get the cuffs on him when he was safely out in the parking lot. Inside the hotel wouldn’t do, not with him packing heat and all these guests around. A lot of good it would do him if he captured Cinder and ended up in jail.
He waited until the Cinder was in the elevator and pulled Kenya out of the hotel room with him.
“We have to move!” he whispered to her.
She had been getting bored in the hotel room so she gladly went with him.
Boot hurried down the hall with her coming along and went down the stairs. He was banking Cinder would go out the lobby and into the parking lot where the Yugo would be waiting. All he would have to do would be jump him from behind and handcuff him. Cinder was a dangerous man, but Boot felt he could grab him before any gun came out.
When they reached the lobby, Boot opened the door from the stairwell and looked into it. He saw Cinder at the counter. As he suspected, the fugitive was checking out of the hotel. A bellhop would bring out his luggage any moment and he had to work fast.
“Just stay with me, hear?” he told Kenya.
And then he saw Cinder walk out the door, turn from the parking area, and head into the Union Station Mall.
Boot stopped for a minute to look at the little vamp following him. Did he really want her out there with him? She had provided cover in the elevator, but there was the possibility in Union Station she might attract attention. Kenya was stunningly beautiful and he could see her turning heads all through the mall. However, if the federal agents were still out there, it might be useful to have her trolling along. He just might be able to use her to his advantage.
Boot took her hand and walked out behind Cinder. The big guy still hadn’t spotted him, which was odd since he’d just escaped from custody a few days ago. It could only mean he had some plan which they didn’t understand. Somehow the mall figured into whatever he was doing. Boot watched him push the glass door to the mall aside and enter the former train station. He was far enough in the rear to not be noticed.
Boot watched him walk past the stand where there were young guys making fudge. It was a popular attraction where some of the crew would sing along and entertain the audience. The fudge was pretty good too. Cinder stopped a few minutes to watch them. Boot stayed in the back with Kenya, watching where he was headed next.
By now it was evident Cinder wouldn’t be going into the parking lot. He had to be waiting for someone to pick him up. It would make sense, the Yugo would be discovered by the security staff and the police notified long after he was gone. The Organization had planned their escape carefully. Jumping bail was only part of the process.
“Is that the guy you’re following?” Kenya asked as she pointed in the direction of Cinder. “The big white guy?”
Boot pushed her hand down.
“Don’t point. I don’t want him to know we’re following him.”
“Why are you following him if you’re not a detective?” she asked. “Did he steal something from your computer company?”
“He ripped me off big time,” Boot bent the truth. “I need to find out where he’s going or who he’s meeting with. It’s the only way I’m getting my money back.”
“I don’t know why you’re following him yourself,” she said. “If he’s stolen from you, why not turn him over to the cops or hire someone to bring him in.”
Boot ignored her and continued to watch Cinder. Once his target turned back in their direction and Boot pulled Kenya around with him. They faced the way just long enough to keep him from noticing they were following. There weren’t a lot of people at the station that day, but enough to create some kind of interference.
And then Boot saw the federal men, but they neither noticed him or Cinder. It wouldn’t be long. Eventually they would realize the escaped enforcer for The Organization was right in front of them. If he noticed them, anything could happen. Boot was worried a gun battle could break out in the station. Which would be on the news. And then Corrine would see him with Kenya. Causing a whole another kind of gun battle later on.
Cinder moved away from the fudge booth and went into the train shop. The train shop was a large store which catered to model railroad enthusiasts. It was still a large hobby all around the world. Boot had owned a train set when he was little, but these guys had kept theirs and added to them. Inside the shop you could buy trains from any number of scales and pay whatever price you could afford. He remembered reading about how some of the more hardcore types had converted entire houses into scale train track replicas.
He stayed outside the store watching Cinder. It was too crowded inside to follow him into the store. Even with a slow day at the station, the train store was packed with people. Cinder wasn’t meeting anyone there, he was just browsing. Then he noted Cinder looking at his wrist watch. The man was planning on doing something at a set time. He’d looked at the watch before and was using it to time something out. Boot backed up a bit as Cinder came out of the store and moved along.
There were security guards all over the station. Union Station wasn’t located in a bad part of town, but had ready access to all parts of St. Louis. The guards were there mostly to stop shoplifters and keep out the riff-raff. Boot didn’t know if they were aware of the federal agents in the station. Probably not, the federal men wouldn’t have wanted to alert anyone to their presence.
He saw Cinder enter a sporting goods store and begin browsing. Boot stayed on the outside and kept him in range. The federal men were still policing the area. Boot could see them keep in contact with each other by way of nods and hand signals. It was subtle, but was there if you knew where to look for it.
“What’s he after?” Kenya whispered to Boot. “Is he waiting for someone to pick him up?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Boot told her. “Just be cool. I can’t make my move until he’s clear of the building.”
Boot wondered if there where more federal men he couldn’t see. The place could easily be wired with a remote technician trying to listen in. It wouldn’t be too hard for the feds to tap into the security cameras either. They could be monitoring everything from a van down the street. He couldn’t see any ear pieces on the federal agents, which was surprising. They were doing a good job of moving through the station as a group without the use of electronics. These were seasoned operatives, not fresh recruits. Somebody wanted Cinder more than he did.
Boot came within three feet of Cinder as he left the sporting goods store. He held onto Kenya like she was his real life girlfriend and this filtered him out of the fugitive’s vision. He stood with Kenya as Cinder walked right past him and continued down the great hall. Boot pulled her along as he followed. Now he was getting concerned his target might be ready to leave. He stayed a good hundred feet in the rear as Cinder walked into a candy shop and looked around. Cinder constantly began checking his watch, which told Boot he was getting ready to do something, probably meet with his ride. It would be very easy to park a car out on the curb and send someone in to get him.
Then Cinder went over to a flower vendor and bought a dozen roses. This had to be how he was supposed to be recognized. The big man walked to the rear entrance of the station and appeared to be waiting for someone.
As Boot tried to remain in the background, one of the federal men spotted Cinder. He didn’t make a big fuss about seeing him. His motions were very subtle as he alerted the other two. They began to slowly move in Cinder’s direction. The crowd was starting to pick up inside the station and the feds could still remain in contact with each other while circling around the fugitive. The first man to spot him caught the eye of the nearest fed and casually turned his face to their target. The second did likewise as they slowly made their way across the grand hall.
Boot had once seen a movie in school about wolves stalking their prey and it was all he could think about as the federal agents moved into position. Cinder was standing, checking his watch and holding the roses. One agent moved ahead of him and across the street exit from the mall. The other two set themselves up in a forty-five degree angle with Cinder in the middle. The kept their eyes on the quarry, but continued to act as any other tourist in the station.
“We may not be able to do much,” Boot said to Kenya. “There are three men who are about to grab the man I’ve been following.”
“Who are they?” Kenya asked.
“I’m not sure, I think they may be with the DEA; the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he responded.
“Why would they be here?” she asked. “I thought this guy stole some computers from you.”
“It’s not so simple,” Boot tried to explain, while paying attention to what was about to take place.
And then he saw her again: Becky Mayfield. She was wearing an expensive track suit and looked like any other suburban housewife in the station out for a day of shopping. But he had seen the woman up close the day before and knew what she looked like. Boot checked to see if the feds had spotted her, but they were focused on Cinder. She had to be his way out of the station. Why she was attempting to make the pick-up herself made no sense. Wouldn’t it have been much easier to send a flunky to do the job?
As she walked across the grand hall her eyes turned directly into Boot’s face. She saw him and recognized the bondsman as the man who had grabbed Dugger the day before. She froze and began backing up.
Then she saw Cinder holding the roses. She stopped and scanned the crowd in the station until her eyes picked out the federal agents closing in on Cinder. Boot stopped and wondered what she would do next. She was trapped in the station with the man she was going to get out of the city. Boot was the least of her worries. Once the feds knew she was there they would be calling for back-up and sealing the station off.
“Kenya,” Boot said to the woman with him. “There’s a bath store right next to us. I want you to go into that store and stay there until it’s safe to come out.”
“Why?” she asked. “What’s going to happen?”
“Just do what I said.”
Kenya went into the store and peeked out.
By now Cinder and Becky Mayfield had made eye contact. She motioned with her eyes to the three men slowly moving into position around him. Cinder figured out quickly what was taking place and began moving toward his employer. She walked slowly up to him, opening her purse. As Boot had feared, the feds hadn’t spotted her and were still focused on Cinder.
Before she could get the purse open, Boot was in front of her. He swiftly moved across the floor of the grand hall and positioned himself between Cinder, Mayfield and the federal men. It was a little hard to miss a tall black man in a suit.
Mayfield froze. Boot had his hand inside his jacket and she her purse. They stood three feet from each other glaring into the other’s eyes. It was a stalemate. Neither could pull out a gun without alerting the cops, security guards and the feds. Any gun displayed in the station would provoke a display of firepower not seen in years.
Becky Mayfield set her jaw and Boot looked down at her. It was the classic definition of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable object. Boot was in the strange place the Japanese sword masters refer to as “Mind-no-mind”. At that moment he was aware of every speck of dust, every shopper and every molecule around him. He could see Cinder stopping and the federal men closing in around their target. And he was frozen in time.
Beck Mayfield snarled, turned and walked out of Union Station. Boot watched her go out the glass doors and into the parking lot. He could see her climb into her latest car, which wasn’t a Yugo. She piled into an off-year Ford and drove away.
Now Boot was back to earth. He turned around to see the federal men closing. They almost had Cinder blocked and he realized it. But he didn’t know who Boot was and had opted to make a dash to the other side of the station. Unfortunately for him, Boot was directly in his line.
As Cinder shot across the floor, all Boot had to do was extend one of his size thirteen shoes and block the man’s ankle. Cinder went flying across the polished floor and spun around, hitting his head on the wall. Boot ran over, apparently to help him up, but in actuality he had one metal cuff out and slapped it on the fugitive’s wrist as he was getting up off the floor. The other soon followed. He managed to conceal what he was doing with his open jacket and the station shoppers assumed he was helping someone off the floor.
“Why Mr. Cinder,” he said into the thug’s ear, “what a surprise meeting you here. Was that Mrs. Mayfield coming by to give you a ride?”
Boot heard the man call him every name he could think of and some more besides as he escorted him across the floor to the men in suits. They were slowly closing in on the both of them. He didn’t care, he’d found his man and it was all that mattered.
The first suit slid up to him and put a hand on Cinder’s arm.
“We’ll take him from here,” was all the man said.
“I would like to hand this piece of shit off to you,” Boot said, “but I’m going to need to see some ID before I do that.”
The man pulled a badge and photo ID out of his wallet and showed it to Boot. The ID read “Drug Enforcement Agency” and the picture matched the man carrying it. It was real; Boot had seen plenty of them before. The man’s name was Stevens.
“I’ll have no trouble handing this fugitive over to protective custody,” he told him.
By now the other two had moved in and formed small conference in the corner of the station with Boot and Cinder. Amazingly, not a single patron at Union Station was looking at them. Even the security guards were busy elsewhere.
‘Oh, just one thing, Agent Stevens,” Boot said as they started to take Cinder away.
He produced a form he always carried with him and a pen. The form listed his bonding service and was proof the suspect had been handed over to a law enforcement official.
“Could you sign this? And please make sure you spell your name in longhand.”
The agent grumbled, but filled out the form.
As they walked away with Cinder, Boot breathed easy. One more down. He still had to find the others. And once again, Becky Mayfield had slipped right out from beneath him. That lady was proving elusive.
“You all done?” he heard Kenya’s voice from behind him. She slipped an arm around him and he turned to her.
“I am for now,” he told her.
He still had to phone in the successful capture to Corrine and check to see if anyone had left a tip to her or the answering service. Today’s quarry had nearly made it away from him. Another five minutes and he would have been chasing them both.
“Think you can give a girl a ride home?” she said in her sultry voice. “I would be so appreciative.”
Boot looked at her. He still had plenty of time to get home or back to the office. And sometimes you just shouldn’t look a gift horse in the wrong place. But would Corrine find out?
He walked her out to the parking lot and tried not to listen to the arguments over his shoulders. After all, every day could be his last.
When they got up to his VW, Boot pulled out the keys, unlocked the passenger side and held it open for Kenya.
She took one look at the car and her mood changed.
“You expect me to be seen riding around here in that?” she snapped. “I thought you were somebody important!”
Boot watched in disbelief as she turned and marched back toward the station. Soon she was out of view inside it.
He laughed to himself and got in the car.