Special Forces Father
Author:Mallory Kane

chapter Five

“Should I answer it?” Travis asked.

Dawson shook his head, then held up a finger as he clicked the speaker button with his other. “Hello,” he said.

There was silence on the other end, then, “I told her what would happen if she told anybody.”

“Who are you?” Dawson asked.

The man cursed.

“Don’t hang up. I’ve got a deal for you.”

Travis stared at Dawson, who nodded reassuringly at him, still holding up his hand.

Travis felt helpless, listening to Dawson dealing with the kidnapper while he stood there, having no idea what to do or say—or even think.

“A deal?” The voice laughed harshly. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

“I’m the guy who can get you what you want,” Dawson said.

“I told Dr. Chalmet what I want.”

“Right,” Dawson drawled, cutting his eyes to Travis, who still wasn’t sure what was going on. He just hoped Dawson knew what he was doing. “You want Senator Stamps to be ruled temporarily insane so he can skip out on his assault charge. That’s what you want?”

“That’s right,” the voice said.

Travis realized that Dawson had taken control of the conversation. “No, it’s not. What you want is money. It’s the people who hired you that want Stamps off on an insanity plea.”

“Same difference,” the voice said petulantly. “What the hell is it to you? And hey. You still haven’t told me who the hell you are.”

“Nope. And I’m not going to. You don’t need to know who I am. All you need to know is I’ve got plenty of money and I’m willing to give it to you to return Dr. Chalmet’s son to her and walk away.”

“How—” the voice stopped, then spoke again. “I took a job and I intend to finish it. But say you want to buy some insurance, be sure the kid stays healthy, that’s fine with me. But I ain’t walking out on a job. I got a reputation.”

“Oh, you’ve got a reputation.” Dawson hit the mute button, then looked at Travis. “Like I said, he’s a pro.”

“Hell, yeah, a good one,” the man on the phone said. “Now you’d better let me speak to the doctor, now.”

“So he’s a pro—a professional kidnapper?” The idea that his son was being held by a man who kidnapped children for a living horrified Travis.

Dawson shrugged and pressed his lips together. “My guess is he does more than just kidnappings.”

Travis’s stomach felt as if it had hit the floor. “You think he’s a hit man,” he said.

“He’s not going to hurt the boy,” Dawson responded quickly. “He needs him.”

Although that was what Travis had told Kate to reassure her, Dawson’s words didn’t make him feel a whole lot better. He was becoming more and more worried about Max. Where was the man keeping him? Was he safe and warm? Was the man feeding him and giving him enough to drink?

Dawson held up his hand again and took the phone off Mute. “I’m representing Dr. Chalmet,” he said into the phone. “You can talk to me.”

“Oh, hell, no,” the man said. “I don’t talk to her right now, I’m hanging up and she can kiss her kid goodbye.”

“You’re not going to hurt the kid. He’s your ace in the hole.”

“Look, asshole. I heard the trial’s been moved up. If the doctor doesn’t know that already, you tell her,” the kidnapper went on. “And tell her this. She missed her chance to talk to her kid. Little sucker’s been whining so I thought maybe he’d like to hear his mama’s voice. But that ain’t happening now. I’ll call back one more time and when I do, she better be there to talk to me or I’ll hang up and hell will freeze over before she ever sees her kid again. You got that?”

Travis touched Dawson’s arm and pointed to himself. Dawson shook his head.

“I got it. Dr. Chalmet will be very sorry she missed your call, but she’s busy working on your demands. So there’s no reason to punish her or her child because she’s doing what you told her to. Why don’t you call back at seven o’clock this evening and—”

There was a click on the line. The man had hung up.

“Damn it!” Travis cried. He whirled around and kicked the chair nearest him.

“Take it easy, Trav. That temper of yours won’t do your son any good. I’d have thought Special Forces might have trained that out of you.”

Travis instantly regretted the outburst. He was a little surprised at himself. He hadn’t blown up like that since the first two weeks of boot camp. He’d thought—hell, he’d hoped and prayed—that the rage he’d always harbored inside him, like his own personal demon, was gone.

Chagrined, he walked over and picked up the chair. “I never had a son—” He stopped and swallowed, looking down at his white-knuckled fist doubled around the back of the chair.

Dawson’s large hand squeezed Travis’s shoulder for a second. “We’ll get him back. I promise.”

Travis’s gaze snapped to Dawson’s. “Don’t say that if you don’t mean it, Dawson. Especially not to Kate. She’s fragile, barely holding it together. It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet.”

“And that’s good. I’m glad you didn’t wait to contact me. By the way, did you notice the man’s accent?”

“He had an accent?”

“Definitely Midwestern. I think he may be from Chicago.”

“That’s pretty specific.”

“Your brother Lucas’s wife has a brother who lives up there. His kids are picking up the accent. That means Dusty can narrow the search field. The sooner we get on this—” he held up the phone “—the better. I need to get going. My computer whiz is in Biloxi. I can do a little, but the kid’s a genius.”

Travis nodded.

“I’m going to put that tail on Stamps, too. So if you go to see him, give me a call first. Put my number in your phone.”

“I don’t have a phone.”

Dawson’s brows shot up. “Don’t have a phone? You’ve got to have a phone. Walk with me. I keep a few burner phones in my trunk, just in case. I’ll give you a couple of them. Give one to Kate, to take the place of this one.”

The two of them headed downstairs. When Dawson retrieved the phones and handed them to Travis, he looked at them and frowned. “How’s Kate going to get calls from the kidnapper?”

“Oh, that’s easy enough,” Dawson said. “Hang on.” He pulled Kate’s phone out of his pocket. “Give me that phone.” He pointed to one of the phones Travis held. He used his thumb to press buttons on it, looked at the display, then pressed buttons on Kate’s phone. Glancing from one device to the other, he nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Now any call that comes to Kate’s phone will be forwarded to that phone. Explain that to Kate when you give it to her.”

Travis nodded.

“As soon as I get back to the office, I’ll get Dusty to fix it so that we can listen in on any calls. Tell Kate that, too. Tell her anything that is said on the phone will be recorded. Tell her to try and get as many specifics as she can out of the guy.”

“That’s great, Dawson. Thanks,” Travis said. “I don’t know how to—”

“Hey,” Dawson said, grasping his shoulder briefly again. “Don’t worry about it. Just keep me up to date on what’s happening with the trial.”

“Right. That guy said the trial date’s been moved up. I’ll bet that’s why Kate called. I didn’t answer the phone because I didn’t want to listen to her yell at me for taking her phone and contacting you. She’s going to be so mad at me.” Travis ran a hand through his hair. “And I can’t blame her. When she finds out the kidnapper called, she’s going to panic.”

“Tell her I recorded that whole conversation. And tell her not to worry. He’s not going to hurt your boy. He’s going to call back at seven o’clock and he’s going to let Kate talk to him.”

“How can you be sure of that?”

“Because I told him to. The guy’s a pro. He’s got sense enough to keep her as calm as possible. If she’s too distraught, she won’t be able to do her job. That’s why I was careful to remind him that she wasn’t available to talk to him because she’s working on the case.”

Travis nodded again. “I couldn’t have done this on my own, Dawson.”

“Hey, kid, you’ve got a whole different set of skills. When you confront this kidnapper, you can take him down and beat the crap out of him.”

Travis was a little taken aback. “That’s not how we work,” he said.

Dawson’s eyes narrowed assessingly. “Sorry. I guess I still see you as a pissed-off kid, instead of a Special Forces operative. No offense.”

Travis held out his hand. “Thanks.”

Dawson took his hand and the two of them man-hugged again.

Then Travis looked up and down the street. “I better get going. If the town is like I remember it, someone we know will walk up before long.”

Dawson smiled. “It’s not easy being the grandkids of the most infamous politician in the state.”

“You got that right.” Travis headed toward his car.

Dawson opened his car door, then called out to Travis. “Kid,” he said. “I’ll call you after the kidnapper calls.”

“What if he doesn’t call?”

Dawson tipped an imaginary hat. “He’ll call.”

* * *

TRAVIS DROVE TO Myron Stamps’s home in Metairie. It was a large two-story house with white pillars. There was a brick fence across the front of the property with urns in the place of lions sitting on top of the concrete posts that flanked the driveway. Travis drove straight in and parked the bedraggled little hatchback next to a Lexus that was so dark green it could have been mistaken for black.

When he rang the front doorbell, Stamps himself answered. He was a small round man with thinning hair. He had on a polo shirt and pale green slacks. “You’re early—” he started to say as he swung the large door open. “Oh.”

“You’re Stamps?” Travis asked pointedly.

“I’m Senator Stamps,” he said, peering questioningly at Travis. “Who are you?”

Travis eyed Stamps’s clothes. “Going golfing?” he guessed.

Stamps stepped backward and started to close the door.

“This won’t take long,” Travis said, putting out an arm to stop the door. “I have some questions for you.”

“Wait a minute,” Stamps said. “I know who you are. You’re a Delancey.”

“Good job,” Travis said, then pushed past him and walked into the marble-floored foyer. “Nice,” he drawled, turning around to face Stamps, who was staring at him in mild shock.

“You can’t just walk into my home uninvited. If you don’t leave immediately, I’ll call the police.”

“No problem,” Travis said, smiling at the senator. His expression seemed to startle the man. “You can call Lucas, Ethan, Ryker or Reilly. There’s also Shel Rossi, who’s a cousin of ours. And—” he snapped his fingers “—you know, if you wanted to call a judge, you could give Shel’s dad, Judge Rossi, a ring. He’s my uncle.”

“What the hell do you want, Delancey? Which one are you, anyhow?”

“That has nothing to do with why I’m here. But what I want? Well, that’s what we’re about to talk about.”

Stamps took a couple phlegmy breaths as he studied Travis. He tucked his polo shirt a little more snugly over his belly and into his green pants, then he gestured toward the right.

If Travis weren’t mistaken, there seemed to be a small flicker of fear in the senator’s eyes as he said, “You might as well come in. No sense in standing in the foyer.” He pronounced it foy-yay.

Travis headed in the direction Stamps was pointing and stepped into a darkly paneled room. Behind him, Stamps turned on the lights. It was the very cliché of a study. Deep red carpeting and curtains, mahogany desk, leather executive’s chair, three club chairs and each wall lined with bookshelves.

“This is nice, too,” Travis said, gesturing to the dark leather and wood around him. “Never knew working for the government was so lucrative.”

“Your granddaddy did all right,” Stamps muttered, going behind the desk and sitting. He pulled the curtains, exposing French doors that opened onto a patio. Then he turned and picked up a letter opener that seemed to be a tiny replica of General Lee’s ceremonial sword, complete with tassels, and fiddled with it. “Why don’t you have a seat and tell me what you think I can do for you?”

Travis didn’t sit. Instead he propped a hip on Stamps’s desk. Then he leaned down until his face and Stamps’s were no more than six inches apart. “I’ll tell you what you can do for me, Senator.”

“Wha—” Stamps pushed his chair back. “I told you to sit down.”

“You listen to me, old man,” Travis growled. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing threatening Dr. Chalmet, but you’d better back off or I will personally put you in the hospital.”

Stamps stared up at Travis, seemingly horrified. “You’d better watch yourself. You’re threatening an elected official. That’s a federal crime.”

“I’ll tell you what’s a federal crime. Kidnapping a child. Now, that’s a federal crime with some serious teeth behind it.” He stood up and walked back around the front of the desk and sat in one of the club chairs. “Unlike, as you put it, threatening a washed-up senator who hasn’t got a prayer of getting out of court without a felony conviction.”

Stamps pulled a white handkerchief out of his coat pocket and wiped his face. Then he stood and rested his knuckles on the top of the desk. “I have no idea what you are talking about. What child? What threats? And who is Dr.—did you say Chalmet?”

“I’m sure you’re keeping all that well away from yourself. Who’s doing the dirty work? Is it Senator Darby Sills? The one with all the money? No.” Travis put his fingers to his chin as if he was thinking very hard. “No. It’s probably Congressman Whitley. He’s your newest recruit into the Good Ole Boys, isn’t he? Probably getting harder to find your kind of politician these days, isn’t it? Poor Whitley—having to perform your dirty little tricks.”

“I still have no idea what you’re talking about, Delancey. Now I’d suggest you get out of here. I do know a couple police officials who are not Delanceys.” Stamps reached for his desk phone.

Travis caught the senator’s wrist. His middle and ring fingers pressed the back of the wrist, his thumb was positioned right in the center of the front. “You want me to demonstrate my skills for you, Myron?” He applied pressure with his thumb, enough to force the senator’s fingers to curl. “I can break your wrist without straining an eyebrow hair. Want to see?”

Stamps started to pull against Travis’s grip.

“Careful,” Travis warned. “You probably should stay still. If you break your own wrist by moving like that, I can’t be responsible for the integrity of the bones. They might shatter and you’d never be able to use that hand again. I, on the other hand, know how to break it cleanly. No shattered bones.”

Stamps’s ruddy face turned a sickly pale purple color. “I demand that you let me go,” he croaked.

“I will, as soon as you tell me who set up the kidnapping.”

“I told you I—”

Travis moved his forefinger and thumb slightly.

“Aah!” Stamps cried. “Oh my word, oh my word. You broke it.”

“No. I just touched a nerve. Want me to do it again?”

“No!” Stamps bent over the desk in the direction of his hand, obviously hoping to take any strain off the bones. He was terrified that Travis’s hold would shatter his wrist. “I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Not a good answer.” Travis glanced toward Stamps’s hand.

“No, wait. Please.” Stamps cleared his throat. Sweat trickled down his temple and ran into the creases of his jowls. “The only one who would do something that stupid is Whitley,” he mumbled.

“Whitley can’t be doing this alone,” Travis growled. “He doesn’t have the money to hire a pro. Is Sills paying for it, or are you?”

“I’m not! I swear.”

Travis groaned exaggeratedly. “My fingers are getting tired. When they get too tired, they start twitching. If they twitch in the wrong direction—”

Stamps’s mouth dropped open. He looked dumbfounded. “No—” he breathed.

Travis watched him, thinking if the senator was acting, he was doing a damn good job of it. Could he be telling the truth? Could the whole kidnapping have been dreamed up by Sills or Whitley, or both of them together? “No, what?” Travis asked, scowling at Stamps.

“They kidnapped somebody?” Stamps swallowed audibly, then coughed.

“Not just somebody. A child. A four-year-old boy,” Travis said.

What little color had been in Stamps’s face drained away pale. “I didn’t know.”

Travis studied Stamps closely. His face was still that light purple color. His lips were pinched and white at the corners. And his face and neck were dripping with sweat. His eyes were dilated, and through his fingers on the man’s wrist, Travis could feel his pulse, which was fast and shallow. The man had been a politician for fifty years, so Travis doubted he’d be this shaken if he were lying.

On the other hand, Travis had seen men react this way when threatened with death. Stamps might be a scumbag. He’d probably shot cousin Paul on purpose. But Travis didn’t think Stamps had known about the kidnapper.

He glanced at his watch. “It’s about three minutes to four. Your golfing buddy is probably here. Who is he?”

“It’s—” Stamps shook his head, as if trying to clear it. “It’s the mayor. We’re just—just going to work on our putts on my p-putting green for an hour, then head to a dinner meeting.”

“That sounds like fun. Your buddies Sills and Whitley going to that meeting?”

Stamps shook his head so hard his jowls shook. “No. I mean, I don’t know. This is a community thing. Not political at all.”

Travis squeezed gently with his thumb.

Stamps gasped and winced.

Travis smiled, but the senator didn’t look mollified. “Let’s not mention my visit, okay? Let’s keep this just between us. And remember, I might come to see you again if I don’t find out what I need from your buddies.” He let go of Stamps’s hand and the man rubbed it as if he’d had on tight handcuffs.

“By the way, where would I find your two buddies this afternoon? Do you have any idea?”

Stamps shook his head again. “I—I think Whitley is in Baton Rouge. But Sills? You—you can c-call my secretary. She’ll track him down for you.” He gave Travis the number.

Travis stored it in his phone, pocketed it, then pointed at Stamps’s wrist. The senator stepped backward. “Remember,” Travis said. “Just between us. Got it?” he asked, smiling.

Stamps nodded, sending his jowls quivering in an entirely new direction.