Click here to read Chapter Two
Mark Hanson looked at the five men sitting around him in the darkened waiting room. No one had spoken for over ten minutes now.
Alex and Tim sat together, staring at the floor without saying a word. They always stuck together, whereever they went. Whatever happened.
Ben sat alone in one corner, his legs placed on the adjacent seat. Even now, he wore a look of disinterest. Richard, meanwhile, had his face buried in his hands ; Mark wondered what was going on through his mind.
James continued pacing around, blowing smoke rings as he walked. They'd told him to quit a million times. And a million times he told them to mind their own business. Not in such polite terms, of course.
"Hey Richard," James finally said, breaking the silence. "You know what the Doc told us, right?"
Mark had been anticipating this. He knew the conversation was coming.
"James," he said softly, but James gestured him to keep silent.
"The Doc thinks its not a heart attack as we thought. He says, it was food poisoning. Food poisoning, Richard. Can you believe that?"
Alex, Tim and Ben watched as James continued walking around in circles. Richard didnt respond; his face remained buried in his hands.
"The thing is, I cant. I cant believe that this prick -"
"Jesus, the man's dying, James," Tim protested. "Shut up!" James bellowed back, smoke rising from his cigarette.
"I cant believe," he continued, "that this Herb guy could die of food poisoning. You know why? Cuz we were the ones who were feeding him, weren't we? In fact, who's job was it to give him his dosage?"
No one replied. James stopped in front of Richard. "It was your job, wasn't it? Tim was to give him the sweet for breakfast, I was supposed to give him the sweet for dinner. Lunch was your job wasnt it? Wasnt it?"
"Yes!" Richard finally yelled back, his face trembling with agitation.
"So then tell me, how did you give him his sweet?" James asked. "I dont remember," Richard replied quickly. Mark knew things would get ugly. He also knew he couldnt stop James. No one could. Not unless James wanted to stop himself.
"Really?" James asked, sneering, "Well, I can help you out there. Because there were just three desserts available for lunch. One was Treacle Tart, one was a Fresh Fruit Salad, and the last one was a Black Forest Gateau. Now, which one did you get him?"
Just then, the door opened, and the Doctor walked in. Mark knew it before he heard the words. "I'm sorry, he's gone."
The room elapsed into silence again...
Cafe La Veranda
"Have you ever wondered why the Kidnappers Private Limited never got caught?" Philip asked.
"Because they're really good at what they do?" Kevin ventured.
"That they are. But think about it. Imagine what would happen if Herb Seigler had reunited with his wife. Wouldn't he have told the police that he didn't know he was kidnapped? Wouldn't he have told them everything he'd seen and heard? Now if every one of the KPL's victims gave the same description, the police would've figured it all out, wouldn't they?"
Kevin understood what Philip meant. He'd wondered about it himself. How the KPL could've gotten away with their style of kidnappings for so long.
"So what's their secret? Why do they stay undetected for so long?"
"Firstly," Philip replied, "because they never stay in the same city for too long. Each kidnapping is carried out in a different city. That way, it's tougher to detect their presence. Thousands of kidnappings occur every year."
The waitress returned with their usual orders. She'd become well acquainted with them by now.
"Secondly, because they drug their victims." Philip said.
"You mean like - Forget it, what do you mean?"
"There's a drug called propranolol. It helps in weakening, or blocking short term memories. The KPL drug their victims three times a day. That way, once the victim is back home, he has little or no memories about what happened to him. The police will think its because of trauma or something else."
"Ingenious!" Kevin remarked, taking a bite out of his muffin.
February 12th, Seigler's Residence
Inspector Jonathan Frey had been waiting for this moment. The big break in the case. Someone had spotted a man matching Herb Seigler's description, being carried into a private Ambulance. No license plates. But that wouldn't be a problem.
"Search the records of all private clinics within the area," Jonathan said to his Lieutenant, "the fellow's bound to be taken to one of them. Get moving!"
"Er, sir, there's one more thing," the Lieutenant said, "there's a private investigator here to see you."
"Oh great. Tell him not now. I'm busy."
"Actually sir, he's already helping with the case. I tried to stop him, but he's - he's well informed."
"Well informed?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes sir. He's been hired by the Seiglers. As per law, he can have access to any information we have on this case. But I dont think it'll be a problem sir. I asked around, and they said he's one of the best. Was an ex - cop as well."
"What's his name?"
"Strathairn. David Strathairn."
Jonathan frowned. He knew that name very well.
After paying the doctor handsomely, Mark Hanson asked him to call the police. "Tell them that you have Herb Seigler's body here. Tell them that you were threatened at gun point. Tell them anything you want. But call them. Now!"
Turning back to face his five friends, Mark looked grim. "Let's go. There's nothing else we can do here."
They exited the clinic, and began walking away quietly. They had a rented apartment a few blocks away; the only place where they could feel safe again.
Just as they crossed a street, a limousine pulled up next to them, and the window on the passenger's side was lowered.
"Are you Mark Hanson?" A smart looking, middle aged man asked. He wore expensive sun glasses, and had an amused expression on his face.
"Yes," Mark replied warily. He wasn't used to strangers addressing him that way.
"Good. Could the six of you please get in the back?" It wasn't a command. There was no hint of aggressiveness in the man's voice either. Instead, he sounded...amused.
"Hey, get the hell out of here alright," James said, stepping forward. He wasn't in the mood for a joke.
"Oh, calm down now, Mr. Milner. I can see your upset. You must've been close to Herb Seigler then?"
His words had the intended effect on the six of them. James looked surprised, and confused.
"Now, I'll ask you all one more time. Please get into the car."
"Who are you?" Mark asked. He began thinking frantically, wondering what they would have to do next.
"You can call me Lester. I work for a very powerful man. And we would like your - lets say - services. Now please, you're wasting precious little time. Get in. All of you."
A few minutes later, the limousine was roaring past the outskirts of the city.
"Ironical, isn't it," Lester said, looking back to see the six men seated behind him. "The kidnappers, are being kidnapped!"
To Be Continued...