Connor swallowed the bile in his throat. “What do you want me to do?”
Sherwood named a spot in City Park where he wanted Connor to bring the coin.
“Don’t try anything, Randall. I have her and I’ll keep her here until I’ve got that coin.”
Connor wasn’t stupid. “You can’t have the coin until I see Josie. If you do anything to harm her before I can see her and we can make the exchange, I’ll take what I have right to the FBI.”
“My people won’t believe you.”
“I won’t take it to your people here in New Orleans. I’ll take it all the way to Washington, D.C.”
Sherwood only hesitated a minute. “You’ll see your precious Josie as long as I get the coin.”
After Sherwood ended the call, Connor started running back toward his apartment. He only had a little while to get home and prepare himself for confronting Sherwood. The man would shoot him on the spot in the park and then he’d kill Josie and Armond and somehow make it look as if Connor had done it. They’d all be dead and the real criminal would get away free and clear.
With that scenario running through his brain, Connor sprinted around corners and hurried through alleyways.
Then his phone buzzed an incoming message he’d missed while talking to Sherwood. Connor hit the screen to retrieve the message. From Josie.
Connor heard the resolve and the urgency in her voice. Did she think she’d never see him again? That he would run and leave her in the hands of a madman who’d convinced her that Connor was the bad guy? Did she know that he’d do anything to save her? Anything.
Connor increased his speed. He had to find out where the call had come from. He started to work right away, sending out signals to his street contacts as he jogged the sidewalks. He described the vehicle he’d watched driving away, even gave them the license-plate numbers he’d memorized. Then he checked his phone to see if the number she’d called from had come through.
It had. So he called a friend at the telephone company and begged her to break all the rules to track down the phone number by doing a reverse search. After telling her this was urgent, he said, “It’s a local, but I can’t get a handle on where it might be and I’m running out of time.”
“If it’s a cell, it’s gonna be hard to pin down,” she explained. “Let me see what I can come up with.”
He hurried back to his place and started gathering the tools he’d need to go after Sherwood. A Glock 22 with extra ammo, a hunting knife, a flashlight and a camera, and a bungee cord. He’d learned a few things about weaponry and espionage while hanging around with the FBI and Armond.
He put everything but his cell phone into a black canvas backpack and waited for his friend to call back.
After ten minutes and a bucket of sweat, his cell rang.
“It’s a landline at an old abandoned manufacturing company northwest of the city, near Lake Pontchartrain’s south shore.”
Connor memorized the address and started out the door. This place was located in a wetland village out from the city. A place where a person could go missing for a very long time.
An image of Josie floating in the brackish waters of a shallow swamp hit him. Connor closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. “Don’t let her die because of my sins, Lord.”
Then he hit numbers on his phone as he moved through the New Orleans streets. “Mama Joe, it’s Connor. I need your help.”
* * *
Josie was back in the chair with her hands behind her back before Sherwood closed the door. Trying to steady her breath, she stared up at him.
Sherwood came around the table and looked at her hands.
Josie held her breath while he made sure she was still tied. She’d done her best to make it look that way.
“Your ropes look loose,” Sherwood said. Then he yanked at the cords with such force, Josie had to grit her teeth against the burning scrape of skin being torn off her wrists. “But you can’t get out of this building. It’s airtight and out in the middle of nowhere.” He leaned close, his smile belying his words. “And surrounded by big, hungry gators.”
Josie refused to let him scare her. “Thanks for the warning.”