فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

‘We’ve got the wrong kid!’

There were two kinds of cases that Steve Carella did not like. He did not like cases which involved very rich people or cases which involved children. Now, sitting in Douglas King’s enormous, luxurious living room, talking about a kidnapped child, Carella felt bad. He didn’t want to be here, but he had no choice.

He sat in King’s room, feeling troubled and asking questions, while Meyer Meyer stood with his back to them, looking out at the River Harb.

‘Let me get this clear, Mr King,’ Carella said. ‘The boy who was kidnapped is not your son, is that right?’

‘That’s right,’ King said.

‘But when the kidnapper asked you for the ransom money, he thought he had your son.’

‘Yes.’

‘Has he called you again?’

‘No.’

‘Then he may still believe he has your son,’ Carella said.

‘I don’t know what he believes,’ King said angrily. ‘Why do I have to answer all these questions? I am not the boy’s father, and I -‘

‘No, but you spoke to the kidnapper.’

‘That’s true, Mr Caretta.’

‘Carella.’

‘I’m sorry. Carella.’

‘Was it a man? The person who called.’

‘It was a man,’ King said.

‘Did he say “I have your son” or “We have your son”?’

‘I don’t remember. And I don’t see why it’s important. Somebody has Jeff Reynolds, and all these stupid questions -‘

‘Exactly, Mr King,’ Carella said. ‘Somebody has the boy, and we want to know who that somebody is. We want to know who has the boy so that we can get him back safely. That’s important to us. I’m sure it’s important to you, too.’

‘Of course it is!’ King said sharply. ‘Why don’t you call in your chief - somebody experienced in this kind of case? A boy’s life is in danger! Local cops can’t handle this.’

‘Lieutenant Byrnes is on his way now, Mr King,’ Carella said. ‘He’s boss of the whole 87th Precinct. First we need to know a little more about -‘

‘Excuse me, Steve,’ Meyer said. ‘I’d better go and get a description of the boy. I ought to talk to his father.’

‘Yeah,’ Carella said. ‘Where is Mr Reynolds, Mr King?’

‘In his apartment. Over the garage. He’s taking this badly.’

‘Do you want me to speak to him, Meyer?’ Carella asked.

‘No, no, I’ll do it,’ Meyer said, giving King a quick look as he turned to leave the room. ‘I think you have your hands full here.’

‘Now, Mr King,’ Carella started again. ‘Did you notice anything unusual about the man’s voice? An accent, or -‘

‘I’m sorry, Mr Caretta,’ King said. ‘I refuse to play this little game any longer.’

‘My name is Carella, and what game do you mean?’

‘This nonsense about how the man spoke. What difference can it possibly make? How will any of this get Jeff back to his father?’

Carella did not look up from the book he was writing in. He kept telling himself that it would really not be a good idea for him to hit Mr Douglas King in the mouth. Quietly, politely, he asked, ‘What do you do for a living, Mr King?’

‘I run a shoe factory. Is this another of your important questions?’

‘Yes, it is. I don’t know anything about shoes, Mr King. They’re just things I put on my feet. I wouldn’t dream of going into your factory and telling your workers how to make shoes.’

‘I understand what you’re saying,’ King said dryly.

‘You understand part of what I’m saying, Mr King. The part that is warning you …’

‘Warning me!’

‘… warning you to let me get on with my job. The other part of what I’m telling you is this. In case you have any doubts about this, let me tell you that I am a good detective, a hell of a good detective. I know my job, and if I’m asking you questions it’s because I have a good reason to ask you those questions. Now do we understand each other, Mr King?’

‘I think we understand each other, Mr Caretta.’

‘My name is Carella,’ Carella said flatly. ‘Did the man have an accent?’

Reynolds sat on his bed, making no attempt to hide the floods of tears that were running down his face. Meyer watched him, and wished he could put his arm around the man’s shoulders, tell him everything would be all right. He could not do that. He did not know whether the boy was alive or dead. All he could do was ask his questions.

‘How old is Jeff, Mr Reynolds?’

‘Eight.’

‘How tall is he?’

‘I don’t know. I never… I don’t know. Maybe a little tall. He’s a handsome boy. Tall for his age.’

‘How much does he weigh?’

‘I don’t know.’

Meyer breathed in deeply. ‘Is he fat, thin, medium?’

‘Not too fat and not too thin. Just normal.’

‘Is he dark or fair?’

‘He has blond hair. Very fair skin. Is that what you mean?’

‘Yes. Thank you. What colour are his eyes?’

‘Will you get him back?’ Reynolds asked suddenly.

Meyer stopped writing. ‘We’re going to try,’ he said. ‘We’re going to try every way we know, Mr Reynolds.’

The description of Jeff Reynolds was phoned to the 87th

Precinct building, and then sent out to the police forces of fourteen states. The message which followed it immediately was about a grey Ford car. It had been stolen.

The grey Ford bumped along the rough road which led to the lonely farmhouse. Sands Spit was not the kind of place where many visitors chose to spend their summers. In winter it was freezing and completely deserted.

The Ford stopped at the farmhouse and a young man in his late twenties stepped out and ran to the door. He knocked three times, then waited.

‘Eddie?’ a woman’s voice asked.

‘It’s me, Kathy. Open the door.’

The door opened. ‘Where’s Sy?’ the girl asked.

‘In the car. He’ll be here in a moment. Ain’t you got a kiss for me, Kathy?’

‘Oh, Eddie, Eddie,’ she said, and threw herself into his arms. A woman of twenty-four, with the pretty but hard face of one whose life has never been easy, Kathy Folsom kissed her husband warmly, with a love which came straight from her heart.

‘Are you all right?’ she asked him. ‘Did everything go all right? I’ve been worrying so much about this job. I just kept thinking, it’s the last one; please don’t let anything go wrong.’

‘Everything went fine. Give me a cigarette, honey.’

She watched him as he lit the cigarette, a tall, good-looking man in a white, open-necked shirt.

‘I was listening to the radio,’ she said. ‘I thought they’d say something about the job. I mean, a bank …’ She paused. ‘It went all right, didn’t it? There was no trouble?’

‘No trouble. Only, Kathy, you see, we didn’t -‘

She kissed him again. ‘You’re back,’ she whispered. ‘That’s all that matters.’

‘In here, kid,’ a voice said, and Jeff Reynolds half fell into the room. The man who had pushed him through the door, Sy, laughed as he said, ‘Home, sweet home, kid! It ain’t much, but it’s ours!’

‘Where’s my gun?’ Jeff said, as Kathy stared at him, not understanding what was happening.

‘The boy wants his gun,’ Sy said, smiling.

Kathy kept staring at Jeff. ‘Who … who the hell …?’ she began.

Sy laughed. ‘Oh, Eddie, look at the surprise on her face! What a girl!’

‘Let me talk to her, Sy,’ Eddie said.

‘Where’s the gun?’ Jeff said. ‘Come on, I have to get home soon.’ He turned to Kathy. ‘Have you got the gun?’

‘What gun? Who is this kid?’

‘Where’s your manners, Miss Kathy?’ Sy smiled. ‘This boy is our guest, and -‘

Immediately, she turned to her husband. ‘Eddie, who -?’

‘I don’t think you’ve even got a gun,’ Jeff said.

Sy opened the door to one of the bedrooms. ‘Come on, kid, the gun room is this way,’ he said.

Kathy waited until the door closed behind them. Then she said, ‘Tell me about it, Eddie.’

‘It’s what it looks like.’ He could not raise his eyes to look at her. ‘We’ve kidnapped the boy.’

‘Have you gone completely crazy?’ she asked.

‘Take it easy, Kathy. Try and take it easy.’

She lit a cigarette with fingers that shook. ‘All right. I’m listening. Tell me everything.’

‘We’ve kidnapped the boy. We’re asking for a ransom of five hundred grand.’

‘You said it was a bank job,’ Kathy said.

‘I was lying. We never went near a bank.’

‘Don’t you know how serious this is, Eddie? You’re crazy! You could go to the electric chair for this!’

‘Calm down. Don’t get excited.’

‘Who is the kid?’ Kathy asked.

‘Bobby King.’

‘And who’s Bobby King?’

‘His father is a big guy in Granger Shoe. You know the company, Kathy. They make those expensive shoes.’

‘Yes, I know it.’ She was silent for a moment before she said softly, ‘Why didn’t you tell me what you were planning?’

‘I didn’t think you’d agree to it.’

‘Of course I won’t agree to it!’ she shouted. ‘Get that boy out of here! Take him back where you got him! His parents must be going mad with worrying about him. How could you do a thing like this?’

‘Shut up!’ Eddie shouted. Then he said more gently, ‘Kathy, we’ll get five hundred grand from this job. We’ll go to Mexico, just like you said you wanted to.’

‘I don’t want the money. I won’t touch it. And I won’t go to Mexico. You said this would be the last job. A bank, you said, just a bank, not taking somebody’s child, not a dirty, rotten kidnapping!’

‘We didn’t hurt the kid,’ Eddie said. ‘He’s fine.’

‘Is he?’ Kathy said. ‘What’s Sy doing to him?’

‘He’s all right. Sy promised to show him a real gun. That’s how we got him to come with us. Try to understand, honey.’

‘I don’t want to understand this,’ she said. ‘What the hell gave you the idea …?’

‘I just got it. Sy and me worked on the plan together. This is safer than a bank job. We just borrow a kid, and get five hundred grand when we give him back.’

‘Borrow a kid, Eddie? Who said that, you or Sy?’

‘I told you, we both had this idea -‘

‘You’re lying, Eddie. It was Sy’s idea, wasn’t it?’

‘No! Well …’

‘It was, wasn’t it?’

‘Well, it was. But it’s a good idea, honey. We’ll go to Mexico. I’ll make something good of my life there, Kathy, you’ll see. I’ll really be something - me, Eddie Folsom. Won’t that be great, honey?’

‘Oh, Eddie, Eddie,’ she said, looking at him sadly. ‘Don’t you even realize what you’ve done?’

‘Bang!’ Jeff shouted, as he ran into the room carrying a gun. Sy was just behind him. ‘The kid likes guns,’ he laughed. ‘Play with the gun, kid. Get to know it.’

‘Sy, is that gun loaded?’ Kathy asked, frightened.

‘Would I give a loaded gun to a little child?’ Sy asked innocently. ‘What do you think I am, a bad guy?’ He turned to Eddie and said, ‘Time to turn on the magic box, professor.’

Eddie looked at Kathy, but she would not meet his eyes. ‘Sure, Sy,’ he said, and pulled a cloth off a heap of radio equipment, which stood on a table in the corner of the room.

‘Watch the professor, kid,’ Sy said, as Eddie turned the huge radio on, pushing buttons and watching needles move from side to side. ‘You sure found yourself a smart guy, Kathy.’

‘Why don’t you leave my husband alone?’ Kathy said. ‘Why did you get him into this rotten thing?’

‘He came willingly,’ Sy said. ‘I ain’t forcing him.’ A high sound came from the radio. ‘The magic box speaks, kid.’

‘Hey, that’s great!’ Jeff said. ‘Where did you get it?’

‘I built it,’ Eddie answered.

‘That must be really hard to do.’

‘Not so hard,’ Eddie said, trying not to sound too pleased.

‘Clever husband you got yourself, Kathy,’ Sy said. ‘That’s why the little woman loves you so much, Eddie. And you learnt it all in reform school, didn’t you?’

‘Stop it, Sy,’ Kathy said.

‘Want to build radios like Eddie here, and have all the girls running after you?’ Sy asked Jeff.

‘I sure do!’

‘Okay, this is what you have to do. When you’re fifteen years old, rob a store. Then they’ll send you to reform school. That’s where Eddie got his education. Me, kid, I had to get my education in the rope factory.’ He laughed. ‘Is it coming, professor?’

Suddenly, voices came from the radio. … accident at Morrison and North Ninety-eight. Car 303..: They were listening to the police talking on their radios.

‘Are you going to take me home now?’ Jeff asked.

‘I’m busy, kid,’ Sy said.

‘Car 207, car 207, go to Smoke Rise, house of Douglas King ..:

‘Hey!’ Jeff said, excited. ‘He said Douglas King!’

‘Do you really expect this plan to succeed, Sy?’ Kathy said.

‘Sure, I do. And all because of the professor here, and his radio. I love Eddie and his radios! I love this job! It’s going to do great things for all of us! Tell her, Eddie, tell her all about it!’

‘Sy, she’s not interested,’ Eddie said.

‘I’m interested in anything Eddie does,’ Kathy said softly.

‘Sure you are. The little woman,’ Sy said. ‘Okay. Here’s what we did. We called King and told him we wanted five hundred grand …’

Jeff said, ‘Did you say you called -?’

‘Shut up, kid. We told him to get the money ready by tomorrow morning. Then, in the morning, we call again ‘Are you talking about -?’ Jeff started.

‘I said shut up, kid, before you get hurt!’ Sy shouted angrily.

Jeff stared at him, surprised, and then frowned.

The radio broke the silence in the room.

‘… all cars, all cars. Here’s the story on the Smoke Rise kidnapping. The missing boy is eight years old, fair hair, wearing a red sweater. The boy’s name is Jeffry Reynolds ‘What?’ Eddie said.

‘That man said my name,’ Jeff said, surprised.

‘… son of Charles Reynolds, chauffeur to Douglas King…’

‘What’s he talking about, Sy?’ Eddie said. His face was white with terror.

‘They’re lying,’ Sy said. ‘It’s some kind of trick.’

‘How can it be? We’ve got the wrong kid!’

‘He ain’t the wrong kid!’

‘If he is,’ Kathy said calmly, ‘you’ve done all this for nothing. We’re all in trouble for nothing.’

‘This kid is Bobby King,’ Sy said. ‘Sure he is.’

‘Me?’ Jeff said, puzzled. ‘I’m not Bobby.’

‘Shut your mouth, kid.’

‘Let him talk,’ Kathy said. ‘What’s your name, sonny?’

‘Jeff.’

‘He’s lying!’ Sy shouted.

‘I am not!’ Jeff shouted back at him. ‘I don’t like you! I’m going home!’

He started to walk to the door. Sy caught him roughly by the arm and pulled him back. He stood very close to the boy, and there was no laughter in his voice as he said, ‘What’s your name? Your real name?’

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