Chapter 8

Tunnel to Nowhere. The worn teething rattle caught Elizabeth’s eye but when she asked Fitz if she could look at it he seemed reluctant to part with it. He had found five rattles and he hadn’t even entered any of them into evidence which was a major protocol error. But truth be told, Fitzy hadn’t been sure anyone else besides Bonét could see them so it surprised him that Liz wanted to hold a rattle. Maybe some of Froggy was rubbing off on Liz, either that, or Fitzy worried, the hopeless case was warping his brain.

What do you think the relevancy of the rattles are? I mean its obvious they are like bread crumbs or little beacons that seem to indicate you are on the right track, but …

“You said you have five, right?” queried Liz, the first part of her question was directed at herself and not really intended for Fitzy to answer. “And you are plotting their location on a map?” Liz was sorry for the inane question as soon as it left her mouth because Fitzy’s wordlessly what-are-you-stupid stare was definitely not charitable. She always felt that she had let herself down whenever she was in Fitzy’s presence.

When Fitz opened his desk drawer Liz had marveled how each one was identical to the next, even the tattered ribbons were frayed the same way as its neighbor. The worn plated silver was scratched and dented in the exact same places, and as if those weren’t the oddest characteristics, the one trait that really was the most remarkable was that even on the hottest, most humid and sweatiest day, the rattles would be ice-cold, like dry ice. They smoked with frozen vapor when disturbed or light infused their shadows. They actually seared your skin when held – it felt like they could pierce skin and burrow deep inside.

Yeah, I can see them even though Fitz thinks he is the only one that is privileged enough to be in their presence.” DeMarco observed. “Once, when I was in the office alone I snuck a peek at his precious rattles and there they were glowing and beating like hearts. I shut the drawer and have pretended ever since that I can’t see them yet at night they haunt me beating in their drawer wrapped in darkness.”

I knew,” whispered Fitz. “Every time you walk into the room DeMarco, you can’t help but let yourself gaze at my desk. In your mind you open the drawer over and over again. The rattles are playing with your mind, DeMarco.”

DeMarco chuckled nervously; there was no use denying the grip Fitzy’s rattles had on anyone that looked at them. They gave him the heebee-geebees. This whole case was a crazy mother …

Just then the phone rang and the spell was broken. A sick dog had been found by a family near the business park about twelve miles west of the mill complex. The detectives gave Froggy and Liz the task of going out to pick up the dog because if it turned out to be Bonét, Froggy would be able to breathe life back into the poor animal. The family mistook a spent old fox for a dog and by the time Froggy arrived it had regained enough strength to trot into the woods that surround the park. Fitzy suggested that Liz and Froggy take some time for themselves and play tourist in downtown Chapel Hill. Fitzy and DeMarco would be literally sifting musty mill basement dirt looking for anything that could get them even a small step forward in closing the case.

Liz declared that the North Carolina humidity sapped her strength and that a little shuteye would renew her ability to make sense of how, Wait! Something or Someone is in Fitzy’s tent! A shaggy brown blur hurled itself out of the tent at Froggy’s chest. Froggy went into power mode and Joy of Joys! Wet nose, slobbery tongue and human tears all mix in an awesome reunion! Bonét had found them! Lizzie cried into Froggy’s shoulder as he massaged life into Bonét’s small frame and it wasn’t until an hour or two later that anyone remembered Fitzy’s need to know about Bonét’s return.

Rain, Rain, Go Away. The rain would let up. The radio cautioned that local creeks and larger streams would likely flood making it a necessity for citizens on the city’s outskirts to be ready and willing to relocate to higher ground. Fitzy’s little tent didn’t have a radio, it really didn’t have much in terms of creature comforts however, it kept the creatures inside comfortable. The tent had been set up in a clearing with little regard to flood plains, but after all the excitement of fouling the kidnapper’s plans and having Bonét find the tent – all three friends had fallen asleep in a tangled pile on the flannel sleeping bag.

If someone had been watching the tent with binoculars – which someone was – they were the only witness to the tent shaking off its stakes and shift n’ shimmy to a drier location far from the stream that had begun to lap at its base. Or were they witnesses? At the very moment the tent began to break loose from its supports, the right binocular lens cracked. And when the tent righted itself, the left lens fell out and shattered on soft pine needles. When another pair of binoculars had Ben unpacked and focused, Fitzy’s tent was nowhere to be seen!

This news was relayed to the driver of the idling silver sports car parked precariously close to the soft shoulder that was about to crumble into the rumbling creek thirty-five feet below the highway. The combination number and letter license plate was clearly seen as it tumbled down the embankment was the last of the vehicle seen as it was swallowed by the roiling water. Fitzy wasn’t usually vindictive by nature but he didn’t like having his friends spied on, much less kidnapped or killed. He would put the pieces together the next morning with DeMarco once the creek receded and the silver was swarmed with agents. The trunk would spill forth at most a dozen items that tied the deceased driver and passenger to Binét’s abduction, maps that when dried out would reveal hiding locations, names of accomplices and out-of-state phone numbers. Photographs of the three missing children littered the floor and some current ones were clipped to the driver’s visor. Sadly, the pictures held no other remarkable information other than letting everyone know that the children were still alive.

“Hey Fitz, have you found any addresses pertaining to the lost kids in all that rubble?” DeMarco yelled, cupping his hands to amplify his voice.

In addition to mosquitoes and bugs, DeMarco was scared to death of snakes, eels and leeches, basically anything that wiggled gave him the willies. He was a dry land detective; everyone back in his New York precinct teased him unmercifully for his phobias. DeMarco wasn’t defensive, he was comfortable with his disabilities and he took the ribbing good-naturedly.

One thought kept nagging at his brain: who informed Fitz that a silver sports car was submerged, none of the occupants had escaped their fateful accident, no witness plate, at least when he was in the cruiser – so how did Fitz know where to look for the car? Something didn’t match up …

What was Needed was Another Vacation. Elizabeth’s vacation time was running out, what had felt like a grueling month in reality was about five days counting off out of her standard seven-day-vacation schedule. When Froggy thought about it he was on vacation all the time in and around the odd assignments and check-ins with the captains. It wasn’t as if it was really necessary to set his alarm because he always knew when he was needed and would wake accordingly. Both he and Fitzy shared this talent. Elizabeth, on the other-hand, had to set her alarm for a brutal five o’clock wake up and rejoin the ‘rat race’ after the Monday holiday, ASAP.

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