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Authors: LS Sygnet

Tags: #murder, #mystery, #deception, #human trafficking, #corrupt cops

Always Watching (5 page)

BOOK: Always Watching
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Two seconds before I could reach the pot
roast in the oven, the doorbell rang.  Since there was no call
from the gate, I expected Devlin on the other side of the
door.  “Come in, Dev, it’s open,” I pulled the roaster out and
ignored the second chime.

Oh for heaven’s
sake.”  I yanked the front door open moments later. 
“Didn’t you hear me?”

Devlin looked far too serious.  “I
called everyone and cancelled dinner, not that I really needed to
with Crevan.  We’ve got a situation in Darkwater proper. 
I need your help.”

I just took the pot roast
out of the oven.  Can I at least cover it up?  Geez,
what’s with you tonight?  Have you forgotten that this isn’t
my job anymore?”

Celeste Datello’s infant
was abducted from the hospital.”

Oh no.”

Devlin followed me into the house. 
“Get dressed.  I’ll take care of dinner.”


In something practical,”
he waved his hand at the soft cashmere pantsuit.  “You can’t
show up looking like you’re there for a Vogue photo

If that’s your way of
telling me I look nice, it leaves a bit to be desired,” I called
over one shoulder.  “Why am I going with you

Because Celeste Datello
is refusing to speak to anybody else,” he yelled from the
kitchen.  “Time is our enemy here, Helen.  You know
that.  Tick tock.”

I’ll meet you at the
hospital,” hopping out of my closet while I tugged on one
boot.  “I need to eat something first, Devlin.  I’ll be
ten minutes behind you, tops.”

I’ll follow you if you
want to take your own car,” he said, “but I’m not leaving you alone
tonight.  I don’t trust what’s happened today.”

Now you’re

Not of Mrs.
Datello.  Her husband on the other hand, is a different
story.  Think about it, Helen.  Out of the blue, the wife
gets some cryptic message that she takes as a threat toward her

All right.”

So her scumbag husband
tries to use it to postpone the speedy trial he demanded in the
first place.”

I follow you.”

It works – at least until
OSI jumps on board and tells the judge that we think the threat is
credible, if not a little thin.  We’d rather err on the side
of caution.”

Which rather begs the
question, Dev.  How did this child get snatched right out from
under our noses?”

I’m getting there. 
So the judge is satisfied by our due diligence, and the dog and
pony show is back on schedule to begin Monday.  Three hours
after her ruling, the newborn baby disappears from the
hospital.  Now, your buddies from central have been all over
this hospital, Helen.  Nobody came into or out of Celeste
Datello’s room who wasn’t authorized to do so.”

So where was the baby

Out of the nursery
apparently, while our new mother was in the shower.  Her nurse
took the baby back to the nursery, checked the kid in, and when she
went back thirty minutes later, poof.  It’s like she never

You think Datello is
angling for another continuance.  But why?  As you
pointed out, it was his side that was pushing for the speedy trial
to begin with,” I said. 

I have no idea what he’s
up to, but what a better way to elicit sympathy no matter how you
look at it.  Meanwhile, we look like incompetent buffoons
because his kid got snatched on our watch.”

I take it that means OSI
specifically had people guarding her room.”

State police, but same

I hate that expression,”
I said.  “But I agree.  Something stinks, and when I get
this particular bouquet, it certainly conjures images of the Marcos

You don’t think Datello
is behind this?”

We won’t know until we
talk to him, will we?”

Devlin blew out a deep breath.  “Get
your snack.  We need to get over to the hospital and start
interrogating suspects.”

I sliced off enough roast to make two
sandwiches.  “You drive,” I offered one to him.  “I need
to focus on eating something without getting sick.”

You’re looking a little

Juicy beef melted on my tongue.  So
far, so good.  “Probably just a bug.  Or nerves. 
Who’s in charge from Central Division on the scene?”

Didn’t I make that
clear?  It’s your old buddy Charlie Haverston.”

I grinned.  “Fantastic.  He’s a
hell of a detective, Dev.  You’re gonna love him.  I
should call him and get a status update on what’s going on over

That isn’t all you should
know before we arrive, Helen,” he said slowly.  “Infant
abduction is a big deal.  Every cop in the city is on this


Briscoe,” he said. 
“Still giving Crevan the cold shoulder.  I told him he should
be the one to come pick you up, but you know how he can be

Stubborn to the bitter
end.  Good for him not letting that over aged troll chase him
away from our case.  Thank God Haverston is in charge for the
city’s effort.”

Well, they issued an
Amber Alert.  Word is that the local FBI field office is
sending someone from Montgomery.”

That pulled a groan from deep in my
gut.  “Do you know who it is?”

I think Crevan said his
name is Preston.”

Hmm.  Never heard of

There’s a whole lot of
field offices filled with even more field agents, Helen.  This
is standard operating procedure for a child abduction.  The
feds always wrest jurisdiction from the local and state

It’s supposed to be a
cooperative effort.  I get your meaning, though.  I was
never comfortable with our tendency to swoop in at the eleventh
hour and take control.  How much time do we have before this
guy shows up?”

It’s a four hour drive
from Montgomery.”

My eyebrows lifted.  “He’s not flying

Budget concerns,
Helen.  That and I got the distinct impression that this guy
is more interested in how the bureau can use this situation to
leverage Datello.”

Unbelievable,” I mumbled
around another bite.  There is a finite amount of crucial time
when a child is missing, even if it is a case of custodial
interference.  They’re wasting it plotting how they can use
this to squeeze more information out of Datello on

Speaking of that finite
clock, we won’t have a whole lot of time to do this our way before
Agent Preston shows up and limits what we can

Which is why you decided
to drag me out of retirement.  Or do I have my better half to
thank for this development?”

Devlin chuckled.  “We weren’t able to
get ahold of him.  Apparently there’s some sort of thing going
on at the governor’s place tonight.  Crevan said he’d take the
heat if Johnny is pissed off about our decision.”

I suspect he won’t mind
one little bit, particularly since he’s not here to butt heads with
the FBI.  Although, I suspect he’d be in the middle of the
case and relegate the political wrangling to Chris.”

Our thought
exactly.  Chris is already at the hospital, setting up a
command center for the joint effort between the FBI and OSI. 
He’s planning to follow their abduction playbook while we do things
quickly and quietly.  It might be optimistic or maybe naïve of
me to think that we could close this thing before the suit shows
up, but there you have it.”

Dev, these cases are more
complex than I think you realize.”

Another reason why you’re
the perfect person to guide us.  You’ve probably seen more of
them than everybody in law enforcement in Darkwater Bay

Since Johnny was gone, I had to agree. 
I tossed the remnant of my sandwich out the window and brushed the
crumbs off my pants as Devlin pulled up to the hospital
portico.  He flashed his badge to the security guard waving
wildly for him to move on.

What’s the first step,

We jogged toward the elevators.  “We’ve
got to talk to the nursing staff,” I said.  “Hospitals enacted
specific security measures to prevent babies from being stolen from
nurseries years ago.  Things like this aren’t supposed to

You think it was an
inside job?”

I punched the button for the sixth floor
with determination.  “Honestly, I don’t see how it could be
anything else.”

Then again, all the facts couldn’t begin to
explain the motive behind something that should’ve been a very
simple investigation.  We hadn’t even chipped past the tip of
the tip of the iceberg.












Chapter 5


I’d seen less security in federal
prisons.  The maternity ward, where all the moms and babies
were housed – happily on most days – was overflowing with uniformed
officers, detectives and hospital administration.

Dev’s badge got us off the elevator, but
word of mouth spread quickly from that point.  I found it
amazing that mere hours ago I believed gone equated forgotten in
this city.  It wasn’t imagination.  My name literally
rippled through the cramped space a moment before bodies parted
like the Red Sea mythically had for Moses back in the day.

Where’s Mrs. Datello?” I

Room 612, Dr. Eriksson,”
man in suit who looked officially panicked said. 

And you are?”

He thrust out one hand, “Francis Fangman,
CEO of Saint Mary’s Hospital.”

I’ll need to talk to you
later,” I said.  “You should get the director of human
resources over here as well, Mr. Fangman.  I’ll need
employment files on everyone with access to this unit.”

Surely you don’t believe
one of our employees would –”

How else do you explain
this, sir?  I know for a fact that hospitals have
sophisticated security measures in place to prevent infant
abductions.  Someone got past those carefully implemented
measures and stole a newborn.  Are you suggesting that your
system has vulnerabilities that you failed to correct before
tragedy struck?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Devlin

I –”

Please do as I
asked.  When I’m finished talking to Mrs. Datello, I’ll come
find you.”

A nurse was poised with a syringe, ready to
inject clear liquid into Celeste’s IV when Devlin and I stepped
into the room. 

Hold off on that,” Devlin
said quickly.  “We need to talk to her first.”

Celeste’s eyes were red, swollen nearly
shut.  A half empty box of tissues lay in her lap, the used
scattered around her on the bed.  I stepped close and spoke
her name softly.

Detective Eriksson,” she
sobbed.  “Thank you for coming.  You’ve got to find my
baby.  You’re the only one who can do it!”

I perched on the edge of the bed. 
“Mrs. Datello, there are close to a hundred officers in this
hospital dedicated to finding your baby and bringing her safely
back to you.  It’s imperative that you tell us anything you
know right away.”

It won’t matter what I
tell them,” she whispered with a hysterical edge to her affect,
sort of a waxy expression, wide eyed, dilated pupils. If I hadn’t
seen Dev prevent the nurse from injecting her with drugs, I’d have
sworn we were too late.  “They don’t understand these people
the way you and Danny do.”

Great.  Nice way to build rapport,
Celeste.  Lump me in with a bunch of crazy criminals. 
Still, I couldn’t argue her logic.  Not really.  In many
ways, Datello and I did share a few traits I’d rather that the rest
of the world not realize. 

It was my understanding
this morning that I’m the last person your husband wants helping
resolve this matter.”

He’s angry.  Oh God,
I don’t even think he knows that our daughter is missing!  I’m
terrified of what he’ll do when he finds out.”

We’ll take care of that,
ma’am,” Devlin said.  “We need to know if you saw or heard
anything that could help us find your baby.”

She shook her head and sniffled.  “But
that doesn’t mean I don’t know who did this.  Detective, did
you listen to the tape?  They threatened me.  They knew
where we were.”

I did hear it, which is
why we’ve had officers guarding your room since you delivered the
baby.  Does she have a name?”

No,” more wailing

Did anyone take pictures
of her after she was born?” I asked gently.  “If so, they
could be very helpful.”

My nurse,” the distraught
mother rasped, “she took pictures of the baby with my cell

Where was this girl’s family? 
“Celeste, I’ve noticed that you don’t have anyone here with
you.  Is there someone we could call?”

BOOK: Always Watching
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