Authors: Jon Land
“Let’s start with the notion that the escape occurred in the roughly six-minute interval of total blackout,” Kimberlain proposed. “What possible escape routes were available?”
“The doors on all levels were sealed by cobalt, as I mentioned.”
“The MAX-SEC wing is totally self-contained. There are emergency exit doors at the end of each hall, yes, but the cobalt seals would have extended over them as well.”
“But no one could swear they actually did. I mean from your vantage point, you only knew they were activated. Since the exit doors weren’t checked until
power was restored, you don’t know for sure that they worked.”
“But we do know that the only other access door all the other doors lead to on the top MAX-SEC level
secured and manned by guards within one minute of the original power failure.”
Kimberlain nodded his understanding. “Air conditioning ducts, chutes of any kind?”
“None any wider man the width of a man’s arm.”
Kimberlain thought for a moment. “What if the prisoners didn’t actually escape during the blackout? What if they waited until the doors were open afterward and got out somehow in the midst of all the chaos?”
“I thought of that,” Vogelhut told him. “I had the guards search every potential hiding place, every corner and crevice, in MAX-SEC. And I resealed the doors before the search commenced in case they found something.”
“Assume the prisoners somehow slipped by. What then?”
“They’d still have to get off the island, and we made sure it was covered by guards and a trio of helicopters. This isn’t a single man we’re talking about here like it was with Peet. Eighty-four prisoners could never have gotten off the island without being seen.”
“But you put a net over the entire Cape Stone area just in case.”
“Along with a slightly less effective one around the bulk of Lake Ontario. They yielded nothing.”
“Thorough searches of both The Locks and Bowman Island have been conducted?”
“Ongoing even as we speak.”
Kimberlain was grasping at straws now. He walked about the hallway and listened to the echoes of his own shoes. At last he approached one of the high-tech cells and focused on the door.
“This slot here,” he said, feeling about a double-locked square cutout, waist level high and six-by-twelve inches in size. “For feeding the prisoners, I presume.”
“Built to the exact specification of the trays, of course. The trays are composed of paper specially treated to be pliable, impossible to twist into edges.”
“What time were the prisoners fed dinner the night of the escape?”
“Between six and six-thirty as always.”
“The power failure occurred just before eleven-thirty.”
“Correct, yes.” Vogelhut tried to grasp Kimberlain’s train of thought and failed. “But the prisoners were in there when I made my rounds. I told you I saw them. What happened here is impossible. We’ve had two hundred investigators through MAX-SEC in the past two days, and not a single one has been able to convince me otherwise.”
“You try dogs?”
“MAX-SEC spooks them too much to focus. A few were ready to attack their masters when they were commanded to go in. Damn dumb animals.”
“Maybe they’re smart.” Kimberlain ran his hand briefly along the wall. “I’d like to bring my own bloodhound in on this, someone who specializes in the impossible.”
“Is he cleared?”
“He doesn’t exist anymore, if you get my drift.”
Vogelhut tapped his shoe nervously while considering the prospects. “I can buy him twenty-four hours. That’s about it.”
“He works the impossible, not miracles.”
“It’s the best I can do.”
“Let’s hope he can do better.”
Kimberlain had started back down the corridor on the first level of MAX-SEC when Vogelhut’s voice stopped him.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Would you be doing this if Andrew Harrison Leeds wasn’t one of the escapees?”
“We’ll never know, doctor, will we?”
Andrew Harrison Leeds was the latest of the monsters the Ferryman had tracked down. He would say the last, just as he’d said about Winston Peet, except he understood well enough now that such pronouncements were meaningless.
It was food tampering that formed the basis for Leeds’s reign of terror. The poisoning of baby food, soda, frozen dinners, over-the-counter medications, and candy had led to the deaths of forty-one individuals from coast to coast. The killer’s preference for chocolate bars led the tabloids and rag sheets to christen him the “Candy Man.” The Ferryman became involved after a mother from Peekskill, New York had died in full view of her children while munching a candy bar.
The FBI had been able to pinpoint thirteen sites in ten different states where the tampered goods had been purchased, no particular pattern to discern among them. Department, convenience, grocery, as well as drug stores—the Candy Man was apparently choosing the points from which to distribute his death with uncharacteristic randomness. Kimberlain read the files over and over again until the crucial piece fell into place.
The Candy Man wouldn’t be satisfied merely with depositing his poisoned products on the shelf and leaving. His satisfaction would lie in being present to watch his victims purchase the product, maybe even tear off the candy wrapper on the way back to the car. That was where the pleasure of the act for him lay. Without the witnessing, his deed bore no purpose.
The Candy Man had worked at the stores, damn it, all of them!
The FBI had fingerprinted each and every employee at all of the sites and hadn’t drawn a single match. But Kimberlain knew that lacquer could be painted over someone else’s fingertips, allowed to dry, and then carefully peeled off. With a little bit of glue at the right time, anyone could have new prints long enough to fool any check. So Kimberlain carefully read the transcripts of the interviews the bureau had conducted with all the employees at the thirteen sites. He had the Candy Man pegged by the time he had finished the batch from the fifth site. Calls the next morning to all thirteen confirmed that the man in question had indeed left his job almost immediately after each incident. Different names, social security numbers. No pictures.
Behavioral science obtained detailed descriptions of the clerk in question from the stores. Not surprisingly to Kimberlain, they were wholly dissimilar outside of general size. Different eyes and hair color; a limp in one, a stutter in another. The Candy Man would never let anyone see his true self.
There was enough in the descriptions, though, to form a general composite. Within three days the rough sketch had been sent to every store manager in the country, and two days after that the call came in.
The Candy Man was in Key Biscayne, Florida, working as a checkout clerk at a Winn Dixie supermarket. Kimberlain was face to face with him in line when the FBI closed in with guns drawn.
Five hours later, three Evian bottles were found to be poisoned. The Ferryman cringed as he thought of this monster ringing them up with a smile on his face, saying “Have a nice day,” while he placed his victim’s shopping bag in the wagon.
The Candy Man was later identified as Andrew Harrison Leeds. Leeds pleaded no contest and was sentenced to The Locks following psychiatric evaluation. That should have been that, but gazing into his snow-cold eyes from the checkout line, Kimberlain felt certain that product tampering was only the tip of Leeds’s hellish iceberg. Indeed, the findings Kimberlain made during the months Leeds had spent in The Locks made him count his blessings that the world would never hear from this monster again.
But it would now, and not just from Leeds either. Eighty-three others had found their way out with him, out once more into the world they had once terrorized and would terrorize again. Eighty-three, plus Leeds …
The prospects made Kimberlain’s flesh crawl.
The man hidden amid the trees of the Cape Stone waterfront watched the launch approaching the dock. Its sole passenger stood in the center, defying the wind and waves. The concealed man raised a miniature video camera to his eye and depressed the record button. He had to rotate the camera only slightly to follow the launch to its mooring. As the passenger stepped onto the dock, the man zoomed in for a close-up, capturing as much of the angular face as the lens would give him.
The man’s car was parked off to the side of the road, just beyond the trees that rimmed the shoreline. He removed the tape from his camera and popped it into a video machine resting on the passenger seat. The machine was connected to the microwave parabolic transmitter on his roof. The man hit the
key, and instantly the contents of the tape were beamed via satellite to the waiting downlink.
The machine beeped twice to a signify a successful transmission, and the man returned to his vigil at the water’s edge.
HEDDA WAITED IN
the darkness. Next to her in the closet the boy Christopher Hanley was shivering again.
“Just a little longer,” she said with as much reassurance as she could manage.
It was the one place the Palestinians would not,
not, think to look: the holy residence itself, the very place in which Christopher Hanley had been imprisoned.
The terrorists had been charging through the front door when Hedda and the boy ducked into an alcove. The alcove led into a central room, from which all furniture and fixtures had been removed. A vast expanse of polished wood bordered by dull areas indicated that there had once been a large rug in the room. At one end Hedda found a door that led to an empty storage closet. Inside Hedda had stripped off her beard.
“Shhhhhhhh,” she had cautioned the boy.
“I want to know who you are,” he whispered. “Did my father send you?”
“Yes,” Hedda told him.
“I knew he would. I knew it!”
Christopher spoke bravely, and she didn’t want to spoil things by saying nothing had been accomplished yet. Everything that remotely related to success was on the outside of the fence; a hundred yards away that might as well have been a thousand. But since the Palestinians would be massing their search beyond the walls, under cover of darkness she and the boy could make it out. Hedda had cars stashed at three separate locations. Reach any of the three and the required distance could be put between her and the men now determined to catch her. Then she would get to a phone and arrange for pickup from Librarian.
And now that darkness had come, Hedda could judge the level of light by the amount that sneaked through the crack at the bottom of the closet door. She and the boy sat on the floor, close but not too close. He had wrapped his arms around his knees and was rocking slightly back and forth.
Hedda mapped the logistics out in her mind once more. The room was situated in the front of the residence, with the main entrance to the complex a hundred yards away. In just a few minutes now she would lead Christopher through one of the windows and then escape through the nearest gate. At last she slid over to him and whispered her plan.
“I’m scared,” he responded.
“So am I. But if you do everything I tell you,
, you’ll be home playing football tomorrow.”
“Soccer,” the boy corrected.
Something warm slid up through her heart, forming a stark contrast with the icy perfection with which she had killed today. She wanted this boy to live. Damn it, she was his only hope. Somewhere deep a memory stirred. Another boy, about the age of Christopher Hanley. Her memory struggled for total grasp of it, then faltered as the calming recollections of her childhood took hold. She had grown up on her grandparents’ farm. She saw it now on a midwinter day. Snow coated the meadow. Breath misted before her grandfather’s face as he returned to the house from his morning chores in a plaid mackinaw jacket, white wisps of hair left to the whims of the wind. The memories made her feel warm. They came when she needed them most, always vivid and never far away.
“I’m ready,” Christopher Hanley whispered, bringing her back to the present.
“Good. Just a little longer.”
With that she thought of something and unbuttoned her khaki shirt, dripping with sweat now. The bulletproof undergarment was just over a quarter-inch thick, its Kevlar woven into incredibly dense strands. She pulled it over her head and wished the sweat hadn’t added so much to its weight.
“I want you to take off your shirt and put this on under it,” she told the boy.
“What it is?”
“It stops bullets.”
Timing was critical now. Wait too long and the troops would return to the residence. Move too soon and the night would not be dark enough to cover their movements.
“How many of them did you kill?” Christopher Hanley asked as he strained to button his shirt over the Kevlar.
“I don’t—It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does. When they took me, they killed my teacher. I saw the man who did it.”
“I hate them. I knew someone would come. I dreamed it. If I had a gun I would have done the same, and I don’t care if you believe me or not.”
“Eight,” Hedda answered.
“And I believe you.”
The soft grass cushioned their drop out the window. Hedda went first and then raised her hands to help Christopher. The cover of the once well-manicured bushes hid them for now, but the floods sprayed more light than Hedda had expected. A dash in any direction risked them being trapped out in the open, Hedda powerless to offer further resistance. She had a fresh clip snapped in the machine gun, yes, but bullets were useless to her if it meant drawing all the opposing forces to them. For now, though, the perimeter guards were scattered casually about, any reason for vigilance gone with the apparent escape of their young hostage.
Bright beams sliced through the night and nearly caught them. Hedda grabbed Christopher and drew him down closer to the ground. The light passed over them and was gone. A vehicle, a Jeep it looked like, had pulled into the residence through the main gate. The darkness of the night grew more complete again when the Jeep’s high beams switched off. Hedda heard its engine rumble briefly and then shut down as well. She judged it to be parked along the circular entry drive halfway between the gate and the house.