Chapter 6

J’Ecris

"Damn!" she exclaimed.

"What did he say?" Joe asked.

She heaved a great sigh. "Not much. That he has his girls and that he'll call later with details about where to meet him."

"You're not going," Joe said flatly.

"What do you think he'll do to those girls if I don't?"

He looked at her grimly. "About the same as he'll do to you if you meet with him." They gazed at one another in silence for a few moments. Joe cursed, then began to pace, his hand rubbing his mouth. "Maybe we can send a decoy," he said a minute later. "Undercover cop. Greg Hughs has some great people. Trap him." He looked back at Catherine, realizing he'd been thinking out loud. "I'm gonna go call him and see what he wants us to do."

Catherine exhaled, her stomach in knots. She'd had her fill of waiting around for something to happen. She'd slipped her gun into her purse several days earlier, and she almost wished for the opportunity to use it on Gaines. Bastard.

Greg Hughs arrived shortly with several detectives and they went over possible scenarios. First briefly, as they didn't know when Gaines might call again, then in increasing detail as the hours snailed by.

Joe's decoy idea was out. The detectives were certain Gaines would make sure he had the real McCoy and suggested he might harm the girls if Catherine herself didn't show. They had decided to fit Catherine with a police ankle bracelet of the type often given to parolees. Further, a cadre of undercover police of both genders would accompany her. They would also equip Catherine with a wire, though they were fully aware Gaines might find and remove it.

The call from Gaines finally came late that afternoon. The line had been tapped earlier and Joe and Greg listened in on the call. Catherine glanced at the clock. "What?! How can I possibly get there in half an hour at this time of day?!" Gaines laughed and hung up. Catherine slammed the phone down.

"I don't like it," Joe said, shaking his head.

"We have to go now," Catherine said.

"If you're still sure you want to go through with this, then I agree," Greg said.

"I'm sure. I owe it to Tina." She pulled her purse out of the drawer, grabbed her coat, and started pulling it on as she headed for the door.

Joe swore as he grabbed his own coat, bringing up the rear as the detectives – though one would never guess by their various appearances – spread out around Catherine.

The dash to the subway felt good, releasing some of Catherine's pent-up anxiety. The subway ride, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking. At every jostle, she turned in fear, expecting Gaines to turn up. She breathed a sigh of relief as she exited the crowded subway station back to the cool autumn air. She and her entourage crossed the street as the sidewalk was closed on one side of the street.

They hadn't walked half a block when Gaines reached out from a doorway, pulled Catherine inside and slammed the door. Her bodyguards got the door open within 10 seconds and spread out in all directions to find Gaines and Catherine. After several minutes search, each returned empty handed and was then told in what direction to widen his or her search. Greg used his radio to call HQ and have Catherine's ankle bracelet traced, but within a minute, one of the detectives returned with Catherine’s purse and the broken bracelet in hand, looking grim.

Joe swore and punched a wall.

***

Vincent had had at least as stressful a day as Catherine. Her anxiety filtered through the Bond very clearly, and he refused to allow the possiblity of another scenario like the one when she'd nearly drowned in that lake. He prayed that it would be dark when the moment came that he would have to go to her. He was becoming increasingly certain that it was a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. He hadn’t felt such a deep sense of foreboding in a long time, and he mostly dreaded the explosion of violence he could feel was coming. Mostly dreaded. Except for that small part of him that relished it. He tried to justify that small feeling by telling himself that Gaines needed to be stopped before he could hurt anyone else. But somehow it seemed a feeble justification.

He let the thought drop. He’d been round and round on this train of thought a thousand times and had never come to any satisfactory conclusion. He hated what he was capable of, but sometimes it happened. And looking at it logically, he couldn’t say he always regretted it.

He had stationed himself in the tunnels nearest Catherine’s office building. Her sudden spike of fear, shortly followed by hurried movement set him on sharp alert. He followed her progress below the streets, falling behind when she boarded the subway. He had of course known she was descending into the subway, but he had to wait to find out which direction she was heading. He was still some minutes distant when Gaines nabbed her. He roared his frustration.