Chapter 64

The car which sped through the night held four men: Jim, Hank, Pete and Cash Simmons. Only Pete had prior knowledge of Simmons’ reputation and work, and the fact that he had been responsible for deprogramming a number of innocent victims of the cults, which grew in size and numbers across the country. The men had driven all afternoon to pick up Simmons in Atlanta where he had worked his last job. Now they headed for Scranton and the new temple of the Chosen.

As they drove, Simmons told them his plan. He and Jim would study the location while Pete and Hank would rent a car and a house in the country and get a few necessary supplies needed for the kidnapping. Simmons was a straightforward man who allowed no deviations from the way he worked. As they listened, they began to have a respect for him and the results he accomplished.

“Too bad I haven’t had a chance to check out the location. I like to have some insight before I arrive. I have an inside man who works for me, but you boys called the shots about wanting to help. Now, you will have to abide by my rules, especially you, Jim. I know how hard it will be to step back and listen to my way of working a case. That’s why I don’t like to have a family member along. It can get pretty dicey. You either do it my way or you go home. Got it?”

They gave their word. Jim grimaced, but finally nodded.

Cash was a man in his late fifties and looked every bit of it. Though he was not fat, his skin creased in his neck and his chin doubled with a sag that implied great weight loss. His short crew cut emphasized his steely blue eyes. His face, which seemed pleasant enough, hardened when he spoke. It was as though he projected two images, for when he was silent, he lost the coldness. Then his face implied warmth and caring. His cheap suit was gray and slightly rumpled. The trouser legs were a trifle too short, revealing white socks and scuffed brown shoes.

Jim asked, not taking his eyes off the road, “What do we do first?”

“The first thing we do is get a motel and a good night’s sleep.” Sensing Jim’s impatience, he leaned forward, slapping him on the shoulder. “Look, son, I haven’t been to bed in three days. I’ve been catnapping in a chair. I’m bushed. We won’t accomplish much the first day anyway. When Hank and Pete are up they can lay the groundwork. They can start asking questions, rent the house, and get out supplies. Good thing you had sleeping bags. One less thing to buy. See if there’s a vacant room with a front window where we set up camp. A lot of leg work, but it’s necessary. Jim, you come with me. We’re going looking for Trish, find out where they are operating.” He leaned back and looked like he would fall asleep.

Pete nudged him. “How soon can we make contact with Trish?”

“I’m, glad you asked that. Which one of you does she know well, other than her father?”

“Hank,” Pete answered. “His wife was is close friend with her mother. She might respect what he has to say.”

Cash laughed, “That may have been true once, but it won’t necessarily be true now. It’s important that you are along as Jim’s friends. Let him do the talking, and even that will be low key. I can’t tell you how important it is that we don’t scare them off, or they will disappear into the woodwork and we may never see her again. They are probably used to moving in a hurry without leaving a trail. Lucky for you, Jim, had what she wanted, the coat, or some money. Some of these poor kids just disappear without a trace, especially when they don’t have a bargaining chip.”

Jim was silent as they all digested the possibilities. “What can I possibly say to her that I haven’t said before?”

“I want you to act like you’re giving it one more try before you give in and turn the coat or the money over to her. I know they will be expecting trouble because you threatened the leader.  I’m sure they don’t expect such a hot headed man to give up without a fight. We have to devise more of a plan. After I sleep I’ll be able to think.” Simmons sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. End of discussion.

Hank read the map with the help of a flashlight. Pete dozed beside Cash. The road was fairly deserted when Jim pulled in front of a motel on the edge of Scranton. H e sensed Jim’s impatience and leaned forward, slapping him on the shoulder.