Mystery and Crime Fiction posted September 13, 2020 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 


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No greater love

A chapter in the book Double Blind

Double Blind ~The Finale

by Sally Law


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.



~**~
And Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

{Finale}

Crisp air from a high pressure system pushed away the smoldering clouds of gray smoke around Arkansas Regional Hospital. The roaring truck fire was put out and lives and trees spared, thanks to the quick response from Nurse Lula DeWoody.

She never made it home to her brother's cabin to check on him, and had returned for a double shift to care for her nephew.

"Aunt Lula, please go home and get some sleep. I'll be fine," insisted Bobby. "Besides, I need you to check on Pa. I can't truly rest as it is, and now he's strangely missing. You don't suppose there's something the matter?"

Not wanting to upset Bobby, she shared the only bit of news she was sure of. "The sheriff has gone out to the cabin to see about your pa. We'll hear something soon."

Nurse Amanda Fletcher came in and plopped down in the only available chair, sighing. "Thanks for staying here with me, Lula. What a night! Do you mind if I borrow your pass card?"

"Sure. What happened to yours?"

"That's a great question. I think it was stolen."

"Here," said Lula, handing over her pass card. "Report yours missing if you haven't done so."

Bobby laid back his head, waiting for the breakfast he could smell coming through the air vents.

"Aunt Lula, do you hear that?" Finally, the unmistakable sound of his father's cowboy boots were heard coming down the hall. "It's about time, Pa!"

But the vision coming towards him was unearthly... a sweet daydream.

Opening his arms, he spoke her name... "Clementine!"

The scene was so precious, Lula and Amanda left to give them some privacy.

Tine slid into his arms, like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle as it snaps into place.

They sat in silence, enraptured, simply feeling each other's warmth. Bobby studied her beautifully formed face, kissing each section. He adored everything: her smooth skin, sparkling blue eyes, and freckled cheeks. "What is this?" he said, gently touching the bruise on her lip.

"It's no matter, but it needs kissing."

Then, he lifted her chin with a single finger and pressed his lips to hers, certain he'd never kissed like this... or would ever be satisfied with another. The undercurrents of love and passion erupted between them.

Tine gasped for air. "So, you do feel it... this thing between us?"

"You're all I think about, Tine Jones," he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm crazy in love with you. I'll never let you go."

The breakfast Bobby was expecting arrived bedside, breaking the spell.

"Wow... blueberry pancakes! I could eat a stack of these all by myself," Tine said, rubbing her hands in delight.

"We'll share. I'll call for more as soon as Aunt Lula comes back."

Moving closer to the food, Tine rested on the edge of the bed with fork in hand. "You'll get the first syrupy bite for saving my life."

"No, Miss Jones, the first bite is yours. You saved mine."

********************

The morning sun inched its way to the only window near the ground floor of the hospital's basement, nudging Everett Blanchette from a drugged stupor. "Oh no! Is that the time?"

Running, he fell hitting his head against the metal locker and had to sit for awhile. This made him late and angrier by the minute. He had already missed his opportunity to do away with Jose Ramos and Ezra Ross during the evening shift, and he chided himself for taking the wrong pill.

He looked out the frosted window to see the status of the forest fire, not believing his eyes.

"Clementine Jones and Russ DeWoody... as I live! Escaped again! What are the odds?"

The more he pondered, the more he realized this new development shaved hours off his time crunch. He gargled, shaved, and changed into a fresh doctor's coat. Looping a stethoscope around his neck, he made his way upstairs. Everyone greeted him with a smile. "Good morning, Doctor."

He nodded and smiled back. It must be the stethoscope.

********************

Meantime, Russ updated his sister on the kidnapping situation, and their escape from the root cellar, then hurried to the outdoor payphone to call the authorities. As he picked up the receiver, a shudder went down his spine as the feel of gunmetal pressed his neck.

"Hang up, Russ, and walk this way."

********************

Our morning meeting with Detective Lembowsky was moved to the Winnebago, still parked in the back of the abandoned Sinclair filling station. I had on everything I owned trying to keep warm. Giving in to the chills, I unpacked my bathrobe and draped the pink mound of fuzz across my lap. King, however, was in his element, basking in the cold air.

We went over our would-be plan, still waiting on the kidnapper's overdue call as the countdown clock flew.

Finally, the governor's cell phone vibrated.

"You're late," said the governor. "Hopefully you still plan to return my daughter, unharmed. I have the money, and fully intend to keep my word."

"Good. I have Clementine and we'll meet you at Pike's Overlook at noon. Don't forget, three mil and your laptop to verify the transfer into my account."

"I'll be there," assured the governor. Click.

"He doesn't have her, boss." I interjected. "The strain in his voice gives him away."

"Detective Law is correct," confirmed agent Samuels.

Our lead detective showed a side of himself none of us had never seen. "I hear ya, but we must proceed in good faith. It's years of experience as a hostage negotiator I bring to this case. Things can change, literally in seconds."

Wow! I can't imagine the nerves of steel one must have to be a negotiator. I couldn't do that if my life depended on it, I thought.

He rallied our group and returned to his command.

"Okay people, let's roll. We have a drive ahead and we'll talk on the way. Jackson, take the wheel and head northwest. I will navigate with this map," he said, shaking open the dusty 20 by 20 parchment.

Sneezing, I felt compelled to speak, "Mike, are you sure a dollar map from the Arkansas Welcome Center will suffice?"

"The map was free if you bought a large coffee," gloated the detective. "Are you worried it's not accurate because it was a freebie?"

"No, I'm just amazed at how old school you are. You're straight out of a vintage TV show."

"Which one?"

"Mike Hammer, of course." I teased.

"Love that show," he fawned. "Good ol' detective work never goes out of style."

That's our Jersey-born detective's secret. He knows how to lighten the heaviness of the case, no matter the situation.

The federal agents went over the plan with the governor and the hidden button on the laptop that would release a mild tranquilizer on the kidnapper. It was pure genius.

"When he wakes up, we'll read him his rights," said Detective "Mike Hammer" Lembowsky.

********************

Bobby's happy expression turned to a ghostly pallor as he watched a man entering his room with a gun. "No... you can't have her!!" He grabbed Tine, shielding her behind him.

"I will take the lovely Miss Jones and your dad with me now, and walk out that door. You'll comply if you ever want to see them alive, kid."

"Take me," said Bobby. "Me for them. What do you say?"

"Why should I take you?"

"I'm Clementine's boyfriend, that's why. The governor will pay the ransom."

"Bobby, no," begged Tine. "He wants me."

In a split second everything changed. "Okay, you're on, Bobby. I won't have to worry about an escape from you with that bum leg. Russ, give him your clothes and coat."

Bobby dressed, looking only at Tine. He signed, "I love you," as the kidnapper walked him to the door."

"If anyone says a word, then your precious Bobby won't be returning after the exchange. I have a contingency plan. Got it?"

Everyone shook their head in compliance, except for Clementine.

"Okay, you little escape artist. You're on my last nerve. Get up and move to the door. When I nudge, both of you walk slowly... heads down and away from surveillance cameras. We don't have far to go."

The hall was relatively clear as the kidnapper eyed the exit sign. Rubbing his gun up against Tine in intimidation, he smiled, "It's show time."

********************

I don't think I've ever met a real blind detective, and I'm certain somebody will write a believe-it-or-not story about me someday. In the meantime, I pressed on to be helpful in the kidnapping of Clementine Jones.

Honestly, I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane for the first time, not sure which thingy would open my parachute before hitting bottom. I suppose that's what faith is. I prayed for the courage to do this, and to play my part.

On the way to the exchange, Detective Janelle Harris called, leaving me a voicemail. I was wondering where my hunches were going, and I was right... sort of.

Guy Blanchette was a registered visitor at the trial for my uncle Andre Dupree's murder in 2019. But, there was no lead on any diamond buyers in attendance. I still couldn't shake the feeling that someone at the trial was following the diamond's trail.

I mulled on this for a bit until Detective Lembowsky sat down and began to tell us more astounding news regarding Guy Blanchette and his identity now revealed as his twin brother, Everett.

Suddenly, a few things came together for me. My first thoughts were: Everett Blanchette wanted money and to settle a score with the Joneses at the same time.

Quite possibly there remained someone interested in my heirloom diamond and had made a business deal with Everett Blanchette during the trial. Maybe... we're not the only ones tracking Mr. Blanchette's moves.

Still, the job at hand was Clementine and Preston Jones and their safety. I set aside everything else and refocused solely on them with fresh eyes.

The diamond was symbolic to me of the most important thing, a life. Who wouldn't give all they had to spare a life? I'm sure there are people that would argue with this, but that's not who I am.

For this reason, I placed the diamond in my coat pocket to remember this truth.

About ten miles from Pike's Overlook, we stopped to pick up more federal agents. Everyone, including King, were fitted with a bullet-proof vest. Jackson, King, and I switched to an SUV and were dressed as professional photographers.

According to Jackson, Detective Lembowsky was unrecognizable as a Florida tourist driving a Winnebago; and Governor Jones was wearing a turtleneck, but with a material that was not penetrable by a hypodermic needle. He was ready to go with his rigged laptop.

Lastly, I had my one-on-one talk with King. I pulled out cigarette butts we had retrieved from the alleyway at Louie's Diner in Lafayette Township. He caught the kidnapper's scent and barked twice. "Good boy, King. You're such a good dog!"

We reached Pike's Overlook on the lowermost accessible tier. Jackson set up our photo shoot near the viewing edge. It was chilly, but the sunlight warmed us quickly. My family drew to my side as we enjoyed the spectacular views, sounds, and smells from the overlook.

I heard a cluster of eagles cawing directly overhead. Jackson snapped a photograph, saying he saw the largest bald eagle among them he'd ever seen, and that the great bird appeared to have an arrow in his talons.

Governor Jones arrived shortly before noon, just as Detective Lembowsky pulled in, driving the Winnebago and singing to the oldies at the top of his lungs. Agent Fred Samuels and his team were stationed behind us in the brush.

Everything was set and we waited. Noon came and went, but road sounds increased.

I heard the Winnebago's door shut as Detective Lembowsky moved into place.

Sensing the electricity in the air, King became restless. "Heel, King. Show me your patience." My German Shepherd finally sat in perfect obedience, and it was just in time.

"Here he comes," whispered Jackson, squeezing my hand.

I looked away, awaiting the audio in my headset.

"Where's my daughter?" questioned the governor. "You'll get nothing until I see her."

"Ah, hello there, Governor. They're in the vehicle. Bobby is a little slow with his cast, which, by the way, is going to cost you another million."

"Bring them both here, so that I may see them--now! I will need to contact my bank, Mr. Blanchette. It will take a few minutes."

Stomping back to the Suburban, Blanchette yanked open the door. "Okay, you two, come with me. Don't you dare make a peep."

A tear escaped the governor when he saw Clementine and Bobby side-by-side, walking towards him, Bobby bound at the hands and limping.

The governor ended his fake call a little prematurely and gave himself away. "Okay, four million it is."

"Wow, that was awfully fast, Preston. Almost as fast as you took Trisha away from me!"

"I don't know what you mean... Everett. I would take the money and run as fast as you can. Here's the verification code."

The madman exploded in anger. "How do you know that?"

"Hikers came upon your twin brother's remains recently. Actually, it wasn't too far from here."

Dizziness seized Everett as he tried to reach for the injection.

The governor leaped in a bold attempt to grab him, but somehow released the tranquilizer on himself, then slumped to the ground.

"King, now!" I commanded. Unfortunately, I forgot to unhook him. We left together, running, with Jackson right behind.

Federal Agents and Detective Lembowsky were shouting for everyone to get down and for Everett to drop his weapon. Clementine was pleading and crying... "no!"

"King, stop!" I said.

King obeyed, but his growl told me something was off. He barked like a wild animal, circling in protector mode.

"Everett Blanchette, put down your gun, and release Bobby. Come on, you're surrounded," shouted Detective Lembowsky.

Bobby cried out from pain and I could hear Clementine sobbing.

King was a hot mess. "Heel King," said Jackson, as he took him from me.

I felt as if I stepped out of myself, and it was just me and Everett Blanchette. Reaching in my pocket, I pulled out the pouch with the pink diamond. "If you'll let Bobby and Clementine go, then I will give you this. It's worth much more than four million dollars, Mr. Blanchette." I held it out to him and waited.

"Seriously, you'd do that for them?"

"Yes, I would. It's the real thing, and I have the authenticity papers right here. The diamond is like no other on the earth today. It's from the line of King David--priceless really. See how it sparkles in the sun?" Walking closer, I extended my hand.

"Let Bobby and the Jones family be, and it's yours."

I could tell I had culled his interest. Finally, he released his grip on Bobby.

"Good choice, Everett. Everyone, go get in your cars and let me finish this, except for my husband, of course."

They all did as I asked, leaving me with Everett, and only a diamond between us.

"Jackson, is everyone safe?" I asked.

"Except for you, my love."

I heard the swooping of the eagle near me. I wished for just a moment to be like the regal bird, unafraid and free. All fear left me when I realized, I already had.

"Well, it looks like we have a deal, Mr. Blanchette. Here you go."

I handed him the diamond, and when I did, he dropped to the ground with a gasp.

"I can't see what happened! What just happened? Jackson, King... Detective Lembowsky?"

Finally, Jackson let out his breath and pulled me close. "It's over, sweetheart. Everett is dead. It looks like a warrior's arrow pierced his heart."

********************

The great eagle flew away to the valley, to the place where young Guy Blanchette was murdered long ago, and perched himself in silence.

At the highest level of Pike's Overlook, two men looked down on the scene below.

"I am glad the diamond found its way to such a one. What shall I tell the master?"

"Tell him, "she sees not with physical eyes, but with wisdom, and is worthy of her inheritance."

To the Epilogue....


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