Lewis Bradley is a man forced into hiding by his unique gift. He can see inside the minds of the people he passes.
Today is not the typical weather for January. It's sunny and warm instead of cloudy and cold. A beautiful blessing, but I feel something is about to change, just like the Tennessee weather.
I'm a block away from Tony's when I see two Memphis Police cruisers parked across the street.
"I see it now. I hope Tony is all right."
Before I push open the door, I stop to prepare for the worst.
A thought comes into my mind. "This isn't about Tony. They want me."
I push open the door, and in my usual tone, "Good morning, Tony."
"Good morning, Lew. We have a couple of guests this morning."
"I see that. How are you, Captain Adams?"
"Just fine, Mr. Bradley. I'd like you to meet Detective Holloway." He starts to walk towards me.
"Captain, unless you're here to arrest me, please stay there."
He stops. "We're not here to arrest you, Mr. Bradley. We desperately need your help."
"Have you heard of Warren Sledge?"
"No, sir. I haven't."
Tony speaks up. "I have, that's one evil man. It's been all over the news."
"He's right, Mr. Bradley." Captain Adams wipes his brow. "Two days ago, we captured him on video kidnapping a young girl. Yesterday, he made a mistake and came out in the open. Detective Holloway arrested him, but no sign of the girl. He told us that he buried her in a grave alive, and she only has forty-eight hours of air. If he's right, we only have ten hours left to find her."
"What can I do, Captain?"
"We need you to read his mind and find out where he buried her. I know that's asking a lot, Mr. Bradley, but you're our last hope. The clock is ticking away on her life."
I start walking to the back of the store, wiping my face. "I've seen so much evil recently, Captain Adams. It rips at my soul. You don't know what a burden it is to carry. But God will give me the strength to continue. I'll do it on three conditions."
"Anything you want, Mr. Bradley."
"First, I want to ride alone in the backseat with you driving. Second, I want the halls of the station clear on the way to meet him. Third, only you and I will talk to him."
"Mr. Sledge's lawyer will have a fit about the last one, but we'll work it out."
"Can I get some breakfast before we go?"
"Yes, sir. My treat."
"Tony, I think a tenderloin and biscuit and a large cup of coffee will do fine."
Tony looks me in the eye, and with a quiver in his voice, he answers, "Anything for you, Lew."
I've always wondered why they put the Greyhound Bus Station right next to the Memphis City Jail and Police Department. If you timed it right, it would make for a quick escape.
Captain Adams slowly pulls into the parking lot.
I guess I'm trying to avoid the situation at hand. My fear is beginning to swallow me, but I refuse to be afraid - if God can save her life, who am I to say no.
He pulls into his parking spot. Captain Adams radios ahead that we have arrived. The halls are clearing while we exit the car. "Mr. Bradley, you can wait in my office while we arrange things."
"Thank you, sir."
Captain Adams leads me into the building. While following just behind him, I feel the desperation inside of his mind. He's searching for where they went wrong in the investigation. The problem is, they didn't allow for the evil in Sledge's mind. "Right in here, Mr. Bradley. I'll see that you're not disturbed."
"Come get me when you're ready."
He slowly closes the door.
I could spend the next few minutes going over the awards that fill the walls of the office, but I need to strengthen myself for the battle ahead. I sit down in a leather chair, then bow my head in silent prayer, gathering power from the Holy Spirit. "This may be the greatest battle I've faced."
Fifteen minutes later, Captain Adams sticks his head in the door. "We're ready, Mr. Bradley."
I take in a deep breath, then exhale. "Let's get this thing over."
Walking down the hall, I feel the eyes of many upon me behind closed doors and drawn curtains. They're curious to see the man, and if it works.
Captain Adams stops at the door and turns to me. "I want you to know; there is no way he can hurt you."
He opens the door and walks in.
Warren Sledge is not who I thought he would be; I expected a lecherous older man with drool rolling from his chin. No, he's a handsome man who looks like he could teach Middle School. His brown hair is perfectly trimmed and he has a slight five o'clock shadow. Dark brown eyes peer through expensive glasses. They have him chained to the floor and the table.
He smiles when I walk into the room. "Who is this, Ben? Somebody who will get me to talk?"
"No, Mr. Sledge. I'm a Pastor sent here to save your soul."
"Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!" His laughter is evil and sarcastic. "You're wasting your time, Preacher. I have no soul!"
Slowly, I sit down across from him. My body shudders when his depraved mind invades me. "I agree with you, Mr. Sledge. You have no soul." He's always thinking about every detail of the rape of this child. "She's alive, but not buried. He raped her many times then left her crying on the bedroom floor."
After a moment of silence, Mr. Sledge begins to holler, "Nooo...Get him out of my mind!" He begins to jerk and pull at his chains. Blood begins to seep from his wrists.
"I see where she's at now. There's an old trailer in the thick woods half a mile behind his house. The trail starts in the right corner of the fence. It leads you to a pond then curves to the left." The pain worsens in my mind. "She's not the only visitor to that place. Graves surround that trailer." I quickly get up to break the link and lean against the wall, gasping for breath.
Mr. Sledge screams, "Get that man away from me!" His wrists continue to bleed while he rips at his chains then screams like a deranged mad man. "Aaaaaargh!"
Captain Adams opens the door. "This way, Mr. Bradley. Do you remember the way to my office?"
"I'll join you in a minute." He turns, then hollers, "Sergeant!"
A man pops out of the room beside ours. "Yes, Captain."
"Get that putrid piece of flesh back to its cell. I need all Forensic Teams, the Swat Team, and an ambulance. Round them up. We roll in five minutes!"
The excited man answers, "Yes, Captain!"
"I'd like to go with you, Ben. I know the way, and it will save a lot of time."
"Thank you, Lew."
I've never ridden in a Police caravan before; it's quite an experience. With sirens blaring, we careen around the corner then straight into Sledge's driveway. Cruisers pull in around us then block the street at both ends. The Swat Van pulls beside the house. Police officers in black uniforms pour out. Each is carrying an AR-15 and clearing the way.
I point to the fence. "The path is on the other side of the fence."
Ben screams out an order. "Swat, clear that fence away."
Three officers spring into action, cutting the fence and peeling the wire back.
Once it's cleared, I take off trotting down the path. "This way!"
We quickly find the pond then turn to the left. The trees thicken along the path; an eerie silence fills the air. A rectangular shape begins to appear in front of us. The trailer looks rusted and dilapidated with leafless saplings lining the trail to the door. The peeling tan paint and blackened windows create a sinister look.
I look at Captain Adams, "It might be booby-trapped, Ben."
He barks out another order. "Swat, clear that door."
Two officers place a small explosive by the doorknob. With a nod, they blow the door open. The entire team flows into the trailer. There's another boom inside the mobile home, then we hear. "All clear. She's alive!"
A collective sigh fills the air.
Ben drops his head and wipes the stress from his face. "Paramedics, let's move!"
I drop to my knees and pray. "Thank you, Lord, for her life."
A few minutes later, they exit with the girl on a stretcher. What a beautiful young woman with long blonde hair, how he defiled this innocent child - pure evil still exists.
My head begins to spin when I stand, and I grab a tree to steady myself.
"Are you okay, Lew?"
"Yeah, I guess I've had enough. Can I go home?"
"Yes," He turns to a young officer. "Johnson, escort Mr. Bradley home."
Ben turns back to me. "I can't thank you enough, Lew."
"No need to, Ben. She's alive! That's all that matters."
Officer Johnson drops me at the front door and waves. Walking in, I feel the evil presence slipping away. My body feels completely drained, and my head is throbbing.
Both families greet me when I walk into the kitchen.
"Where have you been, Lew?" Caleb asks.
Before I can answer, the world fades to black, and the cold floor greets me.