Tuesday 2 February 2016
Holly had never travelled across the country before, not even as a child during school holidays for the great American dream of the cross-country road trip. If her parents had suggested it when she was younger, Holly would have hated the idea of being stuck in a car with her parents for such a long, and boring trip. She felt the same way now with Ross. They’d had little time to stop and enjoy the little towns along the way, and Holly wondered if that would have made the journey more bearable. At least she would have been able to strike up a casual chat with the locals, which would have been more than any conversation she got out of Ross since they’d started.
Each town blended in with the previous, each gas station looked the same, and each distraction she’d been required to provided at the gas stations was the same. She played an attractive young woman flirting with the station attendants while Ross pulled the licence plates from a parked vehicle, and exchanged them with the ones on the SUV. They’d stopped at least five times, and exchanged plates, unbeknownst to the owners of the vehicles each time. Sooner or later they’d realise that their vehicles didn’t have the correct licence plates, but Ross and Holly would be long gone before anyone suspected it was them. They’d only had one instance where it was a challenge to steal new plates, and that had been the only gas station where the attendant was a young woman. She wasn’t interested in Holly’s flirting so, thinking on the fly, Holly had changed tack and spoken about problems with boys. That had fully engaged the attendant who was having issues with the significant other in her life. Brad was apparently far from being a fine specimen of manhood.
The trip so far had been tiring for her. Constantly having to be aware of what she was saying to others, being careful not to be seen by law enforcement, and ensuring minimal exposure to people they did have to interact with had taken its toll on her some two hundred miles ago.
‘How long are we staying here, Ross?’
‘Depends how long it takes for word to get here that we’re on the run,’ he whispered back. Outside of Holly’s motel room on the first floor of the dive he’d decided was a good place to stop, the world passed them by, ignorant of the fact that they were on the run.
‘Do you think we’ll be able to stay at least a couple of days?’
‘I hope so. It’ll sure be nice to have a good night’s sleep, and maybe get up late tomorrow. This is your room.’ He unlocked and opened the door for her. ‘I got separate rooms ‘cause I told the nosy bitch in reception that you were my best friend’s daughter, and we were driving to San Francisco to surprise him when his ship docks. Told her he was a single father who’d been deployed in Iraq. She gave us your room at half price. Keep up the story. I don’t wanna arouse suspicion. I’ll be next door. Don’t go anywhere without running it by me first.’ He dangled the keyring in front of her face, and she snatched it from his hand. ‘Easy does it. We don’t know that the nosy bitch isn’t watching everything from down there. I’ll go bring our bags up, and then go get us some food. You get yourself cleaned up and settled for the night. Don’t let anyone in unless it’s me. And that includes the maid service.’
Holly nodded, then turned around and walked inside her room. She fumbled with the light switch on the wall by the door before lighting the place up like a Christmas tree. She flopped down on the bed, grateful to be sleeping alone for once on this journey. A shower could wait until Ross brought up her bag. The last thing she wanted to do tonight was encourage him.
* * * * *
Poole and Greene followed her hunch, and hit pay dirt at the second gas station they came across. The RV that Turner had been driving was parked around the side of the station, in the employees’ parking area. The greasy attendant had almost died when Julia showed him her identification, and explained why they were looking for the vehicle.
‘Oh Jesus H. Christ, I swapped my SUV for that puppy, and you’re telling me I gotta give it to you for evidence? Shit.’
‘That’s correct, sir. If it’s any help, I’m sure we can try and get your vehicle back. It will have to be forensically tested before we return it, but I’m sure we can solve your transportation problem quite easily. For now, though, do you have a way of getting home after your shift?’
He shook his head. ‘Nope, not if you’re taking the RV.’
Poole motioned for one of the patrol boys to join her. ‘Yes, ma’am?’
‘I need you to organise transportation for this gentleman. Get him a hire car or something. Take my card, it’s got my department’s details on it, so you can bill the hire car to us.’ She handed over a business card, the patrol officer took it, and headed into the gas station to place a few calls.
Anderson Greene sidled up to his partner. ‘Get anything good from the grease monkey?’
‘A fair bit, yeah. Holly’s definitely got different hair colour, and he said she seemed relatively relaxed when he caught a glimpse of her getting into his SUV. He’s given us the licence plate so I’ll put an BOLO out for it, but I think Turner’s probably smart enough to have changed the licence plates. It’s worth a shot though.’
‘I walked through the RV with forensics. There’s not a lot in there that’s gonna help us. Obviously they’ll do a detailed search, but from the outside I think we’re shit outta luck. Might be best for us to keep on driving. What do you say? You up for it?’ He examined her face, and her demeanour, looking for any indication that it would be best for them to find a place to stay for the night. She gave up nothing.
‘Yep, let’s get on the road.’
Before Poole could take a step towards their car, her cell phone rang. She glanced at the number, a confused expression on her face.
‘Hello? Beatrice, what’s up? Yeah . . . yeah . . . he’s done what? And Ted agreed? What else? Oh, you have? Excellent. Thanks for the information, Bea. Yeah, me too. Bye.’ Julia made sure the call had ended, and returned the phone to the front pocket of her pants.
‘Beatrice Corman?’ asked Greene.
‘Yeah. David Quartermaine apparently called in a favour from a guy he knows, and that guy called Ted, Beatrice’s assistant, for help. David asked this guy to basically data mine Ross Turner. David wanted everything there was to dig up on Ross dug up, and sent to him. Seems Ted was a little worried after meeting you, and asked if Beatrice would get in contact with us, and pass on the information. She’s emailed it to me, hoping we can get a handle on where Turner might be going, and what he might be doing.’
‘Well, we know exactly what he’s going to do with Holly, but not where . . . or when.’
Julia opened the email app on her phone, and scrolled through the information that Ted had helped gather.
‘There’s too much for me here to go through alone. I’m forwarding it to you, Anderson.’ Within seconds his phone chimed its receipt of Poole’s email. The two detectives leaned against their car, and read through the information in silence. Within minutes, a single piece of information stood out to Anderson.
‘Oh shit. I know where he’s going.’
Julia looked up from the screen. ‘Where?’
‘He’s got a home in Switzerland. He’s driving cross-country, and he’s going to fly her to Switzerland where she’ll be out of our reach, and he’ll kill her there just the way he’s killed all of those women we saw in the photo albums.’
* * * * *
Luke warm hamburgers were not entirely what Holly had hoped Ross would buy for dinner, but they had to suffice. The takeaway meal sat heavily in her stomach, alongside the growing ball of worry that had been bouncing around in her gut since she ran away. She’d been dearly looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but it was currently elusive. Instead, Holly lay awake analysing the details of her escape. He would probably be expecting her to go tonight, so she fought hard against the urge to run, and decided that tomorrow night would suffice. He’d have let down his guard just a little, and she’d be freer to run.
‘Calm down, Holly, for God’s sake and your own, calm the fuck down,’ she whispered. The walls in the shabby motel were thin, and she didn’t want Ross to overhear a thing. ‘One more night and I’m free. Just one more.’
. . . To be continued . . .