A couple of miles away from the scrap yard, Leroy guided Bill’s federal sedan into a vacant commercial property. He drove the car up the ramp to the loading dock and into the warehouse through an already open docking bay door. The inside of the warehouse was dark except toward the rear where a light shown from a glassed-in office area. Leroy pointed the sedan toward the office.
A woman stood in the doorway as the car came to a stop and the lights and engine shut down. Bill saw her briefly in the headlights, a bottle blonde with a curvy figure, too tight clothes, too much jewelry, and too much makeup. She looked disinterested in the car as it arrived.
Mickey and Leroy exited the car and prompted Bill to do the same. They marched him into the office. The woman gave Bill the once over as they passed and seemed mildly interested in what she saw.
Leroy took Bill’s badge and wallet from him and placed the items down on the table.
“Have a seat, Maxwell,” Mickey said, pointing with his gun to a nearby metal chair. Leroy grabbed a coil of rope off the table and began to unravel it.
When Bill refused to sit, Mickey shoved him down by the shoulder. Leroy started wrapping rope around grey suited agent.
“Maxwell?” Lila said. She picked up Bill’s badge off the table and saw the name on the ID card. William Maxwell. “Mickey, I thought the Fed you wanted was named Mayson?”
“Shut up, Lila,” Mickey shot back.
“You got the wrong Fed?” she pressed.
“I’m not Mayson,” Bill added.
“Shut up, I said!” Mickey yelled. “I got the right Fed! He’s gonna help us get Mayson.”
“Oh I don’t believe this!” Lila said exasperated, dropping the badge back on the table. “I been sittin’, waitin’ around here all this time and you didn’t even catch the Fed that you wanted?”
“Lila, will you just shut up and let me take care of this my way?”
“You promised me you were gonna take care of this Mayson guy or whatever and then we could go out to the West Coast. I wanna see Vegas and Hollywood before I die ya know!”
“And you will as soon as I take care of Mayson. Now please. Honey. Zip it.”
Lila huffed and turned away, going to a corner of the office where her purse was located. She dug out a compact and fussed with her face.
Leroy finished tightening the ropes around Bill and then placed a black blindfold over Bill’s eyes. Confident the Fed couldn’t see them, Leroy and Mickey removed their ski masks.
“Usually,” Bill said, “when you blindfold a kidnap victim it’s so they can’t see any of the parties involved. Unless I was hallucinating the last five minutes I believe there’s a woman here named Lila.”
“I don’t care that you saw Lila,” Mickey said. “Because Lila likes clothes and make up and getting her hair done fifty different ways, that the woman you’ve seen tonight will not look the same when this is all over with.”
“If you say so. Awright then. Obviously this has nothing to do with the Thurston case, so what’s the deal here? What do you want with Commander Mayson?”
“Payback. Twenty years. And that’s all you need to know.”
“Mayson put you away huh? If you ask me, he didn’t put you away long enough.”
“Nobody asked you.”
“You blew away a Fed tonight, Mickey. Mayson’s not gonna be amused.”
Over in the corner, Lila turned at what Bill said. She looked at Mickey.
“I don’t care if I have to blow away a hundred Feds to get to Mayson,” Mickey said. “I’ll do it. And he knows it, which is why he’ll deal when he finds his dead Fed and he sees the evidence of your kidnapping…and your condition. He’ll give in very quickly.”
Bill paused at the word condition. “What do you mean my condition?”
“Exactly what I said,” Mickey said and moved in closer to Bill. “Your physical condition. More specifically this…”
Suddenly, Mickey unloaded a vicious hit to Bill’s jaw making his head toss backward. Instinctively, Bill pulled against the ropes in desire to try to defend himself but he was confined tightly to the chair and was a wide open target. Mickey hit him again in the face and barrel loaded a punch to the gut.
Bill coughed and gasped for air. The anger and rage that had built up inside of Mickey for twenty years was finally getting some release. He couldn’t have Mayson at the moment, but killing Patterson earlier, and having this Fed, Maxwell, would suffice for now. Mickey punched Bill a few more times, until a fresh cut of red emerged from Bill’s lower lip.
Bill labored in breath and tasted the blood from his cut lip. He spat it and raised his head up. “You can beat on me…all you want, Mickey. Mayson’s not going to trade with you….and when he catches you, he’s gonna bury you in the rock pile at the Atlanta Federal Pen…”
Mickey reached out and grabbed Bill by his already sore jaw. “If Mayson doesn’t trade, he’ll be burying you in a grave, right along with your partner. And I’ll repeat the process until I have him and he pays for what he did to me!” Mickey let go of Bill’s face with a shove and looked at Leroy.
“Get the camera. It’s time to take Agent Maxwell’s picture…”
Lila watched in silence as they took Bill’s picture with a Polaroid camera. When the image cleared, it showed the federal agent in all his freshly bruised blindfolded glory. Mickey grinned at it before showing it to Leroy.
Leroy chuckled. “Nice portrait.”
Mickey went to the other end of the office where some paper and envelopes were sitting near a typewriter. Leroy pushed some of the stuff aside on the table before sitting down on the edge of it. He picked up Bill’s wallet and flipped it open.
“Hey, Fed. How come you got a California driver’s license?”
This got Lila’s attention. She stepped closer to Leroy to look for herself.
“It was a prize in a Cracker Jacks box...” Bill replied.
“What, you visitin’ the Atlanta bureau?” Leroy asked.
Bill didn’t answer. Lila took the wallet from Leroy when she realized Bill’s address. “Oh wow, you lived in LA!”
Bill chuckled. “Yeah, I did sweetheart,” he said. Bill decided Lila might be his best chance at having a friend in this situation, and a possible means to escape. “Since I don’t think it’ll be likely that Mickey here is going to take you to the West Coast, as luck would have it, he brought the West Coast to you.”
“Oh my God! Did you ever go to Hollywood? Have you ever met any movie stars??”
Leroy rolled his eyes and slid off the table, stepping away. This allowed Lila to get closer to Bill.
“I’ve met a few.”
“Like who??” she pressed.
“Lila,” Mickey said from the typewriter. “Stop making friendly with the Fed.”
“Mickey, he’s from California! I can at least ask him if he’s met any movie stars!”
“What you can do, Lila, is go get your beauty rest. We have an early delivery to make tomorrow.” He held up the envelope that contained the photo he and Leroy had just taken of Bill.
Lila sighed. “You mean we’re stayin’ here all night?”
“Yeah. That’s why I had you bring all your stuff. We’re stayin’ here until I get Mayson.”
Lila sighed again.
“Don’t worry, gorgeous,” Bill said, “I’m sure we’ll have all kinds of time tomorrow to talk all about California. I’ll tell ya everything you want to know.”
The word gorgeous sounded nice to Lila’s ears. “Didja hear that?” she said, looking at Mickey. “He called me gorgeous. You don’t even notice when I got a new dress on, he’s wearing a blindfold and calls me gorgeous!”
Lila pushed away from the edge of the table and grabbed her purse. She then stormed out of the office.
Mickey stepped closer to Bill. “Don't try sweet talking Lila to try to help you, Fed. Because she won't. You bein’ from California and all might win you a few points but it won’t win anything else.”
Bill said nothing but his expression below the blindfold was a little smug. He knew now how to get Lila’s attention and from the sound of things, it was more than Mickey had.
*** *** ***
The next morning, Lila dressed in a very short skirt, tight fitting top, cropped jacket and heels and sashayed into the main lobby of the Federal building. She wore large, dark movie star sunglasses and dressy cotton gloves. She stopped at the receptionist’s desk and smiled sweetly at the girl.
“Hi sweetie,” she said. She handed over a plain white envelope with Commander Mayson typed on it. “This is for Mayson. Can you see that he gets it?”
“Thanks!” Lila turned and left the building, with every male agent in the lobby, coming in or going out, looking at her. She walked up the street and jumped into a cab, disappearing from sight.
Several minutes later, Special Agent Roger Kelly entered Commander Frank Mayson’s office with the envelope that had just been dropped off.
Mayson turned from his window. It had already been a rotten morning with the discovery of Agent Gary Patterson’s body at the scrap metals yard. The death of the agent made absolutely no sense and the atmosphere at the bureau was agitated.
“This was dropped off a little bit ago,” Roger said, handing the envelope to Mayson.
The Commander looked at the front of the envelope, type written with his name and frowned. Inside was a folded piece of paper. He unfolded the paper and the Polaroid snapshot dropped out of it, landing face down on his desk.
Mayson stood frozen for a moment and then noticed there was wording on the paper in his hand.
Think he’ll last twenty years?
“Frank, what is it?” Roger asked.
Mayson didn’t reply. He picked up the snapshot and turned it over.
What looked back at him was Agent Bill Maxwell, tied to a chair, blindfolded, and bloodied on the face.
Mayson read the words on the paper again. Think he’ll last twenty years?
“My God…” Mayson looked up at Roger. “Kelly, close the door.”
Roger rushed to the office door, closed it, and came back to the desk. “Frank…?”
“It’s Maxwell.” Mayson handed the photo over. “Somebody’s got Maxwell…”
Roger looked at the photograph, appalled and confused. “What…? What the hell is this, open season on the FBI?”
Mayson shook his head having no immediate theory. The phone on his desk buzzed.
“Good morning, Frank,” a male voice greeted with false cheer. “An envelope was delivered for you this morning, have you received it?”
“Yes, I got it. Who is this?” Mayson gestured to Roger, sending the agent hurrying out of the office to try to put a trace on the call.
“Good. I’m gonna make this short, Frank. I’ve got your Fed. You willing to trade? Your life for his? You ready to give up twenty years?”
“Who are you?”
“I’ll give you a hint. Miami, Florida. The Flamingo Motel. Over twenty years ago.”
“Mickey,” Mayson said, knowing exactly who he was talking to now. “Mickey Corbin. You sonofabitch.”
Mickey laughed. “I’m so glad you remember! Now it’s time to pay up, Frank. I lost twenty years because of you. Now it’s your turn. You for the Fed Maxwell here.”
“Let me speak to Maxwell. I want to know he’s alive, I want to hear his voice.”
“Oh he’s alive, but only as long as you and I are on speaking terms. But sure, if you want to hear him…” Mickey slid off the desk and picked up the phone carrying it with him. He stepped toward Bill and held the receiver to him. “Say something to Mayson.”
Bill said nothing. He just sat there, his head rising up slightly in defiance. He heard the Commander on the phone.
Mickey was furious. “Speak! Say something!”
Bill still refused. Don’t negotiate with this guy, Commander! Don’t do it!
Mickey swore and pulled the receiver back. “You’ll just have to take my word for it that he’s still breathing. I’ll give you some time to think about the offer, Frank. Just keep in mind if I have to, I’ll blow through your entire bureau to get to you!” Mickey hung up with a loud click.
“Mickey--!” Mayson tapped the disconnect switch on his phone. “Were you able to trace it?”
“No, sir,” came the response. “We didn’t have enough time.”
Mayson sighed and slammed the phone down. It didn’t look like he, or Bill, were going to have enough time either.
At the warehouse, Mickey, enraged by Bill’s refusal to speak, gave him a back handed crack across the face and then proceeded to beat on him almost to the point of savagery. Lila watched in fear until Leroy finally pulled Mickey away before Bill became unconscious.
“Jeezus, Mickey!” Leroy yelled, getting between Mickey and Bill and pushing the ex-con a few feet away from the Fed. “Cool it! You kill him we’re right back to square one!”
“So we’ll just get somebody else!”
“It ain’t that easy, man! The Feds are all alert now. You kill Maxwell before you get Mayson to deal, you’re through man! Game over!”
“He’s gonna think he’s dead already when he didn’t talk!”
“Then we show other proof. We take another photo, with today’s afternoon paper or something. Mayson has to believe Maxwell’s still alive or you got no chance.”
Mickey looked over at Bill, the Fed gulping for breath and grimacing at the pain inflicted just a few short moments ago. Mickey wanted so badly for Mayson to pay for sending him to prison that he didn’t care how many Feds got killed in the process, especially this one. But he knew Leroy was right. If Maxwell died, they wouldn’t be able to nab another Fed as easily as they had grabbed this one.
Mickey was breathing hard but there was already a downward shift in the adrenaline. “Awright,” he said. “We take another picture...”
While Mickey and Leroy were waiting for the afternoon addition to hit the streets, Commander Mayson had mobilized his bureau to try to find Bill. The note and photograph that had been sent were delivered to the lab to be analyzed, for fingerprints and any thing else they found. Mickey Corbin’s file was pulled. Mayson had known Corbin was going to be paroled but honestly didn’t see this kind of revenge coming. There had been no threats over the years. No rumors. Mickey was a jerk twenty years ago, but had been a model prisoner and his good behavior apparently played a factor in the granting of his parole.
Surveillance footage from the lobby showed the curvy woman that had delivered the envelope. Several agents recalled seeing her. But her platinum blonde hair and oversized dark sunglasses made any specific description nearly impossible. She looked like about a thousand other women in Atlanta.
The lab results came back with fingerprints belonging to Mickey, Commander Mayson and the receptionist in the lobby. A print of Mickey’s was also on the Polaroid photo. The photo itself revealed little other than what Mickey had wanted it to show. The background was a plain beige wall. Bill was seated in a chair, tied with his arms at his sides, and blindfolded. And since it was a Polaroid photo, there would be no tracing it to a film developer anywhere in Atlanta.
As it was, Mickey had the upper hand. All Mayson could do was wait for the next phone call, or possibly the next photograph.