A little after 4 o’clock, Leroy left the warehouse and returned awhile later with the afternoon paper and some rations. He deposited the items on the desk near Bill, who, still blindfolded, lifted his head at the commotion.

 

Lila came over and picked through the snacks and drink Leroy brought back. "Beer? You only picked up beer? I wanted a soda..."

 

"There's some more stuff in the car."

 

"What about pretzels? I asked you to get pretzels."

 

"In the car! Why don't you make yourself useful and go out and bring it in!"

 

Lila sighed and went to do just that.

 

Mickey came in to the office as Lila went out. He picked up the newspaper, glanced over the headlines, and then looked at the items Leroy unpacked from the shopping bag. He chuckled.

 

"Well, Fed, if you behave, maybe we'll let you have a little snack."

 

Bill's voice was low and rough as he spoke. "I'm not hungry."

 

Mickey shrugged. "Suit yourself." He picked up a bag of chips and ripped it open. He went back to looking at the paper again as he crunched loudly on the chips. "Friggin' ass politicians. Ya see this, Leroy, this is why I don't vote." He turned the paper toward Leroy, who gave a snort.

 

“You been in prison. You can’t vote,” Leroy replied.

 

“Just as well then.”

 

Lila returned with the other shopping bag. She retrieved a cold soda bottle from it and a bag of pretzels and left the shopping bag on the desk near the other items. She cracked open the bottle and looked at Bill. "Aren't you gonna let him have anything?"

 

"He doesn't want anything," Mickey replied.

 

"You don't want anything, sugar?"

 

Bill shook his head.

 

"Aww."

 

"C'mon, let's get this photo taken," Mickey said. He tossed the paper down onto Bill's lap and picked up the Polaroid camera. "Lila, hold that paper up."

 

Lila put her soda down and picked up the newspaper off Bill's lap, holding it up across his stomach. She looked at Bill's face and grimaced. "Gee, Mickey, you could at least clean him up a bit."

 

Mickey snorted. "No, I want Mayson to see his Fed on all his raw beauty..." Mickey lined up the camera and took a shot. The photograph spit out from the bottom of the camera and he put it on the desk to develop. He snapped another picture for good measure.

 

The two pictures sat on the desk, coming to life. Mickey put the camera aside and then grabbed a piece of paper, an envelope and went over to the typewriter.

 

Lila took the newspaper and flipped through it. She ignored the national headlines, the local news and went straight to the entertainment section and television listings. "Oh my God, they're running Casablanca tonight on tv and I'm gonna miss it!"

 

"You've seen it a dozen times already," Leroy said.

 

"But it's my favorite movie! I love Humphrey Bogart. And Ingrid Bergman is just beautiful in it." Lila sighed. "Oh someday, I'm gonna be in a movie."

 

"I'm sure you'll be the toast of tinsletown, darling," Bill said.

 

Lila smiled at the compliment. "Ya think so?"

 

"Sure. You'd knock 'em dead."

 

"Don't encourage her, Maxwell," Mickey said.     

 

"Why not? It's more than you're doing."

 

Mickey finished typing his note and pulled the paper from the machine. "I promised to take her to Hollywood when this is all over. Whether she makes it as an actress though is debatable."

 

"Boy,” Bill said, “you're a real killjoy, stompin' on your girl's dreams."

 

"Just shut up, Maxwell. Or I'll knock you around some more so you'll be quiet again."

 

"What do you mean my making it as an actress is debatable?" Lila asked.

 

Mickey folded the note and put it and the two photos into the envelope. "Forget it, Lila. Go change your clothes. You got a delivery to make."

 

Lila huffed and stormed out of the office.

 

Mickey stepped toward Bill and leaned close. "I’ve warned you already about trying to sweet talk Lila. I’m not warning you again. You keep trying, the next picture I take of you will be inappropriate to show her. Dig?"

 

Bill said nothing. Several scenarios entered his mind as to what Mickey may have meant by his comment and none of them were good.

 

*** *** ***

 

After Lila changed her clothes, she and Mickey drove toward downtown. They parked in a parking garage about three blocks from the Federal building and found a phone booth nearby.

 

"Okay," Mickey said, "Go make your special delivery."

 

Lila nodded and clutched her handbag close that contained the envelope. Her high heels clicked on the pavement as she walked toward the Federal building. This time she was dressed in a long black skirt, with a tight fitting long sleeved red blouse, her blonde hair down and loose over her shoulders. A different style of sunglasses obscured her face and a pair of black fashionable gloves covered her hands.

 

She walked boldly into the lobby of the FBI and paused, looking toward the receptionist desk. A different woman was staffing the desk this time. Lila pretended to be fishing for something in her huge handbag until she heard the receptionist’s phone ring. That was Mickey. The woman at the desk turned away from the lobby to answer the phone. With the envelope in hand, Lila walked to the desk, placed the envelope down, and then kept walking toward the elevators. The receptionist never saw her.

 

The next available elevator dinged and Lila stepped aside as people got off. She then stepped on and was alone in the elevator as the doors closed. She pushed for the top floor of the building.

 

Quickly, she put her handbag down and pulled off the long wrap around skirt, revealing a shorter grey skirt underneath. She shoved the longer skirt into her handbag and pulled out a white pullover sweater, quickly putting it on over her tight red top. She removed her gloves and then fussed with her hair, quickly wrapping it up in a bun and sticking a pencil through it. She swapped her oversize sunglasses for a pair of fake regular glasses. She looked like any of the secretaries that worked at the bureau and was leaving for the day.

At the top floor, the doors opened and several people stepped on. Lila rode the trip back down to the lobby and stepped off the elevators. She walked past the receptionist desk where she heard the woman on the phone.

 

"Yes, sir...another envelope. I just found it. No, I didn't see who dropped it this time, it must've been when I was on the phone..."

 

Lila smiled to herself. She walked out of the bureau.

 

A few minutes later Mickey saw her as she walked to the parking garage. She disappeared inside and he looked at his watch. He would wait a few minutes before calling Commander Mayson, to give time for the envelope to be delivered.

 

And delivered it was. Mayson tore open the envelope and looked at the short one line message.

 

Your Fed is still alive.

 

Mayson looked at the two photographs of Bill. He understood the newspaper was to show that the photos had just been taken, and weren’t pictures taken earlier. Bill may have still been alive but he was being pounded on badly.

 

Mayson hated the situation. None of his agents deserved to be beaten on like this. Not for his sake.

 

Mayson was still staring at one of the photographs when his phone buzzed. He looked up at Roger Kelly who was looking at him with anticipation. Mayson reached for the receiver.

 

“Mayson.”

 

“Since your Fed won’t speak, you’re just going to have to accept the photographic evidence.”

 

Mayson signaled to Kelly who ran from the office. “Yeah, I got your note,” Mayson said to Mickey.

 

“Good. Now I can sit on him for awhile. I got reeeaal good at sitting around, waiting while I was in prison. I’ve waited twenty years to get you, Mayson. If I have to imprison Maxwell here for twenty years…I’ll do it. I’d rather have you tho’. So if you’re ready to deal, I’m ready to listen.”

 

“One for one trade,” Mayson clarified in an effort to stall. “Me for him. You let Maxwell go, alive.”

 

“That’s the deal. I’ll even clean him up a bit, being the nice guy that I am.”

 

“Why didn’t you just ask for me originally?”

 

Mickey chuckled humorously. “You stalling, Frank?” He looked at his watch. “That’s okay if you want to stall a bit, I got some time. See, if you were just a rank and file Fed, I would have gone after you from the start. Your top Fed title now, however, makes things a little more complicated. Maybe you would’ve responded to my anonymous tip phone call and agreed to meet to get the information, but then again you may have shown up with an entire posse. Plus, I know you. I learned a lot about you before that fateful day in Miami and I’m willing to bet little of it’s changed. You never liked it when other Feds were hurt or killed. But I promise you this, I will go through every agent in your bureau to get to you if I have to, dig?”

 

“Now Mickey—“

 

“Whups, time’s up Frank! Next phone call you had better have an answer and that answer’s gonna determine if Maxwell lives or dies.” The phone clicked.

 

“Commander!” a voice came through after the call with Mickey disconnected. “He’s at the phone booth down the street from here!”

 

Mayson hung up the receiver and ran out of his office. Several Federal agents were already scrambling out of the building and into sedans, tearing out of the back parking lot of the building and sprinted three blocks down the road to the now empty phone booth. As Federal agents spread out over the area, checking other streets, the parking garage and surrounding area, Lila and Mickey were long gone. Commander Mayson himself pulled up near the phone booth and he walked to it, giving it a rueful look. He then looked across the street toward the parking garage.

 

Roger Kelly came up to him. “Gone. Nobody suspicious around. Agents are talking to people around here to see if anybody saw anyone at the phone and where they went.”

 

Mayson nodded.

 

Later, after agents gathered their findings and presented them to the Commander, Mayson only grew more frustrated. A few witnesses reported seeing a man in the phone booth just before all the agents converged. A couple of people had seen him run across the street to the parking garage. A car was seen leaving soon after that, but the agents were only able to get a vague description at best. A fingerprint from the phone booth matched that of Mickey Corbin. At the very least, it further confirmed who they were dealing with.

 

Mayson threw the reports down on his desk. “I didn’t have any doubt about who we were dealing with,” he said. “What I want to know is where he is! I want to know where Maxwell is. I want to know if he’s still alive. Mickey knows exactly what he’s doing, he plucks one of my agents and he’s got me by the throat. If I don’t go for the “trade”, he’ll kill Bill. Even if I do agree, Maxwell could still end up dead.”

 

“So what are you going to do?” Agent Kelly asked.

 

Mayson sighed. “I don’t know. If I knew where Mickey was holding Bill, I could maneuver something, rescue Maxwell and catch Mickey. But I’m blind. If I agree to a swap it’s possible Mickey won’t bring Bill with him because he’s not looking to swap anything. He could kill Maxwell and then show up to collect me, probably try to kill me as I think that’s his final intent anyway and he goes down in a hail of bullets from two dozen Feds. And we lose just the same!” Mayson turned away from his desk and faced the window that looked out over the city of Atlanta. “No agent in my bureau is expected to sacrifice his life because some nut job is out for me.”

 

Kelly nodded. “I’ve still got the boys searching through the city. There’s a lot of places they could be hiding.”

 

“Too many places,” Mayson replied, turning back to Kelly. “Too many to check before Mickey calls again which will probably be first thing in the morning, as he’ll let me sweat it out for the night.” Mayson paused. “I’ll have no choice then. I’ll have to take a chance and agree to the trade.”

 

*** *** ***

 

Later that night, Lila, unable to sleep, wandered from the back offices of the warehouse to the warehouse floor and the side office where Bill was being kept. She found him alone, still tied to the chair, still blindfolded, his head leaning forward as he slept.

 

She hated to wake him. She wasn’t even all that sure why she was checking on him. At the very least, she knew Mickey and Leroy had allowed Bill to use the facilities but he had eaten nothing since his captivity began some 24 hours earlier and he had drank even less.

 

Bill awoke when the creaky office door opened. He listened and then he could smell her perfume.

 

“Lila…”

 

She stopped and looked at him. The blindfold was still on. “How’d you know it was me?” she whispered, stunned.

 

He chuckled softly. “Your perfume. I can smell your perfume.”

 

“Oh.” She stepped closer to him. “I was just checkin’ on ya,” she said. “You uh…you ain’t had anything to eat or drink. Mickey never said that you couldn’t…”

 

“It’s okay, Lila. I’m…” thirsty as hell. “…I’m okay.”

 

“Mickey and Leroy drank all the beer but there’s a couple of sodas left. They may not be very cold now but…” Lila grabbed one of the bottles off the table next to Bill and opened it.

 

The sound of the bottle opening convinced Bill enough. “Well, I am a little thirsty…”

 

“Of course you are!” She helped Bill to take a drink from the soda bottle and he licked his lips afterward. Although the soda was room temperature, it was refreshing nonetheless.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.”  She gave him another drink.  

 

“What time is it?” he asked.

 

“Almost midnight.”

 

“You didn’t get up just to bottle feed me did you?”

 

“Well, yeah. Kinda. Just checkin’ on ya.” She paused. Bill could feel her fingers combing his hair back on his forehead. “I’m…I’m sorry for what Mickey’s doing to you. I don’t know why he’s doing things this way.”

 

Bill spoke gently.  “Lila, I hate to break it to you, honey, but you’re not going to make it to Hollywood at this point.”

 

“He promised to take me,” she said quickly. “We’ve got all kinds of plans and dreams. I’ve been waitin’ so long…”

 

“You’ve been waiting years, I imagine. You’ve been living on dreams for years, Lila. I think you know that none of it’s going to come to pass now. There’s no happily ever after, after this.”

 

“Once he takes care of Mayson it’ll be all done with,” she said.  “Then we start living. I start living. Here, drink up.”

 

Bill accepted another drink then he spoke again. “It’ll be a life on the run, sweetheart. Mickey’s killed one Fed already. He’ll kill me and he’ll kill Mayson if he gets the chance.”

 

The office door suddenly creaked open. “Lila,” Mickey said coldly. “What are you doing?”

 

Lila spun around to Mickey. “I was just—I was letting him have something to drink. I wasn’t doin’ nothin’—”

 

Mickey marched into the office and checked the ropes around Bill.

 

“Aw, keep your cool, Mickey,” Bill said. “She was just checkin’ on the old geezer, making sure I didn’t die of thirst, that’s all.”

 

“You’ve refused food and drink all day,” Mickey said. “Why now?”

 

“I couldn’t hold out any longer,” Bill replied. “Plus I’m a sucker for a charming woman.”

 

“You’re full of it, Maxwell.”

 

Lila glared at Mickey. “I’ve gotten more compliments from him than I have from you since you got out.”

 

“That’s because he’s trying to trick you,” Mickey shot back. He took the soda bottle from her and slammed it down on the table. “Get out of here.”

 

Bill could sense Lila was still standing there. There seemed to be a silent standoff between Lila and Mickey.

 

“Don’t I get to finish my soda?” Bill asked.

 

The silence hung for another moment. Then Lila turned and left the office.  

 

Mickey picked up the soda bottle. “Bottoms up, Maxwell…”

 

Chapter 4