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"Double Blind"


Chapter 1
Double Blind ~ Chapter One

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

It was the type of Louisiana evening that left you chilled. The moist gulf air mingled with Old Man Winter and sent us inside earlier than usual searching for warmth.

Jackson and I had just finished our hot chocolate when we heard a familiar knock at the door. It was our new neighbor, Mike Lembowsky.

"Would it be too much trouble to take King with me downtown? I was needing some fresh air. My house renovations are near completion, but the new paint smell just does me in."

"Say no more," I said. "King needs a walk, and you're welcome to stay in our guestroom if you'd like. Your alarm clock still sits on the nightstand."

King, being the psychic dog that he was, appeared with his leash in his mouth.

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

The moonless night obscured a mysterious presence, stopping Detective Lembowsky and King in their tracks.

"Gotta light?" asked the raspy male voice. "Cheap lighters--who needs them?"

Detective Lembowsky was trying to quit, but more often than not, still carried his engraved lighter. "I don't recognize you, Sir. Are you new around here?"

The stranger cupped his hands to receive the flame. "What's it to ya? You some kind of cop?"

"As a matter of fact, I am. My name is Detective Mike Lembowsky. And you are...?"

"There's no need for a strip search, Officer. I'm just passing through your fine town enjoying a pack of smokes. It doesn't sound like you're from around here, Detective. I'd say... Jersey," guessed the stranger.

"Hoboken. I'm a transplant, but I certainly do love it here," said the detective as he took a mental picture. "There's less crime, and Lafayette Township has a such a homey feel."

"Yeah, it's like going back in time. I heard about this place on the news with the Andre Dupree murder trial and all. I'd thought I'd take a trip and come see for myself."

"I still didn't catch your name."

"Oh, sorry about that. My name's Ed Silver. My friends call me Eddie." He extended his hand in a quick handshake.

It's funny what you can learn about a person from their handshake. The detective's mind quickly ran down the list of Louisiana's Most Wanted.

"I'm famished," complained Mr. Silver. "Is there any place around here you would recommend?"

"Louie's Diner is great. They have a large dinner menu, but they're only open until ten o'clock. The Cajun gator tail is good, and the gumbo, if you like authentic Louisiana cuisine. Tell the owners Detective Lembowsky sent you."

"Will do!"

Ed Silver disappeared into the evening, leaving a cloud of suspicion behind him.

"King, what do you say? I could go for a bowl of hot gumbo right about now. Follow that Cajun smell."

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

I was out of breath from running. How had I ventured so far away from home without Jackson and King? I could hear their voices, but I couldn't see them.

"Jackson, where are you? King, come now!" I stumbled and cried as I tried to move along. A faint trace of light shone on a passer-by as I fell to my knees. "Please, someone help me! I'm lost and can't seem to find my husband or my guide dog."

The smell of cigarettes filled my nostrils. I tried to scream, but I could not....

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

King's electronic collar went off at the same time Detective Lembowsky's cellphone chimed. It was Jackson.

King immediately turned towards home with him in tow.

"What is it, Jackson? Is Sally all right?"

"She's had a bad dream, I'm afraid. I think she needs her dog to help calm her. It was a really bad one this time. Sal said she can still smell the cigarettes from the dream."

"We'll be right there." The detective and King ran all the way to 17 East Main Street without stopping. The face of Ed Silver came to his mind, and the detective felt their meeting had not been a coincidence.

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

The stranger returned to the alleyway where his Lexus had been parked for so long, it was no longer white.

Everything he needed for a quick transformation was in a small makeup case, which was stashed in the glove compartment. He removed his brown contact lenses and put on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.

Staring at himself in the rearview mirror, he continued to alter his look until he had it right. "Pomade is just the thing!" He put a little bit between his hands and smoothed his wavy gray hair back and away from his face. He slipped on a turtleneck sweater and rain slicker to give himself a heavier appearance. "It pays to be a magician," he said as he admired his work.

Rummaging through his backpack, he switched to another wallet--just one of many. Each one was complete with a fake driver's license, gym membership card, and multiple credit cards. "Let's see, I think for tonight, I'll need this one. I really do look like a Gavin Lovett," he drawled in his southern accent.

Just then, his burner phone rang. Rolling his eyes, he received the call from the familiar number. The voice on the other end was irritated.

"Well... did you find her?"

"I'm close. You need to be patient. These things take time. Besides, she's heavily guarded."

"How much time are we talking?"

"A few weeks, possibly longer. If you want this to look clean and no tracks back to you, you'll need to be more patient. Don't keep calling me. I'll be in touch if I have any questions."

The disposable phone was thrown into the sewer as the stranger made his way to find the best gumbo around.

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

It was a typical Sunday evening for LSU student, Clementine Jones. One she had grown tired of. She had stooped to the unthinkable-- an online dating profile. She went by her usual nickname of Tine Jones, and ditched the first part of her ancestral curse. Who on earth would name their daughter Clementine? Wait ... my doting parents!

Online profiles were so appealing to the twenty-year-old. She liked the anonymity and the way a profile could present her in the best light. Tine had more money and scholastic awards than her friends, but she was missing her storybook romance. "This should do it," she said as she pressed search.

She gave it a few minutes while she made herself a cup of microwaveable ramen noodles, a culinary staple her roommates bought by the case at Big Box. Tine sipped the hot broth as she reviewed her results.

"Nope. No--definitely, not. Oh, please!" She scrolled down the list of responses who wanted to do a meet and greet in an informal setting.

Not one looked appealing. She was just about to call it quits when one more caught her eye.

This man's profile was just what she was looking for. He was well-read and an LSU graduate! An older man with graying at his temples. His likes included: sunset walks on the beach, poetry, Cajun food, and live jazz concerts. Be still my heart. Look at those blue eyes!

Tine pressed the accept button and hopped in the shower. She had to hurry to be on time to meet 'Mr. Blue Eyes' at Louie's Diner in Lafayette Township by eight o'clock. However, she broke a pact she had made with her roomates, and it made her wince. "I'll call from my cellphone as soon as I get there and let them know where I am," she said as she backed out of her campus parking space.

Unfortunately, Clementine Jones never made that call.

To be continued....

Author Notes Photo: Man in Jacket with Gray Knit Scarf Smoking.
https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-cigarette-face-portrait-57411/@pexels.com.


Chapter 2
Double Blind~Chapter 2

By Sally Law

Previously, in Chapter One~

This man's profile was just what she was looking for. He was well-read and an LSU graduate! An older man with graying at his temples. His likes included: sunset walks on the beach, poetry, Cajun food, and live jazz concerts. Be still my heart. Look at those blue eyes!

Tine pressed the accept button and hopped in the shower. She had to hurry to be on time to meet 'Mr. Blue Eyes' at Louie's Diner in Lafayette Township by eight o'clock. However, she broke a pact she had made with her roomates, and it made her wince. "I'll call from my cellphone as soon as I get there and let them know where I am," she said as she backed out of her campus parking space.

Unfortunately, Clementine Jones never made that call.

********************
Chapter Two~

Louisiana's Governor, Preston Jones, sat in his home office curled up in his favorite chair, planning for the week ahead.

No news was displayed on his monitor, and no music played softly in the background. The quiet was all he needed to think clearly.

His oldest daughter, Clementine, typically checked in on Sunday nights; but it seemed that he'd missed her tonight.

He was almost certain she had spoken to her mother; perhaps Trisha had forgotten to mention it. His wife was very close to both Clementine and Chloe, and aware of their schedules. This comforting thought allowed him to set his fears aside for the moment.

It didn't take long for the doting father to scroll through his missed calls one more time. Not a thing. Huh, I don't think Clementine has missed a Sunday night call since ... I can't remember.

Stirring his basset hound, Daisy, the two scurried into the kitchen to see what Mrs. Jones and Chloe were up to. Sure enough, the two bakers were planning a surprise--his Mema's famous lemon poke cake.

"Trisha, has Clementine called?"

"No, sweetheart. I was going to ask you the same thing."

The mom and dad looked at Chloe until she confessed.

"Okay, okay! Tine was thinking about joining a dating website. Maybe she snagged some lovesick soul already," she said, licking the spoon.

"She wouldn't do something like that," stated Trisha.

The governor's face drained of color. "You're kidding ... please tell me you're kidding, Chloe."

"Daddy, I'm perfectly serious. She's having an early ... something. Sorta like a mid-life crisis, clueless as to how beautiful she is. I tried to talk to her, but--no. It was like I hit a brick wall. You know how stubborn she can be."

Clementine's parents and younger sister had the same thought: let's just call her. Trisha Jones picked up her cellphone and pressed her most recent call from Tine. It immediately went to voicemail. She switched to text with lightning speed.

Mama Jones: Tine, where are you? Please call or text.

Normally her oldest daughter was quick to respond, but tonight seemed off.

The three said very little as Trisha finished scraping the last remnants from the bowl and poured the fragrant batter into the baking pan.

"In one hour, we'll have a slice of this warm cake," said Trisha. The lemony cake was a good excuse to stay up late--in case Tine calls.

"I'm going to walk Daisy. I'll try Tine again in a few minutes," said the governor as he hurried out the back door. As soon as he was out of earshot, he dialed his good friend, Captain Jeb Davies of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Fortunately, Jeb was home.

"Good evening, Governor Jones. How are you?" asked the mild-mannered police chief.

"Jeb, I'm worried, to be honest. I'm going with my gut on this one, and I'd rather be safe than sorry. First, I need you to check on Clementine at LSU and see if she's there. If she's not, I need to know her whereabouts. She hasn't checked in with us tonight as she always has in the past. Second, Tine hasn't responded to her mother's call or text. Chloe mentioned she may have gone out with a stranger she met online through a dating website."

"I'm leaving my house right now, Governor, and will call for backup. I'll alert campus security and see if your daughter's blue Hyundai is parked in her designated spot," said the chief. "Go back inside your house immediately and lock it down. I'll tighten your home security until we know everything is all right."

The governor made no apologies for his heightened fears, as his family was his number one concern.

Inside the house, Trisha Jones studied the picture of her and Clementine from 2012, still framed on their refrigerator. She heard her daughter's animated voice in her head. Mom, you did save me a piece of that poke cake, right?

Tears welled up in her eyes for a reason she could not explain.

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

Clementine Jones parked across the street from Louie's Diner with just a few minutes to apply some lip gloss and tousle her hair.

Her hands felt clammy, and she hated that about herself almost as much as she detested her first name. She reached for her cellphone and realized she had either left it at the dormitory or dropped it. If I'm going to be a forensic scientist, I had better pay more attention to details! Rifling through the front seat, she still came up empty handed.

'Mr. Blue Eyes' was waiting inside the local restaurant in a quiet booth, keeping an eye on the door. He was fully prepared to impress her with his thoughtful gifts of pink roses and an expensive bottle of perfume. I'll have her eating out of my hand in no time.

Thankfully, Tine had remembered part of her head and had the forethought to print out her date's online profile. She made her way across the street and slipped quietly into the diner, hoping no one recognized her as Governor Jones's daughter.

Her online match for the evening was just as wonderful as she had imagined, greeting her with a kiss on the cheek.

"You are even more beautiful than your profile picture, Miss Jones. Here, let me take your coat." Mr. Blue Eyes hung her coat as he seated her next to her gifts. "These are for you. I hope you like them."

Tine thought she would surely faint from such kind attention. The older gentleman sat across from her and looked over the menu.

"Before I forget, I seemed to have misplaced my cellphone. Would you mind if I borrowed yours for a quick call? Campus after hours security--what can I say?"

"We must be having the same kind of day. I think I left mine at the florist. I'll have to stop by tomorrow as soon as they open."

Tine began to relax, realizing nothing could be done at the moment. She glanced over the menu and decided on the shrimp gumbo over dirty rice.

"I hear the gumbo here is the best around. A new friend recommended this place, and I was so glad to learn that you liked Cajun food--and jazz!" He reached to hold her hand for a few seconds until the server came by to take their order. His hands were soft to the touch, like she hoped they would be. But when she brought her hands back to herself, she smelled tobacco.

"Are you a smoker?"

"I was. I'm trying to quit. My brother was here visiting and he smokes like a house afire! He drove my Lexus and I'm afraid he left his smoky presence behind."

"I thought I had mentioned I was a non-smoker," said Tine, dimissing her inner voice. "Maybe I forgot."

She gently touched the bottle of perfume so beautifully wrapped in her favorite color. "How did you know I wore this perfume? It's very pricey and hard to find."

His eyes looked left as he spoke. "I'm sure I read about them in the 'likes' section of your online profile," he said, smiling.

As the evening wore on, the more rehearsed he sounded. He also left twice to go to the restroom area.

Combined with the long week she had had, and a Monday morning self-defense class, she decided to call it a day and head back to LSU. The restaurant would close soon, and fewer people would be around after ten o'clock.

Tine excused herself and went to the ladies' room, passing a payphone in the hall. Everything inside of her screamed to stop and call her parents. She looked around to make sure she wasn't being watched as she picked up the receiver to dial. The phone was dead, but more alarming, the wires had been cut.

Fear gripped her chest as the room began to spin. Tine stumbled trying to leave through the alley exit. She finally found the door and ran down the empty side street with slow, weighted legs.

"God, please help me," she slurred. Her blue car was in her sights as she fumbled for her keys. If I can just get to my car....

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

Sleep was far from me after my nightmarish vision. I'm not sure what had triggered it; but it was so graphic and frightening, I wondered whether I was going to get any sleep at all.

I finally gave up around three o'clock and made a cup of herbal tea. King must've heard me and led the way into the study. He knows instinctively where I go when I'm having trouble sleeping. It's always the same drill: I throw an afghan on the floor, and he parks himself while I finish my tea.

"How about night sleep sounds?" I whispered.

Next thing I knew it was morning with King's ponderous bulk crowding me on the couch.

I heard Mike stirring along with Jackson. I thought I had smelled bacon mingled with the scent of blueberry muffins. King confirmed it by his happy trot to the kitchen.

Jackson greeted me just as Detective Lembowsky excused himself to take an urgent call, and stepped outside. "Good morning, my love," said Jackson, smiling. "Let me guess: three to four hours of restful sleep?"

"You have it right. Just remove the word restful," I said. He sat me down and served up a cup of my morning brew as we talked.

"Jackson, don't forget, I teach a self-defense class today at the Community Church on 3rd Street and Main at ten o'clock," I said.

"I wouldn't forget that," he replied. "By the way, how many ladies do you expect this morning?"

"Twenty are signed up, but it's rather chilly this morning. That usually keeps people inside."

During the trial of the murder of my uncle, Andre Dupree, I was attacked in the ladies' washroom at the courthouse and was able to resist my assailant and call for help. I had women of all ages signed up to attend my class after reading my true story in the local newspaper.

Secretly, I was glad I hadn't started with my consulting job with the police just yet; and this was the perfect diversion. I desired to pass on my knowledge, and help as many as I could. Initially, I knew my purpose was much bigger than a few self-defense classes.

Starting today, this little sidebar would widen my circle of influence; and my people perceptions would be deepened. These revelations would only help in the trying days ahead of me as a police consultant.

Just like a gulf wind blowing from the coast, I could feel something coming.

Author Notes A look to the left when a person is answering a question, is telling of a lie. See below for more at: https://www.forensicscolleges.com/blog/resources/10-signs-someone-is-lying

Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/laughter-laugh-fun-mom-daughter-775062/@pixabay.com.


Chapter 3
Double Blind ~ Chapter Three

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Two~

She gently touched the bottle of perfume so beautifully wrapped in her favorite color. "How did you know I wore this perfume? It's very pricey and hard to find."

His eyes looked left as he spoke. "I'm sure I read about them in the 'likes' section of your online profile," he said, smiling.

As the evening wore on, the more rehearsed he sounded. He also left twice to go to the restroom area.

Combined with the long week she had had, and a Monday morning self-defense class, she decided to call it a day and head back to LSU. The restaurant would close soon, and fewer people would be around after ten o'clock.

Tine excused herself and went to the ladies' room, passing a payphone in the hall. Everything inside of her screamed to stop and call her parents. She looked around to make sure she wasn't being watched as she picked up the receiver to dial. The phone was dead, but more alarming, the wires had been cut.

Fear gripped her chest as the room began to spin. Tine stumbled trying to leave through the alley exit. She finally found the door and ran down the empty side street with slow, weighted legs.

"God, please help me," she slurred. Her blue car was in her sights as she fumbled for her keys. If I can just get to my car....

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

Chapter Three~

Jackson, King, and I were readying ourselves for the busy day ahead when Detective Lembowsky reappeared in our kitchen.

I thought maybe it had been the smell of the blueberry muffins permeating through the house that had pulled him from his cellphone. His voice said otherwise.

I don't think I've heard such a serious tone from our Detective friend in quite a while.

Even King was concerned, and drew near us as Detective Lembowsky spoke.

"I have to leave immediately. Something has come up and time is of the essence. I'm officially swearing you in right now, Sally. We're in need of you and King as soon as possible. A life is at stake."

I felt very unofficial in my bathrobe, but after his brief speech, I stood at attention. I gave my oath to uphold the law and integrity of the Lafayette Township Police as a consultant and promised not to discuss any cases with outside parties. Jackson did the same, as he would be serving alongside me. As soon as we gave our promise, the detective seemed relieved.

"What is so pressing?" I asked.

"It's the governor's older daughter, Clementine Jones," he said. "She's disappeared. She was last seen on a date with an older gentleman at Louie's Diner. She left after dinner through the alley entrance with her date hurrying behind her. She never returned to her dorm room Sunday night, and hasn't been seen or heard from since. The governor became concerned when she didn't check in with him on Sunday night as she always had in the past. Baton Rouge police found her cellphone in the LSU parking lot and her car is still parked across from Louie's. Chloe Jones said her sister may have met the man through an online dating website. Right now, I fear the worst."

"Will federal authorities help us in the search?" I asked. "It hasn't been twenty-four hours."

Our detective friend took us to school right away.

"In a missing persons case, the first twenty-four hours is crucial. It has been proven that reporting a missing person as soon as possible can be most beneficial to their recovery. When foul play is suspected, waiting twenty-four hours to report a missing person is no longer the rule in law enforcement. Oftentimes, we perceive that it's still the operational procedure because we watch reruns of older crime shows where that was the norm. Twenty-four hours is a non-stop road trip from Miami to Toronto. This guy could be halfway across the United States with Clementine by now."

Jackson and I stood in stunned silence. A vision of that beautiful young girl came to my mind. I could easily imagine how despairing her family must feel. Her name stirred in my memory, and I paused to make the connection.

Reaching for my cellphone, I accessed my list of reminders.

"Siri, read me today's attendees for my self-defense class," I requested.

Siri responded in alphabetical order. All I heard was the Joneses. "Tine Jones... Mrs. Trisha Jones." I paused Siri abruptly.

"Detective, Tine Jones and her mother were signed up for my morning self-defense class. I need to get down there!"

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

At the governor's house, Trisha Jones hadn't slept a wink. Neither had the governor. He had nodded off in his chair and decided he'd better brew another pot of strong coffee for the day ahead.

They were playing the waiting game as the police did their investigations. Federal agents were stationed inside and out of their residence in historic Baton Rouge. Phone tap surveillance was ready and waiting.

Chloe remained home for the day and had spent the night in their room. She had taken the news rather hard that her older sister may have been kidnapped... or worse.

The first family of Louisiana was in need of prayer, so they gathered together and knelt. The governor cried as he prayed for his sweet Clementine.

"Oh, Lord, if a life is required, take mine--not Clementine's. She has so much promise. Please protect her and bring her back safely to us. Send your angels to help her and wrap your loving arms around her, Lord. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen."

"Together is the best place to be," said Trisha, embracing her family. "Speaking of together, I was supposed to go with Tine to a self-defense class this morning, taught by the blind canine trainer whose dog helped crack that murder case in Lafayette Township last year. Tine's roommates were supposed to attend, as well, and they may have known something about her evening plans. I could speak with them personally...."

"That's out of the question, dear. We must stay here today until we get word from the police. The authorities are combing her dormitory right now, questioning her roommates and anyone who knew her. Besides, I've already called for the blind lady and her dog. If anyone can help us, they can."

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

The cabin was small and secluded, off the grid and as far away from civilization as a person could be. A stoked fire was burning in the fireplace as smoke rose above the tree line. Hoarfrost had formed overnight, spraying the riverbeds white.

It was first light when the white Lexus pulled away from the cabin, the driver seeking cellphone reception, food, and cigarettes.

Clementine Jones was alive, handcuffed to a bedrail. Her down jacket was laid across her. She called out, "Hello, is anyone here? Please... I need to go to the bathroom!!"

All she could think about was getting to the toilet. She could see a wooden door with light coming underneath the seams. It has to be the loo. She yanked the handcuffs violently and screamed, "Help!"

Nothing. All she heard was the crackling and popping of the fire.

Think Clementine--think! You just studied this in criminology.

"Bobbypins ought to do it." She searched her hair and found the sole pin securing her bangs from the night before. Thankfully, it was still there. She worked it out of her hair with clasped hands, and placed it between her teeth to pull it apart. Twisting her wrists as far as she could, she had the angle. She worked quietly, listening for the click. Finally... the sound of release.

Tine unlocked herself and bolted for the bathroom. While she sat, she worked on a getaway plan.

The handcuffs were still workable and may come in handy. Then again, they could be used against her. Opening the adjacent laundry chute, she dropped the cuffs down the hole.

As soon as she finished, she peered outside the small second-story window to the ground below. "Hum... this doesn't look like Louisiana." The tree-lined landscape, mountain terrain, and blue waters of the winding river, looked familiar. She was almost certain this was the Ozarks.

A group of trees abutted the roof line and Tine immediately saw a door of opportunity. She quickly grabbed her coat and went to the main house, just to be sure she was alone. As suspected, the doors and windows were locked and bolted. A fire was still burning and had been recently attended.

My captor left at sun-up to get food.

The smell of cigarette smoke was as strong as the burning oak and pine. "It's him all right. I feel like such an idiot!" Tine grabbed a roll of plastic wrap from the kitchen drawer and dumped the ash tray into the plastic. "I have your DNA, Mr. Blue Eyes! You... Dirtbag!"

Clementine Jones chastised herself all the way to the bathroom, stopping to gulp down a drink from the faucet. She lifted her petite frame out of the window and was down the tree in no time. She followed the fresh tire tracks for about two miles to the main road where they turned left. Instinctively, she decided to bear right when she saw a rustic sign that read: Thurston's Dry Goods and Down-Home Barbeque - 7 miles east. Her desperate situation prompted her to stop at the sign and bury the DNA evidence from the ashtray. Hopefully, she could not only escape, but catch the evil man. Tine continued on, thinking it wouldn't be long before she would get help. Still, she saw no one.

Clouds of white smoke appeared in front of her. "That must be where that heavenly smell is coming from," she said, licking her lips. Tine kept out of sight, but stayed close to the dirt road as she headed east, watching for signs of life.

To be continued....

Author Notes A look to the left when a person is answering a question, is telling of a lie. See below for more at: https://www.forensicscolleges.com/blog/resources/10-signs-someone-is-lying

https://www.pexels.com/photo/high-angle-photography-of-waterfalls-2648337/@pexels.com.


Chapter 4
Double Blind ~ Chapter Four

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Three~

Clementine Jones chastised herself all the way to the bathroom, stopping to gulp down a drink from the faucet. She lifted her petite frame out of the window and was down the tree in no time. Fresh tire tracks were visible for about two miles to the main road where they turned left. Instinctively, she decided to bear right when she saw a rustic sign that read: Thurston's Dry Goods and Down-Home Barbeque - 7 miles east.

Her desperate situation prompted her to stop at the sign and bury the DNA evidence from the ashtray. Hopefully, she could not only escape, but catch the evil man. Tine continued on, thinking it wouldn't be long before she would get help. Still, she saw no one.

Clouds of white smoke appeared in front of her. "That must be where that heavenly smell is coming from," she said, licking her lips. Tine kept out of sight, but stayed close to the dirt road as she headed east, watching for signs of life.

Chapter Four~

The temperature was warming quickly after the cold start to the day. The freshness of the evergreens enveloped Tine Jones as she trudged along, headed east to the only place she knew--Thurston's Dry Goods and Down-Home Barbecue.

Atop the pines, she sighted a new friend. A bald eagle soared majestically as though it were surveilling her. He was a comforting presence, staying right with her for miles. Only the faintest puffs of clouds were visible against the clear blue skies.

However, her parched throat logged each mile with a complaint.

The morning quiet was disturbed by a distant whine of an engine. She squinted to see a flatbed truck lumbering down the mountain in her direction.

Cursing her impractical boots, she attempted to run towards the road, waving wildly. Surely, they see me!

"Help me... oh, please help," she croaked.

The truck continued on for about a quarter of a mile, then screeched to a halt.

A red-headed young man dressed in a flannel shirt and well-worn jeans climbed down from the driver's side and walked towards Tine. He picked up his pace to close the gap between them when he saw her distress.

"Help! I've been kidnapped!" Tine dissolved into hysterics. "Do you have a cellphone?"

"I do, but there's not a cell tower for twenty miles, Miss. Thurston's is just up the road and has a landline."

"Is there a forest ranger's station around here?" Tine began to cry even harder, but only a few tears would come.

"Yes, and it's about three miles past Thurston's. Let me get you to my truck and I will drive you."

Dehydration took hold of Tine as she began to shake.

"I don't know you, and I'm not getting into your truck! Uh... no thanks! That's what got me into this mess in the first place."

The young man was an honest one, but she couldn't see it.

"Miss... please let me help you," he said, as he tried to steady her. "At least tell me who to call."

"I will continue on this road until I reach the dry goods store. I appreciate your offer, you--handsome--man," she said, slurring her speech. "I'm practically there...."

Bobby DeWoody caught Tine just before she hit the dirt.

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

Governor Preston Jones was just sitting down for breakfast when the long-awaited call came in.

"Let it ring twice, Governor. It gives us more time to trace the call," said the federal agent.

The governor paused, then took a deep breath and picked up the line. "This conversation is over before it begins until I get verified, time-stamped proof of my daughter's well-being," he said.

"I thought you might say that, Governor," said the obscured voice. "Three million by Wednesday at this time. Before the swap, I'll send you a live video of Tine along with the wire transfer account number. The location is a bit rustic, so it's easy to see if you are traveling alone. My friends will be watching from the crow's nest. I'll be in touch." Click.

Preston Jones was swarmed by Trisha and Chloe. "We'll get Tine back... we will!" Deep emotions washed over them all.

After a few minutes, the head of the FBI's task force spoke. "We have to move quickly, Governor. It looks like we have pinpointed the region of the call. It's a remote area in the Ozarks, off the grid."

Every agent was on their phone and computer with lightning speed to contact the local and national authorities in Arkansas and the Ozark Plateau. A missing person alert was sent out.

Notice filed February 3, 2020. Missing LSU student, Clementine Adele Jones, age 20, 5 feet 2 inches tall. Miss Jones is approximately 110 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. At the time of her disappearance from Lafayette Township, she was wearing a white down coat and high-heeled boots. Miss Jones may be traveling with an older gentleman described as having a medium build, graying hair, and blue eyes. The man was thought to be driving a white Lexus SUV. Please contact the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, or local authorities if you have any information.

"At least we have Clementine's possible whereabouts narrowed down," said the agent in charge. "The exchange will most likely be there; or in the bayou, since that's Louisiana's most remote area."

The governor hurried to make the necessary calls to raise the three million for Clementine's ransom. He knew of a local woman who had just inherited a large sum of money and was hoping to speak to her today, anyway.

He dialed her cell number after speaking briefly with Detective Mike Lembowsky. Fortunately, he knew exactly where she was.

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

I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers showing up in my self-defense class on this chilly Monday. I tried to keep my focus on helping others, as my heart had already turned towards Clementine Jones and her family. Jackson and I had just been deputized and would be starting on her case today, literally as soon as class was dismissed.

However, none of the Joneses, or their friends that had signed up, were in attendance. I was a little disappointed, as I had hoped to speak with them all personally.

As soon as I wrapped up my class, my cellphone rang. I was stunned to hear the voice of Governor Preston Jones.

"Good morning, Mrs. Law, and welcome to the Lafayette Township Police. I hear you are a consultant."

"Governor, thank you. I'm amazed you have the stamina to think about anything other than Clementine. How may I help?"

The governor hesitated, and I knew it was both emotional and difficult. I spoke first to ease his apprehensions.

"The kidnapper called and demanded money, didn't he? I can imagine it's a large sum. Before you ask, just know I have one million for your immediate use and more forthcoming. My inheritance money continues to trickle in and I have not yet started on the renovations for the Andre Dupree Museum of Art. I'll contact my accountant today," I said reassuringly.

The long pause could not disguise the sobbing at the end of the line. "I don't know what to say other than, thank you, thank you so much, Mrs. Law."

"Aw, your daughter's life is worth much more than that. It's just money, Governor. Detective Mike, Jackson, King, and I are on it. We'll catch this guy."

"I can't wait to thank you all in person, and meet your famous dog!"

"Well, now you've gone and done it. You'll just have to invite us over for dinner!"

"How about tonight? As you can imagine, we are housebound, and your company would be more than a welcome relief."

"Done. We have to work at Louie's Diner all afternoon, gathering evidence and interviewing the staff. Louie Ray feeds us like we are his long lost relatives. May we bring you all some supper?"

"Okay, that would be wonderful," said the governor. "We have lemon poke cake still sitting here untouched."

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

The sign was as big as life and seemed to interrupt all natural beauty in the Ozark foothills.

"One Stop Car Shop, where you can buy, sell, or trade up. It's easy! We finance with zero down. Easy is debatable," said the career criminal.

Hours later, he was finally rid of the white Lexus SUV and driving something more... culturally appropriate: a Ford pickup in godforsaken red. It was the easiest and fastest deal, so he signed on the dotted line for the gas-guzzling eyesore. He had to get a few more things: a John Deere ball cap, food to eat, and a couple of cartons of smokes before heading back to Clementine. I really should feed her and give her something to drink.

"There's a place near here and it had a phone, too. Thurston's. I'll stop there. I just need to figure out which identity I want to use. They'll be looking for Gavin Lovett, most likely. Well, I guess it's back to being Ed Silver for now," he said, without a care.

He pulled over to a scenic lookout and parked. Rummaging through his wallet, he pulled out the stolen driver's license of Louisiana native, Edward Silver, along with his credit cards, voter's registration, and most importantly, Ed's super saver discount card for Piggly Wiggly supermarket.

"Poor, dear Ed, " he said with an impish grin. He returned to hazel eyes with colored contacts and restyled his graying hair with a side part. "Yes, I'll certainly need to get a box of men's hair color at Thurston's."

To be continued....


Chapter 5
Double Blind ~ Chapter Five

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in chapter four~

The sign was as big as life and seemed to interrupt all natural beauty in the Ozark foothills.

"One Stop Car Shop, where you can buy, sell, or trade up. It's easy! We finance with zero down. Easy is debatable," said the career criminal.

Hours later, he was finally rid of the white Lexus SUV and driving something more... culturally appropriate: a Ford pickup in godforsaken red. It was the easiest and fastest deal, so he signed on the dotted line for the gas-guzzling eyesore. He had to get a few more things: a John Deere ball cap, food to eat, and a couple of cartons of smokes before heading back to Clementine. I really should feed her and give her something to drink.

"There's a place near here and it had a phone, too. Thurston's. I'll stop there. I just need to figure out which identity I want to use. They'll be looking for Gavin Lovett, most likely. Well, I guess it's back to being Ed Silver for now," he said, without a care.

He pulled over to a scenic lookout and parked. Rummaging through his wallet, he pulled out the stolen driver's license of Louisiana native, Edward Silver, along with his credit cards, voter's registration, and most importantly, Ed's super saver discount card for Piggly Wiggly supermarket.

"Poor, dear Ed, " he said with an impish grin. He returned to hazel eyes with colored contacts and restyled his graying hair with a side part. "Yes, I'll certainly need to get a box of men's hair color at Thurston's."

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

Chapter Five~

The dream was a sweet one, a beautiful scene in the street near her home in Baton Rouge. Clementine Jones was in a surreal setting, something futuristic.

As the young father held his daughter close, the look on his face said it all. She felt such contentment and love as she snapped the photo. Oh, how she wished she could stay in this dream forever. When she reached out to embrace them both, gray vapors circled the vision, ending it abruptly.

Consciousness finally returned to her in the front seat of the flatbed truck, with her head positioned way too close to someone wearing freshly washed blue jeans.

At first she wanted to scream, but then realized there was nothing to fear.

She sat up slowly and tried to communicate.

"Thank you, Sir," she said in a whisper.

"When you say, Sir, I look around for my pa," said the country boy. "My name's Bobby DeWoody."

He handed Tine the cold water he had waiting for her. "Drink this. You'll feel better." She received the water with grateful hands.

"It's nice to meet you, Bobby. My name is Clementine Jones," she said, wincing. "Most everyone calls me Tine. My great grandmother's name landed on me. Anyway, I was kidnapped, and escaped this morning from a cabin about seven miles west of here. I met the man for dinner in Lafayette Township after connecting with him through a dating website. I'm sure he slipped something into my drink."

Oddly, the busted clock on the dashboard remained fixed at eight o'clock. The same time she had met 'Mr. Blue Eyes' at the diner. Tine shivered at her last memory of him.

Concern reshaped Bobby's face as his green eyes turned dark.

"I hate to ask this, but did your captor hurt or violate you?" The quiver in his voice was that of a caring person.

"No, thankfully not," said Tine. "He spent his time driving all night to get us here. By the way, is this Arkansas?"

"Yes, ma'am."

This guy is from another realm. Unbelievably kind and courteous.

"I don't think he's interested in me. Just money. My dad is the governor of Louisana."

Tine waited for her last comment to sink in as she reached to crack the passenger side window. Bobby noticed red marks peeking out from her coat sleeve.

"What in the world is that? Did he tie you up?"

"No, he used handcuffs. I sprang them open with a bobbypin I had in my hair," she said, smiling.

The good samaritan pulled out a small first-aid box from the glove compartment. "There's some ointment in there that will help with the redness," he said, pointing. "My aunt is a nurse practitioner and she faithfully loads me up."

Tine opened the packet and applied it to her wrists, enjoying the cooling sensation. "Wow, I feel better already."

"I don't even wanna know how you learned to open handcuffs using a bobbypin!" They laughed to ease the tension, and both of them realized that they hadn't laughed in days.

"I better get you to the closest place for help, and that would be Thurston's. I service the owner with firewood."

"Of course you do!" said Tine. "We should be there any minute according to the sign I passed back on the dirt road. It said seven miles east."

"Oh, the two fell off that sign years ago," Bobby reported. "It's twenty-seven miles. We have approximately fifteen more to go."

The '82 Chevy motored down the country road at 40 mph with a full load of firewood for his daily delivery to Jerry Thurston's famous place. White rays of sun danced on the windshield, prompting Bobby to reach for his sunglasses.

Suddenly, a deer appeared in front of them. Bobby swerved and missed the buck, but it was too late. The old truck kept going and plunged over the rocky edge. Bobby reached over with his right hand to shield Tine as they screamed....

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

Owner Jerry Thurston was getting ready for the lunch crowd, most coming many miles for his brisket and tangy barbecue chicken. Forest rangers were his biggest fans, as his establishment was strategically located in the Ozark Plateau.

The day was fine and the chance to serve lunch outdoors next to the fire pit looked promising. It was supposed to climb into the low sixties today after the morning frost. His son, Tyler, was his master chef and prepared the guarded family recipes daily. Jerry preferred to run the store and old-fashioned cash register. He had a credit card machine, but most of the folks that frequented his establishment preferred to pay with cash. His area was too rustic for most city folks. Still, he was happy, healthy, and loved running the family's business with Tyler.

Jerry had just posted the lunch specials when the stranger walked in. After greeting him, he sized him up in no time: citified, college graduate, manicured hands that had never seen a hard day's labor. The gentleman's countenance spoke volumes, too. Both he and Tyler could sense something was off.

"Son, would you make way for today's firewood and put some more logs on the fire? The lunch crowd will be here soon." Jerry was concerned his wood supply was low. "Bobby must be running a little late today."

Jerry pointed to a post-it note he left on the counter. It read: When you go outside, get that guy's license plate number. Red Ford pickup.

The doorbell chimed again as the lunch patrons began to file in. Jerry grabbed some menus and headed for the dry goods section. He caught sight of the stranger as he went into the men's restroom. "Hum, I think I've read too many crime mysteries. All this guy needed was to use the restroom."

Jerry circled back to help Tyler with the lunch orders. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man exit the front door with a wave. He didn't leave right away though, he just sat in his truck with the window down. He appeared to be on his cell phone.

One of the Forest Park Rangers caught Jerry's attention with a flyer. "I have a missing person's alert for Clementine Adele Jones. Have you seen this young woman?"

"No, but I'll definitely keep an eye out. It's pretty quiet until lunch," said Jerry. " She's certainly a beauty and would be easy to spot."

"Thanks. I'll post the alert at the cash register for you, Jerry," offered the ranger.

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

The man posing as Ed Silver ended his frustrating phone conversation and headed back inside Thurston's Dry Goods. He needed to get his food and hurry back to the secluded cabin, and to Clementine.

He paid in cash as much as possible, having stolen the cash along with everything else from the real Mr. Silver, including his white Lexus SUV. He was already missing that luxury vehicle.

The kidnapper pulled out a tidy bankroll for his purchases as he stepped up to the cash register. "I thought you had left us," commented Jerry. "Let's see... that'll be $45.50."

The criminal caught sight of the flyer and he went pale. There she was, Clementine Jones. The authorities were already onto him.

He began to sweat profusely and could hardly function.

"Are you okay?" Jerry hurried to bag his order and make change.

"Diabetes. Just keep the change," he said, handing Jerry a hundred dollar bill.

The man known as Ed Silver hurried to his truck and took off towards the cabin, headed west. Hopefully, this kidnapping could be salvaged and the exchange made on time. Three million is a lot to lose.

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

Jackson, King, and I made our way over to Louie's Diner to begin our first case--the kidnapping of the governor's daughter that seemed more urgent by the minute. Clementine Jones was last seen at the famed diner with an older gentleman shortly before closing last night.

Detective Lembowsky took charge of the scene, and we were all assigned different areas.

King and I were positioned at the side exit to the alleyway, or what I call the 'smell zone.' Most people don't realize it, but a dog has 10,000 times the sense of smell than a human. People who are blind like me also experience an increased sense of smell. My faithful dog and I were guaranteed success from the start.

I sat with King to have a heart-to-heart talk before we began.

"King, we need to find this young lady. She needs our help. No touching anything with your paws. Alert me, and I'll call Detective Lembowsky." King let out two barks in compliance.

I had asked for clothing from Clementine Jones's closet for the search. Once King caught her scent, he went right to work. It didn't take long. King's sniffing ended with a whine, then he sounded off with two barks.

"Heel, King. Don't touch," I commanded. Detective Lembowsky reappeared and assessed the evidence as we backed away. The smell of cigarette smoke was still lingering throughout the alleyway from the night before.

"Way to go, King. It looks like we have a chain smoker here," said the detective as he shook open his evidence bag. "Let's gather these cigarette butts for a looksee."

King and I found several things Monday afternoon: a ladies' scarf, Hyundai car key, and LSU class ring, all possibly belonging to her. But most impressive, was the crumpled print out of Clementine's online date connection she'd made sure to leave behind.

"Bingo! Well, hello there, Gavin Lovett," said Detective Lembowsky.

To be continued....

Author Notes https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-embracing-her-lovely-daughter-3662928/@pexels.com.


Chapter 6
Double Blind ~ Chapter Six

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in chapter five~

Jackson, King, and I made our way over to Louie's Diner to begin our first case--the kidnapping of the governor's daughter that seemed more urgent by the minute. Clementine Jones was last seen at the famed diner with an older gentleman shortly before closing last night.

Detective Lembowsky took charge of the scene, and we were all assigned different areas.

King and I were positioned at the side exit to the alleyway, or what I call the 'smell zone.' Most people don't realize it, but a dog has 10,000 times the sense of smell than a human. People who are blind like me also experience an increased sense of smell. My faithful dog and I were guaranteed success from the start.

I sat with King to have a heart-to-heart talk before we began.

"King, we need to find this young lady. She needs our help. No touching anything with your paws. Alert me, and I'll call Detective Lembowsky." King let out two barks in compliance.

I had asked for clothing from Clementine Jones's closet for the search. Once King caught her scent, he went right to work. It didn't take long.
King's sniffing ended with a whine, then he sounded off with two barks.

"Heel, King. Don't touch," I commanded. Detective Lembowsky reappeared and assessed the evidence as we backed away. The smell of cigarette smoke was still lingering throughout the alleyway from the night before.

"Way to go, King. It looks like we have a chain smoker here," said the detective as he shook open his evidence bag. "Let's gather these cigarette butts for a looksee."

King and I found several things Monday afternoon: a ladies' scarf, Hyundai car key, and LSU class ring, all possibly belonging to her. But most impressive, was the crumpled print out of Clementine's online date connection she'd made sure to leave behind.

"Bingo! Well, hello there, Gavin Lovett," said Detective Lembowsky.

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

Chapter Six~

A thick cloud of gray dust hung in the air, pinpointing the area where the wood-hauling truck carrying Clementine Jones and Bobby DeWoody had lost control and plunged over the edge.

The enormous bald eagle Tine had sighted earlier, had seen the whole thing. He circled down from the cloudless blue sky to assess the damage. Perching on a stump, he made his presence known. The piercing sound of his cry warned the gathering vultures.

Tine was sprawled out on a grassy area, just below the road's edge, her white coat sprayed in red. Bobby had had the forethought to push her out the passenger door before the truck went further down the precipice towards the ravine.

Wiping blood from her eyes, she looked around for Bobby, as she feared the worst.

A familiar pain filled her heart, somewhat like the pain she felt only once in her life. She scrambled to her feet and noticed the eagle had stirred, too. He mounted on his wings and flew in the direction of the skid marks.

"Bobby!!" His name echoed, but brought back no response. Stepping over piles of strewn firewood, Tine made her way to the sloping edge, trembling, calling his name over and over. It was there she saw him. Bobby lay bloodied and still, one level below her. The eagle had already stationed himself next to him.

Exposed roots from an oak tree very near the cliff's edge offered the solution. First, she tied her coat around her waist to free her arms. Then taking a deep breath, she gathered her strength and began her descent. Her badly bruised right hand kept slipping, the pain threatening to overwhelm her.

With six feet to go, she dropped, landing in an area of overgrowth near Bobby.

The vultures were increasing in number, yet the eagle denied them any spoils. I wonder how long the eagle can hold them off?

Kneeling down, she tenderly covered him with her coat. He opened his eyes and attempted to speak, but only tears came.

"Shush, now. This wasn't your fault, Bobby," she said, pressing her fingers to his lips.

Tine couldn't help herself. She put her cheek to his and hugged him, blood and all.

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

The man using the stolen identity of Louisiana native, Edward Silver, sped down the pothole-ridden road, hastening back to the cabin and to his captive, Clementine Jones. He hadn't a moment to lose. Things were not going as smoothly as he had hoped.

His freshly washed pickup looked authentic to the surroundings, and covered with a layer of ghostly film. The truck's cab was clouded with smoke, too, as he was blowing through a carton of cigarettes one after the other.

How had the authorities pinpointed his location so quickly? Maybe it was just coincidence; but then again, only a fool would think that.

To his right were moss-covered rocks set within a dense forest. To the left, a steep cliff graduated down towards a ravine. Farther on, a field of winter wheat glistened in the sun.

Only a rustic railing kept travelers from the treacherous edge. The maximum speed of 35 mph added to his irritation.

He sighted vultures near the cliffs. Looks as though they are seeking some poor creature for their lunch.

Just below, a cluster of scavenger birds hovered near a wood-hauling truck that had flipped upside down and was lodged in the creek bed.

The kidnapper came upon firewood scattered about the road, and stopped.

"Ah... hell! I don't have time for this!" He shoved the gear in neutral, set the emergency brake, then turned on his flashers. Hurriedly, he placed Ed Silver's registered and loaded .45 in his coat pocket.

Moving quickly, he cleared the firewood with the hope of resuming his travel.

Just as he reached to open the driver's side door, he heard a woman's voice.

"No, it couldn't possibly be her...." He stopped to listen more intently.

Pulling the gun from his coat pocket, he slid it into his waistband as he headed towards the wreck.

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

The world of forensic science and human DNA has always fascinated me. It has the power to convince, convict, and exonerate.

I remembered a case, back many years ago, of a burglary in Virginia where the female homeowner was raped. They caught the man, and he was convicted and sent to prison. A few years later, he was set free by new DNA evidence that had surfaced, exonerating him.

The man guilty of the rape was finally snared through solid DNA evidence and ultimately imprisoned.

Keeping this in mind, King and I were as careful as we could be--he being a German Shepherd, and I, the blind consultant to Detective Mike Lembowsky.

I hoped we had collected every bit of available evidence in our first day of searching. A rainstorm was expected in Lafayette Township that evening, and everything Clementine Jones had thought to leave behind could be drenched. So far, King and I had found some helpful items with possible DNA matches to the person last seen dining with her.

My psychologist husband, Jackson, was put to good use interviewing witnesses inside the diner. Detective Lembowsky gave us all a great deal of latitude, as we were trained on-site.

The career detective wasted no time with the most critical pieces of evidence. He was on his cell phone and computer most of the afternoon putting a rush on everything. We already had a person of interest in the case and continued to dig deeper into a man who went by the name of Gavin Lovett. I had already perceived some disturbing things about him, logging it in my smartwatch for later.

I felt somehow drawn to this young lady and her family. In that moment, I stopped what I was doing and prayed quietly. Afterwards, I sensed this desperate situation may have selected me, and not the other way around.

King and I came inside for a break at Louie Ray's insistence. The steaming gumbo he served me was so delicious, I decided to request a family-size bowl for our dinner tonight at the governor's residence. I gave him the entire list of takeout and handed him my credit card.

"We've discussed this before. Your money's no good here," said Louie for the hundredth time.

"Okay! But you'll never retire at this rate, my friend."

I heard him smile as he handed my credit card back to me.

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

Dinner at the governor's home was set for seven o'clock. I wasn't sure about everyone else, but I was tired to the bone. Pure adrenaline was the only thing driving me forward.

There was nothing hoity-toity about the first family of Louisiana as they greeted us affectionately and put us at ease. As usual, King was the center of attention.

"Welcome, welcome," said Trisha Jones in her sweet accent. The governor was a dog lover and went straight for King, offering a hearty petting.

They wouldn't let us lift a finger as dinner appeared in minutes and we sat around the large kitchen table rather than in the formal dining room. I was glad. I'm more of a kitchen kind of girl. Decaffeinated coffee was brewing, as someone had already told of my addiction.

I got to know Chloe Jones a little bit when she engaged me in conversation.

"Mrs. Law, I think Daisy is in love with King."

"He's so lovable," I bragged. "I actually trained him. Before going blind, I trained dogs like King for the police force in Lafayette Township. Three of them are still serving as detection dogs. King is very special because he is not only my guide dog, he's protective, intuitive, and is an excellent judge of character. Not much gets by him."

"Anytime you need a dog sitter, you just call us, I mean--me," offered Chloe.

"I most certainly will. His kibble bill is outrageous, though. I'll send him with his economy-size bag of chow."

Surprisingly, we didn't speak of Clementine until I savored the last bits of my lemon poke cake. "This cake is just divine. Is this your own recipe?"

Trisha chimed in. "It's Preston's family recipe. We have the handwritten recipe card framed. It's special to us, and evokes such wonderful memories of our holiday gatherings."

Her voice allowed me glimpses into her soul. She was all about family, and held them close. I knew the painful conversation was coming though, just as the rain began to play upon the kitchen windows.

"Any leads or inkling at all to who may have done this to our precious girl?"

Jackson handed me a tissue as he scooted his chair next to me.

Detective Mike spoke reassuringly. "Yes, quite a bit, thanks to my new consultants and King. They were a wrecking crew this afternoon," he bragged. "We are onto a man that assumes multiple identities, and he is a master in his craft. Just to be sure, has Clementine ever mentioned the name of any man to you... anyone at all?"

The question obviously struck a difficult chord.

"We have exhausted the topic, Detective. She's never given us any reason to believe she would entertain a relationship or even agree to a 'meet and greet' without telling us. It's a safety rule we established years ago. She mentioned the dating site to Chloe in passing. But, this casual hook-up sounded like much more from what I've heard. Expensive perfume? Pink roses? Witnesses said they were holding hands!"

Detective Lembowsky reached for his rolling suitcase and pulled out a box of evidence already logged for forensics. He made the Jones's feel a part of the team as they examined the contents of the box. They identified almost everything: Hyundai car key and chain, tube of pink lip gloss, and LSU class ring set with Clementine's birthstone. Except for the floral scarf, everything appeared to belong to her.

I finally chimed in, directing my question to the detective. "What perfume was found at the diner? Wait. Let me guess. I bet it's expensive, and possibly her signature scent. Would it have been 'Flowerbomb?'

"Why, yes it was! The perfume was gift wrapped, and still sitting on the table with the roses when Louie opened this morning."

"Well, my nose never lies and neither does King's. The scarf is heavily scented with 'Flowerbomb' perfume. Perchance, does she have a bottle of this here or at school?"

"Both," the Jones family said in unison.

To be continued....

Author Notes https://pixabay.com/photos/eagle-bald-soaring-bird-raptor-3782518/@pixabay.com.


Chapter 7
Double Blind ~ Chapter Seven

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously in Chapter Six~

Dinner at the governor's home was set for seven o'clock. I wasn't sure about everyone else, but I was tired to the bone. Pure adrenaline was the only thing driving me forward.

There was nothing hoity-toity about the first family of Louisiana as they greeted us affectionately and put us at ease. As usual, King was the center of attention.

"Welcome, welcome," said Trisha Jones in her sweet accent. The governor was a dog lover and went straight for King, offering a hearty petting.

They wouldn't let us lift a finger as dinner appeared in minutes and we sat around the large kitchen table rather than in the formal dining room. I was glad. I'm more of a kitchen kind of girl. Decaffeinated coffee was brewing, as someone had already told of my addiction.

I got to know Chloe Jones a little bit when she engaged me in conversation.

"Mrs. Law, I think Daisy is in love with King."

"He's so lovable," I bragged. "I actually trained him. Before going blind, I trained dogs like King for the police force in Lafayette Township. Three of them are still serving as detection dogs. King is very special because he is not only my guide dog, he's protective, intuitive, and is an excellent judge of character. Not much gets by him."

"Anytime you need a dog sitter, you just call us, I mean--me," offered Chloe.

"I most certainly will. His kibble bill is outrageous, though. I'll send him with his economy-size bag of chow."

Surprisingly, we didn't speak of Clementine until I savored the last bits of my lemon poke cake. "This cake is just divine. Is this your own recipe?"

Trisha chimed in. "It's Preston's family recipe. We have the handwritten recipe card framed. It's special to us, and evokes such wonderful memories of our holiday gatherings."

Her voice allowed me glimpses into her soul. She was all about family, and held them close. I knew the painful conversation was coming though, just as the rain began to play upon the kitchen windows.

"Any leads or inkling at all to who may have done this to our precious girl?"

Jackson handed me a tissue as he scooted his chair next to me.

Detective Mike spoke reassuringly. "Yes, quite a bit, thanks to my new consultants and King. They were a wrecking crew this afternoon," he bragged. "We are onto a man that assumes multiple identities, and he is the master of his craft. Just to be sure, has Clementine ever mentioned the name of any man to you... anyone at all?"

The question obviously struck a difficult chord.

"We have exhausted the topic, Detective. She's never given us any reason to believe she would entertain a relationship or even agree to a 'meet and greet' without telling us. It's a safety rule we established years ago. She mentioned the dating site to Chloe in passing. But, this casual hook-up sounded like much more from what I've heard. Expensive perfume? Pink roses? Witnesses said they were holding hands!"

Detective Lembowsky reached for his rolling suitcase and pulled out a box of evidence already logged for forensics. He made the Jones's feel a part of the team as they examined the contents of the box. They identified almost everything: Hyundai car key and chain, tube of pink lip gloss, and LSU class ring set with Clementine's birthstone. Except for the floral scarf, everything appeared to belong to her.

I finally chimed in, directing my question to the detective. "What perfume was found at the diner? Wait. Let me guess. I bet it's expensive, and possibly her signature scent. Would it have been 'Flowerbomb?'

"Why, yes it was! The perfume was gift wrapped, and still sitting on the table with the roses when Louie opened this morning."

"Well, my nose never lies and neither does King's. The scarf is heavily scented with 'Flowerbomb' perfume. Perchance, does she have a bottle of this here or at school?"

"Both," the Jones family said in unison.

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

Chapter Seven~

A thunderous clap shook Ezra Ross's small cabin just before his midday meal.

"What the heck was that?" Instinctively, he thought it may have been a speeding truck driven by someone who didn't know these parts. But once he saw the smoldering wreckage, he hastened out the door with his satchel and walkie-talkie.

Just about everyone in these parts would recognize the DeWoodys' wood hauler, likely bound for Thurston's Dry Goods and Down-Home Barbeque.

The wheat farmer dreaded what his aged eyes might see--the youngest DeWoody, just shy of twenty, dead in the wreckage.

Bracing himself, he knelt with trembling limbs, wiping salty tears on the back of his hand.

"Bobby D! You in there, son?"

He saw no signs of Bobby, only bottled water strewn about, and the sweet smell of perfume lingering in the truck's cab.

Reaching for his binoculars, he scoured the hills. Finally, he sighted him about 30 feet below the broken railing on a grassy ridge, huddled next to a young woman. Another person appeared to be coming down from the road to help.

Ezra radioed the nearest ranger, stationed at the edge of the plateau, for emergency help.

"Ozark Eyes, this is Ezra Ross. Do you read?"

"Afternoon, Ezra. This is Park Ranger, Jose Ramos. What's your 20?"

"Post Ridge Road, about fifteen miles west of Thurston's. Looks like a bad accident, Jose. The DeWoodys' truck went over the road's edge, just at the turn into my wheat field. I see two of them, and one is definitely the red-haired DeWoody. He has a young girl with him. Both of them are sitting up, which is a good sign. Another traveler has stopped to give aid. A red pickup with emergency flashers parked at the road's edge about a hundred yards from where the truck went through the railing. Copy?"

"10-4. Help and medical services are on the way, Ezra."

"Jose, it appears the person from the road is coming down to try and reach them. I should probably tell him to hold off. What say you?"

"I agree, Ezra. That would be the safest thing to do. We don't need any more injuries," said the ranger. "ETA about fifteen minutes."

"Copy that."

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

It didn't take long for the mountain-bred wheat farmer to reach Post Ridge Road. His four-wheeler was equipped with everything he needed for emergencies, including a shotgun.

He noticed the familiar bald eagle, perched nearby the couple. But what he saw and heard next rattled him to the core.

The man from the road had made it partway down the cliff to the first tier. He pulled a handgun and shot at the eagle first, sending him aflight. Then pointing his weapon at the couple, he motioned for the girl to climb upward.

Her mournful cry echoed as Bobby lay helpless. "Don't shoot him, please...."

Ezra fired his shotgun in the air and yelled. "If you fire at those young-uns or wildlife again, you'll be wearing buckshot!"

The man turned and took aim at Ezra Ross.

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

Some of my best thinking happens within my tub of holy scrub. After a very long day, I certainly needed it. My anxious thoughts began to subside as soon as I sank in.

Dinner at the governor's residence had been both helpful and endearing. I felt privileged to be part of the solution to a very difficult situation. Still, there was much to be done and just one more full day until the governor would meet the kidnapper and secure Clementine's safe return.

While busy solving her case, my accountant released two million dollars from my inherited diamond's sale and had it transferred to the governor's bank account. The grateful family thanked me one more time as we left their home, relieved the three million dollar ransom for Clementine would be met in time for the exchange by noon on Wednesday.

Thankfully, that was one of the easiest decisions I had ever made.

The long soak was making me sleepy, so I pulled on the chain to release the plug. As soon as the last of the lavender-scented water was let out, a thought came to me.

I reached for my smartwatch and pressed record.

The kidnapper knew personal things about Clementine Jones--her favorite color, flower, and food, none of which had been disclosed on line. Most enlightening, was the gift wrapped perfume bearing the name of the boutique-style fragrance shop she frequented.

In the world of crime-solving, I knew this was way too many coincidences. No man is that good, not even Jackson.

No, this man knew the governor and his family. Possibly an old friend or former staff member. I was certain of it. I wrapped myself in my bathrobe and aroused King.

"King, go to Uncle Mike's door, and see if he's still awake."

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

A single light shone from the office of Lafayette Township's Chief Medical Examiner. At ten o'clock, she was still fraternizing with the dead.

Dr. Marie MacLavish's time for departure had come and gone. A nagging question and one cup of coffee too many was keeping her tethered to the crime lab.

She suspected foul play in the death of the older gentleman who appeared to have been in good health, with no discernible toxins or drugs in his body. Pulled from the Atchafalaya River a week ago, no one had stepped forward to claim him.

She called the number she trusted the most on speed dial. Although it was late, she suspected he was still up watching 'Band of Brothers' for the umpteenth time.

"Doctor M! As per our last conversation, your caffeine consumption needs to be addressed," said Detective Lembowsky, in jest.

"Speaking of addictions, I can hear yours in the background. Alan and I bought that for you, if I recall. Christmas, 2018?"

"I hear it in your voice, Sweetums. What is it at this ungodly hour?"

"I have a John Doe here that's nagging me. I just completed his autopsy and he's ready for the mortician. My examination revealed he died of blunt force trauma, was weighted, and thrown into the river. His hands reminded me of my pappy's, an avid fisherman with hook scars and tears on each finger. There was no identification found, and no missing person's report has come across my desk."

"Let me get back to you. I've had a taxing day. King's at my bedroom door and I'm being summoned. I promise to call you in the morning. It may be nothing or it may be something. But, just so you know, I do have someone in mind. I'm investigating Clementine Jones's kidnapping; and a person of interest in the case assumes multiple identities, specifically those of middle-aged men."

"Okay, Mike. You know where to find me. Try to get some sleep."

To be continued....

Author Notes https://pixabay.com/photos/neck-point-man-old-person-male-2666457/@pixabay.com.

Young-uns is country speak for a young person.


Chapter 8
Double Blind ~ Chapter Eight

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Seven~

A single light shone from the office of Lafayette Township's Chief Medical Examiner. At ten o'clock, she was still fraternizing with the dead.

Dr. Marie MacLavish's time for departure had come and gone.

A nagging question and one cup of coffee too many was keeping her tethered to the crime lab.

She suspected foul play in the death of the middle-aged gentleman who appeared to have been in good health, with no discernible toxins or drugs in his body. Pulled from the Atchafalaya River a week ago, no one had stepped forward to claim him.

She called the number she trusted the most on speed dial. Although it was late, she suspected he was still up watching 'Band of Brothers' for the umpteenth time.

"Doctor M! As per our last conversation, your caffeine consumption needs to be addressed," said Detective Lembowsky, in jest.

"Speaking of addictions, I can hear yours in the background. Alan and I bought that for you, if I recall. Christmas, 2018?"

"I hear it in your voice, Sweetums. What is it at this ungodly hour?"

"I have a John Doe here that's nagging me. I just completed his autopsy and he's ready for the mortician. My examination revealed he died of blunt force trauma, was weighted, and thrown into the river. His hands reminded me of my pappy's, an avid fisherman with hook scars and tearing on each finger. There was no identification found, and no missing person's report has come across my desk."

"Let me get back to you. I've had a taxing day. King's at my bedroom door and I'm being summoned. I promise to call you in the morning. It may be nothing or it may be something. But, just so you know, I do have someone in mind. I'm investigating Clementine Jones's kidnapping; and a person of interest in the case assumes multiple identities, specifically those of middle-aged men."

"Okay, Mike. You know where to find me. Try to get some sleep."

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

Chapter Eight~

There was nothing to shield Clementine Jones from the madman above her or the sharp rocks below.

She recognized him as the same man who had date drugged her Sunday evening in Lafayette Township. Raising her hands, she called out, "Gavin, or whoever you are, please don't do this. This is between us. Don't hurt these people. Can you understand good people?"

"You're such a fool, Clementine. Get up here now, or I'll shoot the red-headed boy, too."

Tine comforted Bobby one last time before she gave herself up. "Help will come soon," she whispered. "There's DNA evidence buried underneath the road sign I was telling you about, the one pointing to Thurston's. Let the authorities know when you see them." She tucked her down coat around him, then kissed him goodbye.

Bobby's bitter sobs rang in her ears as she struggled up the steep hill.

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

Ozark Forest Ranger, Jose Ramos, slowed his approach to the area of the wreckage on Post Ridge Road. A chill went down his spine when he recognized the daughter of the Louisiana governor being held at gun point.

Farther on, he saw the still form of Ezra Ross, lying in the dirt.

He held back to radio for additional backup.

"Mayday One, this is Ozark Eyes in route to Ezra Ross and the reported wreck. Do you read?"

"This is Mayday One, Jose. Have you reached the scene?"

"Almost. An armed man is taking a female hostage to a red Ford pickup. Arkansas plates, Alpha, Delta, Zulu, 6279. The hostage fits the description of Clementine Adele Jones. Ezra Ross appears to have been shot. Copy."

"Copy that. Mockingbird in route. ETA ten minutes."

"Mayday One, Ozark Eyes is on the move...."

Just then, more shots rang out.

"Ozark Eyes, what's your 20?"

Static.

"Ozark Eyes... Jose, do you read me...?"

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

The great eagle circled Clementine Jones, mounting speed as he flew. The kidnapper had her by the neck, pushing her forward to the truck. Her pleadings were so loud, no one heard the eagle's approach.

The grip around her neck was loosened with a thud, but she wouldn't allow herself to look or hesitate. All she saw were the trees. She bolted towards the dense forest without looking back.

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

The sun fell behind the left side of the valley, exposing the young man trapped on a grassy shelf of the northern cliffs.

Bobby DeWoody was unable to stand, sure his left leg was broken. Frustration, pain, and fears were mingled with feelings of sheer delight.

He had only interacted with the beautiful Clementine for a short while, but he thought her extraordinary. When she kissed him, his thoughts ran wild. I can't imagine a life or future without her.

Images so real and good swirled around him, like angels he could feel, but not see. He pulled Tine's coat to his face to inhale her sweet perfume. He thought, maybe this is it! I'll die right here and never see her again!

A rustling sound startled him; but then he realized it was the eagle returning, situating himself with a fuss. Bobby noticed fresh blood on the bird's talons.

Soon after, a helicopter's chopping blades were heard whirring overhead. Bobby waved wildly as it hovered near him, kicking up dust and debris. A voice came booming through the copter's speaker. "This is Mockingbird. Remain still, Bobby. Help is coming down from the road to secure you and Ezra Ross for medical transport."

In all the turmoil, the eagle remained at his side, unmoved.

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

Tine collapsed near some heavy scrub mingled within a group of tall pines. Nightfall would be here soon, and new foes would make themselves known. In all the madness, she swore she had seen a call box near the road's edge, right where Gavin had parked his truck. After resting, she planned to circle about and see if he had left.

Despite the chill, she was glad Bobby had accepted her coat. How does that song by Irving Berlin go...? I have your love to keep me warm?

She gathered leaves while she still had the strength and piled them high. This will be my blanket tonight, although I mustn't sleep.

A helicopter loomed near, but Clementine Jones was spent. She tried to summon the strength to run towards it, but her verbal commands went unanswered. An old hymn, a favorite from her father's childhood, came to mind as she succumbed.The night is dark, and I am far from home, lead Thou me on....

As night sounds quieted her anxious thoughts, filtered light gave way to shadows.

To be continued....

Author Notes


Photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/low-angle-photography-of-trees-3971769/@pexels.com.


Chapter 9
Double Blind~Chapter Nine

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Eight~

Tine collapsed near some heavy scrub mingled within a group of tall pines. Nightfall would be here soon, and new foes would make themselves known. In all the madness, she swore she had seen a call box near the road's edge, right where Gavin had parked his truck. After resting, she planned to circle about and see if he had left.

Despite the chill, she was glad Bobby had accepted her coat. How does that song by Irving Berlin go...? I have your love to keep me warm?

She gathered leaves while she still had the strength and piled them high. This will be my blanket tonight, although I mustn't sleep.

A helicopter loomed near, but Clementine Jones was spent. She tried to summon the strength to run towards it, but her verbal commands went unanswered. An old hymn, a favorite from her father's childhood, came to mind as she succumbed.The night is dark, and I am far from home, lead Thou me on....

As night sounds quieted her anxious thoughts, filtered light gave way to shadows.

Chapter Nine~

The kidnapper was a smart one, but even the best laid plans have unexpected surprises. Still, he continued on to recover his mess. He fumed, if Clementine Jones wasn't worth so much, I'd kill her. It's a good thing I'm able to think quickly on my feet.

Dabbing away the blood, he drove his red Ford pickup down the gravel road to Ezra Ross's farm and parked inside the equipment barn adjacent to the cabin.

Covering the truck with a tarp, he made his way into the mud room and took off all his clothes, placing them in the wash. He could hear a copter in the distance as he loaded the detergent and pressed start. Clothes from the old farmer's closet and some rubber over-boots changed his appearance, once again. An overcoat and a cowboy hat helped conceal the gaping head and neck wounds inflicted by the eagle.

The medicine chest was stocked with the basics: alcohol, peroxide, gauze, and cotton balls--perfect for blood removal. Hurriedly, he tore open the door without thinking of his fingerprints; cleaned off the remaining blood, then flushed it down the composting toilet.

Sounds from the road were getting louder as the copter was now heard overhead. He decided to lay low for awhile and headed down to the root cellar where he took comfort in some muscadine wine.

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

Tuesday morning found Governor Preston Jones and his family quietly waiting for the expected call from Clementine's kidnapper. Chloe was still in her pajamas, petting Daisy affectionately as she scrolled through her cell phone. Trisha was reading; however, the pages seldom turned.

The governor decided to be proactive after receiving an early morning email from Detective Mike Lembowsky regarding his past associations during his governorship, specifically anyone who might have aught against him.

It seems the kidnapper had quite the grasp on Clementine--her habits, likes, dislikes, and purchases. The father had gone over his daughter's schedule, too, looking for anything concerning in her daily routine. How in the world could a straight-A student be a cause for concern? Still, he had to examine every piece of her life that came to mind. She was his girl, and always would be.

His thoughts were interrupted by FBI agent, Fred Samuels.

"Governor, we have news regarding a sworn statement given to the authorities in the Arkansas Plateau. A young man named Bobby DeWoody, claims to have seen and interacted with your daughter. He would like to speak with you personally as soon as possible. He's having surgery to repair a broken tibia this morning, and should be out within the hour."

The girls flew off the couch in an uproar. "What? Bobby who? Where exactly did he see her? She's alive?"

The day was just getting started, and it was going to be one long remembered.

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

I was fully convinced that Detective Mike Lembowsky never slept. I had decided he needed a wife. Since that probably wasn't going to happen anytime soon, I thought a dog was just the ticket. He adored King, and of course, the feeling was mutual. I had a black German Shepherd in mind for him that I had trained years ago. One more thing was added to my smart watch for today.

We decided to have our morning briefing at the precinct, as day two of my new career as a police consultant began. But what Detective Lembowsky relayed was beyond my comprehension. It sounded like Armageddon in Arkansas.

"Clementine Jones has been sighted in the Ozark Plateau by three people," relayed the detective. "A woodsman named Bobby DeWoody claimed he picked her up on a road after she escaped from her captor."

"That's great news!" As soon as I said that, I realized there was much more.

"He was carrying a full load of firewood to a local establishment when his truck plunged over the road's edge into a wheat field below. Clementine and Bobby survived the wreck, and wound up on a protruding cliff. But, here's where it gets weird. We think she was recaptured by her kidnapper. Park Ranger, Jose Ramos, sighted a man forcing Miss Jones to his truck and took a bullet in the torso trying to stop him. The wheat field's owner intervened at some point, and was shot as well."

I buried my head in my hands trying to take it all in. "Will those brave men survive?"

"Both men had surgery, and are stable for now," reported the detective. "Ezra Ross is a concern because of his old age."

"So, where's Bobby DeWoody?"

"He was airlifted along with the other two men and is awaiting surgery this morning. His blood pressure is sky high from the traumatic experience. He had grown quite fond of Clementine in their short time together, I hear. He's asked to speak with the governor this morning."

"Oh, that poor girl," I cried. "Her family must be sick with worry. What can we do today to hurry this investigation along?"

"Everything we have in our arsenal. Our forensic team and Dr. MacLavish are on it. I expect a full report by mid-morning. There's more, and you're gonna love this twist. Tine Jones had the forethought to collect DNA from her kidnapper! She told Bobby exactly where she had buried some of his cigarette butts!"

I almost choked on my cold coffee with this added revelation.

King and I had thoroughly gone over the area where Tine Jones was last seen, the alleyway exit from Louie Louie's diner. I'd handed over at least twenty cigarette butts to forensics.

"So... we have a good lead, and the possibility of a match to the DNA in Arkansas is high," I said.

"Precisely," said the detective. "You may breathe now, Sal. Don't worry... this girl is a prizefighter."

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

As the shadows of the night gave way to first light, Tine sensed the presence of someone. She sat up straight and looked around, unearthing herself from the mound of leaves. Oh, it's just some squirrels gathering breakfast. Ah... breakfast. That sounds so delightful.

The squirrels drew her attention to a small stream; and she moved towards it, lying flat. She gulped the cold water down, then washed her face and hands.

The forest felt like a sanctuary that had taken her inside its loving arms. Why had such strange circumstances brought her to this place? Maybe there's good for me here that I wouldn't have known otherwise, she mused.

Puffs of breath expelled in front of her, and she knew it was time to head out. Pulling her turtleneck up, she began her trek to the emergency call box she'd seen near the road. There was just enough filtered sunshine to paint a pathway.

But a crooked tree stood in the path near the road and suddenly it turned into the man she feared. Once again, she tried to run, crying out to God, her parents, and to Bobby.

To be continued....

Author Notes Photo art: https://pixabay.com/photos/weeping-grief-woman-face-sad-girl-3332113/@pixabay.com.


Chapter 10
Double Blind~Chapter Ten

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Nine~

As the shadows of the night gave way to first light, Tine sensed the presence of someone. She sat up straight and looked around, unearthing herself from the mound of leaves. Oh, it's just some squirrels gathering breakfast. Ah... breakfast. That sounds so delightful.

The squirrels drew her attention to a small stream; and she moved towards it, lying flat. She gulped the cold water down, then washed her face and hands.

The forest felt like a sanctuary that had taken her inside its loving arms. Why had such strange circumstances brought her to this place? Maybe there's good for me here that I wouldn't have known otherwise, she mused.

Puffs of breath expelled in front of her, and she knew it was time to head out. Pulling her turtleneck up, she began her trek to the emergency call box she'd seen near the road. There was just enough filtered sunshine to paint a pathway.

But a crooked tree stood in the path near the road and suddenly it turned into the man she feared. Once again, she tried to run, crying out to God, her parents, and to Bobby.

Chapter Ten~

A luminous morning sky found its way to Clementine Jones as she lay, resting. What else could she do now that she was handcuffed by her kidnapper once again? Although she wasn't certain, she thought her captor was holding her in the small cabin near the wreck site.

Pulling the lace curtains, she surveilled her surroundings.

Tine sighted her eagle friend soaring about in his regular pattern, finally settling on the bright green harvester near the field of winter wheat. No doubt, this is home of the old farmer who tried to help Bobby and me.

Clanking truck sounds echoed downward from Post Ridge Road, most likely coming from the precarious area where she and Bobby DeWoody had gone over the cliff.

Maybe I'm just imagining it, but it seems that the dirt road is more traveled today than yesterday.

She counted to make sure.

Yep. The vehicles are coming at regular intervals. Possibly the authorities are in the area searching for me!

The voice of her captor along with the noxious smell of cigarettes permeated the room. Obviously, plotting his next move.

Tine caught bits of the conversation and tried not to scream when she realized it was her dad on the other end. Suddenly, something inside of her snapped.

The antique claw-foot bathtub was the culprit--that, along with her desperate situation. She made up her mind to insist upon using the bathroom, and enjoy a good scrub in the glistening tub, uncuffed.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the bedroom mirror, she gasped. "Oh my, Girlfriend, you've seen better days!" She looked away and thought of Bobby-- his kiss, southern accent, and manly good looks... oh, and his red hair and green eyes!

Lost in her recollections, the dream she had in the truck of Bobby holding a little girl returned to her. Only this time, she was in the dream, and kissing them both. It clung to her for a few minutes, reviving hope.

A creaking door signaled the return of her kidnapper, bearing a steaming bowl of water and stack of clothes.

"We will be leaving soon," he said, balancing the bowl on the nightstand. "Clean yourself up and change into one of these outfits. Apparently, the cabin's owner has a granddaughter about your size."

"Oh, no you don't. I need a full bath, and food!"

"This is as good as it gets for now."

"You'll need to uncuff me, Genius."

"Why you little...." His hand reared back to slap her, but he caught himself, midair.

"Don't blow your paycheck over my bath. I realize this is for my three million dollar photo shoot. Uncuff me now, and leave me be!"

As the stare down continued, it was then she recognized him. Of course! Why hadn't I seen it before?

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

Hour after hour, Governor Preston Jones paced the floor, jumping every time a federal agent flinched. His wife, Trisha, finally spoke.

"Sweetheart, please! You didn't eat supper last night, and hardly slept a wink. You'll be exhausted at the very moment our girl needs you the most."

The governor opened his arms and called her near. "What would I do without you? You're absolutely right. I'll have some eggs with you and Chloe--if she's up and about."

As soon as the governor returned from the kitchen, three calls lit up the phones: Detective Mike Lembowsky was on line one, Bobby DeWoody on two, and the kidnapper on three.

The governor held up three fingers to the agent attending the phone as he sat.

The mechanical voice of the kidnapper couldn't hide his smug, condescending tone. He knew he had the upper hand with the governor's daughter in his possession once again.

"Greetings, Governor. I'm going to need an extra day, due to some unforeseen circumstances. Thursday at noon in the Arkansas Plateau. I'll send you directions shortly before the drop , and a live greeting from Clementine. Do you have the same cell phone number?"

"Yes, although I can't even fathom how you have my private cell phone number... or my daughter for that matter."

"Is it 225-555-1212?"

"Yes."

"Splendid. I'll be in touch." Click.

The governor took the detective's call immediately afterwards.

"Good morning, Mike. I just spoke with the kidnapper. He wants an extra day. It's now arranged for noon on Thursday in the Arkansas Plateau. No specific place just yet, but it will be forthcoming on Thursday via my cell phone."

"The devil has your cell number?"

"Yes. I'm sure whoever leaked it to him was paid handsomely," commented the governor. "Maybe it's what your blind girl saw with her perceptive powers. This may well be someone from my past."

"That's why I hired her, along with Jackson and King. I've never seen anything like it. Sally sees things others miss. I hate to admit it, but things I tend to miss. By the way, she has one more question for you and Mrs. Jones."

"Fire away."

"Does Trisha have anyone in her past that raises a red flag?"

The phone went quiet.

"Let me get back to you on that one, Mike. Bobby DeWoody has been holding on the other line for awhile. I'll call you shortly--I promise."

"Good. Because it appears we're going to Arkansas tomorrow."

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

Bobby stared out the hospital window thinking about the beautiful girl that came into his life just yesterday, as a steady stream of tears spilled down his face. Everything ached--his heart, leg, and frustrated mind.

His Aunt Lula, and father, Russ, saw that Bobby was visibly shaken as he recounted his story of yesterday's events to the authorities. It was also clear to anyone with eyes and ears that he had fallen hopelessly in love with Clementine Jones.

Bobby had tried to call the governor before his leg surgery, but his doting nurse/aunt, insisted on getting his blood pressure under control. Unfortunately, it appeared to be climbing again.

"Not everyone has the pleasure of having their aunt as their personal nurse," reminded Bobby's dad.

"I know. Thank you, Aunt Lula." Bobby cradled her hands in his. "I'm blessed to have you both here with me."

Curbing his angst, Bobby placed a call to Tine's father, hopeful the governor would lend him just a moment. What he had to say had been rehearsed over and over. He also just wanted to know if Tine was alive. No one around him knew the answer to that all-important question.

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

Back in Louisiana, the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Marie MacLavish, was settling in for a long day as another John Doe was waiting on the examination table. Her trusted assistant, Dr. Travis Cain, was ready to go, and had performed a preliminary assessment.

"Good morning, Travis. How's my favorite intern today?"

"I'm your only intern, Dr. M. I'm much better than this poor soul. I have examined him and logged my findings. Come and see for yourself."

Handling him with care, she went over the body meticulously as Travis adjusted the lamp.

Strikingly, he was much like the unidentified fisherman pulled from the Atchafalaya River over a week ago--same age, hair color, weight, and height, and stripped of identification with his fingerprints marred in similar fashion. "All ten fingers missing their prints is never a coincidence," said the seasoned examiner.

"I came to the same conclusion," said Travis, leaning back in his rolling chair.

"Thank you, dear. Let's get him properly cooled, and ready for the autopsy tomorrow," she said, peering over her bifocals.

Her most recent conversation with Detective Lembowsky prompted her to call him again; however, she went straight to his voicemail.

"Good morning, Mike. Meet me at my place and bring coffee, please. I have several things to go over with you. I have just received the DNA results from your search at Louie Louie's diner. The DNA matches a parolee by the name of Guy Blanchette. What a rap sheet! Bribery, fraud, credit card fraud, and identity theft-- just to name a few. It says here, he graduated from LSU in 1997. I do believe that's the same year Trisha Clayton-Jones graduated. I also have someone you need to see. Travis and I agree, he's almost identical to the John Doe pulled from the Atchafalaya River last week. The last time I saw two somethings like this, it was at the hand of a serial killer. I'll be in my office all day."

To be continued....

Author Notes https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-happy-couple-with-their-baby-girl-3671114/@pexels.com.


Chapter 11
Double Blind~Chapter Eleven

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Ten~

Back in Louisiana, the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Marie MacLavish, was settling in for a long day as another John Doe was waiting on the examination table.

Her trusted assistant, Dr. Travis Cain, was ready to go, and had performed a preliminary assessment.

"Good morning, Travis. How's my favorite intern today?"

"I'm your only intern, Dr. M. I'm much better than this poor soul. I have examined him and logged my findings. Come and see for yourself."

Handling him with care, she went over the body meticulously as Travis adjusted the lamp.

Strikingly, he was much like the unidentified fisherman pulled from the Atchafalaya River over a week ago--same age, hair color, weight, and height, and stripped of identification with his fingerprints marred in similar fashion. "All ten fingers missing their prints is never a coincidence," said the seasoned examiner.

"I came to the same conclusion," said Travis, leaning back in his rolling chair.

"Thank you, dear. Let's get him properly cooled, and ready for the autopsy tomorrow," she said, peering over her bifocals.

Her most recent conversation with Detective Lembowsky prompted her to call him again; however, she went straight to his voice mail.

"Good morning, Mike. Meet me at my place and bring coffee, please. I have several things to go over with you. I have just received the DNA results from your search at Louie Louie's diner. The DNA matches a parolee by the name of Guy Blanchette. What a rap sheet! Bribery, fraud, credit card fraud, and identity theft-- just to name a few. It says here, he graduated from LSU in 1997. I do believe that's the same year Trisha Clayton-Jones graduated. I also have someone you need to see. Travis and I agree, he's almost identical to the John Doe pulled from the Atchafalaya River last week. The last time I saw two somethings like this, it was at the hand of a serial killer. I'll be in my office all day."

Chapter Eleven~

The air was wild and cold in the Arkansas Plateau, signaling a dramatic change. A front was approaching and was expected to present itself fully by nightfall.

Two travelers made their way up the steep incline of Post Ridge Road, stirring up the settled tracks of pinkish-gray dust.

The pair looked authentic to their surroundings; a father and his daughter perhaps? It was hard to say. Whatever the relationship, it was an unhappy one.

The girl was warmly dressed in overalls, wool sweater, fleece-lined hoodie, and gloves. To the naked eye, she fooled everyone. Well... except for the valley's eagle. The great bird was already on the move, circling overhead.

The man was older and dressed much the same, in a farmer's well-worn barn jacket. However, his expensive sunglasses didn't seem to go with his look.

Clementine Jones kept her future vision of Bobby DeWoody before her to prevent the present madness from closing in.

The hands of her kidnapper pinched the back of her neck like the nipping air. "Not much longer now. Someone will stop and offer us a ride into town. Need I remind you of the consequences of screwing this up, Miss Jones?"

"No... I understand," she said in compliance.

"Good. I've had enough delays. Hopefully the governor operates in your family's best interest."

At those words, Tine stumbled.

"Get up," he said, pulling her quickly back on her feet. "Here comes a potential ride!"

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

Russ DeWoody scribbled a list of personal items for his son, Bobby, and tucked it in his pocket before heading home from the hospital to Blue Creek.

Something had happened to Bobby other than the accident, and he was sure his son had found love in the midst of some very strange circumstances. I think now is a good time to let him speak privately with the governor about his daughter. He decided he would take this time and hopefully find Bobby in better spirits when he returned with his favorite meal: smoked brisket from Thurston's. He touched Bobby's hand as he left. "I will be back with some decent food."

The sky he had seen earlier was long gone as a gray day took hold. Still, it was a beautiful drive down the familiar path of Post Ridge Road.

Looking down for just a moment, he adjusted the truck's AM radio for an updated weather forecast. When he looked up, there they were; two hikers paused in the middle of the road. The man waved him down, obviously needing assistance. He pulled aside and stopped on the narrow easement.

"Russ DeWoody here. You two must be frozen half to death! May I give you a lift?"

The teenage girl offered a half smile as the man spoke. "Thank you, kindly. My name's Ed Silver, and this here's my daughter. I need to purchase a vehicle as mine just up and died. Is there a used car dealership around here somewhere?"

"There sure is. It's not too far from my Christmas Tree Farm. Hop in."

"You are very kind," said the man as he slid onto the back seat, careful to keep his hand near his concealed weapon.

The girl spoke. "Would you mind if I sat up front, Mr. DeWoody? Carsickness... what can I say."

"You betcha. Here you go, little lady," he said as he released the door handle.

Just then, the eagle landed in front of the truck.

"Well... would you look at that! The sacred bird of the valley seems to be looking right at us," observed Russ.

The peaceful moment was disturbed by Mr. Silver's irritation. "I will take care of this! Be back in a minute."

As soon as the rear door closed, Tine spoke in a whisper. "Mr. DeWoody, I'm Clementine Jones. That man is my kidnapper and has me captive once again. Please play along with this charade for your sake and mine. He tends to turn violent when things don't go his way. I've already seen enough." She quickly unlatched her mother's locket from her neck. "Give this to Bobby and tell him I love him."

Russ DeWoody was overwhelmed by what he had just heard, and did nothing more than squeeze her hand in his. He pulled away and hid the locket within his coin drop.

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

The morning seemed to fly by for Dr. Marie MacLavish as she updated her forensic files. Today's assignment was to identify two cadavers and their possible link to the kidnapping of Clementine Jones.

The time came and went for the expected visit from Detective Mike Lembowsky. However, all was forgiven when he arrived bearing a hot espresso with extra foam.

"What kept you?" she said, with hands extended.

"Sorry. This should ease your pain," he said, setting the cup of steaming coffee within her reach.

"So... two bodies washed up in the Atchafalaya River?"

A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. "Excuse me, Doctor. Fed Ex just delivered this package. I think it may be the lab results from John Doe #1."

"Ah, thank you, Travis. Please join us," she said, offering a chair.

"I was hoping you'd ask," confessed the intern.

"Yes, detective. We now have two bodies. Both are definitely homicides. Let's see what we have in this envelope.... Oh, wow!"

"Marie, would you please cut to the chase. I need to leave for Arkansas tonight," said the detective. "I haven't packed a thing."

"Okay. Really all this report contains is the dental record match for the first John Doe. Does the name Edward Silver ring a bell?

"Ed Silver? I met a man in Lafayette Township that went by that name. He said he was just passing through town. The guy smoked like a house afire! My gaud, Marie--that's him!! Or should I say, the man pretending to be Ed Silver. It was Sunday night, and I was walking King near Louie's Diner for crying out loud."

"Mike, today is the day the whole picture will come together. I can feel it."

"You're right. It's just odd that no one reported these men missing."

"Most likely, they kept to themselves...."

"That's what Sally said. She's been assigned to check out all mutual associations. I'm afraid I've worked her to death with this case."

"Nah. Sal's a tough cookie," said the doctor. "One thing I've noticed is her balancing effect on you. You'll save yourself a lot of time if you listen to her more intently."

"Yep. She already has the crime board up with a countdown clock attached. My team found several photos of suspected kidnapper, Guy Blanchette, from the LSU yearbook and the Louisiana Department of Corrections. He has disappeared since his parole violation of 2017. We suspect it's because he has assumed other identities."

"I must say, there is a striking resemblance between these men and Guy Blanchette. I looked for Mr. Blanchette on the LSU student database," admitted Dr. MacLavish. "By the way, did you link him to Trisha Jones?"

"Sally and King are at the governor's residence right now. It's in those relational things where she excels."

"Well, my friend, I will do everything in my power to identify the second body as well as email you the minute I have the report ready. Travis and I will continue with the autopsies this afternoon as you move ahead with the case."

"Thank you, Marie. Travis... always a pleasure." The detective made his way outside and turned his collar to the approaching chill.

To be continued....

Author Notes


Photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/unpaved-pathway-3116409/@pexels.com.


Chapter 12
Double Blind~Chapter Twelve

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously in Chapter Eleven~

The morning seemed to fly by for Dr. Marie MacLavish as she updated her forensic files. Today's assignment was to identify two cadavers and their possible link to the kidnapping of Clementine Jones.

The time came and went for the expected visit from Detective Mike Lembowsky. However, all was forgiven when he arrived bearing a hot espresso with extra foam.

"What kept you?" she said, with hands extended.

"Sorry. This should ease your pain," he said, setting the cup of steaming coffee within her reach.

"So... two bodies washed up in the Atchafalaya River?"

A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. "Excuse me, Doctor. Fed Ex just delivered this package. I think it may be the lab results from John Doe #1."

"Ah, thank you, Travis. Please join us," she said, offering a chair.

"I was hoping you'd ask," confessed the intern.

"Yes, detective. We now have two bodies. Both are definitely homicides. Let's see what we have in this envelope.... Oh, wow!"

"Marie, would you please cut to the chase. I need to leave for Arkansas tonight," said the detective. "I haven't packed a thing."

"Okay. Really all this report contains is the dental record match for the first John Doe. Does the name Edward Silver ring a bell?

"Ed Silver? I met a man in Lafayette Township that went by that name. He said he was just passing through town. The guy smoked like a house afire! My gaud, Marie--that's him!! Or should I say, the man pretending to be Ed Silver. It was Sunday night, and I was walking King near Louie's Diner for crying out loud."

"Mike, today is the day the whole picture will come together. I can feel it."

"You're right. It's just odd that no one reported these men missing."

"Most likely, they kept to themselves...."

"That's what Sally said. She's been assigned to check out all mutual associations. I'm afraid I've worked her to death with this case."

"Nah. Sal's a tough cookie," said the doctor. "One thing I've noticed is her balancing effect on you. You'll save yourself a lot of time if you listen to her more intently."

"Yep. She already has the crime board up with a countdown clock attached. My team found several photos of suspected kidnapper, Guy Blanchette, from the LSU yearbook and the Louisiana Department of Corrections. He has disappeared since his parole violation of 2017. We suspect it's because he has assumed other identities."

"I must say, there is a striking resemblance between these men and Guy Blanchette. I looked for Mr. Blanchette on the LSU student database," admitted Dr. MacLavish. "By the way, did you link him to Trisha Jones?"

"Sally and King are on their way to the governor's residence right now. It's in those relational things where she excels."

"Well, my friend, I will do everything in my power to identify the second body as well as email you the minute I have the report ready. Travis and I will continue with the autopsies this afternoon as you move ahead with the case."

"Thank you, Marie. Travis... always a pleasure." The detective made his way outside and turned his collar to the approaching chill.

{Chapter Twelve}

The chill of the day permeated every fiber of my being. I wished to be as warm as King as he sat beside me in the cab.

"Here we are, Ma'am--Governor's residence," said the cabbie as he slowed, pulling to the curb. "I will get the door for you and your fine dog."

King led me up the steps and through the security guards as I flashed my new badge. "So... it's official," commented one of the gatekeepers.

"A mere formality," I replied. "King has one though, so you better admire him first. I snapped the mini-badge to his collar." My plan had worked splendidly. King received a good petting and his daily dose of praise.

The front door flew open and the arms of Trisha and Chloe Jones pulled me quickly inside. "Oh, it's so good to see you both," I said. "I guess that sounds funny coming from a blind person."

"Not at all. We forget you're blind, Sally. Please... you and King come on down to the kitchen. We have lunch waiting."

"Smells divine. Shrimp Creole?" King let out a whine. I thought it was the smell of the cooking until I heard the sound of the governor rounding the corner with Daisy.

"Where's Jackson, Sally? Outside parking the car?"

"No. This is one of those rare moments when I'm without him, Governor. He's home packing for our trip to Arkansas. We leave tonight with Detective Lembowsky."

"King, too?"

"Of course! I can't be without my Superdog! Besides, we can't let you and the detective go it alone. All hands on deck for the rescue of Clementine Adele Jones!"

They hugged me so hard, I could hardly breathe.

Lunch was friendly and the dogs kept us entertained. However, the day was waning; and I was there to collect some vital information on behalf of Detective Lembowsky.

"As lovely as this is, I need to speak with Trisha alone for a few minutes. Governor, could you and Chloe take King and Daisy for a walk?"

Trisha Jones drew closer to me in the window seat as everyone vanished on cue. The warmth of her company helped me to relax in my new role as a police consultant.

"You know what this is about, don't you?" I said.

"Yes. It must be my former association with Guy Blanchette."

"He has become a person of interest in this case, and we suspect he's involved directly in Clementine's kidnapping. If you don't mind, I will need to record today's conversation. This is just to make sure Detective Lembowsky has everything he needs for the investigation."

"Certainly. This is strictly confidential, right?"

"Absolutely. The goal here is to get Clementine back, unharmed," I said, reaching for my recorder. "Mr. Blanchette's motives in the kidnapping are unclear. We hope that you'll be able to shed some light on this man. Shall we begin?"

I could tell by the sudden oppressiveness in the air, and by the fluctuations in her voice, that it wasn't a pleasant memory.

The dear woman was already into the box of tissues.

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

The great eagle flew away from Post Ridge Road, not deterred at all by the kidnapper or the whipping north wind. The tops of the stately pines swayed as the cold front approached the Arkansas Plateau.

The man masquerading as Ed Silver trotted back to the truck to hurry his plot along, unaware Russ DeWoody was onto him.

"We'd better get a move on. How far to the used car place?"

Russ chose his words carefully. "I'll need to stop at my cabin first, then we'll proceed from there. I am on an errand for my son who is laid up in the hospital."

Tine pleaded, "I need a bathroom break and something to eat, Dad. Whaddya think?"

The kidnapper could hardly stay on script. "Sweetheart, I'm sure Mr. DeWoody needs to get on with his day."

"Oh, no trouble at all! I have some of my famous chili made and ready to heat up," said Russ.

"We accept. I missed breakfast this morning," Tine said, galling her abductor. "I'll just drop dead if I don't eat soon."

"Well... okay. We can't stay long though. The good car deals go early and we'll need to get back on the road this afternoon, Pumpkin."

No sooner than they made their plans, the scenery changed. Blue Spruce and Fraser Firs lined the hills in tidy rows, with small saplings for next year's harvest dotting the picturesque landscape. The upward climb to the DeWoody's Christmas tree farm had Clementine Jones gaping out the window. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the majestic eagle landing on the DeWoody's lawn as they pulled in.

"This is the eagle's home," said Russ. "His nest is on my property... up there in the cliffs."

The truck continued on and parked near the side entrance to the cabin. Russ struggled to climb down from the truck's cab and waved them on.

"You two go ahead... key's under the flower pot. I'll be there in a minute," he said, rubbing his knees vigorously. "The cold air is aggravating my arthritis...."

Tine led the way with a burst of energy, and was through the door and into the powder room. Finally! Get me away from the whack job for just a few minutes!

The parlor-style bathroom had a door on the far side. When she finished, she saw that it was unlocked and took a peek, smiling when she saw it was Bobby's bedroom. Nature photography lined the wall, flannel plaid everywhere, and a fluffy goose down comforter rolled neatly at the foot of the poster bed. The matching cherry dresser was exquisite, hand-crafted with delicate finishes.

With trembling fingers, she traced his handsome face in a photograph, then burst into tears. Will I ever see you again?

Atop the dresser, a pen and paper offered themselves, along with a Swiss Army knife. She quickly tucked the knife in her overalls before penning a letter.

**

Bobby dear,

Thank you for everything you did to help me. How difficult I was when you first came upon me on the road. I was a complete mess!

Besides the awful wreck, something happened to us, didn't it? Am I the only one who feels it? Oh Bobby, I love you! I know what love looks like because I've seen it between my parents... seen it in their eyes, and heard it in their voices.

I felt Love's kiss and saw your desperate eyes when I left you. (Please know, leaving you on that cliff was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.) Miraculously, your dad has picked me up along with the madman who has me captive.

Please do one more thing for me. I overheard the kidnapper on his cell phone and his plans to kill my dad after the exchange. He'll be using a lethal injection of some kind. Let my dad know to take extra precautions. I have another plan in place, and playing along with him for now. Hopefully, I will see you and my family on the other side of this. If not, know that I left this earth loving you, Bobby DeWoody.

All my sweetest dreams are of you.

Tine Jones xoxoxo
PS~ Your dad has a gift for you from me.


**

Tine pressed her lips to the letter and placed it inside her pocket. It was all she could do to leave his room, but the smell of chili finally won her over, calling her out to the main house.

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

Bobby DeWoody was finally able to rest after his conversation with Clementine's dad, who just happened to be the governor of Louisiana.

However, everything he had originally rehearsed had flown out the window.

He decided to just speak from his heart. They both had a common bond: their love for the girl who hated her ancestral name--Clementine Adele Jones.

The governor had put Bobby at ease right away with his soft spoken voice.

"Hello, Bobby. "I'm sorry to make you wait, but this morning has been a zoo."

"No, not at all. Do you have a moment to speak with me?"

"Certainly. I was going to ask you the same question!"

"Governor, I'm so concerned about Tine. The last time I saw her, that crazy man was treating her so badly... threatening to shoot me if she didn't come with him. She saved my life. Gave her life for mine!"

"She is a bold and brave girl. Sweet, too. I can't tell you how proud I am to hear that she responded so selflessly. But, it sounds like you were quite heroic, Bobby. You acted very much like she did from what I hear. How can I thank you for picking her up in the first place? And secondly, for having the presence of mind to push her out of the passenger side door as you were going over the cliff? I can't even imagine! Thank you... thank you so much!"

"You are welcome. Anyone would have done the same. Do you know if she's alive?"

"Yes, I think so. The exchange has been reset by the kidnapper."

"I see.... Sir, one last thing. I'm in love with your daughter, and I'm pretty sure she feels the same."

"You don't say. This has been one heck of a wild ride, Bobby DeWoody!"

To be continued.....

Author Notes Art: https://pixabay.com/photos/love-declaration-of-love-kiss-794333/@pixabay.com.

https://youtu.be


Chapter 13
Double Blind~Chapter Thirteen

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Twelve~

Bobby DeWoody was finally able to rest after his conversation with Clementine's dad, who just happened to be the governor of Louisiana.

However, everything he had originally rehearsed had flown out the window.

He decided to just speak from his heart. They both had a common bond: their love for the girl who hated her ancestral name--Clementine Adele Jones.

The governor had put Bobby at ease right away with his soft spoken voice.

"Hello, Bobby. "I'm sorry to make you wait, but this morning has been a zoo."

"No, not at all. Do you have a moment to speak with me?"

"Certainly. I was going to ask you the same question!"

"Governor, I'm so concerned about Tine. The last time I saw her, that crazy man was treating her so badly... threatening to shoot me if she didn't come with him. She saved my life. Gave her life for mine!"

"She is a bold and brave girl. Sweet, too. I can't tell you how proud I am to hear that she responded so selflessly. But, it sounds like you were quite heroic, Bobby. You acted very much like she did from what I hear. How can I thank you for picking her up in the first place? And secondly, for having the presence of mind to push her out of the passenger side door as you were going over the cliff? I can't even imagine! Thank you... thank you so much!"

"You are welcome. Anyone would have done the same. Do you know if she's alive?"

"Yes, I think so. The exchange has been reset by the kidnapper."

"I see.... Sir, one last thing. I'm in love with your daughter, and I'm pretty sure she feels the same."

"You don't say. This has been one heck of a wild ride, Bobby DeWoody!"

{Chapter Thirteen}

Evening comes early in the Arkansas Plateau in the winter months, especially when the afternoon sun bows behind the mountain ranges. Today even more so, as the gray vapors of the approaching cold front stretched across the sky.

Tine came from the hall bathroom, following her nose to the dining room table.

There was a tenseness on the face of the kidnapper he no longer tried to disguise. The impromptu plan to stop and eat at the DeWoodys' cabin was not a part of his agenda.

Tine ignored him, digging into the steaming bowl of homemade chili and honeyed cornbread with gusto. She hadn't had anything since her kidnapping two days ago from a diner in Louisiana. Just a few bites of the savory meal filled her. Still, she kept nibbling to bide her time in order to distract the kidnapper.

Remembering the love letter stashed in her pocket, she was moved to act.

"Mr. DeWoody, may I serve myself some more water? I'm parched."

"Sure thing, Miss. It's in a glass pitcher just inside the refrigerator. Help yourself," said Russ, obligingly.

"Thank you."

Tine had many talents and this was one of them. The LSU cardsharp was known for her sleight of hand. Nonchalantly, she slid the love letter to Bobby between the water and the orange juice and closed the refrigerator.

Immediately, the bad actor re-engaged with his script.

"We need to get a move on. The day's a-wasting...." The kidnapper polished off his last bite, then hurried with his bowl to the sink. "Russ, we will need to leave as soon as possible. The weather grows more foul by the minute."

"You're right," said Russ. "Let me grab Bobby's dinner and a change of clothes for him. I'll just be a few minutes."

"Good. I'll use your bathroom if you don't mind. We have a long afternoon ahead."

As soon as he was out of earshot, Tine whispered. "Russ... there's a note for Bobby in the fridge. Make sure he gets it with his meal."

Russ DeWoody walked to the side door and opened it; pulling in a shovel with an alligator snout-shaped blade. "There's no way this guy is taking you, Clementine. Over my dead body." He hushed Clementine's objections as he pressed his truck keys into her hands.

"Go get in the cab, quickly and quietly. There's a walkie-talkie underneath the driver's seat. Turn it on and call for help."

He tip-toed to the bathroom door and waited....

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

The kidnapper rummaged through the bathroom cabinet for anything helpful to alter his appearance. He spotted comb-through hair color and gasped with delight.

"Perfect! Now, I can change from Ed Silver to Gavin Lovett for today's car purchase." He took a long look in the mirror as he quickly applied the brown hair color at his roots.

Someone else looked back at him. Someone murderous and altogether reprehensible. Lowering his hands into the basin, he ran the cool mountain water over and over trying to get the blood off his hands. No matter how much he rubbed, the blood remained. He began to shake at the frightful vision, steadying himself against the wall.

Finally, the incubus left; and the sink was clean again. It must have been the fumes from the hair color, he thought.

Disposing of the box, he fanned the odor through the cracked window. Lastly, was the change of eye color with colored contact lenses. "Perfect shade of deep blue," he said, admiring himself.

He rehearsed the evil plan in his mind one more time.

Only forty eight hours left. The governor and Clementine will be gone at the hands of Gavin Lovett after the money is transferred. I'll waltz back into Trisha's life as Guy Blanchette and offer her comfort in her great losses, and she'll be mine once again. Nobody steals my girl and gets away with it. The added bonus is my additional payday for taking out Sally Law. Oh... she'll be here for the exchange, no doubt. The blind girl and her dog!

Ed Silver's stolen handgun was within reach, and the safety was on.

Bullets loaded... but only if I need them. The lethal drugs were near the gun in a zippered compartment inside his overcoat. His favorite weapon.

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

I had a hard time thinking that someone as sweet and loving as Trisha Jones had been subject to the likes of Guy Blanchette. As fate would have it, LSU running back Preston Jones would come into her life just when she needed him.

I played back the recorder as I packed my bags to leave for Arkansas, listening to the voice of Trisha Jones as she recalled her regrettable relationship with Guy Blanchette.

"Like a tree you pass everyday--that was Preston. Always there... always smiling. How had I not seen him until it was almost too late? Guy Blanchette, on the other hand, was handsome with striking blue eyes. He was my chemistry lab partner for a semester. Well... until I asked to be switched. His attention was nice at first... but his romantic expectations of me were too high. There were times when there was something downright spooky about him. His mood would change, just like that. Scarier still, Guy acted as if he knew everything about me... as if there was nothing to get to know. After two dates, I abruptly ended it. He didn't take it well. He began to stalk me, and it was at that time I had rekindled a friendship with Preston. One afternoon, Preston and I were at the LSU Student Union when Guy started in on me in a jealous rage. Preston and two other football players intervened and showed him the door."

"Were any blows struck between them?" I asked.

"No, just a really ugly attitude from Guy. I couldn't believe what I saw coming out of him. I thank God I ended it when I did. Sally... to think this man has my girl is so heartbreaking. This is all my fault...."

"Now, stop right there," I said. "You did nothing wrong, Trisha. Neither did Preston. Sometimes bad things happen. Good will come out of this, you'll see. I lost my dear Uncle last year at this time. I didn't think I was going to make it through the murder trial, but I did."

I stopped the playback of my conversation with Trisha just as a call came in from Detective Lembowsky.

"Hey, Mike. What's up?"

"Are you and Jackson packing for Arkansas?

"Jackson has everything ready to go. He's outside with King. Do you need to speak with him?"

"Not really. Just make sure he has received the hotel booking confirmation. Two FBI agents will be traveling with our group, along with the governor. Everyone is meeting at your house at nine o'clock tomorrow morning."

There was a long pause, but I knew more was coming.

"Did Jackson tell you?" asked the detective.

I played along. "Tell me what?"

"We're traveling in a Winnebago to Arkansas! It's fully loaded with WiFi, surround sound, leather seats... over sized bathroom. You're gonna love it, Sal."

"I certainly hope so," I said in mock resignation. "The price was exorbitant!"

"Who told?"

"The bank called to approve it just as I was leaving the Joneses. Ah... no worries. It'll be a tax write off and I'm sure we'll get plenty of use out of it. Anyway, Jackson and I really were shopping for a bigger car. You know... to accommodate King."

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

The two Lafayette Township Medical Examiners stood side by side as the day waned, the older leading the younger in a double autopsy. John Doe # 1 had already been identified as Edward Silver of Baton Rouge. He had been thoroughly examined, and ruled as a homicide. All his internal organs had been removed, biopsied, and placed in an embalming bag, then sewn back into the torso. He was now ready for the mortician.

The second cadaver was being cut into very meticulously, down a blue line drawn by Dr. Marie MacLavish. While Dr. Travis Cain was doing the honors, the senior examiner stopped to check her email. She was expecting a report from two different sources regarding John Doe # 2, who had also been pulled from the Atchafalaya River just days after Mr. Silver.

"Travis, are you okay for a few minutes?"

"Yes, ma'am. You taught me well. I will take a coffee, if you just happen to pass the Keurig."

"On it. Holler if you need me."

While the quick brew machine was steaming, Dr. M scrolled through her email. "There it is."

She looked at the name displayed in the dental report and dialed Detective Mike Lembowsky right away.

"Afternoon, Marie. I wasn't expecting you until much later. Whatya got?"

"I'm glad I caught you, Mike. I have a match for the second John Doe. His name is Gavin Lovett of Baton Rouge. Age 48, divorced, and no children. I'm forwarding you the full report right now. I couldn't help but notice the addresses of these two men. It appears they lived near each other... on the same street."

"Excellent! You are the absolute best! You have no idea how much this helps us. Thank you for going the extra mile, Marie."

"Don't mention it. My greatest fulfillment is to help solve these crimes. Family and friends shouldn't wonder how a loved one died without some kind of explanation."

"I will be in touch. Thank Travis for me."

"I'll tell him. You all be careful in Arkansas, and stay warm."

"Yes, dear...."

To be continued....

Author Notes https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-forest-covered-by-fog-1366921/@pexels.com.

https://youtu.be


Chapter 14
Double Blind~Chapter 14

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter thirteen~

The two Lafayette Township Medical Examiners stood side by side as the day waned, the older leading the younger in a double autopsy. John Doe # 1 had already been identified as Edward Silver of Baton Rouge. He had been thoroughly examined, and ruled as a homicide. All his internal organs had been removed, biopsied, and placed in an embalming bag, then sewn back into the torso. He was now ready for the mortician.

The second cadaver was being cut into very meticulously, down a blue line drawn by Dr. Marie MacLavish. While Dr. Travis Cain was doing the honors, the senior examiner stopped to check her email. She was expecting a report from two different sources regarding John Doe # 2, who had also been pulled from the Atchafalaya River just days after Mr. Silver.

"Travis, are you okay for a few minutes?"

"Yes, ma'am. You taught me well. I will take a coffee, if you just happen to pass the Keurig."

"On it. Holler if you need me."

While the quick brew machine was steaming, Dr. M scrolled through her email. "There it is."

She looked at the name displayed in the dental report and dialed Detective Mike Lembowsky right away.

"Afternoon, Marie. I wasn't expecting you until much later. Whatya got?"

"I'm glad I caught you, Mike. I have a match for the second John Doe. His name is Gavin Lovett of Baton Rouge. Age 48, divorced, and no children. I'm forwarding you the full report right now. I couldn't help but notice the addresses of these two men. It appears they lived near each other... on the same street."

"Excellent! You are the absolute best! You have no idea how much this helps us. Thank you for going the extra mile, Marie."

"Don't mention it. My greatest fulfillment is to help solve these crimes." Family and friends shouldn't wonder how a loved one died without some kind of explanation."

"I will be in touch. Thank Travis for me."

"I'll tell him. You all be careful in Arkansas, and stay warm."

"Yes, dear...."

{Chapter Fourteen}

Dark spruce lined the path between the side entrance of the DeWoody's cabin and the truck, shielding Tine from view. She ran quickly and searched underneath the driver's seat for the walkie-talkie. Switching it on, she called for help.

"This is Clementine Jones. I was kidnapped from Louisiana, and I'm being held at the DeWoody's Christmas Tree Farm near Blue Creek...."

Static lines caused the voice on the other end to be obscured. Her voice caught in her throat when she saw the kidnapper walking towards her with Russ DeWoody at gunpoint.

"This is it, Miss Jones. Put it down and come with me." Tine raised her hands as she kicked the walkie-talkie underneath the truck.

"Guy, your quarrel is with me. Or should I say, with my parents. Don't hurt this nice man. He doesn't deserve this."

The kidnapper's face was red with fury, the whites of his eyes a foreboding black. "So... you got this all figured out, Miss Summa cum laude."

"No... I don't! It takes evil to know evil."

Guy pistol whipped her, drawing blood. Tine fell to her knees and wept bitter tears. Russ tried to help, but was jerked back when he heard the gun go off.

"The next bullet won't miss. Now-- both of you--into the root cellar! Russ, your truck keys...."

The cellar door slammed like a death sentence as Guy Blanchette drove away, leaving Clementine Jones and Russ DeWoody at his mercy.

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

The ancient clock in Lafayette Township chimed nine bells as we loaded our last piece of luggage into something akin to the Brad Paisley touring bus. We braved the cold and headed to the Arkansas Plateau with Jackson at the wheel.

Our mission was clear: secure Clementine Jones after the wire deposit into the kidnapper's bank of choice. Once Clementine and the governor were out of harm's way, federal agents and Detective Mike Lembowsky would move in for the arrest.

Our plan sounded simple, but every little step had to be calculated.

As soon as our morning coffee steamed our eyes open, Detective Lembowsky gave us the larger picture as he detailed everything on the white board.

"Good morning, everyone. It's approximately 27 hours to the exchange. Tonight, we are to stay just southeast of the plateau in a mom and pop hotel where there's great cell reception. Once we cross into the deep areas of the Arkansas Plateau, cell reception becomes difficult. We have reason to believe that Clementine is still alive, traveling with her kidnapper. Tine has been helping us from her end, and buried DNA evidence for the authorities to find."

The governor came out of his seat. "Do we know the identity of the kidnapper, Detective?"

"We do," he responded. "It's Guy Blanchette." The news hit the governor hard, prompting him to head for the back of the bus to call Trisha.

Detective Lembowsky continued on after Governor Jones was out of earshot. "The kidnapper's trail has been a bloody one with forensic evidence and dead bodies still surfacing. The dots are connecting and painting an ugly picture of Mr. Blanchette. My latest news is a corker. It seems that someone posing as Edward Silver bought a red Ford pickup two days ago in the plateau area where the call to the governor was traced."

"Wasn't Edward Silver one of the bodies just identified by Dr. MacLavish?" I asked.

"Yes, and Ed Silver's credit cards have been used for purchases like Flowerbomb perfume, pink roses, a silk scarf--all from a trendy boutique in Lafayette Township. The trail of his expenditures leads all the way to Arkansas. But wait, dead man number two, Gavin Lovett, does as well. Gas purchases, cigarettes, hair color, and multiple cell phones charged on his credit cards, beginning in Louisiana and stopping in Arkansas. His most recent purchase was bullets from a gun shop in the plateau. Looks like he has reloaded his handgun."

Everything went quiet except the whirring of the wheels as we motored on.

We didn't know it at the time, but the days ahead would prove to be ever-changing, causing us to dig deep within ourselves to areas of undiscovered strength and courage. You never know what's inside until it's called upon... shaken and stirred.

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

Bobby DeWoody couldn't imagine what was taking his pa so long to return with his meal and a change of clothes. He had already been fit for a soft cast, and dozed off for an afternoon nap.

He was awakened by a bad dream--one so real, it left him in a sweat. Tine was in a dark place calling for him. He tried to reach her, but he could not.

Bobby spied his Aunt Lula standing in the hospital corridor and called for her.

"Hey there, sweet peach," she commented. "Do you need me to crack the window? You look awfully hot." She took her nephew's temperature, then logged it on his chart.

"No... I just had a bad dream. It must've been from these meds and the trauma. I really need to see Tine. Hold her, kiss her... tell her how I feel, Aunt Lula. I think about her constantly, and see her face everywhere."

"I understand completely. You'll see her again. I just know it."

"Where's Pa? He's been gone for close to five hours."

"I'm sure he'll be here any second, Bobby. You know how poky my brother can be."

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

Two miles from Arkansas Regional Hospital, Russ DeWoody's truck was overturned, blazing in an inferno that lit up the evening sky. Clementine's locket was still in the metal coin drop as the flames licked the beautiful heirloom.

The arsonist stopped to admire his work, then continued on, not daunted at all by the cold and wind. He puffed on his cigarette as he walked towards the hospital, concealing himself in the shadows.

To be continued....

Author Notes https://youtu.be


https://www.pexels.com/photo/door-knob-on-an-old-wooden-door-2940371/@pexels.com.


Chapter 15
Double Blind~Chapter Fifteen

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Fourteen~

Two miles from Arkansas Regional Hospital, Russ DeWoody's truck was overturned, blazing in an inferno that lit up the evening sky. Clementine's locket was still in the metal coin drop as the flames licked the beautiful heirloom.

The arsonist stopped to admire his work, then continued on, not daunted at all by the cold and wind. He puffed on his cigarette as he walked towards the hospital, concealing himself in the shadows.

{Chapter Fifteen}

The temperature continued to drop in the Arkansas Plateau as a front made its way through by early evening. The cold mass had pushed southeasterly, revealing a lucent moon.

Bobby DeWoody enjoyed his night view from his hospital room, still waiting on word from his pa. His thoughts vacillated between Tine Jones and his father's whereabouts.

Aunt Lula had headed out early, concerned that Russ hadn't returned with Bobby's meal. Although Post Ridge Road was poorly lit, she decided to drive to the cabin and see if Russ had fallen down, or God forbid, something worse.

Just as she was pulling out of the hospital's entrance, her eyes caught sight of tree-high flames due east. The acrid smell of burning gasoline seeped through a crack in the windshield, overwhelming her. Surprised to see a stranger coming up the road on foot, she waved him down. "Excuse me. Did you notice the fire and call emergency services?"

"No, ma'am." The stranger dropped his cigarette, crushing it with the toe of his boot. "My cell phone is dead. I was going into the hospital to make the call."

"Gotcha. I'll call it in right now." Without hesitation, Lula DeWoody headed in the direction of the fire, dialing 911 for assistance.

The nurse practitioner and former EMT thought it was strange that the man on foot seemed in no apparent hurry to report a fire near a hospital.

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

Serial killer and kidnapper, Guy Blanchette, was in a rage; focused on nothing but Clementine Jones and how she had messed with his plans at every turn. The truck he lit on fire was nothing compared to the magma in his soul.

Round three with the feisty daughter of the governor was just beginning, with carnage in the wake.

"Patience is not my virtue," he said out loud. "I have too many loose ends.... Eyewitnesses always prove to be a booger. I wouldn't have had to kill both Ed Silver and Gavin Lovett, if Ed had not been there, gaping. Now, the two unfortunate men who saw me with Clementine Jones will meet the same fate as my fishing buddies."

He trudged up the steep incline of Post Ridge Road to the parking lot of the only medical facility in the area.

Guy opened the trunk of his newly purchased sedan and quickly changed into his horn-rimmed glasses. Popping a piece of Clorets gum in his mouth, he freshened his breath. Lastly, he ditched the denim coat, and opted for Russ DeWoody's ski jacket. "Presto chango!"

The digital clock outside Arkansas Regional Hospital displayed 6:40 PM; the temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast for tonight was calling for a hard freeze in the plateau.

The employees for the evening shift were hurrying their way inside the side-door entry, trying to escape the chill--an entrance Guy Blanchette knew all too well as a former pharmaceutical rep.

He waited and watched, pretending to be on his cell. The age old trick would work once again. Here comes the janitor.... I'll have his ID and pass card in no time!

Guy held the door for a few of the nurses, then tripped the janitor on his way out. Trash went flying all over the polished linoleum. "I am so sorry! If you have some paper towels and cleaner, I'll have this mess repaired in no time."

"Thanks, man," said the Supervisor of Maintenance. "The utility closet is just down the hall and around the corner. I'll be right back. Are you sure you don't mind?"

"I insist. It's the least I can do." Guy slid the supervisor's ID in his coat pocket. One down and one to go. This is like taking candy from a baby.

Genius struck the murdering madman as soon as a gorgeous nurse walked in.

"Excuse me, I can't seem to get my pass card to open the janitor's closet, and I have this mess to clean up. Oops... watch your step, pretty lady," he said, redirecting her steps. "May I borrow yours for just a sec?"

"Sure. You owe me a coffee," said the twentysomething nurse in a voice unbecoming to her looks. "You must be new. I'm Nurse Amanda Fletcher... first floor... Orthopedics. Can't miss it, Pops." She left the evil man in a wake of indifference.

"You're a doll! Fifteen minutes and I'll be there with your pass card and a hot coffee!"

Guy quickly disappeared to do what he needed to do, with a fake ID and pass card in hand. His needle was full of a deadly toxin, enough for Park Ranger Jose Ramos, and Ezra Ross.

They had seen too much on the cliffs of Post Ridge Road. Apparently, my bullets were not enough. So had the red-headed boy who was trapped on the cliffs with Clementine. He's probably dead, he reassured himself. Besides, he wasn't able to see me from where he was lying.

Grabbing a bucket, mop, and yellow cone from the men's room, he moved towards the patient's suites where Jose Ramos and Ezra Ross were resting. Jeopardy was already on, volume blaring, with no one around. He threw some water about, then set his yellow cone down to deflect any visitors.

If everything went well, I may have a few minutes for a cup of coffee or even an espresso. God knows, I need the caffeine. It might be a long night.

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

The Eagle Mount Hotel was quite accommodating to our large group of law enforcement and special agents, offering parking for the Winnebago in an abandoned Sinclair filling station. Jackson and I felt very old as the identifiers of the iconic gas brand.

But, we had cell reception and a plan. Most of all, we had warmth and each other. We were checked in, awaiting the call from the kidnapper. We could tell by his tardiness that he was scraping by, trying to salvage the exchange of Clementine Jones for three million dollars by noon tomorrow.

I knew in my heart Clementine had upended his plans once again. I hoped she was safe and suspected that she was. This guy is greedy, above all else. He'll get to the exchange with her, unharmed, one way or another.

Something began to gnaw at me as I listened to the notes from our day-long meeting.

Detective Lembowsky was busy prepping Governor Jones for tomorrow's operation, so I decided to call Doctor M and take her up on her offer to discuss this case at any time. It was only seven o'clock, and I would most likely catch her in the lab.

"Hello, Marie, this is Sally Law."

"I hear that it's officially Detective Sally Law," complimented the doctor.

"Don't make me blush. I carry my badge of honor and snoop around with my dog. King's the real Detective."

"What can I do for you, Detective?"

"Something's nagging me. This is much bigger than Clementine Jones, although that is more than enough. He's after the governor and possibly me. I have no idea why this man wants me in particular. I just sense that he does. Am I crazy?"

"Not at all. Tell Mike how you feel. Beware though, Mike's protective, and wouldn't hesitate pulling you off the case. He wouldn't risk you or your family."

"I swear, I've never met Guy Blanchette," I insisted.

The forensic doctor's inquisitive nature continued. "Are you absolutely sure?"

"Now that you say that, I guess not.... Thanks so much, Dr. MacLavish."

After I hung up, I began to rethink my entire year. I was in the Lafayette Township Gazette, People Watch Magazine, and numerous publications with the murder trial of my Uncle Andre Dupree. My inheritance was plastered all over, and I was named one of the wealthiest heiresses of 2019. Evil people follow the wealthy in the news to prey upon them....

How could I be so blind? Really... double blind!

Sensing my angst, Jackson and King circled me.

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

A single light bulb burned in the root cellar where Clementine Jones and Russ DeWoody were locked. With each hour, it became noticeably colder. Clementine's continuous digging was interrupted with dinner served from a jar.

"We have three bean salad, watermelon pickles, and spiced pears tonight, Miss Jones. Eat all you like."

"Thank you, Russ. I must say, the DeWoodys are quite the hosts."

"We are. Entertaining's in our Irish blood, on my wife's side. God rest her sweet soul."

"I'm so sorry for your loss. How long has it been?"

"Bobby was a toddler. My sister, Lula, helped me raise him and his older brother, Daniel."

"Where is Daniel?"

"He's an Army Ranger, stationed in Germany."

"You must be so proud," commented Tine. "I see Bobby has the Irish red hair and green eyes!"

"That, he does. But not a smidge of temper. He's very even-keel. Nah, I take that back. He's beside himself with worry about you, Miss Jones, refusing to rest until he had spoken to your pa."

"He called my dad?"

"He sure did, and from what I can tell from the both of you, it was a heart collision on that road. You two went over the cliff alright... the cliff of love!"

"I had hoped he felt the same way. It happened so quickly, yet so deeply. I know you probably think it's silly...."

"Love is never silly to me. Now, let's eat so we can continue with our digging. We may be able to bore a hole through to the potato cellar, and go up and out that way," he said, pointing to the rear of the property. "This abutting wall is nothing but dirt and rocks."

"I borrowed this Swiss Army knife from Bobby's room when I was poking around trying to find a pen and paper," confessed Tine. "A handy tool for a break out."

"If we get out, I have a motorcycle... actually, it belongs to Bobby. It's parked behind the barn near the mulcher. In case I don't make it, the keys to the Harley are in a small compartment under the seat."

"Don't say that!! We are together in this. You and me--on the cycle--freezing to death as we fly down Post Ridge Road!"

Tine's eyes moistened with tears, "We're going to make it, aren't we, Mr. DeWoody?"

"Yes, I know we will. Do you believe in God, Clementine?"

"I do. He had been giving me visions of my future with Bobby, as strange as that sounds. But now--those visions have vanished."

Russ DeWoody held her as she sobbed into his sleeve. "Worse, is the prospect of losing my dad. The kidnapper is planning on killing him once the wire transfer is confirmed tomorrow. He'll be using some sort of deadly toxin. I told Bobby about it in my letter and now we are here, locked away.... We must break out of here before Guy returns!"

A creaking sound from the cellar door halted their conversation.

To be continued....

Author Notes


https://pixabay.com/illustrations/tree-branch-light-sky-night-3375558/@pixabay.com.


Chapter 16
Double Blind ~ Chapter Sixteen

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Previously, in Chapter Fifteen~

A single light bulb burned in the root cellar where Clementine Jones and Russ DeWoody were locked. With each hour, it became noticeably colder. Clementine's continuous digging was interrupted with dinner served from a jar.

"We have three bean salad, watermelon pickles, and spiced pears tonight, Miss Jones. Eat all you like."

"Thank you, Russ. I must say, the DeWoodys are quite the hosts."

"We are. Entertaining's in our Irish blood, on my wife's side. God rest her sweet soul."

"I'm so sorry for your loss. How long has it been?"

"Bobby was a toddler. My sister, Lula, helped me raise him and his older brother, Daniel."

"Where is Daniel?"

"He's an Army Ranger, stationed in Germany."

"You must be so proud," commented Tine. "I see Bobby has the Irish red hair and green eyes!"

"That, he does. But not a smidge of temper. He's very even-keel. Nah, I take that back. He's beside himself with worry about you, Miss Jones, refusing to rest until he had spoken to your pa."

"He called my dad?"

"He sure did, and from what I can tell from the both of you, it was a heart collision on that road. You two went over the cliff alright... the cliff of love!"

"I had hoped he felt the same way. It happened so quickly, yet so deeply. I know you probably think it's silly...."

"Love is never silly to me. Now, let's eat so we can continue with our digging. We may be able to bore a hole through to the potato cellar, and go up and out that way," he said, pointing to the rear of the property. "The abutting wall is nothing but dirt and rocks."

"I borrowed this Swiss Army knife from Bobby's room when I was poking around trying to find a pen and paper," confessed Tine. "A handy tool for a break out."

"If we get out, I have a motorcycle... actually, it belongs to Bobby. It's parked behind the barn near the mulcher. In case I don't make it, the keys to the Harley are in a small compartment under the seat."

"Don't say that!! We are together in this. You and me--on the cycle--freezing to death as we fly down Post Ridge Road!"

Tine's eyes moistened with tears, "We're going to make it, aren't we, Mr. DeWoody?"

"Yes, I know we will. Do you believe in God, Clementine?"

"I do. He had been giving me visions of my future with Bobby, as strange as that sounds. But now--those visions have vanished."

Russ DeWoody held her as she sobbed into his sleeve. "Worse, is the prospect of losing my dad. The kidnapper is planning on killing him once the wire transfer is confirmed tomorrow. He'll be using some sort of deadly toxin. I told Bobby about it in my letter and now we are here, locked away.... We must break out of here before Guy returns!"

A creaking sound from the cellar door halted their conversation.

{Chapter Sixteen}

Clementine Jones and Russ DeWoody hushed their conversation, their eyes glued to the cellar door. It continued to rattle, but did not open. Russ grabbed a large Mason jar and crept to the entrance, so stealth-like. He signaled with his fingers for Tine to take cover behind a barrel.

They waited and watched as the noise continued to grow louder.

"It may be a critter," whispered Russ, putting his ear to the door frame. He listened again more intently, then finally, the clanking sound of the moving latch. Russ touched the door lightly and peered out from the crack.

"Clementine... come look at this!"

There perched in the frosty moonlight, was the great eagle.

Tine bolted, scooping the knife into her pocket. "Let's go before the kidnapper returns, Russ."

Not daunted by the cold, the two ran uphill to the barn. "Hurry, Russ... hurry!" The keys were missing from their usual spot under the Harley's seat, so they turned on a low light.

"Here they are!" called Tine. Grabbing helmets, they jumped on, roaring out into the night.

"Woo... hoo! You sure know how to show a city girl a good time!"

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

Finally, someone woke up to the stranger masquerading as a janitor at Arkansas Regional Hospital. The beauty had brains, and she wanted her pass card.

After twenty minutes, nurse Amanda Fletcher sensed something was off, and left her first patient, Bobby DeWoody, as soon as she administered his evening meds. Excusing herself, she hurried back to the employee's entrance only to see someone else cleaning up the mess.

"Excuse me... where's the older janitor that was here earlier?"

The young trainee drew a blank.

With a look that could take paint off a car, she grilled the poor kid. "Ya know... blue utilities, dyed brown hair, and horned-rimmed glasses. Any of that ring a bell?"

"No one like that on my radar, nurse. Sorry...."

Miffed, nurse Fletcher dialed hospital security. She was interrupted when she heard sirens closing in. Opening the door, the smell of burning gasoline drew her attention to the flickering flames above the adjacent tree line. The hospital's staff poured out the door with her, waving to the firemen coming up from Post Ridge Road.

However, the news wasn't good. A truck fire had already spread to the hospital's outlying property. The overuse of accelerant had made it explode, and winds were driving the flames to the facility.

"Everyone, back inside and ready your patients for transfer while I get an update," said the hospital's administrator. "Help each other as soon as you have secured your individual areas."

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

The man looked as if he belonged, but not quite. There was something in his uncaring eyes and mismatched uniform that didn't fit his surroundings. Jose Ramos woke to him standing at his bedside with a mop in hand.

"Where's the nurse?" quizzed Jose, trying to re-position himself on the rock-hard mattress.

"She's..."

The hospital's emergency alarm sounded at the same time as rushing and shouting filled the hall.

The killer left without a word and headed down to the basement by way of the stairs. It was there he found a little hideout to rest until all the drama subsided. Reaching in his pockets, he popped the little blue pill to help calm his nerves for his next phone call to the governor.

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

I awoke to the sound and smells of morning, forgetting for just a moment that I was in Arkansas at the Eagle Mount Hotel. I was by myself and hadn't heard my alarm yet. Shivering, I could feel the bitter cold creeping through the ancient walls just as the radiator turned on with a wheeze.

Jackson had undoubtedly taken King out for his morning run. It was so quiet though, I was beginning to wonder.

A friendly knock at the door eased my fears. "Come in," I said, tying my fuzzy robe.

"Good morning, ma'am. Your husband said coffee with cream were required first thing. I'll set it right here on the side table."

"Thank you. My husband knows what I need to get up and going."

"Detective Lembowsky said you're useless without it," said the hotel's owner in jest.

"Ha! He's powered by the stuff," I said in my defense. "Although I'm not sure he's been drinking real coffee until I came along. My first arrest was the coffee maker on my first day at the precinct."

"Well, this is pressed coffee with a touch of cinnamon. I hope you like it."

"Thank you. I'm sure I will."

Scrolling down my final to-do list, I made a call to Detective Janelle Harris, home on maternity leave.

"Siri, dial Janelle Harris." After several rings, I heard her familar voice.

"Detective Law, is that you?"

"Good morning, Janelle. I'm surprised you picked up the phone. I planned on leaving a message."

"I'm rocking Layla back to sleep. Motherhood is so enthralling."

"That is so good to hear, Janelle. Detective Lembowsky said that you are willing to do research while at home, and I haven't had a chance to follow through on something. Would you mind?"

"Not at all. Shoot."

"If you would access the courthouse log from the murder trial of my uncle Andre from 2019. The court's administrator keeps those records. First, see if the name Guy Blanchette appears anywhere on the courtroom's log of visitors. Second, see if there was anyone attending the trial who is linked to heirloom diamond acquisitions."

"It was reported that you sold your inherited pink diamond, Sally. At least that's what I read in the paper," said Janelle.

"You and I both know you should never believe everything you read," I said, pulling my inherited pink diamond from a velvet pouch.

"Okay. This is my specialty. I'll be back to you as soon as possible. The administrative office opens at eight o'clock."

"Wonderful. Today is the day we get Clementine back, and we will get her back. Our team will be en route after 9:00 o'clock. Just leave a message if I don't pick up, Janelle. I really appreciate this."

I enjoyed my morning coffee until my alarm sounded. It turned out to be the only quiet moment the day would afford me.

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

Detective Mike Lembowsky had kept to his room after an early morning email from his good friend and confidant, Dr. Marie MacLavish. This last turn of events had him reeling. He pulled up the forensic examiner's email and read again:

Good morning, Mike. I hope you have your potent coffee in hand and that you're sitting down as you read this.

Two weeks ago, a nature photographer was working on a documentary about bald eagles thriving in the Arkansas Plateau when he stumbled upon skeletal remains. It was processed and the findings were sent to me last night.

Mike, the remains belong to Guy Blanchette.

The death certificate and forensic report confirms he was around nineteen years old when it occurred. The Arkansas ME ruled this a homicide from a gunshot wound. Further research has shown he was a twin, an identical twin brother named Everett Blanchette.

According to the police report, Guy reported his brother Everett missing after not returning from a camping trip to the Ozarks. More frightening, this was the same time frame Trisha Jones dated Guy Blanchette.

What this means, plain and simple: the one operating as Guy Blanchette is really Everett Blanchette. Everett killed his brother and absorbed his identity.

The only discernible difference in these kind of cases is birth marks, scarring, implants, surgeries, and dental records. Guy just happens to have two prosthetic teeth from a football accident.

The same DNA lives in twins, matching the DNA Clementine Jones collected for authorities and buried at the road sign, and the same DNA your team collected from Louie's Diner in Lafayette Township. One more crazy thing to add to your day, but it will help you, I think.

Machiavellian! If someone is capable of killing their own brother, they're capable of the unspeakable.

Let me know if there's anything I can clarify for you. I trust you as a seasoned criminologist and the best detective I know.

Go get him, Mike!

Doctor M


To be continued....

Author Notes https://youtu.be


https://pixabay.com/photos/motorcycle-harley-davidson-1072009/@pixabay.com.


Chapter 17
Double Blind ~The Finale

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of 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 the little freckles stretching from her nose to the apples of her 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....

Author Notes https://youtu.be


https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2020/08/27/14/55/adler-5522202_1280.jpg@pixabay.com.


Chapter 18
Double Blind ~ Epilogue

By Sally Law

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.





First, I would like to thank all my kind reviewers that have followed this story, and sequel to "What The Blind Girl Saw."

They are: A Willow Bends, Roxanna Andrews, Margaret Bednar, Mary Kay Bonfante, Bobby Cunningham, Tina Crute, Cindy Decker, Ben Colder, Country Ranch Writer, Diana Crawford, damommy, Drew Delaney, Joan E, Judy E, Elizabeth Emerald, estory, Rosemary Everson1, Dorothy Farrell, Father Flaps, Forestport12, Mary Furlong, Jannypan, Julia S. James, LaRosa, Loren, Raffaelina Lowlock, lyenochka, Sandra Mitchell, Shirley McLain, Ric Myworld, Liz O' Neill, Roy Owen, Sylvia Page, Poetwatch, Debbie Pope, Bill Pinder, Lady Y. M. Roger, Sankey, RP Saxena, Beth Shelby, Gert Sherwood, RShipp, Spangle, Thaities, Rebecca V., Ulla, Marjon van Bruggen, Jen Vasquez, WalkerMan, Cindy Warren, Debra White, Barbara Wilkey, rwilliam, FM Wright, and Robert Zimmerman. Please... take a bow.




Bobby DeWoody wed Clementine Jones as soon as springtime set its foot on the Arkansas Plateau. The valley's view and white fields of winter wheat were just as they remembered from the day of the wreck. The great eagle paid a wedding day visit, resting alongside the recovered Ezra on the green harvester.



Russ DeWoody delighted in his youngest son's union and Daniel's return from Germany for the wedding reception two weeks later. The proud father danced an Irish jig and nearly blew out his knee.



Russ plans on retiring soon and turning the Christmas tree farm over to Bobby and Tine, sure the loving couple have a bright future ahead. Tine transferred to Arkansas State University to continue her studies. The strange circumstances that had brought her to this place gave her a new sense of belonging, and a home with love in it. 



Governor Jones and his family are back to normal, but missing Clementine terribly. I see many trips to the plateau in their future. I heard the town of Blue Creek was in need of a mayor. I'm not sure we can break up Daisy and King though....



Detective Mike Lembowsky and our team are back on the job solving crimes. Mike finally moved into his renovated house, decorated in dog-friendly furnishings. Now, I must get him a dog for sure. Okay... I already bought him a black German Shepherd; but don't tell him I told you all!  It looks like I'll be training the darling pup when he arrives. In the meantime, King loves to visit his uncle Mike, just a stone's throw away.

We have dogs-a-plenty here at 17 Main Street in Lafayette Township.




Jose Ramos has resumed his job, but keeping to the lookout for now. His near-death experience at the hands of Everett Blanchette prompted him to propose to his girlfriend and continue on with his master's degree in Environmental Science. Preserving the natural beauty of the plateau sits close to his heart. 



Over the course of this year, our team has been able to put together a better picture of serial killer and kidnapper, Everett Blanchette. 

His first crimes were identity theft. Ultimately, that wasn't enough. He killed his victims after a long study of their habits, likes, dislikes, and addictions, then stepped into their skin. His twin brother was merely a starting point. 

Our precinct's criminal profiler said he had built a good rapport with Edward Silver and Gavin Lovett months before he did them in. After their story hit the papers, a local bait shop owner recognized the photo of the two murdered men and recalled a day a third man had coaxed Ed and Gavin into a fishing trip. The man bought the two friends lunch, live bait, and lures. A cash purchase was made, and the owner remembered distinctly the patron's last name: Blanchette. That was the last time the shop's owner saw Ed Silver and Gavin Lovett.



Arkansas' authorities weren't certain as to what happened to Everett Blanchette on Pike's Overlook that day.

Except for me, the eyewitnesses saw a bright flash of light, just as I handed over the pink diamond. Could it have possibly been the sun's reflection off the diamond? Perhaps the eagle was blinded as he was flying by, and pierced Everett with the arrow clutched in his talons? The more we went over the facts of the case, the more we agreed: this was the most bizarre thing.

Weeks later, we read the official report along with the autopsy, which deepened our perplexity.

Two things highlighted in the documentation were very surprising.

1) Speed of the arrow.

The autopsy showed that Everett Blanchette had been struck forcefully by an arrow traveling approximately 200 miles per hour. Was the massive eagle capable of this? Everyone was at a loss.


2) Trajectory of the arrow.

There are several factors affecting the flight path of a projectile: speed, gravity, air resistance, angle of release, speed of release, height of release, and spin. 


As the forensics laid out so plainly, the speed and trajectory, told by the entry wound, suggested the arrow was fired from a crossbow from the tier above at Pike's Overlook. Thing is, no other visitors were in the park at that time, and the upper tier of Pike's Overlook had been closed for months. 

Both Jackson and Detective Lembowsky saw the arrow clutched in the eagle's talons, just seconds before Everett Blanchette was pierced through the heart. So here, we had two eye witnesses to the arrow; yet, the science was contradictory.


After weeks of combing the tier areas above the overlook, we had nothing. Everett Blanchette's death remains an unsolved mystery.

The official autopsy from the coroner read:

To: Detective Mike Lembowsky
CC: Detective Sally Law
Re: Death of Everett Wayne Blanchette
Dated: February 24, 2020 

After thoroughly examining all the evidence, I am listing the cause of death as "piercing of the heart muscle." As for the "manner of death," it could not be determined at the time of this filing.

Dr. Harry Oberlin
Chief Coroner, Blue Creek, Arkansas.



I was curious how twins turned out so differently--one evil, and the other, good. 

The Blanchette boys were orphaned early on, and both were lost in the Illinois foster system.

However, Guy caught the eye of a caring hockey player and mentor to fatherless boys through 4H Clubs.

Guy also went on to play in junior league hockey. The bright young man attended LSU on a full academic scholarship. 

Everett, on the other hand, had a much sadder story. His case file was hard to take in. He was troubled all throughout his childhood, but managed to do well enough in school to attend a state college. He needed money, so he left college shy of graduation to become a traveling pharmaceutical rep, servicing greater Arkansas. 

During a long weekend in 1996, the Blanchette twins reunited for a camping trip in the Arkansas Plateau, in the valley near Pike's Overlook.

From there, all I had to go on was a police report, filed by the murderous Everett, stating that he was Guy.

Of course the park rangers didn't realize what had transpired, and Everett produced all the valid information. 

From there, Everett moved into his twin brother's life quickly and methodically, taking hold of every last possession. His obsession with his brother's love interest, Trisha Clayton-Jones, became his own. 

I wonder if Trisha dated them both in 1996. It was the same year as the camping trip.

As investigators, we know that there is no such thing as the perfect crime. Everett hadn't realized that, in their years apart, Guy had had an accident requiring a prosthetic tooth. 

This identifying factor cracked the case and helped solve the double murder of Edward Silver and Gavin Lovett. 

Then we had the advantage of Clementine Jones. Oh yes, she was Everett Blanchette's Waterloo.

In crime-solving, it's never one thing, is it? If you think that for a second, you're really Double Blind. 


{The End} 
 

Author Notes Main photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-spiral-stair-2438212/@pexels.com.

1) https://pixabay.com/photos/bench-people-sitting-man-woman-2561883/@ pixabay.com
2) https://pixabay.com/photos/bride-and-groom-bride-groom-3780598/@pixabay.com
3) https://pixabay.com/illustrations/christmas-pick-up-truck-3753870/@pixabay.com
4) https://pixabay.com/illustrations/dog-basset-pet-art-abstract-2737255/@pixabay.com
5) https://pixabay.com/photos/mystery-detective-night-sunglasses-3666222/@pixabay.com
6) https://pixabay.com/vectors/police-guard-ranger-park-305626/@pixabay.com
7) https://pixabay.com/photos/waters-nature-lake-river-water-3095682/@pixabay.com
8) https://pixabay.com/illustrations/digital-art-digital-painting-eagle-766256/@pixabay.com
9) https://pixabay.com/photos/kid-hockey-ice-skating-game-hokey-4897390/@ pixabay.com


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