By Reading This, You Are Stating That You Are 18 Years Of Age. If You Are Under The Age Of 18, It Is Necessary To Exit This Site.
D. Van Heest
Before he started the engine, Ballard unwrapped a fresh packet of gum from his pocket. Hammond waited patiently as the car ride wouldn’t be the same if he couldn’t smell his partner’s spearmint gum.
“What do we got?” Ballard asked, chewing two pieces at once.
“A 10-31. A girl was taken from a local store.” Hammond took Ballard’s radio out of the glove compartment before fastening his seatbelt. “Dispatch 55Alpha, we’re 10-23.”
“Copy that,” dispatch replied over the radio.
The crime in progress was an abduction. The department responded by putting out an All Points Bulletin hoping to find the make and model of the vehicle on nearby highways. Taking the interstate was chancy because it was patrolled by both state and local authorities, however it was the fastest way out of the cities. Maybe they’d get lucky.
Ballard merged onto I565 and headed north toward Brownsboro.
“Head downtown,” Hammond told him.
When they pulled into 4626 George Chapman, he and Ballard frowned.
“A comic bookstore?” Ballard asked, looking around. “How old was this kid?”
It was a rhetorical question because Hammond knew as much as Ballard did. Hammond recognized the OIC and called him over. “Officer Hayes, what do you have?”
Hayes was a short cop with black hair and the hint of a moustache that barely darkened his upper lip. “The girl abducted was a Karen Hastings. We’re running a check now, but we got her name off the credit card receipt,” he told them.
“Credit card,” Ballard commented. “Not a kid.”
“Or a rich one,” Hammond replied, but they were guessing. “How old is she?”
“Clerk didn’t know, said about eighteen. Said he heard a scream and saw her being pulled into a van. He was behind the counter so by the time he got out on the street, the van was gone.”
“Is he the only one working?” Ballard asked. Hayes nodded.
“What kind of van was it?” Hammond asked.
“He didn’t know. He thought it might have been a Chevrolet. He said it was an older model, charcoal grey.”
“We might get something on traffic cams,” Ballard commented.
“We’ll check, but I doubt it,” Haynes replied. “This area is practically deserted. The comic book store is the last remaining business on the block. We have a traffic camera down the street.” He pointed to the right. “And one at the main intersection.” He pointed to the left. “But nothing pointing this way.”
“Where’s the clerk?” Hammond asked.
“Find out who she is. If she’s under eighteen I want an Amber Alert going out immediately. Let’s try and locate her parents,” Hammond told him. The officer nodded going to his patrol car. Hammond took a moment to look around.
The outside of the store was dilapidated as was the general area. The storefront window was cracked, foggy with only a red neon sign visible through the haze that read comics. Inside were rows of comic books, bins of video games, posters on the wall of the latest superheroes and superhero memorabilia behind the counter.
Hammond recognized a familiar face.
Officer Steve “Wasser” Wasserman who, in Hammond’s opinion, looked more like the fifth member of a Latino boy band than a police officer. He was twenty-five with curly black hair and dark brown eyes.
“Hammond…Ballard.” Wasser gave them a professional nod. He was talking to a boy sitting behind the counter wearing a Spider Man sweatshirt. “This is Danny Siva. He owns the store. Mr. Siva, this is detectives Hammond and Ballard.”
The guy was eyeing Hammond’s casual attire, khaki TOMS and cargo shorts, and Hammond eyed him right back. Taking a closer look, he decided the clerk wasn’t a boy. He was a man, maybe late twenties or early thirties, with a baby face. He looked pretty normal aside from being a little thin, two shades too pale and wearing superhero clothes. Hammond glanced at his partner, but he was doing a double take at the action figure at his elbow. It was a voluptuous beauty nearly busting out of her breast plates.
“Siva,” Hammond said.
At the mention of his name, the man seemed to shrink. His eyes grew large and shoulders came up as if he didn’t know what to expect. His mouth went slack forming a silent “o”.
“What can you tell me about the girl?”
“I don’t know,” he said, his voice soft and his eyes blinking rapidly. “She wasn’t here very long.”
“What was she doing here?”
“She said she was buying a birthday present for her cousin. Said he was into Batman,” he told them.
“Did she buy anything?” Ballard asked.
“I sold her a bat signal and two copies of the latest issues.”
“Did she seem upset? Preoccupied? Worried?” Hammond asked.
“No.” His head was wagging. “She talked a little, browsed and then bought something. She was here for about thirty minutes.”
“How do you know that?” Ballard frowned.
“She’s a girl.” Siva said with an awkward smile and his cheeks turning pink. “We don’t get too many in here.”
“How long have you been here?” Hammond asked.
“I opened the store ten years ago.” He shook his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. “I’ll be moving downtown.” He handed the three of them a flyer. It read grand reopening. “Tell your friends.”
Hammond was obliged to take the flyer only because his son liked comic books. He folded it and put it in his back pocket. “We’ll need a copy of your surveillance tapes,” he told him.
“No problem. Everything’s digital.”
“Had you seen the girl before?” he asked.
“No, absolutely not.”
It was an unusual statement, to be so certain, yet he’d already stated the establishment wasn’t a chick magnet. Hammond knew a pretty girl would stand out.
“Thank you.” Hammond nodded at Wasser and they left the store.
The last remaining hues of the Alabama sunset were gone. It was an ebony sky and the neon blue lights of the police cruiser were bright bouncing off the meager surroundings. Hammond’s trained eye surveyed the scene.
The area was shutting down. There was no traffic, the buildings were all vacant, and no one walked the sidewalks. There was no reason for anyone to be there. Except for this one store, the place was deserted.
“What are the chances someone would sit outside a comic book store hoping a girl would walk by?”
“They hardly get girls here,” Ballard said.
“Exactly.” Hammond gave a solemn nod. “He was following her.”
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