Chapter Twenty-Two ~
Wyatt picked up the desk phone and called his friend in the FBI. “Hey Brayden, how are you?”
“I’m good, what’s up? You don’t usually call me until the weekend.”
“I need a favor, and it’s a big one.”
“Shoot, you know I owe you for that Mesker find.”
“I’ll try to make this as short as possible. My girl is in the hospital and she wants me to…”
“You have a girl?” His friend interrupted.
Wyatt laughed happily. It felt good to say it out loud, like that somehow made it more real. “I do. Her name is Lily Tompkins.”
“Hey, I met Lily at a second hand store in town. That’s a beauty there, Wy.”
“I know right? Anyway, she’s in the hospital, she just had surgery for a brain tumor.”
“You’re kidding me. Is she okay?”
“There were some issues with a seizure and some memory loss, but I think she’s gonna be fine. Anyway, she was watching TV a while ago and saw the news about Priscilla Jane. She wants me to help find her. She has it in her head I’m somehow more capable than the whole FBI. I tried to tell her, but…”
“You are better than most of the FBI.” Brayden interrupted.
“I don’t know about that.”
“Wyatt, you single-handedly found Willamena Mesker when the whole division was getting ready to call off the search.”
“That was a fluke. I was camping, Bray. I stumbled onto that cabin in the woods by accident.”
“Well no matter. You found her, and she owes you her life.”
“Do you think I could help in the investigation? That way Lily will know I at least tried to please her?”
“Wow, she’s got you wrapped, dude.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to believe.”
“I’ll do better than let you help, you can share my lead.”
“That’s more than I hoped for, man, thanks.”
"Come on down and I'll get you started."
"No problem, I'm on the way."
"Come on down and I'll get you started."
"No problem, I'm on the way."
As soon as Wyatt got to Brayden's office he handed him a manila folder. “This is what I have so far. I don’t think her family had anything to do with. I’m guessing this was a kidnapping.”
“We have a few statements from witnesses that say some guy in his early thirties snuck into the backyard. They didn’t see him come out, but they all gave pretty much the same description.”
“That’s good. Did he match anyone in the system?”
“That’s the problem. He matched so many people we couldn’t narrow it down.”
“It says here he was almost bald, with stubbly gray hair and a beard. Didn’t you say he was in his early thirties?”
“Yeah, he’s probably a blond, or prematurely gray.”
“Okay, that’s good. He was wearing blue jeans, a blue hoodie and biker boots? That’s a weird combination, especially for someone who’s trying to stay anonymous. Maybe that hints at mental impairment.”
“I didn’t think of that, you could be right.” Brayden wrote something down in the file he had opened on his desk. “What else do you get?”
Wyatt skimmed through the file. His heart sped up when his eye caught something familiar. “He was driving a beat-up blue Ford pick-up with a rusted right fender. I’ve seen this before. I know this truck. Let me think.” Wyatt tapped his fingers on the desk, trying to recall the vehicle. It was fresh in his memory so he knew he’d seen it recently. He shut his eyes and tried to remember, and then it hit him. “It was at the hospital. It was pulling in as I was pulling out.” He jumped from his chair and headed out the door. “Are you coming, Bray?”
“Are you kidding? I’m not missing out on being the one who helps you find her. She’s no more than a baby. I can’t understand how people do such atrocities to children.”
“I can’t either but hopefully we can stop this crazy before he kills her.” They got into his car and he used the red light to get him through town. As soon as he cleared the last light he turned it off. He didn’t want to alert the guy that they were coming for him.
“It’s a good thing the hospital isn’t that big.”
“It isn’t, but I think I know who he is, and where he’s hiding her.”
“Who is he? Where is the girl?”
“When I was at the hospital this morning I saw the guy. I’m pretty sure he’s the day janitor.”
“That’s Harvey Stanwick. He does have stubbly blond hair, and he’s probably in his early to mid-thirties. Do you really think it’s him?”
Wyatt pulled into the hospital and parked outside the emergency room doors. “Now that I have a name, let’s see.” He opened his laptop and typed in some information. A few seconds later a picture of the janitor popped up. Sure enough, it was Harvey. “We’ve got a winner.”
“Where do you think he is?”
“My first job after high school was as the night janitor here. All my cleaning supplies were kept in a room down in the laundry; the perfect place to hide someone you didn’t want anybody to find. If he killed her, he’ll ship her body out with the next load of garbage. The dumping dock is in the basement, right beside the laundry.”
“We’ve got to hurry.”
“Yes we do.” Wyatt got out, gave Brayden a nod and headed to the back of the hospital. He knew where the basement door was and that’s where he would sneak in. His buddy would take the front and keep him from leaving if he tried to run.
The back of the hospital wasn’t as well lit as the front and Wyatt slowed down as soon as he rounded the corner. He couldn’t afford any surprises. He stopped to listen for any noises, but it was quiet. He moved slowly toward the rust-colored basement door, not making a sound. When he reached it, he put his hand on the knob and prepared to open the door. He heard someone crying.
“I want my mommy.”
“You’ll never see your mommy again.”
The sobs grew louder and it was all Wyatt could do to restrain the rage he felt. He wanted to open the door and throttle the man until he was dead, but knew he couldn’t. It would bring him down to the predator’s level.
He waited for a second longer, trying to discern how close he was to Priscilla. He heard the guy cough and used it to make his entrance. He grabbed the door and flung it open, his gun out and ready. “Get away from the girl.”
“What’re you gonna do if I don’t?” Harvey asked.
“You already know the answer to that question.” His eyes searched for, and found, Priscilla Jane. “Are you okay honey?”
“He tried to hurt me, but I stomped his toe and kicked him in the middle like mommy taught me to do if anyone ever tried that.”
“Good girl. I want you to run when I tell you to. You see those steps over there in the corner?”
She shook her head and he said, “When that door opens, you run, okay?”
Wyatt was astounded at how smart she was for a four year old. He turned his gaze back to the child predator. “Harvey, get down on the ground and put your hands on your head.”
“I’m not going to jail, sheriff.”
“Yes you are, Harvey. There won’t be any suicide by cop tonight.”
Harvey looked at him long and hard and then slowly lowered himself to the ground. “She wanted me to take her. I saw it in my dream.”
“Save it for the jury.” Wyatt rushed over and cuffed him at the same time the door at the top of the steps opened up. Brayden stood in the light from the hallway. Priscilla looked at him uncertainly and he said, “it’s okay honey, he’s a good guy.” She took off and ran up the stairs like the devil was at her back. She almost knocked the man standing there to the ground.
Brayden’s hands came out and steadied the little girl, who was crying silently. “Are you okay? Is your name Priscilla Jane Cummins?” He asked.
Wyatt moved the perpetrator out the door and around the front of the hospital to his waiting car. He’d called his deputy before they entered the hospital and he was already waiting out front with the car. “Take him straight to jail. Do not pass go.”
“Yes sir, sheriff.”
Wyatt went back into the hospital and met Brayden and Priscilla as they were headed out. “Did you call her parents?”
“They’re on the way.”
“Do you think we could take her up to the third floor while we wait for them?”
“Why, what’s up…Oh that must be where Lily is.”
“Who is Lily?” Priscilla asked.
“Lily is my future wife.”
“Oh.” The little girl said in awe. “Thank you for taking the evil man away. He’s been trying to get me out of my yard for a long time.”
“He has? Why didn’t you tell someone?”
“I did. I told my babysitter Angie. She said I needed to quit making stuff up.”
The men shared a look and Wyatt said, “Angie was wrong, honey. If it ever happens again, you tell everybody you know until someone listens.”
“Okay.” She wiped her eyes and looked up at Wyatt trustingly. “Can I go home now?”
“Your parents are on the way to pick you up. How would you like to go see one of the patients?” He used his best conspiratorial voice to get her interested.
“I want to.” Her huge blue eyes were round and as saucers and Wyatt couldn’t hide a smile. She was a beautiful child and he thanked God he was able to save her. Her fate hadn’t been looking good, but God had led him to her and he was grateful. He knew the little girl had to endure a physical exam when her parents got there, but for now he would keep her occupied and worry-free.
“Are you coming, Bray?”
“I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee and call in a pediatrician.” He gave Wyatt a look over the little girl’s head and Wyatt understood it. He was going to set up the exam. Even though the girl had said she wasn’t touched, they had to make sure. They were waiting for her parents to get there for emotional support. The child’s life had been turned upside down and it would be inhumane to make her endure more scary stuff without her most ardent protectors.
They reached Lily’s room and Wyatt nodded to the guard. “We’ll just be a few minutes.”
He went in and was surprised to see Nan, Willie and Lily sitting on the hospital bed, laughing at something one of them said. “He propelled Priscilla into the room and said, “This is Priscilla.”
Lily gasped in amazement. “You found her.”
“Thank you, Wyatt. You don’t know what it means to me.”
“I think I do, Lily. You were more worried about the girl than your own recovery so I knew I had to find her. It wasn’t that hard, either. She was in the basement of this very building.”
“You’re kidding?” All three of the occupants of the bed said.
“I kid you not. The kidnapper was the janitor.”
Lily gasped. “What a monster.”
“He’s where he belongs then.” Nan said.
“I agree.” Willie mimicked.
Lily gave him such a look of love he almost cried. That one look made it all worthwhile.
“Thank you, Wyatt.”
“You’re welcome, honey.”
Wyatt’s phone rang. It was Brayden. “Her parents are here.”
“Okay, I’m bringing her downstairs right now.”
Wyatt returned to Lily’s room exhausted, but happy. Things were definitely looking up for him now. Lily knew who he was, she was gonna marry him, and hopefully, someday, they’d have a little girl like Priscilla.
They three people sitting on the bed cheered loudly when he came in the room.
“You’re awesome, dude. How did you find her so quick?”
“It was just luck.”
“I doubt that. You’re being to humble.” Nan threw in. She smiled hugely.
“I thought you guys weren’t coming until morning?” Wyatt said as he sat in a chair by the bed.
“We weren’t going to but we decided we couldn’t wait. When we heard Lily had you looking for some little girl we knew she was gonna be okay and we wanted to see her.” Nan smiled again and swung her and Lily’s entwined hands.
“Yeah, we couldn’t wait to see her. It’s been a rough couple of days.” Willie added.
“You got that right.”
To Lily he said, “I seem to recall you saying you would marry me if I found the little girl.”
She smiled warmly. “I did.”
“Do you have the date set yet?”
“We can get married as soon as I get out of the hospital.”
“Don’t you want to grow your hair back, sugar?” Nan asked.
“My hair, what do you mean…” She put her hands on her head and felt around gingerly, coming in contact with gauzy bandages, but no hair. “The shaved my hair?”
“Yes. They had to Lily.” Willie said.
“Don’t look at me, any of you.” She tried to cover her head but Wyatt wasn’t having any of it. “Lily, you’re beautiful and I love you just the way you are.” He stood up and kissed the top of her head to emphasize the point.
“Are you sure?” Her voice was uncertain and he smiled reassuringly.
“I’m as certain as anyone ever was. I love you, unconditionally.”
“I love you too, Wyatt. I can see beyond tomorrow, and I love you then, as well.”