Terrence “T-Mac” MacDonald was deep in conversation with the special agent from the FBI hotline trying to gain as much information about their new target as they could. He and the other members of the take down team had assumed that the diminutive man had been a child, but the look in his eyes had disturbed the skip trace agent so much that he’d been compelled to scrutinize him further. In T-Mac’s experience it was normal to see hints of fear and confusion in the eyes of young people during the act of Pro Tactical Solutions bringing someone close to them back to face trial. However, pure hatred or something more sinister had radiated from the otherwise crystalline blue eyes on the teenager’s angelic face. MacDonald, Pam “Bam-Bam” Mancuso, Rico Hart and Marv Graham were the current members of a reasonably successful crew of bounty hunters operating under the company banner, but this job was supposed to be Terrence’s last one. He’d made his decision after twenty-six years of chasing down everything from timid bail jumpers to internationally known crime figures. In the recent years he’d become progressively jaded because society seemed to root for the bad guys now or it seemed so to him. Bam-Bam had tried her best to get him to see that his skill would be sorely missed and that despite his feelings, his work did make a difference far beyond what he could determine. Not more than fifteen minutes prior as they were scoping out the actual target, William Phillips, she had pleaded with him to reconsider.
“Bam, I just don’t believe people care anymore. Just look at the number of social network fan pages dedicated to scumbags like Billy here.”
“Terry, you can’t sum up society as a whole on the actions of a few fools that don’t know their bunghole from a black hole when it comes to the good that you do. You make an impact for the better everyday.”
“I know that deep down, but where the hell is our fan page, huh? The only people that get that status are our dead and gone, but only from those of us that knew them. These toe rags have thousands of perfect strangers lining up to jump on their collective bandwagons.”
She had been formulating a rebuttal in her mind, but Rico’s confirmation call over the speaker in the van demanded their full attention.
“Look alive everybody, I got eyes on and it is him. From what I can tell, he has a woman and a kid with him too.”
William Phillips was going to be a considerable payday for them all in more ways than one. His status as a bail jumper on a five million dollar bond wasn’t the only reason Terry and his crew were after Billy. They were expecting to make a whopping two hundred fifty dollars each from just turning him to face his court date, but it was the unofficial reward offered by one of the wealthy victims Mr. Phillips had stolen from that provided the icing on the cake. William came from a wealthy family himself and posed a significant flight risk, so the judge had set the bail at five million, which his relatives paid via putting up the deed and title to the family estate. Pro Tactical was set to collect twenty percent of that, but one of Billy’s victims had a rather rare and highly valuable series of coins that they wanted returned badly enough that they were willing to pay per piece recovered. It had been these coins that Terry and crew had used to track the fugitive down to a tri-state area in the southeast. One of the people who bought one of the coins had made the mistake of putting it up for auction on the Internet, which garnered a visit from Pro Tactical. The man didn’t care for a visit from actual law enforcement and had readily agreed to return the coin for a reward as well as tell the gruff folks questioning him how he’d come into possession of the doubloon. William had been going to open-air markets and flea markets selling antiques and trinkets stolen from his well-heeled neighbors.
T-Mac decided that he and Bam-Bam should pose as a couple in order to get as close to their target as possible, while Rico and Marv come in through the back of the bay. Cheap aluminum walls on the sides separated each bay as they were grouped along long rows facing each other. Poured concrete floors and roll-up doors allowed merchandise to be loaded from between the buildings and customer access from the covered walkway between the individual shops. The group decided that long guns were not an option, as they would only warn the target that something was amiss as they moved in. So the four were armed with concealed pistols as they moved into position. Pam and Terry were regarded as regular customers as they walked up and down the counter lined with trinkets of all types.
Billy watched as the man tried to hurry his woman along as any guy would.
“This one looks nice, why don’t we get it and go back to the house and celebrate?”
The woman in typical fashion balked at the possibility of being denied quality shopping time.
“Baby, you always do this. Why do you have to settle on the first thing you see? Where’s the fun in that?”
“Well it worked out real good for me when I walked into that bar now didn’t it?”
“Keep talking like that and I am going to stretch this out even longer.”
“There’s nothing as special here as our special day, so let’s see if we can empty my wallet on something worth while.”
William didn’t want to pass up another potential sale, so he quickly piped up.
“Don’t move on so quickly, you should listen to your lady.”
The man turned back toward him. He looked around at the lady behind the counter who’d been looking intently at the teenager, but hadn’t moved away from her boyfriend to be closer to her kid.
“Nothing I see here is any different than ten other shops I’ve seen today.”
“That’s right, because all of my really special stuff is too valuable to be left on the counter. You never know who you are dealing with these days if you get my drift.”
The teenager moved in closer from his side of the room and the young lady moved a little closer to Phillips as he ducked down to retrieve something from under the counter. William stood up with a roll of velvet cloth with two strips of cloth tied around it, which he untied and proceeded to stretch out over the counter. The coins were aligned in pouches closed off with buttoned flaps and as the thief’s fingers deftly undid the fastener, the teenager seemed mesmerized. When Phillips laid the doubloon down on the soft cloth, Terry loudly gave the signal to move in.
“Hot damned, that’s it!”
Rico and Marv sprang into action by barreling around opposite sides of the box truck parked behind the open bay door with their pistols drawn.
“Get down on the ground, now!”
William turned as he prepared to run, but was stopped in his tracks when he saw Bam aiming her pistol at his chest from three feet away. Terry had his pistol pointed at the young woman who’d been preparing to move with Phillips without regard for her son. T-Mac saw the kid fidget in his peripheral vision and decided to calm him down. He quickly looked at the teenager and asked him not to move.
“Relax kid, nobody’s getting hurt here. Your mom’s boyfriend is going back to face some serious charges.”
Rico and Marv were cuffing the grown ups and as Terry turned his gaze to the boy, he noticed the look in his eyes. The heat from the boy’s stare burned holes into the bounty hunter’s soul. Before he knew it, he’d actually moved back a step or two and bumped into Bam. The crowd of people that had suddenly congregated at the entrance to the bay had a multitude of phones out. Some were obviously calling the police and others were recording the future Internet sensation. T-Mac tugged Pam’s arm and spoke quickly.
“Watch the kid. I’ll be right back.”
Terry snapped a furtive photo of his own of the kid’s face with his cell phone. He tore away at jogging speed to get back to the van and immediately typed in a search on the laptop. After a couple of tries he successfully matched the picture on the screen to the one he’d snapped of the teenager. The young man was really not a teenager at all, but a twenty-five year old escaped convict. His name was Jeremy Ervine and despite his apparent angelic face, he’d been more akin to something from a horror movie. At the ripe age of seventeen, Ervine had been tried and convicted of rape and double homicide after being tried as an adult. During transport from the county lock up to the state penitentiary, the van had been involved in an accident. The family had no idea that they’d been picking up a hardened criminal when they’d picked up the teenager walking along the interstate. They’d been found days later in a wooded area and little Jeremy has been running since. The sound of the approaching squad cars prompted T-Mac to get back to the scene of the take down.
As he rounded the corner of the building, he saw Bam with her hand on the kid’s shoulder trying to comfort him. He yelled over the din of the crowd.
“Bam, cuff him!”
She shifted her eyes from the child for a moment and before she could look back to him, he struck her in throat with an opened hand thrust. Her first instinct was to protect her injured throat, so both hands shot up to cover her windpipe. The little man’s hands swiftly snatched her pistol from the holster and he fired two shots in rapid succession into her abdomen before he took off around the counter. None of the others had a clear shot due to the crowd scattering in response to the gunshots. Jeremy ran through the open bay at the rear of the shop and into the adjacent building by crawling under one of the doors that had been left rolled up a short distance for ventilation. Terry checked Pam’s vest, which had stopped the bullets from penetrating; however, she’d still absorbed a significant amount of impact. He burst through the rear of the bay, but the responding officers drew down on him.
Once the bounty hunter had established that he was pursuing a fugitive, the police blocked off the exits to assist him. When his team raised the door to the stall that Ervine had crawled under, he was nowhere to be found. They stationed themselves at the ends of the buildings and checked faces of the patrons as they made their way to their cars to leave. The police didn’t spot the target in any of the cars leaving the flea market and soon cleared the roadblock.
Anne Mapleton had been shopping with her granddaughter for trinkets to add to her extensive collection, but had decided to leave along with everyone else when the shots were fired. The cops had searched her mini-van prior to their leaving the flea market and they were now going down the side road on the way home. The grandmother saw the boy dart across the busy thoroughfare and start walking briskly toward town. She could never accept seeing children at risk, so she pulled over just ahead of the boy, who sprinted up to the passenger side.
“Young man, where ever in this world are you going?”
“I was on my way to my aunt’s house.”
“Well, there’s some mad man on the loose around here, so you better get in with us and we’ll drop you off.”
The teenager looked around nervously and then back at the lady.
“It’s alright son, you’ve got nothing to fear from us.”
The boy nodded his head and jumped into the back seat.
“Where’s your aunt’s house?”
He thought for a few seconds and gave the first answer that came to mind.
“Down by the dairy.”
“You should really learn the street names. How long have you been here?”
“A couple of weeks.”
“What’s your name son?”
“Well, Jimmy, how much longer will you be in town?”
Anne saw the young man smirk slightly in the rearview mirror, but what she couldn’t see was his hand gently rubbing the pistol in the waistband of his cutoff shorts.
“Oh, I won’t be here much longer now.”