Jack raised his head as the heavy door opened and Detective Orbach and Hirsch walked into the bare room. The older man sat down as Orbach stood, his back against the wall.
“Jack Davies, you know why we asked you to come down to the station house with us?”
Jack looked from one man to the other, before shaking his head. “No I’ve no idea, and I want to know why!”
“Simmer down, Jack,” Lou Hirsch said as he sat back in his chair. “We just want to talk to you about some of the deliveries that you have been making lately. Nothing for you to worry about, is it?”
“No – no, why should I be worried?”
Jerry Orbach was holding a packet of Marlboro in front of Jack, but he shook his head and said “Sorry – I don’t.”
“Wise move, Jack,” Lou said as he looked up at his partner. “Anyway, can you tell me who decides your delivery roster each day?”
“It comes from dispatch at the local office – I just load up the parcels and take them where they need to go.”
“So, you don’t make any unscheduled stops or anything like that?”
“I’d lose my job if I did – everything is tracked on board. What’s this all about anyway?”
Detective Orbach came back round the table and sat beside his partner. “The thing is, Jack, there are a number of stops that you’ve made recently that interest us.” He opened a file on the table and looked at a sheet of paper. “About two months ago, you made a delivery downtown to a Mrs Sturridge. Do you remember anything about that?”
Jack shook his head as Jerry checked further down the list.
“Then there was a delivery at about 1 o’clock a couple of weeks later to a Mrs Elisabeth Barnett. She and her daughter were home at the time – long brown hair, pleasant enough – you must have chatted to her at the time. Surely you remember that – it was the hottest day so far this year.”
“No, I can’t recall that?”
Lou leaned over the desk as Jerry continued to read down. “The residence of a Mrs Willis and her two daughters a month ago? Last week to the home of Olivia Channon, CEO of Channon Holdings? Surely you remember that one – there’s a security gate and everything.”
“Channon I remember – I had to book access in advance – but none of the others. Look, where is this leading to?”
“I’ll tell you where this is leading to, Jack,” Lou said in a stern tone. “All these women could not have answered the door to you when you made deliveries to them – and you did, we have the records right here.”
“Oh,” Jack said with a look of terror in his eyes, “why not?”
“I’ll tell you why, Jack,” Jerry said as he closed the file. “When you were delivering the packages, you were handing them to the leader of the gang that had terrorised; each and every one of them, as well as anyone else in the house, bound and gagged them, robbed them, and then calmly waited for your arrival. In the case of Mrs Barnett, that was her, her daughter and two friends, all held hostage. Mrs Willis and her daughters, Mrs Channon and her maid – and then there was the one you missed.”
The colour drained from Jack’s face as he sat there. “The one I missed?”
“Oh yes,” Lou said as he picked up a second file. “About three months ago, you took a sick week, and a colleague of yours made a delivery instead. Debbie didn’t know what would happen when she made a delivery to the Cavanaugh house, but you would have, right Jack?”
The driver stared at the two detectives, the sweat glistening on his face as he stammered “Please – please believe me, I had no choice, no choice at all...”
“Why don’t you tell us how it worked, Jack? How did you get mixed up with this group?”
Jack reached into his pocket and drew a photograph out. “Here – have a look at them,” he said, and as Lou and Jerry examined the photograph they looked at him. “Your family,” Jerry said, handing him back the picture of a red haired woman with a younger woman and a small girl grinning.
“Yeah – that’s Helen, my older daughter is Carrie and the cute twelve year old is Elsie. They’re the reason I did what I did – if I had not, they would have been all over the internet like a rash, and they would never have lived it down.”
“Explain,” Lou said as he sat back.
“About a year ago, Carrie won a cheerleading contest at the State Fair, and there was a large trophy as well as a cash prize. We made the local papers and even got a report on the Today programme – and that’s when they found out about us.
“I had been out all day, leaving them to enjoy the spring sunshine while I went about my rounds. It must have been about six o’clock when I got home and found, and found....”
As he started crying, both Lou and Jerry glanced at each other. Lou stood up and left the room, while Jerry said “Take your time, Jack...”
Jack took a deep breath and continued.
“I opened the front door and called out, but when I didn’t get an answer I presumed they had gone out. It was when I went into the kitchen and saw the door to the garage open, and the SUV parked there, that I began to wonder if something had happened.
“I called out Helen’s name, but there was still no response. As I walked back down the corridor, however, I heard something knocking at the door to the cupboard underneath our staircase. When I opened the door, I was shocked to see Elsie looking at me, wearing a powder blue t-shirt and shorts with a red bandana tied tightly into her mouth and her ankles tied together with cords. I quickly helped her out, and untied her wrists that had been bound together behind her back before removing the gag. As she hugged me, sobbing, I asked her what had happened.
“Apparently, they had been about to go to the mall at two o’clock when three masked men in boiler suits had burst in. While two of them had kept hold of Helen and Carrie, the third had bound and gagged her before locking her in the closet. All she had heard after that was the men shouting, her mother complaining, and the sound of what she thought was a camera, and then nothing for an hour or so until I had found her.
“Telling her to call the police, I checked downstairs before running up to the second floor. I could hear muffled calls from our bedroom, and burst in to be greeted by both Helen and Carrie lying on our bed.
“They were dressed in their bathing costumes, Helen in a green swimsuit and Carrie in a red bikini, and lying face down on the bed. Both had their wrists tied together behind their backs, their ankles crossed and tied, and rope around their legs as well as their arms and chests. Their legs were pulled up and connected to their wrists with a length of rope that held their legs up, but as I walked in Helen rolled onto her side and looked up at me, eyes wide over the white tape that covered the lower half of her face.
“I peeled the tape away, and told her I had freed Elsie as I removed the cloth from her mouth before doing the same to Carrie. As I untied them, they told me that they had been forced to change into these outfits by the gang before they were tied up and gagged, and then blindfolded. I could see the two knotted scarves on the floor beside all the jewellery boxes. Apparently they had stayed for a couple of hours, and both of them had heard what they could have sworn was a camera.
“The other thing they did...” Jack stopped as Lou came back in and handed a sheet of paper to Jerry. “Carry on, Jack,” Jerry said as Lout took his seat. “You were saying?”
“Well, it sounds weird, but apparently Helen heard them make Carrie stand up and leave the room. When she had spat the cloth in her mouth out, Carrie nodded and said they had made her sit on the staircase and bump herself up and down. Then, when she was taken back into the room by the gang, she was placed next to Helen and the two of them were told to try and move forward on their stomachs. Eventually, they had been carried upstairs, their legs tied to their wrists and their blindfolds removed before the gang left.
“When the police arrived, we looked round and found they hadn’t taken much – some cash and jewellery, which was all we had in the house. We thought we had just been unlucky and tried to put it behind us, until a couple of months later when I got an e-mail.
“There was a .mpg file attached, and when I played it I saw Carrie trying to move up the stairs on her bottom, and then her and her mother wriggling on the floor. The voice over the film said I had to do exactly what they said, when they said, in terms of deliveries, or else first the film would be put on the Facebook page of Elsie’s school, and then on YouTube.
Jack looked up at the detectives. “I swear, I just made the deliveries, and only handed the items over. I didn't harm anyone in the house – I was just trying to protect my family from those memories...”
As he sat there, sobbing, Lou stood up and looked at him. “Funnily enough,” he said “I believe you, Jack. We want your help – we’re going to stop these bastards, and when the time comes you can testify to why you did what you did. In the meantime, you can go, but we will want to talk to you again, so don;t take any vacations. All right?”
As Jerry took him by the arm and led him out, Lou sat down and read again the sheet Jerry had handed him. Looking up as his partner came back in, he let out a whistle.
“Smart cookie, this woman up in Anoka – what she reports ties in with the driver's tale. I think we should let her know what we’ve got.”
“We can do it later – got your coat on. There’s been a similar robbery up at Highland Park, and the chief wants us there right away,”