Out on the now dark, street light illuminated road, Jenkins walked slowly toward the idling Suburban gently grasping Rascal’s left elbow. She startled slightly, as their shadows swept past them on the gray, chewing gum speckled sidewalk. She needed time to prepare herself to deal with a fuming Philpot. For his part, McDermott seemed cowed and defeated. He hadn’t uttered a single word since Philpot restrained him. His behavior worried her. Men who feel as though they have nothing to lose are dangerous men; not only to others but to themselves as well. They’d walked into his carefully crafted world and completely obliterated it. All professionalism aside, Sarah’s heart ached for him. Thirty yards from the truck, Sandy revved the big engine and flashed the high beams at them. ‘Fuck you, Sandy,’ Sarah thought looking both ways before stepping off of the curb and into the street. ‘You are lucky that I didn’t call for a local to pick us up and leave you hanging.’
At the vehicle, she started to pull open the passenger side rear door, but Rascal pulled away slightly. It wasn’t an attempt to resist, Jenkins thought, but more and attempt to get an extra second.
Sarah tugged him back from the truck and looked up into his amber eyes. His voice was hoarse, either with emotion or from Philpot’s beating Jenkin’s. The engine revved again and Sarah glared through the open window at her partner, before focusing once more on Rascal.
“Go ahead, Mr. McDermott, what can I do for you?”
“Back,” he choked out looking down at the sidewalk, “please don’t send me back.”
Sarah sighed, nodded, and then said, “That is not my decision, Rascal. I am sorry. Now, slide into the vehicle, please. Watch your head. Thank you.”
With Rascal loaded, Jenkins climbed into the front passenger seat. Philpot immediately slapped on the left turn signal and pulled onto the street. As they passed the entrance of the Wrecking Ball, she noticed Rylie and the other Masons lined up watching them drive away. She’d informed the group that she was taking their friend to the Selwig Sheriff’s holding facility and that once there she would arrange for his medical care.
“I’m calling Melville, Philpot! He wanted a sitrep at…”
Before she could finish, Philpot slapped her phone out of her hand. It slammed against the passenger side window and ricocheted down to the floor.
“No! No calls to Philpot or anybody else. No calls!”
“Philpot, what are you planning to do? Melville is en-route. You cannot hide this, Philpot. You blew our cover. You blew our surveillance mission. You blew…you blew everything. I am calling him for instructions. He is our command, on this one. God, Philpot, there is no way to make this right. I am calling him.”
Out of words, she leaned down, reached under her feet and retrieved her phone. Then, after a long look at Sandy, she swiped the screen and tapped Melville’s number. He answered on the second ring.
“Melville. Talk to me, Jenkins.”
“Sir, I have, I have a sit rep and it is not good news.”
“Yes, sir. We have Rascal, sir. We…”
“Have him! Have him how, Agent Jenkins? Watching and having are quite dissimilar conditions.”
“We followed him into a local bar. We observed him for thirty minutes. Agent Philpot then broke operational parameters and began speaking to the objective. This conversation led to Agent Philpot addressing the objective by his name, to wit the objective denied being McDermott. This denial escalated and McDermott punched agent Philpot who then assaulted and restrained him. He showed the crime scene photos to the group with the objective. I could not call you during this exchange. When the situation stabilized, I sent agent Philpot to our vehicle. I then opted to contact the local authorities and I am taking the objective to their facility to wait for your arrival. Please advise.”
She sat waiting, trapped in between Philpot’s furious silence and Melville’s, which she thought must be pinging between fury and incredulity. The entire matter was a great embarrassment. They were supposed to be professionals, and Philpot had destroyed that professionalism in a matter of minutes. Fury, she thought. If any of them had the right to be furious it should be her and McDermott.
In Tulsa, Melville raged and stood up from the small round table, rattling his beer mug, and began pacing in a tight circle. He held his phone to his right ear and grasped his graying hair with his left just above his shirt collar. He knew, he knew that Philpot was a huge risk for this particular mission, and he should have trusted his initial instinct and asked for a different agent. What baffled him, though, was why the agent, with ten years of fair service, would escalate such a simple task. McDermott was not a brutal killer of innocents or a threat to society. He was not a wanted fugitive. He was simply a lost boy. He was simply the long needed closure to a seventeen-year-old mystery. Why did Philpot feel such ire toward the young man?
Jenkins needed instructions, though, so he focused on the situation. As he replayed her report back in his memory, he sensed her anxiety. She was relatively new to the agency, having served only five years. This cast her in a dubious role. Philpot was technically her superior, but his lack of professionalism and the snowballing situation forced her into taking action regardless of their respective ranks. Hanley took a breath and addressed her.
“Listen closely. You are not at fault. I am. So put that out of your mind. Continue to do just as you have planned. Get him to the Selwig facility. There is, unfortunately, no possible way that we can safely cut him loose now. He is a flight risk. If he was injured, get him treated. You say that he hit Philpot. That is battery. So get him lawyered up. I will not pursue, but Philpot…who knows. Philpot will be reprimanded for failure to follow procedure. I should be wheels up, out of Tulsa, in two hours. So, that’s four to you. You are now number one on the case, understood?”
“Understood. Thank you, sir. I will follow through and give you a sitrep before you take off.”
Sarah hung up, made a mental note of the time and set her phone on her lap. She felt tired and drained. It was, she knew, the adrenaline burning off. The last hour had been tense and trying, but now it was time to settle down and follow her new orders. She looked over at Philpot, who flinched when his cell phone rang. He pressed it to his ear while keeping his eyes on the road and nodded slowly. His jaw muscles twitched, and he gripped the steering wheel fiercely.
“Yes, sir. Jenkins is in charge. Yes, sir. See you then.”
He hung up and chucked the phone up onto the dashboard. Then he pounded his fists on the steering wheel in frustration. Why didn’t Melville and Jenkins see the importance of having McDermott in their custody? They owed it to the family.
They owed it to the dead men. They owed it to the officer, in the photograph, standing at gun point talking the boy down. He could have been killed at any second by the crazed child, and Philpot knew all too well the sacrifice that officers make to talk people down.
“So, Sarah, you’re the head man now. Fine, he’s your fucking headache then.”
“Philpot,” she began shaking her head in disbelief at his attitude, “You brought this on yourself, Sandy! That I am now in charge is not my doing. What is it with you and this guy? We have worked on cases with far worse criminals. He is not wanted, Sandy. He is just lost, Sandy, looked for. Why this vehemence, why?”
“You do not aim a weapon at a law enforcement officer! He did. He could have killed that man! He already shot two. My old man, he got killed like that, talking a guy down, trying to save him and for what? The guy blew my father’s fucking brains out. We got left with nothing! Foster home after foster home and…that son of a bitch stole my family, and I’d give anything to get it back. And him, McDermott, he wipes out half a his and then runs away from the rest. Useless, thankless piece of shit! You hear me, McDermott! You hear me?”
“Enough, Philpot! Enough!” then calmer, “Turn right on Calvary and then left on Farmington, that goes round the back of the sheriff’s station. Once I’m out with McDermott, return to the campground and collect the gear. Then, go to the Hyatt and wait there. And Sandy, please try not to do anything else to sink your career. You are a good agent Philpot, and this was maybe just too close to home for you. I will explain that to his friends and Melville. Have a good night.”
Sarah climbed from the Suburban, opened the rear door and tugged Rascal out. She slammed the door closed and walked purposefully into the station. There she was met by the officer on duty and led to an empty holding cell. She settled McDermott in a chair, switched his handcuffs from behind his back to the front and through a receptacle on the table. The room was very cold.
“It is freezing in here, Mr. McDermott. Would you like me to find you a blanket or something? Coffee maybe?”
Her request was met with stoical silence. Her ‘prisoner’ just sat head hung down, shoulders slumped awaiting his fate. She sighed and before leaving told him that the paramedics were on the way to treat his injuries.
Outside of the holding cell, the agent talked briefly with the Selwig station commander. Then, the trio of Masons was led in. They had been joined by a fourth man. Jenkins noted that he held a strong resemblance to Rylie Pratt. Having read the information on the Pratt family, she deduced that the newcomer was Rylie’s father. She approached and extended her hand. There was no need to build any more animosity between the agency and McDermott’s friends.
“Thank you for coming. I am agent Sarah Jenkins. Agent Philpot has been officially relieved of his duties in this investigation. I apologize for his behavior.”
“I want to talk to him,” Rylie demanded. Pointing at Rascal through the one way holding cell window.
Sarah held her hands up to calm him down. She was desperate to maintain control of the situation.
“I know that you do, but my superior has not given me permission to allow you to do that. He has, though, given permission for his lawyer to speak with him. Does he have representation?”
“Yes. I’m Gavin Pratt. I will be representing my son’s partner. Can you tell me what he is being charged with?”
Partner. Sarah blinked at the reference, and then looked to Rylie for his reaction. He too seemed a bit surprised by the title. Could it be, she wondered, that the men had not yet been forthcoming with their relationship? And if they were partners, why did Rascal continue to live alone out at the lake. If Gavin Pratt had simply reasoned the men’s relationship out it meant that he was a very astute man. What else might he sniff out about Rascal? She now found herself reluctant to allow him time with Rascal before Melville arrived.
“Charged with, no sir. No charges. I was ordered to await my superior’s arrival. We are holding him, right now, as a flight risk. My superior needs…”
“Does this superior have a name, Agent Jenkins?”
“Agent Hanley Melville, from the western Montana division. He was held up with a flight delay in Tulsa. He will be here by,” she paused and checked her watch, “2200 hours our time. So, just about three hours from now. You are welcome to talk to Rascal until the paramedics arrive. Then, we will go from there.”
“Montana? Rascal is from Montana? Rye, I thought…”
“I don’t know dad. Montana, Colorado, Wyoming…depends on the day. Just, go and see if he’s alright. The rest will work itself out. Just, get in there. And Dad…dad…tell him…tell him I love him, and I’m here no matter what.”