After hanging up with Dr. Hinterland, Hanley made contact with the FBI office that handled the Selwig, Maine area. The agent, Sandy Philpot, sounded smart and motivated, albeit Hanley had the sense that he did not take orders particularly well. He sounded a bit put off that Hanley was actually flying out to Maine. He kept reassuring the older agent that he could manage the arrest without back up. Melville, in turn, kept reminding Philpot that it was not an arrest, but a missing person investigation. He instructed him to find and surveille McDermott. To find, surveille and most importantly not make contact. After seventeen years of unflagging hope, Hanley would not risk losing the boy again.
He hung up and slumped back in his chair. He was exhausted. His original weariness had burned away with the initial adrenalin rush at seeing the records request. Now that he’d made his plans and had to sit and wait for his flight, he felt drained. The soonest flight left in fifteen hours. So, he had fifteen hours to kill. Never a man to stand still, Hanley sighed and began packing up what he would need for the trip. Before dropping the old blue folder into his bag, he thumbed through it once again. As the color crime scene photographs fell one onto another beneath his left thumb, he swallowed the bile rising in his throat. Despite what many claimed, no amount of dealing with brutality could desensitize you and these particular photographs, even after seventeen years, raged across Hanley Melville’s memory.
Sandy Philpot and his newest partner Sarah Jenkins pulled off of the interstate highway and down into the outskirts of Selwig, Maine. It was a mid-sized city hugging Taylor Lake. Caught between its desire to maintain a small town lifestyle for its 60,000 inhabitants and the need to grow and strengthen its economy the city was playing tug of war with modernization. The young people were drifting away to the city, while, in a twist, the city folks were snatching up the property left behind and redeveloping it into featureless tract home neighborhoods. Selwig and the neighboring smaller enclave of Taylor Lake were slowly dying.
“Fuck, Jenkins. Does this dump even have a Hyatt?” Philpot queried flicking the butt of his cigarette out of the dark blue Suburban’s window.
He rolled the limo-black tinted window back up, flipped on the left turn signal and merged into the mopey evening traffic. Sarah glanced over at her newest boss and frowned. He was a good agent, but he had a bit of a wild streak which worried her. She was a lifer, intending to make the agency her sole career. It only took one bad mission, one bad call or act of perceived disobedience to end a career. Sarah Jenkins did not want Sandy Philpot to be hers. She looked back down at the laptop on her lap and let her long fingers race over the keys.
“Yup. Downtown. Looks okay, I’ll book us in. How long do you think we’ll be here for?”
“Hell if I know. I got an odd vibe off of this Melville character. He’s all old school and figures he’s got some attachment to this ancient case. No damned reason why we can’t just grab this guy and bring him in. Seventeen years they’ve been hunting him. Family’s loaded too. When this makes headlines, it will, and trust me on this Jenkins, it will be one hell of a kicker in our dossiers. He thinks he has to be here. Fuck him. He just wants the pat on the back. We got this.”
“We just need to follow orders, Sandy. This is an easy mission. Hang out and surveille a guy who has zero idea that we are here. For once just do not make waves. This Melville, if he is that old school will burn us. We have our orders.”
“Yea orders. Okay, navigator get us to this Hyatt. It’s 2230, we’ll check in, recon his residence, job and find a place to surveille him from.”
“Take Brantley. It’s the next left. It will take us a little out of the way, but it passes by the construction site. It’s a new hospital. Can’t hurt to see it as much as possible.”
“Yea, yea, they warned me that you were thorough. Brantley it is.”
The duo passed by the large construction site as slowly as possible without drawing attention, studying the area through lowered windows. The hulking steel framework, alight in the brilliance of the floodlights, was stark and eerily skeletal against the inky night sky. Huge yellow and green ground movers and cranes cluttered the site, appearing to sleep. The silence of the place was in antithesis to the noise and bustling activity that would fill it come morning. Vacant shops littered the block surrounding the construction site, any of which would make for a suitable hide. As they rounded the block, Sandy pointed at a potential choice.
“Carson Reality.” He said slowing the vehicle to a stop, “We’ll call ‘em first thing and rent it. It’s got good height and we can see the gate and there, see, they’ve started the brick work. He’s a mason right. That’s where he’ll be working. Got the contact?”
“Got it. Since we are out, why don’t we just recon the residence now?”
“’Cause I’m starving.”
Sarah scowled across the truck at him. “You are all alike, you men. Either thinking with your stomachs or your cocks. We are already out here, Philpot. That’s why. It’s off of Lake Loop Boulevard. A campground called Yew Tree Point. Pull back onto Centerline, go right and we should run into it. Oh, and the realtor texted me back. They must be desperate for any income on the place. I gave them our standard three month offer, they agreed, and they will meet us, papers in hand, at the place at 0400. That will give us plenty of time to set up before they open the construction site. There. Turn there.”
“Fuck, Jenkins at the rate we’re going we might as well just get the place now and crash there.”
“Just doing my job. Wonder why he lives in a campground? According to his financials, he makes good money. He has a five digit savings account. Not bad for a guy his age.”
“I’ll tell you why. Because he’s a fucking criminal. Why else go on the run for seventeen years. Do realize, Jenkins, that to do that he had to haul ass when he was like nine.”
“Could have been taken. We don’t have the entire file. There, Yew Tree Lane, turn left.”
“You saw the pictures, Jenkins. The little bastard ran. Fuck, they call this a road.”
“A Lane. It is a Lane. Slow down.”
Yew Tree Lane was nearly wash boarded out and Sandy slowed the Suburban down to a crawl. The Lane was barely that, and he doubted that he had enough room to squeeze by an on-coming vehicle. Despite this, he didn’t use the truck’s high beams. They were already standing out by coming in so late and not carrying any camping gear. To the right and left the lights flitted across the Autumn bare silhouettes of old growth trees. He doubted that they were actually Yews. They looked like giant fingers reaching up and out at them. Philpot shuddered. He hated the woods.
They finally reached the gate. Two, hand stacked, four sided flat topped stone pyramids flanked the Lane. He stopped and studied the area in front of them. He was displeased to note that, probably due to the season, the campground was nearly empty. The map depicted it laid out in concentric circles. The large outer circle tracked along the lakeshore and those campsites were waterfront. The slightly higher inner loop was a bit smaller and its plots were not waterfront but backed, alternately, up the lakefront sites. Within that circle were restrooms, showers and a large picnic area beside a covered pavilion.
“Gotta spot number?”
“Eight, round to the left right out at the tip of the peninsula.”
They followed the gently curving road to their right and finally, about three-quarters of a mile in, came upon a large cab over camper resting on its legs and next to it a full size, four wheel drive, crew cab F-250. The site was the only occupied one that far out and Sandy couldn’t stop.
“Light’s still on. I don’t wanna stop. That his tag?”
“Yes. Definitely registered to Rascal McDermott. For somebody trying to hide, he really didn’t do much about changing his identity. I mean seriously, he has bank accounts and a truck.”
“So much for agent Melville’s detective skills. Fucks sake all he had to do was run him.”
Sarah turned in her seat and looked backward, as they passed the camper. Once it was out of sight, she spun back to front. In hindsight sure, just running a motor vehicle check seemed like a brilliant solution. The problem, the thirty-year-old knew, was that the case was a cold case. Sure, Hanley Melville never gave up, but conversely, he wasn’t running Rascal through the data bases once a month either.
“I’m callin’ Melville,” Sandy said abruptly, dragging her from her thoughts.
Philpot mashed at the buttons on the dashboard and finally snapped, “Call Melville.”
After five rings the agent answered sounding tired.
“Sit rep. This guy lives in a camper. You know like the ones that ride on the backs of pick up trucks. He’s got the damned thing grounded, but all he has to do is back under it, and he can haul ass. I don’t like it. Not one bit I don’t. I advise you to let us grab him first thing when he gets to work and sit on him while we wait for you.”
“Negative, Agent Philpot. Your orders are to surveille only understood?”
Sandy Philpot slapped the steering wheel and cursed under his breath, Melville was fouling up. He just knew it.
“Right. Copy that. Surveille him.”