Please note well: In case you were wondering, even though November is over, I will be publishing the rest of this book here, section by section. But if you can’t wait to see how it ends, you can order this book in hard copy, and the link for that is here. In addition, audio chapters are being recorded and released on the new Canon App.
One of the things that Rocco had decided to do, almost on a whim, was to place someone every night, after it got dark, just a bit up the street from Helen’s condo, and Cody’s apartment across from it. There might be something they need to get or pick up, depending on what they are planning, and it wouldn’t hurt to watch. Passports maybe?
And that Saturday night, the day after they had met Larry and Jill, this is exactly what Cody and Helen decided to risk. They had made no plans, but they thought they should get their passports, just in case. If they had to do some serious bolting, they really would need the passports, and they couldn’t pick those up at a Walgreen’s. And while they were back home, for just those few minutes, Helen thought she could pick up a more comfortable pair of shoes, and Cody was going to grab a jacket.
The man that Rocco had put on this detail was a surly one, a rough customer named Woody. He was a bit older, but fully capable of this kind of assignment, and he slouched a bit when a car drove up past him, turned around, drove past him again, and then parked about fifty feet from the two condos, and about fifty feet from where his car was parked. Helen got out and walked up to her place, and when she reached it, she stooped and pulled out an extra key from under a flower pot on the porch. In the meantime Cody had simply walked up to his place, holding his keys in his hand. They both disappeared.
Woody got out and walked down toward their car, and took up a place behind a tree that was just behind the car. He checked his surroundings—the neighborhood was desolate. This was perfect. He pulled his gun out, and just stood there at the ready.
Cody came back out first, and simply stood beside the driver’s side, waiting for her. After about three minutes, she came bounding down the stairs. Woody waited until she was about five feet from the car, just when Cody started to open the door. That was the moment he stepped out into the street, gun level, and said, “Hands up, both of you.” The gun was pointed straight at Helen, which Cody saw, and slowly raised his hands. Helen did the same.
“Okay,” Woody said. “My rig is back this way. Put your hands mostly down, in case somebody is watching.” As they were walking toward the car, Woody unlocked it, and then told them to open the back doors, but not to get in. The whole time, he was covering Helen.
He told Cody to stand by his back door, and to put his hands on the roof of the car. Cody did so, muttering to himself about Helen’s gun, which was under the front seat of his car.
Woody had Helen sit inside, and he pulled out some zip-ties, and fastened her wrists to the head rest. He closed the door and walked around to Cody. “Same drill,” he said, and Cody nodded a little glumly. Woody knew his business, and presented Cody with no opportunity to do what he was yearning to do, which was to take a swing. In a moment, Cody was zip-tied, looking across at Helen. “Sorry,” he mouthed to her. She nodded.
Woody got onto his phone as soon as he pulled out, and Rocco answered right away. “We’re in luck, boss,” Woody said. “Got ’em both.”
Cody and Helen could hear some exciting murmuring.
“No, no, I didn’t. I knew the other guys had orders, but I didn’t. I am taking them to the warehouse. You there? You can think about it, and tell me what to do with ’em when we get there. Happy to do whatever.”
Don’t like the sound of that, Cody thought. Who would? Helen thought.
Woody hung up, and drove in silence. The warehouse, wherever that was, was about twenty minutes away. Cody thought briefly that they weren’t blindfolded because Woody was assuming something particular about the nature of the “whatever” that would be assigned to him.
They had been driving in an industrial park sort of area almost the entire time. Not being blindfolded hadn’t helped any—Cody didn’t recognize where they were at all. They were now driving along a rickety chain link fence, and the car suddenly pulled into a parking lot that wrapped all the way around a huge metal warehouse that had a faded sign on it that said something about furniture on it. Woody drove briskly around to the back, and he pulled up to a spot next to a solitary back door. There was one other car on the other side of the door, and it was a very nice car indeed.
Woody snipped Helen’s zip-tie first, and brought her around to Cody’s side. He then waved her to the side, keeping his gun on her, and then with his left hand snipped Cody’s zip-tie. Then he backed away, and nodded to both of them to move toward the back door.
They walked into a dim hallway, lit by bare yellow light streaming out of an office halfway down the hall on the right. Cody and Helen made their way to the doorway, where they both hesitated. “In,” Woody said.
There was a short couch on the far wall, and Woody brusquely ordered them to it. On the right side was an armchair in which sat one Rocco Williamson, a man who appeared to be about as pleased as a hen with twelve chicks. “Well, well,” he said. “Shall we get acquainted, you and I? I feel like I know you two very well already . . . at least I know your circular driving patterns.”
He sat drumming his fingers on the arm of the chair. It was a very nice chair, one that matched the couch, and was left over from the furniture warehouse days.
“Are we love birds yet?”
“No,” Helen said, but she said this at the same time that Cody said, “Yes.”
Rocco laughed. True to form, he was dressed to the nines and, also true to form, he picked a bit of fluff off his right sleeve, and dropped it to the floor. Having satisfied himself that he was presentable, he turned to Helen first. “You are the cause of all this trouble, are you not? The people who were concerned that you might be about to spread . . . um, rumors about them told me all about you. Have you anything to add?”
One of those, Helen thought. A certain kind of movie had killers in them who always wanted to talk beforehand. Fine with me, she added to herself. Stall, stall.
But all she said was, “Not rumors. Just the truth.”
“Perhaps not now, dear. The winners get to define what is and is not a rumor. Only fair.”
With that he turned to Cody. “But you, my fine fellow, I know very little about you. You are named Cody, and you are the unfortunate but kind-hearted neighbor who gave this little lady a ride.”
“My name is Cody Vance,” Cody said.
“And what do you do to keep the wolves at bay? How do you make your living?”
What is this? Cody thought. “Up to just recently, I taught New Testament at Liberty University.”
“Ah, a noble vocation, a nob . . . wait a minute. Did you say Cody Vance?”
“Yes, Cody Vance.”
With that, Rocco lurched forward in chair, quivering in excitement. Helen was staring at him in disbelief, occasionally glancing at Cody. What is this? she was thinking, right after Cody had thought it a second time.
“Are you the same Cody Vance who wrote The Handbook on First Century Manuscripts?”
Cody’s eyebrows were about as far up his forehead as they would go. “Yes, yes, I wrote that. That was a reworking of my dissertation . . . at St. Andrews.”
Helen was now staring at Cody, not knowing whether to be thrilled or exasperated. You cannot be serious . . .
Rocco was sitting back in the chair, holding his stomach, and laughing. He laughed for a full minute, and then chuckled for a few moments after that, as though he was running out.
“Well, I must say, Dr. Vance, it is a pleasure to meet you. You would have no way of knowing this, of course, but one of my side hobbies is that of collecting manuscripts. About a week after I obtained and read your delightful little treatise, I had occasion to make a purchase which a week before I would have done without hesitating. But your little book gave me pause. And in the event, that moment of hesitation saved me about $250,000. Greatly in your debt, my boy, greatly in your debt.”
Cody and Helen both just stared at him.
Rocco sat forward in his chair again. “Seriously. What can I do for you two? Anything. Happy to do it.”
“Um,” Helen said. “Have your, um, assistant drive us back to our car?”
“Done,” he said promptly. “And I will settle accounts with old Lee later. He might think I owe him some money. I might not think so. Asking me to put a hit on Cody Vance?”
The three of them looked at each other. “If I might be so bold,” Cody said, “I think you should retire from the line of work you appear to be in. Help make the world a finer place.”
“Well, that’s a tall order, sonny. But tell you what. I will think about it. Been thinking about it anyways. Opera is no good here anymore anyhow.”
They all sat quietly for another moment. Rocco wasn’t saying anything, and Cody and Helen couldn’t think of anything that they possibly could say.
Rocco looked up suddenly, and called to Woody, who was standing respectfully out in the hallway. “Woody!” He said. “C’mere.” Woody appeared in the doorway.
“Woody, take these two back to their car. Treat ’em nice on the way.”