AVIA III: Cons and Cops
Kidnapped by the Sanchez, thrown into the backseat of a black Cadillac and hit in the head, Avia is on her own when it comes to escaping her captors and returning to her uncle’s La Pryor ranch. However, she is determined to escape from the blood-covered backseat and disgusting garage where Xavier and Jamie Sanchez have decided to hide after realizing their car’s radiator is leaking.
In the meantime, Benton has been rushed to the hospital suffering from a deep bullet wound to the shoulder. Upon waking from surgery, he is dismayed to learn that Avia is still missing. He demands to be released in order to find her but is refuted by Brian, who tells him that he must stay in the hospital until he’s healed enough to go home. In an effort to calm Benton and to alleviate his own fears about where Avia is and what might be happening to her, he tells Benton that he will go look for her.
Unbeknownst to Benton, Brian has ulterior motives for finding Avia. Her kidnapping has brought to the forefront a barrage of emotions that the Company hitman has yet to deal with, but one this is certain, he can’t stand the thought of losing Avia.
Chapter 1 – Locke
Locke and Josephine Looking for Avia and Benton in Texas - Sunday Evening
Locke looked down at the tires on his rental car as if he expected them to patch themselves and re-inflate. The truth was that they were full of bullets, and the occupants of a black sedan were responsible. He scanned the road in both directions. It was nothing but weeds, dust and scraps of grass or what passed for grass in this area. “This is a desolate stretch of road.”
“I hear sirens,” Archer said.
“I hear them. I don't see them,” Locke said. “You didn't see much of that black car either, did you?”
“It was a black sedan. I caught the tail end of it. Reminded me of a Cadillac, but I can't be sure.”
“Fucking figures,” Locke said as he glanced both ways down the road. “Where are they?”
“Give them a minute. I bet they're coming around that curve,” Archer said as she walked around the car to look at the tires. “Not a scratch on the paint. Tires are done though.”
“I’ve got to give them credit. Whoever that was, was a damned good shot,” Locke said.
“The bad news is that we're not going anywhere any time soon,” she said. “Which, I'm sure was the point.”
“I'm on the same page as you. That was the Company sending a message.”
“If we can prove it, you have your life sentences,” Archer said just as she saw the police cruisers come into view. “There they are.” She motioned.
“It's about time,” Locke said as the first black and white cruiser pulled onto the shoulder of the road and stopped behind them.
“Wow, those tires are flat,” the officer said.
“Shot out. Black sedan,” Locke said.
“They're going to look,” the officer said. “They can't be too far down the road, and we didn't pass any black sedans on the way here.”
“I bet they’re halfway to San Antonio by now,” Locke said.
“We sent units up that way,” the officer said.
“You better call the SAPD too,” Locke said. He glanced at Josephine as they started preparing the rental to be transported on a flat bed tow truck. “We need a new car.”
“That's a rental?” the officer asked.
“It is,” Archer said.
“Call them. They should be willing to bring you another one,” the officer said.
Locke pulled out his cell phone and dialed the rental car company. Once they answered with their standard scripted greeting, he spoke. “I need another car brought to me.” He listened to the pre-fabricated, paragraph of reasons as to why they would not send another car, unless Locke met a variety of conditions that were untenable. “Because this one is now a crime scene.” Locke listened again while the agent had a mini-heart attack. “Look, it's not my damned fault we were involved in a drive-by shooting. I can let you talk to the police officer here if that makes any difference.” Locke rolled his eyes and handed the phone to the officer.
“This is Sargent Frank of the Uvalde police department.” He paused. “That's right. That rental is now a crime scene. They're on a case, and they need another car. The sooner, the better,” He paused. “There's an Enterprise in Uvalde. Look it up.” He handed the phone back to Locke after giving the agent directions to their location on the highway. “They're sending another car.”
Locke put the phone back to his ear. “You better send two cars and bring all your paperwork if you need me to fill anything else out.” He ended the call a minute later. “New car will be here in a few minutes.”
“With any luck, those bullets will match something on file,” the officer said.
“I hope,” Locke said. “That sedan is getting close to San Antonio by now.”
“Thirty to forty-five minutes out, I'd say,” the officer said. “We'll alert the SAPD, but there's only about ten-thousand black sedans up there.”
“We should check to see what kinds of cars are in the Company's name,” Locke said.
“We can do that when we get to town,” Archer said.
“What were you doing before the drive-by?” the officer asked.
“Looking for Grant Bays' ranch,” Archer said.
“It's right up the road.” He motioned. “But blink, and you'll miss it. The dirt road leading up to that house is hard to see.”
“What does it look like?” Archer asked.
“A gap in the cactuses,” the officer said.
“Are you kidding?” Locke asked.
“Not even a little bit,” the officer said.
“There's no sign?” Archer asked.
“No sign. No gate. No fence,” the officer said. “At least, not on the front. I don't know what they have around back, but they do have people patrolling that property twenty-four hours a day.”
“I'm not worried about who's patrolling it. I just want to find it,” Locke said.
“Five miles that way,” He motioned. “Don't blink.”
Locke nodded. He looked at Archer as the officer walked away to help load the rental on the flatbed.
“You know that's on purpose,” Archer said.
“They don't want it found, so the entrance looks like everything else,” Locke said.
“You know it,” Archer said.
“I see the new rental,” Locke said.
“They're slowing down. I bet that's it,” Archer said.
An hour later, Locke and Archer entered the outskirts of La Pryor. It was a nondescript area. Locke could see a few houses and fewer businesses.
“Turn here,” Archer said.
“Left or right?” Locke asked.
Locke made the turn. “I think we passed that ranch and made a wrong turn.”
“I'm sure we did. Let's see if these MapQuest directions get us any closer.” She paused. “Now right,” Josie said. “Then an immediate left.”
“This looks like a residential neighborhood. Are those directions right?” Locke asked.
“MapQuest. Probably not,” Archer said. “I can’t tell you how many times it’s told me to turn right when I really needed to turn left.”
“I think we need to find our way back to the main road before we get lost in these neighborhoods,” Locke said. “This is nowhere near where that officer pointed.”
“Let me try again. Look for a house number,” Archer said. “I already know the street name.”
“I’m looking,” Locke said. “Most of these houses are missing numbers.”
“Turn down this next street. It looks like a main road,” Archer said.
“Which way?” Locke asked.
Locke turned right. “I think we may be entering the retail district or what passes for the retail district.”
“Stop at that gas station. Maybe we can get better directions to that ranch,” Archer said.
“Maybe they've seen Avia,” Locke said. He parked the car and opened his door after removing his keys from the ignition.
Archer closed the passenger's side door. She walked into the gas station and up to the counter. “Excuse me, sir?”
“Yes, ma'am,” the clerk said as he walked up to the counter. “How can I help you?”
“Have you seen this woman?” Archer asked and handed him the printout of Avia's picture.
“Can't say I have. Who is she?” he asked.
“We think she's currently going by the name Avia Bays, but she could also be using Tasha Bays,” Locke said as he stepped next to Chief Archer.
“Never heard of her,” the clerk said.
“What about her uncle? He has a ranch just down the road,” Archer said.
The clerk shook his head. “Lots of ranches around here.”
“If you see her...” Locke handed the man his business card. “I'm Detective Locke. We're looking for her in connection to a case we're working on.”
“I'll give you a call if I see her,” the clerk said.
“Appreciate it,” Locke said.
“Not a problem. Have a good evening,” the clerk said.
Locked walked out of the gas station. “You think he was lying?”
“Hard to tell,” Archer said. “I don't think he was telling us the whole truth.”
“He could be working for them,” Locke said.
“I doubt it,” Archer said. “But he may have other reasons for keeping his mouth shut.” She opened the passenger's side door of their second rental car of the day and stepped inside. She closed her door just as Locke got in on the driver's side.
“I think we should head on to San Antonio and University Hospital. We know Benton is there,” Locke said.
“I agree, but let's get a hotel tonight and get to the hospital early tomorrow morning,” Archer said.
“And get some food,” Locke said as he set the cruise control.
Locke and Archer at the Shimmering Pools Hotel Sunday Night
The drive to San Antonio was an hour and a half.
Locke parked the rental in the lot of the Shimmering Pools hotel and spa. Check-in was quick, and Locke paid with his credit card. He still owed Archer for the flight, and after he subtracted the cost of the room, he still needed to give her eight-hundred-dollars.
Their room was on the top floor. Locke opened the door. He tossed his bag on the first queen bed. The career officer in him didn’t like stopping for the night. He wanted to question Benton, but he could see Josie’s point. They were exhausted after the early morning flight, briefing in McAllen and the drive here. Not to mention, there was a possibility that Benton may not even be conscious yet. The most recent information they had was that Benton was in surgery.
Locke unzipped his bag. The first thing he needed was a shower. “What about your flight tonight?”
“I haven't booked it yet,” Archer said. “They're not going to miss me for another day, but if it takes longer than tomorrow, I need to email or call my deputy.”
“That'll work. I'd like you with me at the hospital tomorrow morning,” Locke said.
“I thought you might,” Archer said as she put her bag on the other side of the bed and opened it. “Did you want first shower?”
Locke dug out a pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt and a pair of boxers from his suitcase. “Go ahead. I can wait.”
It took Archer 15 minutes to shower, and soon Locke was scrubbing the travel-grime from his body, hoping the room’s hot water didn’t run out. Just because it was a luxury spa hotel didn’t mean it had unlimited hot water. Though, for the price of the room, if he did run out of hot water, he’d be on the phone to the front desk.
Locke rinsed and stepped out of the shower. He dried and wrapped the towel around his waist. After stepping over to the sink, he applied toothpaste to his toothbrush and brushed his teeth for the recommended three minutes, which amounted to 180 mental Mississippis. Once he finished, he realized he forgot to bring his clothes into the bathroom with him.
Locke exited the bathroom hesitantly. “I left my clothes on the bed.”
Josie turned her head and grinned. Locke was wrapped in nothing but a towel. “It’s fine. You’re not the only one.”
He turned to view her sitting in the hotel chair, watching TV still wrapped in her towel. “I guess not.” He chuckled. “What’s the occasion?”
“I’ve never been a fan of putting on clothes when my skin is damp,” Josephine said with a slight grin.
“As long as you’re comfortable,” Locke said as he walked over to the bed. He pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt from his suitcase.
“I have something you should put on,” Josie said.
Locke looked up then smirked. She was holding a condom. “Well, I was thinking we could use a night cap. Of course, that wasn’t the type of cap I envisioned.”
Josie couldn’t help laughing. “What do you think about doing both?”
“I am not opposed, but there’s not much to put your cap on at the moment,” Locke said as he moved to stand in front of her.
Josie removed his towel as she looked up at him. “I think that can be changed.”