The Witches’ Bane
by Edward Ahern
Chapter 20: Talking With Tassie
Tassie called at 6:00 a.m. “We need to talk.” His words were brusque, but Gordon sensed a receptivity in them.
“Hello, Tassie. I’m at the Comfort Inn. Maybe breakfast? I’ll buy.”
“That dining experience on Main with the moose head over the register?”
“The Iron Skillet. 8:00 a.m.?”
“Okay. Oh, and AJ is with me. You can say anything in front of her that you could if we were alone.”
AJ pursed a smile. “You’re probably going to be sorry you said that.”
Tassie snorted. “Tell her I know about the outstanding warrant in New York.” He hung up.
Gordon turned to AJ. “The electronics?”
Tassie looked like he’d had less sleep than Gordon or AJ. “We think we found the guy you shot at the Stay-A-While. You killed him.”
“Where’d they find the body?”
“Dumb-assed luck. Hunter came across a pile of leaves that critters had torn up and found him. No I.D. yet, but they pulled what’s left of a .38 slug out of his chest.”
“So you didn’t come here to give me my gun back.”
Tassie clanked his coffee cup firmly back into its saucer. “You’ve killed three people so far and are liable, at the least, for manslaughter charges. If you smartass me, we do this down at the barracks.”
AJ opened her mouth to say something.
“And you, you stay shut up. Your rap sheet’s long and ugly, sister.” Tassie swiveled his stare back to Gordon.
“We’re going to sort through your shit-stained underwear later. Right now I’ve got a missing baby, and you’re going to tell me what you know.”
Tassie’s beatific Buddha façade had eggshell-shattered, leaving a purple-faced, bald man who didn’t know exactly where to direct his anger and frustration. Gordon kept his expression calm but rejoiced inwardly. An emotionally raw Tassie would be more amenable to suggestion.
Gordon waved his hand gently sideways, an age-old gesture of acceptance to what had been just said. “You’ve had a chance to think about what I told you. The missing kids aren’t held for ransom or taken into other families. The M.O. isn’t right for a serial killer. So maybe a group of demented would-be witches who need a sacrifice each year is a possibility. Have you had a chance to check the backgrounds of the guys that attacked me with the family histories of the missing kids?”
Tassie made a gesture of his own. “It’s beginning to look like parents of the missing kids knew one or another of these guys.” He turned the color of Concord grape juice again. “But they’re all dead, so they can’t answer my questions.”
“Whoever they are, they’re clearly afraid that I’ll interfere with their Pomp and Circumstance. First they tried scaring me off, then eliminating me. They need to make a run at me again before the ceremony. They know magic, but I doubt they’re electronics experts.”
Gordon took out a small black plastic cube and a slip of paper. “I’ll have this on me all day and all night. The note is for you. It has the code number for the transponder so you can track me once I turn it on. If nothing happens, you’ve wasted a technician’s time. If I’m right, you get suspects and, maybe if we’re lucky, we get a lead on where the kid is. Somebody’s been keeping him warm and hydrated until he gets slit open.”
“But—” AJ started to object.
“Shut up!” and “Not now, AJ!” were spit back at her.
Tassie looked pensive. “They’d frisk or strip you.”
“They won’t find it where I’m going to put it. Here’s an important part. Somebody’s been ratting out my movements and locations. My guess is it’s one of your troopers. When you assign the technician, don’t tell anybody about who it’s for. When I hit the panic button, you can call in the cavalry. If nothing else, you’ll know where I’m at. AJ or I will call in twice a day with updates.”
“How’re you going to draw them in?”
Aha, Gordon thought, gotcha. “That’s my business, but I give you my word that whatever I do won’t be illegal. I’m offering you a trained Judas goat, Tassie. You got any better prospects?”
Tassie thought for a moment. “All right,” he replied. “If you’re jerking me around, your life’s going to get miserable.”
They shook hands for the first time while AJ stood as silent witness. Once Tassie had left, AJ started throwing hardballs.
“You know he still likes you for the murders.”
“Are you going to shove the bug where I think you are?”
“I’m going with you.”
“Nope. You’re my backup tracker. You and Tassie are going to become best friends.”
“There’s two days left. What the trisexual fuck do you think you can do in that time?”
“I’m going to give them some time to confront me, and then I’m going to pay announced visits to the witches I know about.”
It didn’t take that long.
Copyright © 2018 by Edward Ahern