Det. Jason Strong
The Early Cases
(Books 1, 2, & 3)
John C. Dalglish
Where’s My Son?
For My Brother
Where’s My Son?
John C. Dalglish
It was Friday night. Benny Carter had just cracked a beer and stretched his lanky frame out on an old lawn chair when he noticed a trail of dust coming down the drive.
It was a newer model Lincoln, not the usual kind of vehicle to come down his lane, and he didn't recognize it. It was black, with chrome wheels and dark tinted windows; Benny followed it with his eyes, down through the gate, over the gulch that became a torrent on rainy days, until it slowed to a stop in front of where Benny was sitting.
The door opened and a man nearly as tall as Benny stepped out. He had red hair, a red beard, and easily weighed double Benny's 170 pounds. Everything about him was large. He had a large nose, large eyes, and fat cheeks. Benny figured this guy played Santa a lot, but with the red hair, he looked more to Benny like the Great Pumpkin. He had on a gray suit with a white button down shirt. Coming around to Benny's side of the car, he offered a meaty hand.
Benny just stared at it.
"Who wants to know?"
"Zebulin Johnson. Most people call me Zeb."
He withdrew his hand. Benny shaded his eyes as he looked up at him.
"So, what brings you all the way out here, Zeb?"
Zeb took a slow look around. The travel trailer Benny called home was surrounded by 20 or so acres of West Texas dust and scrub. The yard was overrun with old barrels, tires, and trash.
"Mind if I sit?" Zeb asked.
"Don't mind if you do, don't mind if you don't."
Benny watched as the man dragged an old stool over. When he had settled his considerable girth, Zeb smiled at him.
"We have a mutual friend."
"Oh, Yeah? Who’s that?"
David Hinson was a cellmate of Benny's when he did time for car theft, and someone he trusted. Benny trusted Hinson, but he couldn't figure what connection he had to this guy. He needed to be careful. Someone could easily find out that he was friends with Hinson, but that didn't mean David had sent them.
“How did you come by that name?”
“I've known David for Years. He did some work for me.”
“Funny, I don't remember him mentioning you.”
Zeb pulled out an envelope and handed it to Benny. Inside was a note from Hinson. It told Benny that he could trust Zeb, and it was signed Richard Hinson III. Benny knew that signature; David always signed his given name. He had become ‘David’ because he didn't like being a third Richard.
Zeb spoke as if the note had settled the matter.
"I need someone with your skills and position. David said you might be interested and could be trusted."
Benny gave Zeb a curious look.
"What skills, exactly, are we talking about?"
Zeb smiled and wiped a thick arm across his sweaty forehead, staining the sleeve.
"Well, I hear you can get in and out of a home and not be heard."
Benny smiled. He liked that reputation.
"And the position?"
"You work at Hondo Regional, isn't that right?" Zeb was still smiling and still sweating.
"Maybe. Why don't you get to the point?”
"Okay, I want you to identify someone and break into their home."
“That so? Why?"
Zeb stopped smiling.
"First, you must promise not to mention this conversation to anyone."
"I can promise but what's to stop me from telling whomever I want?"
Benny watched as the man pulled back the lapel of his jacket, exposing a .38 pistol.
"Well, let's just say I don't take kindly to people who break their promises."
Benny tried not to look nervous, but guns were not something he messed with and they made him uneasy.
"That would appear to be a threat."
Zeb had started smiling again.
"Just some insight into my personality. Do I have your word?"
Zeb removed his coat altogether; he looked to Benny like a marshmallow over a fire, slowly dissolving.
"I want you to steal something for me, or more specifically, kidnap someone..."
"Whoa, whoa...there must be some confusion here. I steal things, not people!”
Benny started to get up. Zeb continued smiling.
"You haven't heard what I have to say. It's something you can handle, I'm sure"
Benny slowly sat back down.
"I want you to take a baby."
"Absolutely. I need you to use your position at the hospital to identify a newborn and, when I call, you will remove the child and deliver him or her to my contact.”
Benny stood up and started pacing back and forth.
"I don't know... I've never done something like that. It would have to pay damn well for me to take such a risk."
"Ten thousand dollars."
Benny stopped and turned slowly to look at Zebulin Johnson.
"Did you say ten thousand?"
Zeb's smile had disappeared again.
"Yes. Ten grand on delivery. You will have the baby in your possession for no more than four hours."
Benny resumed his pacing. He had never got near that much from his thefts and it would set him up for a while. But if he was caught, with his record, he would be in for a long sentence. Benny knew that what Zeb was asking was not that difficult, but it was dangerous. A thought struck him.
"You’re going to sell the kid?!"
"No, not sell—adopt out. There is nothing more you need to know. When I have parents for a child, I will contact you. You will identify a suitable newborn at the hospital, find the address, and remove the child after it goes home. After removal, you will meet your contact within four hours and be paid on delivery. Are you interested?"
Benny hesitated, trying to get a read on the big man.
"How do I know I'll get paid?"
Benny watched Zeb stand up and walk over to the trunk of his car. He popped it open and motioned for Benny to come over. When Benny was beside him, Zeb reached in and pulled out a paper bag, handing it to him.