5:00 p.m. Tuesday, Harrison, Arkansas
“Here’s what I want you to do,” Denny said, smoothing the brown paper lunch sack on the hood of the Humvee. “I’ll draw you a map that will take you from where I’m going to drop you off right up to the office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” He drew out every syllable, emphasizing the ‘in’ in Investigation.
“If somebody stops you before you’re there, which I don’t think they will, you tell them you have an urgent message from Denny Turco and you have to deliver it to the Agency in person. I doubt that anybody will stop you. The cops around here know my car, for one thing. Besides, I’m betting they’re still up there destroying Kate’s garden with picks and shovels, looking for your body.”
The thought of Jake’s presumed interment seemed to tickle Denny a whole lot more than it did Jake. “I’m glad you’re so amused.”
“Admit it, Jake. The picture of those guys in their neat uniforms and shiny shoes digging up Kate’s freshly planted string beans has a certain poetry to it. And even you can appreciate the dressing down they’re going to get from Poppy and Kate.”
Tina’s grandparents had been nothing but kind to Jake, but he recognized a dignity, a self-possessed quality in the two of them. He knew they weren’t likely to suffer fools gladly. He smiled in spite of himself.
Denny tore off a piece of the paper and looked at Jake, pencil poised to write. “Now, tell me your ex-wife’s name, address and phone number.”
“We don’t have a lot of time, Bubba, now give me what I need.” There was no teasing in his manner.
Jake meekly complied, glad it was easy for him to remember phone numbers and house numbers.
“All right. Let’s roll.”
Denny was noticeably focused and tense as he drove toward Harrison as fast as traffic permitted. Jake knew there was no point in asking any of the questions flying around his head; he would be told what he needed to know when he needed to know it. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Denny wasn’t talking. The truck vibrated reassuringly. It had been a long day.
“We’re here, Bubba.” Denny’s voice was low, controlled.
“I must have dozed off there for a minute. Where are we?”
“We’re at the Harrison airport. Hand me that map I drew for you. See here? Here’s where you are right now, and over there’s where you need to go.” He nodded in the direction of a tired-looking sedan parked next to a corrugated metal building. “Here are the keys. Now grab your gear and beat it. No time to waste now.”
“That’s your car, too? How many vehicles do you own?”
“One car—you’re looking at it, one dude pickup, one Humvee, and this:” He unlocked and rolled back the doors of a small hangar to reveal a silver and blue Beechcraft Bonanza.
“Isn’t she a beaut? This here is the Mercedes Benz of small aircraft, Bubba. Someday, if you ever see the light of the free world again, I’ll take you for a ride.” He moved the chocks from the wheels and leaned his shoulder into the airplane to move it out of the hangar.
“Anything special I should say when I turn myself in? Anything that will help you, I mean?” Jake’s hand shook when he opened the car door.
“Tell them you surrendered to me and that the boy is with his family now.” Denny stepped over to the car. “Tell them you don’t know where I am, which will be the truth. Then don’t tell them one more thing until your attorney shows up.” Denny closed the car door and reached through the open window to grab Jake’s arm.
“Go, Jake. I’m instrument rated, but I much prefer flying in daylight. I have about two, two-and-a-half hours before I’m where I want to be, and by the time I take on fuel and leave, I’ll be pushing it. We’ll talk later. Good luck, man.”
“You, too. All right if I watch you take off before I leave?”
He scratched his head, brow furrowed. “I guess I can see why you’re in no hurry. It’ll take a while for the county mounties to get back anyway, not that it matters now.”
Denny looked around the area. There didn’t seem to be anything else going on. He opened the car door again. “Okay, sure. Stand over there next to that building where the fuel pumps are, and then as soon as I’m in the air, go.”
Jake did as he was told and watched as Denny started the engine and taxied over to the fuel pumps. When he had gassed up, he paid a man, presumably Hank Maddox, who had materialized from behind one of the hangars.
Hank served as the ‘Fixed Base Operator,’ Denny had told Jake, Hank was the guy who pumped gas, fixed airplanes and generally ran the operation here.
Denny went through his run-up and checklist, then locked the doors and windows before he taxied the plane out onto the runway, several yards from where Jake stood.
Jake jumped when the speaker above his head crackled, and Denny’s gravely voice self-announced: “Harrison area traffic Bonanza niner three Delta Tango departing runway eighteen and will be departing the traffic pattern to the northwest.”
Jake could hear the engine rev up and watched as it increased speed down the runway until it lifted off and quickly banked to head northwest. The cloudless blue sky shrunk the plane to the size of a bird, then an insect, and finally, swallowed it entirely. He walked to the car, turned the key, and left the airport, headed for the city.
As Jake pulled out onto the highway again, he took a good look at what he was driving. Must not have been a good year for Chevrolet Impalas, he thought, noticing that the afternoon sun produced not the slightest glare off the hood, which had probably been an elegant, gray or silver in 1968. Now it was the color of an aging elephant with a skin problem. And the inside didn’t smell a whole lot better than the Rover.
After three full days in the healing atmosphere of the VanderLeidens, Jake felt as though the events of the last 12 hours had transported him to another planet where he didn’t know the rules. Didn’t know what he felt. Not safe, exactly. Not like sitting at the table while Kate filled the kitchen with the comforting aroma of baking bread. But not scared, either. Nervous, maybe, or excited, but not scared. Not like Friday morning.
Sure, there had been a few bad moments earlier today when Denny had tried to sound tough, but for the most part, down deep, he sensed that Somebody who knew the end from the beginning had directed the hours of this day. Which was a good thing. When he thought about what he was about to do, not knowing how it would turn out, he felt as if his hair was crawling off his head.
Now, though, driving himself into town in this old beater seemed natural, almost comfortable. He missed having Denny telling him what to do next, but at the same time, it was a relief to know he didn’t have to fly anywhere with him. Denny had told him the Bonanza had been designed as a four-seater, granted, but the idea of a that big man flying a small airplane struck Jake as funny, especially when he imagined the two of them being squashed in together.
Denny. Where was he going and what was he up to? Why did he need all that information about Barbara? He hoped he wasn’t flying out to Lincoln to see her. As much as she hated Jake he didn’t think she’d do him any good if she could help it.
The FBI office was exactly where Denny’s map indicated it would be. He glanced up the street where abrightly lit Coca Cola sign beckoning folks to the “Come On Inn, Breakfast Served Anytime,” tempted him to briefly consider buying a cold drink to wet his tongue, so dry by now that he couldn’t have whistled if he’d been so inclined. He discarded that idea when the thought of swallowing made him feel nauseated. “Smooth, Garret,” he muttered to himself. “Turn yourself in and hurl Coke all over the office. Way to make a good first impression.”
He parked in front of the insurance office next to the Agency, shoved his shaving kit into the duffel and threw his cap into the back seat. As he walked up to the door he told himself, “Think of it as checking into a hotel for a while. The Harrison Hilton.