She was twenty-three years old, five-foot eight, had blond hair that
fell to the middle of her back, was being held for ransom, and it was my
job to find her and bring her home.
The Blair Trucking Warehouse and Distribution Center was in the
industrial section of the city with train tracks on the south side and
truck loading docks on the north side. Located on Mechanic Boulevard, I
drove by twice before backing into a driveway of an adjacent
construction company which provided a good vantage point for
observation. A large structure about the size of a football field, it
had truck loading bays every forty feet and security cameras mounted at
the corners, but I couldn’t do much about that.
It was midnight, the night warm and quiet, and after an hour of no
activity and no security patrol, I drove to the warehouse and parked my
car between two large trash bins in the rear of the building. I made my
way to the side door on the narrow west side. It was unlocked, just as
the note instructed, and I slowly turned the handle and the heavy steel
door opened without a sound. I slipped inside.
The warehouse was dark, the only light came from night safety lights
mounted over each loading door that cast a dim light around the doors
but left plenty of dark areas throughout the building. I waited a few
moments to allow my eyes to adjust. I had worn my black jeans and black
leather jacket and stayed in the shadows along the wall. A check of my
watch: 1:10 a.m. Doctor Richard Pitts was expected at two o’clock with
the ransom money. The wrinkle here was the kidnappers were expecting
Pitts and a bag of cash, not me an hour early.
Doctor Pitts hired me two days ago, right after he received the ransom
instructions. Five hundred thousand in cash in exchange for his
daughter, Katie. Do not call the police. From what we figured, Katie had
finished playing tennis at Greenwood Country Club where the doctor and
his wife are members. She never showed at home that evening; her car
still parked at the club.
Pitts found me the next morning through a doctor friend, an Irish
urologist named Sullivan, who I helped out of a mistress mess last year.
Sullivan thought I walked on water and told Pitts that if I could cover
up his affair and save him a cool million in a divorce settlement, then
I could get Pitts' daughter back. Pitts agreed to my five thousand
dollar retainer in about five seconds.
The ransom was to be delivered to the warehouse and Pitts was to come
alone. The whole deal smelled amateurish. Pitts said when he received
the ransom call he heard trucks in the background. They made the call
from the same location as the ransom drop? Not the smartest pigs in the
The plan was to take them by surprise, pull Katie out of there, then
call the cops. The cops will have my ass for not calling them first, but
that's the nature of my business. I wanted a peek at Katie, too. The
Pitts showed me pictures of their only child but all I saw were the long
legs and blond hair.
Large wooden pallets, loaded with household items, toasters, DVD
players, furniture, filled the warehouse. Each pallet was ten feet high
and wrapped in a heavy duty plastic wrap. The aisles between the rows
could fit two fork lift trucks side-by-side. I crept along the perimeter
wall, my Beretta in hand, praying I wouldn't have to use it. That would
mean more explaining to the cops.
A man speaking in Spanish. I froze in place. The voice had a tinny sound
to it and after a few seconds I realized it came from a Spanish radio
station. I followed the sound and crept another ten yards or so along
the wall when Katie Pitts came into view. Illuminated by a small propane
camping lantern, she sat in the center aisle on a metal folding-chair
with her hands tied behind her. Duct taped secured each of her legs to
the legs of the chair and tape covered her mouth. Her long, blond hair
hung in a tangled mess and her cheeks were streaked with mascara tears.
And the kicker: she only had on a white bra and lacy, white panties. I
guess our kidnapper figured she wouldn't run away without her clothes.
Or he wanted to humiliate a rich, white girl.
He sat in a chair opposite her. A short, pudgy, south-of-the-border
greaser. His black hair was slicked back, he wore dirty blue jeans and a
dingy wife-beater t-shirt and had a plastic straw hanging out of his
mouth. He slouched in his metal chair while tapping his foot to the
music. The portable radio sat on the floor beside him surrounded by
empty beer cans and candy wrappers. I moved around two of the pallets
and made my way to the center aisle, behind him and facing her. She saw
me and her eyes went wide. I put a finger to my lips; hoping she was
smart enough to not react. As I got closer I could see her chest heave
and her breathing increase. I motioned for her to stay calm. I tapped
him on the shoulder and he shot from the chair like I hit an eject
button. He turned toward me and my fist crashed into his mouth, landing
him hard on his back. I thought he was out cold but he rolled over and
scrambled to all fours. I grabbed the chair and smashed his head a
couple of times. Now he was out cold, at least for the time being. I
checked his pockets for weapons and found a decent switchblade which I
pocketed. I went to Katie and gently pulled the tape from her mouth then
untied her hands.
"Thank god. Are you the cops?" Tears spilled down and she wiped them
with the back of her hands which only smeared the mascara across her
cheeks like war paint.
"Not quite. Is he the only one?"
"No. There's two. The other guy is around here somewhere."
“They have weapons?”
“I didn’t see any.”
“Are you hurt?”
"They took them."
I got the last bit of tape off her legs and she jumped up. I took off my
jacket and she slipped it on. Something about her wearing my leather
jacket with the lacy panties almost made me lose my focus. "Stay beside
me, I'll get you out of here."
"Wait," she said. She picked up the chair and lifted it to smash it down
on his head but I grabbed it from her.
"I don't blame you but we got to go. Too much noise. Come on." I reached
out my hand and she took it, squeezing like she would never let go. We
hurried back into the shadows along the wall, heading to the door where
I came in.
We were a few yards from the exit when the second kidnapper came in,
carrying a bag from a taco joint. What self-respecting kidnappers would
go for take-out tacos an hour before the ransom drop? I guess these
guys. The safety lights above the door provided enough light for him to
recognize the money end of my Beretta as I stuck it in his face.
“Drop the bag." He did. "Hands up." He did. He shook so bad his keys
rattled. I frisked him and he had a pistol tucked into the back of his
jeans which became mine. A long spool of plastic wrap was nearby. It was
five feet wide - the self-sticking stuff they wrap around the pallets to
secure the products. I had Katie pull off a long stretch of the plastic
and lay it in the middle of the aisle.
"Seńor?" His eyes went wide. He knew what was coming.
"Shut up. Lay down on the plastic."
"Make him take off his clothes," said Katie.
"What?" I said.
“What?” he said.
She took a step closer to. "Take off your clothes, you bastard."
Again, I couldn't blame her. She deserved some vengeance. "You heard
"Senor, please. I can't," he pleaded.
"Take off your clothes you spick son-of-a bitch," Katie screamed. It
scared me and I know it scared him. He stripped off his clothes in
seconds. "Yeah, now who's the big man? What is that, a two-inch dick?"
And I was into Katie Pitts. Leather jacket, blond hair, black streaks
across her face, and bra and panties, a cross between an underwear model
and an Amazon warrior.
"Lay down on the plastic," I said. He did but still had his hands
outstretched. "Put your hands to your sides. You're about to be a human
burrito." I rolled him in the plastic while he cursed me in Spanish. The
naked Hispanic wrapped in plastic floundering around on the warehouse
floor put a smile on Katie’s face. “Can we go?"
She went to our plastic-wrapped kidnapper and smashed her heel into his
ribs a few times. "Now we can go."
We got outside and made our way to my BMW. I opened the trunk and pulled
out a sweatshirt. "Put this on. Give me my jacket." Even though she was
sexy in my leather jacket and her underwear, it was still my leather
jacket. She complied. I had bottled water in a cooler and handed her
one. She gulped it down. "Sure you’re not hurt?"
"No. I'm okay," she said.
I handed her my phone. “Call your parents and let’s get you home.”
“Wait. What’s your name?”
"Delarosa. Get in.”
It took twenty minutes to drive to her parent's large colonial in the
affluent Wood Grove section of town. Katie filled in the details of the
past two days with her abductors. She recognized one guy as a
maintenance worker from the club, and said the other must work at Blair
Trucking because he had keys to the place. They held her in their
apartment, didn't mistreat her; only sat and stared at her for a day and
a half. I used one of my throw-away phones and called police emergency
and anonymously reported a break-in at the warehouse. I doubt the morons
will cop to a kidnapping. The police will check their immigration status
and with any luck they'll be deported.
The reunion at the Pitts house was tearful. Their tears, not mine. I
stood next to my car in their driveway and thought Mrs. Pitts would
never let go of her daughter. Doctor Pitts walked over and handed me a
check for twenty grand and couldn't stop thanking me. I slipped the
check into my jacket pocket and he threw his arms around me in a giant
bear hug. I gave him one more chance to report this as a kidnapping but
he wanted it quiet. He explained if the word got out about this
kidnapping, then others like him – wealthy folks – will become
targets. He didn’t want to give anyone any ideas. Sounded pretentious
and paranoid, but didn’t matter to me. Pitts was a cardiologist and
offered me free cardiology checkups for life. I'll need it as long as my
cholesterol keeps going north instead of south.
Katie broke free of her mother and ran over and threw her arms around
me. This hug I didn't mind. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"I'm glad you're okay."
She let go and I shook the doctor's hand again. Mrs. Pitts came over and
hugged me. I got into my car as the three of them headed into the house,
arm in arm. As they got to the front door, Katie turned back and gave me
a wave. A wave I felt in my gut. I waved back. It even pulled at my
heartstrings a little. I'm glad for the happy ending, even happier for
the easy twenty-five grand. I put the Z4 in gear and headed home.
It was three in the morning when I got back to my condo but I was too
keyed-up to sleep, so I put a Miles Davis CD into the player and
stripped off my clothes. With the shower as hot as I could stand it, I
allowed the water to sting my skin for a good five minutes, then stepped
out and wrapped a towel around me.
I pulled a seven-year-old Chianti from my wine rack and opened it,
grabbed a glass and went to my balcony and stretched out on the lounge.
The music and the wine were just what I needed to come down from the
night's job. My condo is on the fourth and top floor of the building and
provides me a panoramic view of Port City. Straight out from the balcony
looking north are the lights of downtown and the suburban sprawl beyond.
To the right and east is a view of the harbor. From my high vantage
point sometimes I feel like an overseer; or a protector. Especially when
jobs go well - like tonight.
The eastern sky was turning a light grey as I filled my glass for a
second time. The red wine felt good going down and I got a nice burn
from the alcohol. I kept going back to Katie Pitts. The little wave she
gave me as I left her house stayed with me. I had this feeling, and
after twenty years on the department and six out on my own, I always
trust my gut, my instinct, my sixth-sense. I had not seen the last of
Excerpted from "Auburn Ride: A Johnny Delarosa Thriller" by David Stever. Copyright © 2016 by David Stever. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.