Weyler slid the letter onto his desk in a nonchalant manner. “Sorry. Can’t give you any time off now.”
Jane’s back went up. A second ago she was hesitant. Now she was pissed by Weyler’s offhand attitude. “I have more time on the books than anyone in the Department! I’m just asking for a week…”
“I’ve already committed you to a case. Well, both of us, actually.”
Jane felt the walls caving in. That all-too-familiar edge began to creep up. God, a cigarette would taste damn good right now. “I really need this time off…”
“Is someone dead or dying?” Weyler stared at Jane, waiting for her answer.
For a moment, Jane wondered if Weyler could read her mind. Dying. His words yanked the freshly formed scab off the news she’d received just an hour earlier. “I…” She was at a loss for words.
“Because someone else is,” Weyler stated, taking a seat in his plush, leather office chair and motioning for her to sit across from him.
Jane reluctantly sat down. “We work in homicide. Someone’s always dead or dying.”
Weyler drew the yellow pad toward him. “But this one is way outside the norm. Goes against the statistics.”
Jane hated the fact that Weyler knew how to play her so well. She loved cases that dwelled outside the box and made her think. She took the bait. “What stats?”
“A fifteen-year-old boy was kidnapped…after what appeared to be his attempted suicide.”
The thought briefly crossed her mind that some poor kid was having a worse day than she was. “He tried to kill himself…”
“By hanging. On a remote bridge.”
“And then someone kidnaps him? What are the odds of that?”
“Million to one.“
“Make it two million to one, given his age. Fifteen-year- old boys don’t get kidnapped. They’re full of testosterone and attitude…”
“His name is Jacob Van Gorden. He goes by Jake.’ Even though he’s fifteen, he’s small for his age,” Weyler offered, checking his notes.
“So what? He’s fifteen! He’s a boy! Fifteen-year-old boys run away, hop a train…”
“Hop a train?”
“You know what I’m saying. The suicide wasn’t real. Jacob…Jake obviously set it up and ditched town.”
“That’s what everyone thought. But here’s where it gets interesting. The family and police are being sent odd clues as to the boy’s disappearance.”
“Asking for ransom? Come on! The kid’s in on it. He’s pimping his family to get attention and some money.”
“No request for money, Jane…just odd deliveries of statements to the family.”
The day was quickly catching up with Jane. She pinched the skin between her eyes. “You said a remote bridge? Didn’t know Denver had any of those left.”
“It didn’t happen in Denver. This occurred up in Midas.”
Jane let out a tired puff of air. Midas, a town of less than 10,000, was located about 90 minutes northwest of Denver.
“That’s a tad out of our jurisdiction!” She was preparing to volley another lob for a week off when Weyler spoke.
“They’ve got their eye on a local guy…Jordan Copeland. Name ring a bell?” Jane shook her head. “Way before your time, I guess. It was a huge tabloid story back in the summer of 1968.” Weyler filled her in on one of the more infamous murder cases of the late 1960s. It had “sensational” written all over it. Copeland was eighteen and found guilty of killing his next-door neighbor, a mentally retarded, thirteen-year-old boy, Daniel Marshall, in the backyard of his home in Short Hills, New Jersey. For no particular reason, Copeland shot the kid in cold blood with his father’s rifle and then hid the boy’s dead body under his bed for several days before the smell gave him away. “He did thirty-four years hard time,” Weyler added. “Got out of prison seven years ago and settled in Midas about two years back.”
“If they think Copeland did it, then why are we getting involved?”
“They don’t have enough evidence to hold Copeland… even though his behavior is pretty damn strange. They took everything they needed from him before letting him go—handwriting sample, blood, hair, DNA. Bottom line…time’s ticking away. This all went down five days ago. The family didn’t jump on it because they thought it was a suicide.”
“With no body?”
“Figured he slipped out of the noose and fell into the river. But the day after the disappearance, the family started getting the strange notes.”
“How come no news coverage?”
“Family insists on keeping it low key. So does the town.”
“Wait a second. What happened to whoring yourself across primetime TV to get help? Maybe Copeland dumped the kid across state lines…”
“This is Midas, Jane. People don’t move to Midas, Colorado to get attention. They move there to blend in and live a quiet, unexposed existence. The family and the police chief want to respect those wishes. The last thing they crave is a goddamned media circus. Can you blame them?”
Jane certainly had been part of media circuses. Too many times, she’d reluctantly played a pivotal role in high-profile cases and had the spotlight directed her way. She hated it and rejected all offers to cash in on her celebrity—except once, almost two years ago, when she agreed to an appearance on Larry King Live. The owner of the local coffee joint still gave her a free refill for that. “If they like this Copeland asshole for it, why don’t they have some cops sit up on him to watch his moves 24/7, harass him, see if the weird notes stop arriving and then pummel him into a confession?”
“They’re short staffed. You have the police chief, his secretary and a few deputies.”
“Midas is one of the wealthiest small towns north of Denver. They can certainly afford to hire out extra help.“ Jane noted Weyler’s expression. “Oh, shit. We’re the extra help?”