“Look, man,” said a worried McCormick to the large bulk of a man who held Krissy prisoner. “Put the gun down. I know you’re serious but I can’t find the cat. Just let her go.”
“I need the cat,” said Tank as he pulled the squirming child closer to him. “So you need to find the cat. Go get it.”
Hardcastle and Mary ran out of the house with their guns drawn. Tank pushed the muzzle of his gun into Krissy’s temple. “Stop and drop your guns!” he ordered. “All I want is the cat.”
“He’s gone!” shouted McCormick. “He took off as soon as you busted the door down.”
Hardcastle cast a steely eye at the kidnapper. “The police have already been called. Let the girl go before this gets worse.”
Tank considered his options and began to drag the girl to his waiting car. “You got two hours to get the cat and bring it to ‘The Brown Derby’, in a carrier. Bring the cat and you’ll get your daughter back.”
“Daddy!” Krissy cried. “Don’t let the man take me.”
McCormick and Hardcastle paused in confusion. “Don’t worry, honey,” yelled McCormick finding his voice first. “Daddy will get you.”
Without another word, Tank threw the girl into the cat and peeled out of the drive leaving behind a cloud of dust in its wake.
“Judge,” said a confused McCormick. “What’s going on here?”
“Leave it to you to find the only spy cat in the country,” answered Hardcastle.
“Why did she call me daddy?”
“Because at the moment, you’re just a man who found a cat,” answered a worried Mary. “If they knew we were after the cat that man probably would have just shot everyone who got in his way.”
“The government, McCormick,” said Hardcastle. “Our government,” he added. “Come on, Mrs. Brown, we better call your team.”
“Mrs. Brown?” mouthed an increasingly confused McCormick.
Mary Brown’s worried expression deepened. “We can’t do that. My team wants the information and the spy ring. I’m afraid they’ll consider Krissy expendable. If I want to get her back safely, I’m going to need the cat.”
McCormick looked over at Hardcastle who nodded that they could trust the distraught mother. “I’ll find him,” he sighed.
It took a few minutes to find Bilbo who had hidden himself amidst McCormick’s dirty tennis shoes at the back of the closet. The cat was unceremoniously dumped into a cardboard box where he made his displeasure known. Hardcastle brought McCormick up to speed as Mary brought a strange looking device from her car.
“I keep a tracer on Krissy whenever she’s helping me on a case,” explained Mary as she shook her head. “I really didn’t think we would have any trouble but there’s always a chance.”
“How can we help?” asked Hardcastle as McCormick nodded in agreement.
Mary looked up at the two men. “It could be risky,” she said.
“We’re used to risk,” said Hardcastle.
“I know,” she smiled. “They’ve probably taken her to their headquarters. That might mean they won’t let her leave. If it is their headquarters, the F.B.I. will want to get in there. But I want to make sure Krissy’s safe. If we can find it, maybe McCormick can break in and get her out before the team arrives.”
“What do you mean McCormick can break in?” asked McCormick.
“I’ve read your file Mr. McCormick. I know you’re probably better than me at breaking and entering. You’re the best man for the job and I need you to free my daughter.”
“I don’t know why I’m surprised you read my file,” mumbled McCormick, “everyone else does. I’m surprised it’s not on the best seller list somewhere.”
“Get your gear, McCormick,” ordered Hardcastle. “We’ve got a little girl to rescue. Don’t worry; we’ll get her back, Mrs. Brown.”
“Please call me Mary,” she said. “You’re doing so much for me.”
“Mary, it is,” responded Hardcastle.
* * * * *
McCormick grabbed his kit and mentally reviewed the plan. Hardcastle and Mary would lead the way using her tracers unit. He would follow in the Coyote. If they could locate Krissy within the next hour, he would enter the building while they set up a perimeter. If he could free Krissy without detection, Mary would call in the Feds to close down the ring. If he got captured, Mary would call in the Feds. If they couldn’t locate Krissy using the tracer, they would meet the kidnappers and try to rescue the girl there. Someone would stay behind to notify the Feds; either after Krissy was returned safe or the kidnappers decided to get rid of all potential witnesses. McCormick followed Mary’s vehicle at a discrete distance. Being from the old school, Hardcastle had initially insisted on driving the car but when he saw all of the state of the art technology and added extras, he had been demoted to cat sitter. McCormick thought back on the low guttural howl Bilbo had made when it was first driven to the gatehouse, and he was glad the cat was with Hardcastle.
After about twenty minutes of driving which included numerous turns around the same neighborhood, Mary signaled for him to pull off to the side. McCormick exited his vehicle and met up with Mary and the judge. He noted the disgusted look Hardcastle threw at the back seat of the car where Bilbo waited impatiently.
“I’m pretty sure the signal is coming from that warehouse at the end of the street,” said Mary. “We’re lucky it’s a dead end street. Milton and I can set up a perimeter here and give you a chance to get in.”
McCormick’s eyebrow arched at the use of Hardcastle’s first name as he scanned the area and made a mental plan on the best way to enter the building.“
”Mr. McCormick,“ said Mary as she touched arm, ”I want you to know that you don’t have to do this. You don’t owe me or Krissy anything and it could be dangerous.“
”Don’t worry about McCormick,“ said Hardcastle, ”He does things like this all the time. He’ll get her out.“
”Yeah, what Milton said,“ smirked McCormick, as Hardcastle turned his disgusted glare on the ex-parolee.
* * * * *
McCormick began a slow drive to the warehouse. Hardcastle and Mary were parked about a block and a half from the building. If anyone left the building, using the street, they would be seen and followed. He parked his car about a half a block away. Hopefully the kidnappers still thought of him as a distraught father who wouldn’t attempt a rescue attempt.
There were a couple of cars parked in the front of the decrepit building; one was the car which had driven away with Krissy. Experience taught him that most criminal minds tended to think in a direct manner. If a building had two doors, all security was focused on the two doors. This left the middle unprotected. He approached the building on the blind side and chose a likely window. He quietly pulled up an overturned garbage can, climbed up and looked into the window.
Luck was with him this time as the room appeared to be empty. His luck continued as the window was not latched. McCormick slid open the window and climbed inside. He went down into a crouch as soon as his feet hit the floor and he listened for any sounds which would tell him who might be in the building.
As he opened the door into the hallway, he could hear the sound of men arguing at the front of the building. There were several closed door on both side of him. If his luck continued, Krissy would be locked in one of the rooms. Otherwise, he would need the back-up.
He tried two doors by giving each a small knock and whispering Krissy’s name before he got an answer. The room was locked but it was no match for his skills and tools. As the door opened, he motioned for her to remain silent and follow him. As he led her back to the open window, the sound of the arguing men increased.
”But Mr. Grace, she didn’t see anything,“ Tank explained. ”I had her blindfolded the entire way.“
”It’s too much of a risk. I’ve put too much into this set-up to lose it because of your mess-up. When you get the cat, kill the girl and her dad. Take Barney with you, in case anyone else shows up. Then go back to the house and kill anyone that might have seen you.“
Krissy’s eyes widened when she heard the order to kill her and her mother. McCormick tried to smile reassuringly but they both knew they were in a desperate situation. At the open window, McCormick tried to lower Krissy onto the trashcan but she was too small and her feet couldn’t reach. Stretched out as far as he could go, McCormick released the girl’s hand. Krissy’s feet hit the side of the can causing it to tip. Both she and the can fell to the ground with a loud crash.
”Run, Krissy!“ shouted McCormick as he climbed out of the window. He watched as Krissy jumped to her feet and looked around for a safe place to run. ”Toward the red car!” he said.
McCormick leaped from the window and landed hard on his right ankle. A sharp pain shot through his leg but he knew they did not have any time left. He bit hard on his lip as he rose and ran after the fleeing girl. He could hear the sound of the angry men as they exited the building; they were shouting orders which were better left ignored. As he caught up with Krissy, he swept her into his arms and carried her the last few feet to the waiting Coyote. He threw her into the front seat of the vehicle with an order to belt up. McCormick followed her into the car and started the engine. He executed a two-point turn as he noticed several men get into the two cars parked at the warehouse. McCormick hoped that Hardcastle and Mary had called for back-up.