The name’s Angola LaGrange, private investigator. A pandemic grips the nation, isolating everyone from each other. But sometimes they still need a little help. The criminal Greg Parks, under an alias, hired me to find
The name’s Angola LaGrange, private investigator. A pandemic grips the nation, isolating everyone from each other. But sometimes they still need a little help. The criminal Greg Parks, under an alias, hired me to find a local girl: Anya Koslov. When I did, he and his boss, Liam O’Connell shot up her apartment and kidnapped her before I could put the pieces together. Both men seemed to be working for someone named Tevas, who was unhappy with Parks performance so O’Connell killed his former partner. Now my friend Li and I have tracked him down to a warehouse where we hope to rescue Anya.
Read the full details Here and the unfolding case below.
“Freeze! Keep your hands where we can see them.” I rushed past Li and into the office.
The walls were lined with built-in cabinets and cupboards.
Liam O’Connell leaned over a large desk, his back to the door. He spun and threw something at us.
Li flinched aside.
My shot caught O’Connell in the shoulder and knocked him back into a nearby chair.
The phone he’d thrown shattered against the concrete floor.
Liam pressed his left hand against the wound. His right arm hung limp at his side.
I shook with adrenaline. “Is there anyone else here?”
He spat at me.
“Answer my questions or my friend here will get impatient.” I gestured to Li without taking my eyes off O’Connell. “Unless you want to know how your friend Parks felt.”
“Parks? Is that what this is about?” He laughed. “Parks was a bloody moron with delusions of grandeur. I mean, did you hear that phony Russian accent?”
“I’m not here about him, I want the girl, Anya Koslov. But first, is there anyone else here?”
“You must be that private eye he hired. I knew not killing you was a mistake.”
“Is anyone else here?”
He groaned a little as he shifted into a more comfortable position. “Nobody but us chickens.”
That was too easy.
Li picked up on it too. He swung closed what was left of the door. It wasn’t much of a deterrent, but it might give us a little extra warning.
“So where’s the girl?”
He tapped the bloody fingers of his left hand. “You know, something’s gone and driven it right out of my mind.”
“Tell me what I want to know and we’ll call you an ambulance.”
“Sorry, can’t help you.”
A muffled thump came from the far side of the room.
“What was that?”
O’Connell laughed. “Wound a bit too tight there, eh? Now you’re hearing things.”
He shrugged. “Make up your mind.”
The thump again, louder.
“Watch him.” I said to Li and moved to search the cupboards on the far side of the room.
The first contained a huge stack of papers. I glanced quickly at the top few. They were shipping contracts with that day’s date scrawled across the top and a large red checkmark.
The third thump was clearer.
I opened that cabinet to reveal Anya, bound, gagged, and stuffed into the small space.
I eased her out onto the floor and undid her gag. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head slowly. “I…I don’t think so.”
“Good.” I grabbed a box-cutter off the desk and cut her restraints. “Who do you know in shipping?”
“What?” She rubbed at her wrists.
“Shipping, customs, transportation, warehouses—any of those bring someone to mind?”
“Um, my aunt works in customs.”
I passed her my phone. “Call her, right now. Tell her you’re safe and get her to flag any boat, container, parcel, or handbag they’ve made her clear.” My thoughts drifted to the room full of shipping containers just outside the office. Whatever they’re shipping, there’s a lot of it.
Anya took it and dialed.
O’Connell growled from the far side of the desk.
I walked over to Li. “Give me your phone.”
He pulled out an old brick of a phone and handed it over without taking his eyes off of Liam.
“Really?” I hefted the thing as I dialed.
“This is Stallings,” Jim answered after a moment.
“Jim, I need backup down at the waterfront. Better bring the bomb squad and a K-9 unit too. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with.” I glanced over at O’Connell. “And an ambulance.”
“Ange, what’s going on?”
“I’m still putting the pieces together, but my missing persons case ran into something bigger.”
“You know I’m still dealing with the last mess you handed me.”
“Trust me, you’re going to want a piece of this.”
“Fine, what’s the address?”
I gave it to him.
“I’ll see what I can get mobilized. There aren’t going to be any dead bodies this time, right?”
“Not if you hurry.” I hung up and handed the phone back to Li.
“Not sure, but I’d guess not long.” I turned to O’Connell. “So you’d better start talking.”
He shrugged, then winced. “What’s left to say?”
“What are you shipping?”
“Cute. But why bring me into this in the first place?”
He laughed. “That was Parks’ mistake. He was just supposed to track down the girl, but apparently he thought that job was too hard, so he delegated it to you. Even if he had killed you, we’d have to get rid of him before long anyway.”
We. “Who are you working with?”
“I work with all kinds of people. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“All right, who’s Tevas?”
The name caught Liam off guard, but he quickly covered his surprise with a smirk. “Who?”
“Here.” Anya passed my phone back. She stepped away, between me and O’Connell.
But it was too late.
With lightning speed, Liam leapt up and grabbed her by the throat with his good hand. He pulled her close to serve as a human shield.
Li and I raised our weapons, moving to box him in.
“Get out of my way, or her blood is on your hands.” Liam ducked behind Anya.
I didn’t have a shot, and Li couldn’t take his.
“You don’t know how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into, O’Connell.” I spoke calmly, forcing my breath and heartbeat to slow, steadying my hands. “My friend over there is a spec-ops sniper with more confirmed kills than I can remember.”
Li tensed like a coiled snake, ready to strike.
Liam shifted Anya slightly in Li’s direction.
Sirens screamed in the distance, growing closer.
“Time’s running out, O’Connell. Let the girl go and you might walk out of here.”
He shifted again. “The police won’t risk—”
The bullet tore through his knee and he screamed.
Li lunged, grabbing Anya away from O’Connell as he collapsed.
Men shouted outside. Most of it was indecipherable, but I did catch, “Shots fired.”
Anya stared up at Li with wide eyes. “Are you really special forces?”
“No, I used to be an MP. Military police.” He answered her puzzled expression.
“Oh. But you’re so strong.”
I rolled my eyes and quickly dialed Jim’s number.
“Ange, what’s happening?”
“That was me. We’ve secured a hostage and one kidnapper is down. I don’t know if there are more in the building. We’re holding the office.”
“Stay put, we’re coming in.”
The sounds of a police breach echoed through the outer storage area.
I motioned for Li and Anya to move to the far side of the desk, just in case.
After a few moments, Jim called from the far side of the door. “Ange? I’m coming in.”
“Come ahead.” I raised my left hand, while keeping my gun trained on O’Connell with the other.
Jim entered with the stench of bad cologne. Seeing my prisoner, he leaned back out the door and called, “Can we get a paramedic in here?”
“Be careful, he’s a nasty one.”
“Is that so?” Jim glanced from O’Connell’s bleeding shoulder to shattered knee.
“You saw his handiwork with Parks.”
“Parks? Oh.” He stopped the paramedic as she entered. “Best start with a strong sedative.”
She nodded and pulled a syringe from her kit before approaching Liam.
“You do realize this whole thing was wildly illegal, right?”
“Kidnapping typically is.”
“Not that, your little rescue operation.”
“I made a citizen’s arrest.”
“That doesn’t let you shoot someone.”
Jim shook his head.
A dog barked in the other room, and a man shouted: “Sir, we’ve found something!”
I followed Jim out to one of the shipping containers.
He motioned to officers standing nearby. “Open it up.”
With a groan, the doors swung out. Inside, a dozen or more emaciated young women blinked out at us.
“Oh crap. We’re going to need more paramedics.” Jim stepped gingerly into the container. “It’s all right. You’re safe now.”
I stepped back and counted the containers. There were at least twenty-five.
How long has this been going on?
“Ange, get out of here.”
“You heard me. This is going to be a huge interdepartmental headache. I can get your involvement lost in the paperwork, but not if you’re here when the chief arrives.”
“I’ll let you know how it goes over that drink you owe me.”
“You can’t hold me to that. I was in character.”
“Doesn’t matter. Besides you owe me.”
“What about Anya?”
“We’ll take care of her. We need her statement for the report.”
“Just make sure she’s all right.”
“I will. Now go.”
It was a week before Jim made good on his threat.
The bars were still closed, but I talked Old Man Haskins into letting us use his place. He kept it well stocked, even with the shutdown.
“We found over thirty women, mostly from Eastern Europe. Who knows how many more were taken away before we got there?” Jim sipped at his beer.
“I hear the FBI picked up four more containers down in Georgia.”
“Yeah, it seems O’Connell and his people bribed and blackmailed port officials across the country to get their shipments through customs.”
“It’s a nightmare.”
“You can say that again.”
My phone buzzed. “Sorry, I’ve got to take this, it might be a client.”
“Of course.” He dismissed me with a wave.
I walked to the far side of the bar and answered the phone. “Angola LaGrange, private investigator.”
“So, you’re the one who’s been meddling in my affairs.” It was an older man’s voice, with a distinctly Eastern European accent.
“Tevas, I presume.”
“You’ve cost me quite a bit, Miss LaGrange.”
“Sorry, but I don’t have much sympathy for human traffickers.”
“Just because you’ve shut down one facet of my operation, don’t think my reach is shortened. Retribution is coming.”
Before I could answer, he hung up. I checked the number. It was blocked.
An email popped up from the address Parks had given me. Inside was a link to a news article describing a car accident outside of town. There was one casualty.
“Jim, I need to talk with O’Connell.”
He swallowed quickly. “You can’t.”
“Come on, this shouldn’t be hard to arrange. I just need a few minutes.”
“No, you don’t understand. They found him hanging in his cell last night.”
“The investigation is ongoing, but so far it looks like suicide.”
“Suicide? Even if he wanted to, he was crippled. How’d he manage to hang himself?”
Jim shrugged. “You know how these prison cases go.”
Yet another reason I’m glad I left law enforcement.
“Why? Is something wrong?”
Not yet anyway.