“Seventeen-Twenty-Five from dispatch,” squawked the radio. Liz Harrison, our lead dispatcher, was working the day shift in the communication center. I always loved it when Liz was working dispatch, instead of stuck in her office supervising. Liz had a silky, smoky voice that would make any 1-900 phone sex girl envious.
I keyed the button on my lapel mike for my portable radio, rather than reaching to grab the hand mike from my cruiser’s Motorola console radio.
“Dispatch, Twenty-Five, go,” I replied.
“Twenty-Five, be advised that we have a report of a possible kidnapping that occurred at 685 Front Street in Red River Falls. Caller indicates a 7 year old girl was taken from that residence by a non-custodial father and female acquaintance. Caller believes that both subjects may be armed and dangerous. Vehicle is described as a Maroon 1998 Plymouth Voyager; Choctaw County plates Victor, David, Adam, Six, Four, Lincoln. All personnel are urged to use extreme caution when approaching subjects. Make your own case. Mason County clear at fourteen-thirty-seven.”
Damn! A kidnapping right here in Mason County! Currently, I was patrolling in the southern part of the county and I needed to know if I had an opportunity to position myself between the suspects and their most likely route of egress from the scene of the abduction.
“Dispatch, Twenty-Five acknowledges. Any intel on what direction they might be headed?” I queried.
“Negative, Twenty-Five. Stand by for additional information. Statewide Amber Alert is now in effect. Subject information is being sent via the ‘net at this time.”
“Dispatch, Twenty-Five. Good copy,” I replied.
My name is Sean Patrick Quinn, Jr. But all of my friends, co-workers and most of my family call me Patrick instead. I never cared for Junior much, mostly because me and my old man never saw eye to eye. I was a Deputy Sheriff for the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. I was on a fairly routine patrol that hot, sunny August afternoon when the Amber Alert came in over my radio. My current shift schedule had me working one of the day cars from 0700 to 1530. I worked a fairly regular schedule of six days on and 3 days off. I didn’t mind the extra work day, compared to a normal 40-hour week and I definitely enjoyed the benefit of having a three-day weekend at the end of every tour.
I was patrolling along County Road Y-29, which is basically a lonely stretch of black top about 15 miles south of Red River Falls, that branches off US Highway 120 and heads westward towards endless miles of open range dotted with a few farms and hundreds of thousands of acres of sheep and cattle ranches. Mason County is big and sparsely populated, save for the city of Red River Falls, and covers nearly 2,700 square miles of territory.
I pulled my cruiser, a 2012 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, over to the shoulder of the two-lane blacktop. I glanced at the message that popped up on my Panasonic Quick Book laptop computer that was hard-mounted right above my radio console and the controls for my emergency lights and siren. The laptop definitely made for some cramped quarters, but the information that I could obtain instantly about drivers, licenses, wants and warrants, as well as general criminal background checks provided me with an invaluable tool. I can sacrifice a bit of comfort for essential information.
Sure enough, the Amber Alert message was there, along with some additional information. The message reported the same vehicle, a 1998 Maroon Plymouth Voyager, license plate VDA 64L, registered to one William Raymond Jackson, D.O.B. 6/19/80, Caucasian, age 33, six feet, 2 inches tall, 220 pounds. Hmm. Big bastard! Brown hair, brown eyes, male-pattern baldness with a full beard that was at least as long as his own neck. Everybody loves “Duck Dynasty”, right?
I thought, ‘Really? William Raymond Jackson? BILLY RAY???’
Jeez! Even the guy’s name made him sound like a criminal! Or a country singer, one of the two.
At any rate, the guy had a rap sheet a mile long. Two drunk driving convictions, driving while
barred (no license), simple assault, misdemeanor assault, aggravated assaul, fifth degree theft by
check (Who the hell still writes checks?), 2nd degree theft, (Now that’s more like it…), possession of stolen property, 4 counts of possession of a controlled substance, multiple citations for public intoxication, resisting arrest and FINALLY…..one charge of public urination, which occurred within 500 feet of a school or daycare center and resulted in mandatory registration as a sex offender for indecent exposure. Wow! This guy was a definitely one of society’s finer sophisticates. No wonder he would never have custody of his child, which the alert said was a 7-year old girl. The subject currently had outstanding warrants issued within the last 72 hours for possession of a controlled substance, intent to deliver and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance. Meth. Federal charges and no parole if convicted.
Great, I thought, just what I needed to deal with at the end of my shift – a goddamned meth head. The Amber Alert also stated that the subject’s last known residence was in Cherokee Flats, the far southeast corner of the state in Choctaw County and a two-hour drive or more at normal highway speed.
The Amber Alert was issued at 1439. My watch currently read 1446.
“Dispatch, Twenty-Five,” I radioed.
“Twenty-Five, go for dispatch,” came the reply.
“Dispatch, what time was the abduction reported?”
“Twenty-Five, time of call on this was 1432.”
Damn! Fourteen minutes ago! Considering the time it would take them to get out of Red River Falls, which was a sizable town of almost 30,000 people, he would quickly be approaching the intersection of Y-29 and US 120, if he were traveling close to the speed limit. If he was really hauling ass, he might even be south of me already.
“Good copy, dispatch.”
I punched the accelerator on the big Crown Vic and headed east on Y-29 toward US 120. The big V-8 engine roared to life and the posit traction rear wheels bore down on both gravel and pavement and left a nice pair of black strips on the roadway once both rear wheels finally found asphalt.
I didn’t hit my emergency lights or siren just yet. My cruiser is a fully marked car with emergency strobes in my grill, wig-wag headlights and tail lights and a full light bar on the roof. Some officers prefer a semi-marked or unmarked car. I don’t. I like people to KNOW that I’m a law enforcement officer when they see me. And I absolutely detest the word cop!
However, I did bring the cruiser up to good speed and I was soon hitting 100 mph. I figured that ought to close the distance fairly quickly between my perfectly honed cruiser and an aging mini-van.
About 3 minutes later, I was near the intersection of Y-29 and US 120. I brought the cruiser to a halt at the intersection and looked both right and left. There was absolutely no traffic coming in either direction. US 120 south from this point was an almost entirely straight stretch of road for five miles before it slightly dog-legged east towards the bluffs along the river.
I decided to turn right and follow 120 south where I looked for a place to stage and where I had good visibility of the highway for at least 2 to 3 miles, both north and south. If the kidnapper was going to take the child back to Cherokee Flats, this is where he would most likely be heading. US 120 is the old highway linking Cherokee Flats and Red River Falls. Interstate 60 is about 5 miles east of here and almost exclusively follows the general contours of the river.
The most likely avenue of approach was going to be Hwy 120. The abductor probably knew that the State Patrol would be crawling all over the interstate. Drivers with their cell phones were almost certainly getting text messages by now sent out through the statewide Amber Alert system.
I pulled in and parked my cruiser next to a long-abandoned gas station and service center on the east side of the road. Just to the south of my position was a car graveyard with several hundred cars rusting away as they baked under the heat of the sun in clear skies on the upper plains. The extra cars would help my cruiser blend in, to a certain degree, and wouldn’t give away my position too quickly, even though I was partially hidden by the gas station. All of a sudden I was starting to regret my insistence on being assigned a fully marked cruiser.