Copyright © 2010
Somewhere outside Suffolk, Virginia
Wyatt Bowman paused in the doorway of the small conference room as he looked around for an empty seat. He spotted his partner, Dave Miller, motioning to him—he had secured two seats on the far side of the room. Wyatt stopped at the refreshment table and poured himself a mug of coffee, then walked toward Harry Edwards, who was wearing sunglasses, a cup of black coffee already in hand.
“Late night, Harry?” he asked his colleague with a smile.
“Don’t ask. Then I won’t have to lie,” Harry responded by raising his cup to Wyatt as if in a toast.
Wyatt slapped Harry on the back and turned away, almost bumping into Olivia Winters, another member of his team.
“Well, fancy meeting you here.” He chuckled.
“Good morning, Wyatt. Ready for another go at it?” Her lips curved into a smile and her blue eyes sparkled with sexual innuendo.
“If you’re talking about the new assignment, yes. Anything else you’ll have to get back to me with more details.” He winked at her, grinned, and patted her arm as he left her side.
As he took his seat, he greeted other colleagues, careful not to spill his coffee on anyone while shaking their hands. He sat in his chair and placed his folder and pen on the table in front of him while Richard Mullins, agent in charge of the two task forces assigned to Human Sex Trafficking, began the morning briefing.
“Good morning, everyone. You have in front of you the pertinent information related to our most recently assigned abduction case, which happened outside the Lakes Shopping Mall in Denver. For those of you who can’t read,” he teased with a smile, “I’ll reiterate. Mall security cameras were able to capture the license plates of both vehicles involved, and from further investigation, we were able to identify the victim as well as the suspect.”
As Richard continued his diatribe about the victim, Wyatt sat listening. His mind was in turmoil. When is this going to be over? When will I walk into a meeting and there won’t be ‘the latest victim?’ There are so many now that we are constantly searching for and more every day. When will it end?
“The victim, Megan Witherite, according to her driver’s license information is twenty-eight years old, about five feet, seven inches, one hundred twenty pounds, blonde hair, and green eyes. In addition, her cell phone left in her car had a GPS in it that we were able to track down to a motel in a seedy part of town known for drug trafficking and prostitution rings.
“Tire tracks left behind on the pavement near where the victim parked her car match those of a newer model van belonging to our suspect, Steve Spikerelli, aka Spike. He’s a wannabe big-time mobster with a long rap sheet. His previous arrests and activities range anywhere from money laundering, car thefts, prostitution rings, drug trafficking, and anything and everything in between. He’s also known for his international activities in human sex trafficking in Bolivia, Guatemala, and most of Central America. He’s apparently decided to add sex trafficking to his infamous list of illegal activities here in the United States, primarily in the Denver area.
“Some of you may be familiar with him since we have been working his case for quite some time. Those of you who aren’t, pay attention to his dossier. Any questions come to me or your team leader.”
Richard reached over to a laptop computer on a nearby desk, clicked a key and a picture of Spike appeared on the large screen on the wall.
“We need to focus on this guy and his organization before there’s another victim like Megan,” he said as Spike’s picture on the screen was replaced with a picture of an attractive young woman.
“Bowman, your team will focus on Spike and his internal operations. We already have an undercover operative, so we should be getting some viable information there. Miller, your team will concentrate on the victim’s family background with jealousy, relationships gone bad, grudges, et cetera. You all know the routine.
“As usual, I’ll need full reports from both your teams within forty- eight hours. Let’s hope you have some good news for me.”
“Yes, sir,” Wyatt said. He gathered his paperwork and stood to leave.
“See you in Denver, Dave.”
He looked back at his partner as he left the meeting room and saw Dave gaping at his quick departure.
* * * *
Two days later
Wyatt leaned his head back on the headrest of the airplane seat, closed his eyes, and rubbed out the furrows in his forehead with the palms of his hands. The events of the past few weeks swirled in his mind. He was tired. No, he was more than tired—he was fed-up, weary, and worn-down. And he still had an overabundance of paperwork to catch up on.
He sighed deeply, thinking about his career with no typical days in his life anymore—every day was different. His work on the Human Trafficking Task Force made it necessary for him to be available 24/7, responding to crimes. And lately, there were too many crimes and too many responses for his six-member task force. No wonder I feel so overwhelmed.
“Whew!” Wyatt blew out a deep breath as Dave settled in the seat next to him. “I really thought we had the bastard this time.”
“Yeah, I did too,” Dave replied.
“We’ll get him. We know it’s just a matter of time. The way Spike’s organization is expanding, the sooner we get him the better. I’ve been meaning to ask you, Wyatt, what’s eatin’ at you? I’ve known you for a long time, and I know when something’s troubling you. What’s up?”
“I don’t know how much longer I can run Dad’s company, be a part of the task force, and do a good job at both. I’m torn between them, Dave.”
“Well, unfortunately, buddy, you’re the only one who can make that decision. Sorry I can’t help you.”
“Dad worked so hard to build the company, and if I sold it, I’d feel like I was letting him down. He always wanted me to take over some day, but he went along with me when I wanted to become a cop. He never pressured me about it.”
“That’s true, he never did pressure you. Maybe he should have.”
Now that I’m involved with the task force I feel like I can fill a void that’s been left inside me. There are so many kids and women who need me to help them.”
“They don’t need just you. They need all of the task force. You’d be replaced by someone real soon if you choose to back out.”
Wyatt laughed. “Bet they wouldn’t be as good as me, though.”
“Probably not.” Dave nodded in agreement. “But, unfortunately, you are the only one who can make this decision and from the looks of your tired-ass eyes you need to make it soon, my man.”
Wyatt settled back into his seat. He listened halfheartedly to the copilot announce the not-soon-enough-for-him departure. His mind wandered. In a few hours, he would be home, back in Virginia, leaving Denver far behind. He planned to take a day to rest and catch up on the local news.
He also needed to follow up on the client he had visited in Denver and make sure he handed all the information over to his sales manager. Managing his father’s company and staying with the agency were taking its toll on him.
The special arrangement he’d made with the agency when his father died a few years ago allowed him to indirectly manage the company. But he would have to make a decision between the two and soon. He needed to choose whether to stay with the task force or to fully assume the role of CEO in his late father’s company.
The company was continuing to grow and was suffering the pains of progress like any other company, taking up more of his time. He had hired a sales manager, Matthew Miles, who came very highly recommended. He could now turn clients as well as hands-on management over to Matthew and let him take care of them with his trusted expertise. Probably something I should have done years ago.
Too much to do, and so little time to do it in. He needed a nap. Sleep, sure that’s all I need.
As the plane taxied down the runway, he made a mental to-do list, sorted through unfinished business, along with some new endeavors he had on his mind and worried about completing all the necessary paperwork.
When the plane lifted off the ground, he finally relaxed and drifted off to sleep.