“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 44

By the time Kelly returned to the crime scene, Jack and Kathy were quietly talking in the JWM Serializationgarage. Kelly joined them and Jack told her that they were going to interrogate Hankins, who they now knew was using the alias Huxley. His apartment had to be made to look as if he just left. His car would be gone and with any luck the police wouldn’t even be called. Whoever owned the apartment would put a rental sign up and that would be the end of the story of Mr. Hankins, alias Huxley. Jack said, “Okay, crew, let’s get to work. Put on latex gloves and wipe down the areas you think or know you touched. All signs of Kelly’s friend must disappear. Kelly, you take charge of doing the upstairs. Take your time. I’ll need at least 30 minutes with our killer of young women.”

After Kelly went upstairs, Jack and Kathy set to work improvising a water-boarding interrogation capability. It didn’t take much, a towel, bucket of water, an incline board of some kind and restraints. Jack searched the garage and found a six-foot-long 2×8 that once was part of a rather well-built workbench. In ten minutes they were ready to use the killer’s duct tape to firmly fasten him to the 2×8. With one end resting on the back cargo space of the Explorer, Jack was ready. He said, “Kathy, you handle the questions and I’ll motivate him.”

Together they carried a trussed up Hankins to the back of his Explorer and taped him to the plank Jack found. His mouth and eyes were taped. Jack leaned down close to Hankins and said, “This will be very unpleasant. I don’t care if it kills you. When you get a question, answer fully and correctly. Any lies will be punished immediately. I’m taking the tape off your mouth. Any screaming or shouting will get you taped up and the questioning period will be over. Cooperation is good. Resisting is bad. Understand?”

Hankins nodded and Jack ripped the tape off his mouth. Kathy moved in close and asked him to describe his training in the al Qaeda camps. Hankins hesitated and Jack put a dry towel over his face and said, “Breathe now. It will get harder.”

Hankins jerked as Jack slowly saturated the towel with cold water. He was soon struggling to breathe. Jack added more water. Waited another 20 seconds and took the towel off his face. Hankins gasped for air. Kathy gave him a minute and asked the same question again. Hankins said nothing for the next 5 seconds and Jack put the towel over his face again and said, “When the question is asked, you begin answering immediately. No thinking. No answer, no breathing. Understand?”

Hankins nodded several times. Kathy asked the same question again. He immediately began to talk. Jack recorded it all on his iPhone. The interrogation lasted an hour. Jack had to use more persuasion only one more time when Kathy asked how Hankins communicated with his al Qaeda control, what was the recontact plan, and what encryption system was used.

Kathy said, “Okay! I’m done here.”

Jack drew her off to one side and said, “Get Kelly out of here. Check and see if she’s done upstairs. If getting rid of this killer gets nasty, I don’t want Kelly mixed up in this mess. She needs a little protection from some parts of our work for now.”

“Agreed, but what are you going to do with him?”

“I’m working on it. The problem is getting rid of the body. It’s possible that Frank may be willing to take him for further interrogation or for use as bait. But, we must not leave a trail back to us. When you and Kelly leave, I’ll call Frank and see what he has to say. Does Hankins’ laptop have his killing pictures on it?”

“I haven’t checked it yet. We do have the photos I copied off his flash drives. I could put them back on his machine and backdate the download.”

“Do that. If Frank agrees, I’ll make sure Captain Shorer gets the pictures of the young women this creep killed. I keep forgetting all the illicit skills you learned at the CIA, or was it UNC?”

“Actually, both.”

Jack finished re-taping Hankins’ mouth as Kathy and Kelly left the garage to go back to the motel and check out. Jack went upstairs for a final check and to call Frank on his cell. He was put straight through. Jack said, “We have Hankins and have interrogated him. Kathy got some interesting stuff. If you’re ready, I’ll download the audio now.”

It took Frank a few minutes to scan the tape. Then he said, “Yes, we can use this, especially the encryption data. Our Afghan field guys can use the info on the camps and his training in Peshawar. I don’t want Hankins. But, it’s worth a try to use his recontact method. The Professor might respond by sending someone to checkout Hankins. Picking up whoever he sends may help us find the Professor. Your team is now big enough to dangle Hankins and see who bites. Work up a plan and tell me what you think. The only alternative is to make him disappear today.”

“All right. I don’t think the Professor will send one person. I’ll bet he sends a team of shooters to get rid of Hankins. I don’t think he has a place in his scheme for him.”

“You may be right. Give it a try. There is no real downside. Unless he takes Hankins alive and interrogates him, he won’t be sure we were involved. I believe he has so much at stake, he will continue with his plans.”

Jack was going to comment but found he was now listening to a dial tone. He grinned, that guy is certainly consistent. He never says good-bye. Sure doesn’t waste words.

He dialed Kathy and when she picked up, Jack said, “Frank wants us to dangle this guy by activating his recontact plan and see who shows up. I’m willing to try it for a day or two, period. We’ll need Lou and Storm. Please send for them. See if they can arrive today. Kelly can arrange for their lodging.”

“Okay, but you know this is going to be a mess. Keeping the perp captive for that time is going to be a witch.”

“If it gets too hard, I’ll get rid of him. For now I don’t want to leave him alone. I’ll take the first four-hour watch. Tell Kelly to get some rest. She’s on next. I’d like to get the personal ad in the Myrtle Beach Chronicle in time for tomorrow’s edition. Can we do that?”

“Yes, I’ll get right on it. That means we have to be ready to deliver him to the recontact site.”

“Have Lou and Storm in our room when I get there, and we can put a plan together.”

“Got it. I’ll pick up some food. Want your usual?”

“Yes! If you can find a good Reuben and pick up two cheeseburgers for Shadow, hold the vegetables and ketchup. He needs a treat for being so good cooped up in my car. See you soon.”

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