Friday, October 26, 2012

The Kidnapping, Ruby Mountains, Great Basin, Elko, Nevada

Cherry Lee saw the boy walking along the Great Basin Highway just outside of Wells, Nevada and she smelled money. Cherry told Carl to stop and he pulled the black Escalade onto the shoulder. Ray in the passenger seat looked back questioning, his long, deadpan face puzzled.
         Ignoring her two partners, Cherry jumped out of the SUV, standing akimbo, her shoulder length, blond hair whipping across her face as the boy, head down, trudged along the lonely, two-lane blacktop that snaked through the high desert.
         He was about 13 and dressed in mahogany loafers, gray wool slacks, a white shirt and a navy blue, brass-buttoned blazer. He was fitted out as if coming from church; more likely, the country club. Cherry’s mind raced. They could grab him, hold him and ask six figures for his return. Easy money.
         The boy with a cherub’s face and mop haircut paused about 5 feet from Cherry and looked up. His dark eyes appraised the young, beautiful, blue-eyed woman standing in front of him. She was stylish in a powder blue sweater and a black, pleated skirt. The two stared at each other, both figures incongruous on the empty road in Nevada’s Eastern Great Basin.
         “Need a ride?” Cherry asked, breaking the impasse.
         The boy cocked his head and smiled. “I’m on the way to the Bellagio in Las Vegas."
         Cherry said that they were headed that direction and could give him a ride. They’d be happy to drop him, as they were going past the large casino-hotel on the Strip.
         The boy nodded, following Cherry and happily climbed into the back seat of the high-riding Escalade. He nodded to the two men in front who eyed him suspiciously. Cherry told her partners the boy was on the way to Vegas and wanted to be dropped at the Bellagio. The two men looked at each other, but shrugged as they trusted Cherry’s instincts.
         The four them settled in and resumed the drive through the high desert. There was little traffic and the day was cold and cloudy. A brisk wind blew, creating dust swirls and sending the tumbleweed rolling across the empty plain. Ray’s mind roiled as he began to devise a plan: a place to stay, the phone call, the drop off, and then the kid.
         “I’m Cherry Lee, and that’s Carl driving and Ray in the passenger seat. And you are?”
         The boy reached in his jacket and pulled out a fine, leather wallet and handed it to Cherry, who raised her eyebrows, taking the wallet and flipping it open. On the right was an identification card.
         “Our new friend is Alexander Bier Hammond.” Cherry said. “And he lives on Lake Shore Drive in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.” The two men grunted.
         Cherry flipped through the pictures on the left side of the wallet, pausing to study the large, gray-stone mansion on the lake. She knew the area well, a place where the wealthy lived on the lake. The others lived outside of the artsy town in modest ranch-style homes, or in trailer parks. Alex Hammond reeked of old Idaho money.
         They drove in silence, coming upon a rest stop on the right and Alex indicated he needed to stop. Carl pulled in and the boy jumped out, running to the rest room. The three partners exited the SUV, lit cigarettes and leaned against the Escalade.
         “What’s he doing in the middle of nowhere?” Ray, always the wary one, asked.
         “Not our problem.” Cherry replied. “We need a spot to hold him, and then Carl can run to Vegas and phone the family, arrange the drop.
         “Something’s not right about the kid.” Carl offered.
         Alex returned wiping his hands on a handkerchief, which he then stuffed into his jacket’s breast pocket.
         “Sure glad I met you nice people.” He said with a smile.
If Carl or Ray had survived the trip, neither one could explain why Carl took a right off the highway onto a dirt road that wound up into the Ruby Mountains. Cherry leaned forward when they turned off, but Alex put his hand on her leg and she sat back.
        They climbed for an hour and then pulled into a parking area for a historical site. Cherry and Alex got out, walking over to the bronze marker.
         Carl put down the windows and the two men lit cigarettes. Ray looked at Carl and asked. “Why’d you come up here?”
          “No idea.” Carl replied.
         “That boy’s not normal.” Ray said.
         Alex and Cherry stood in front of the faded plaque. The first paragraph noted that early explorers named the mountains for the garnets that they found in the narrow cuts between the slopes. A second paragraph explained that the area was a Shoshone Sanctuary, a spiritual place where the tribe gathered at the change of seasons and sacrificed young braves in the hope the High Spirits would bless the new season. The chosen ones were thrown from this scenic spot.
          Cherry read the marker aloud, and then shuddered as she and Alex stood at the edge of the cliff looking down to the jagged rocks below. Alex looked back at the SUV as Carl and Ray exited the vehicle and walked slowly over to the marker. Without a word, Carl climbed over the low railing and stood at the edge. Cherry gasped, but Alex restrained her.
          Carl held the railing with his left hand then leaned out over the cliff, flinging  his right hand out in a salute to invisible watchers. And then Carl let go and plunged down. Before Cherry could react, Ray climbed over the railing and followed Carl’s example, but executed his salute with flair, a theatrical twist of his wrist. Then Carl let go, falling silently.
         Without a word, Alex walked back to the Escalade and climbed into the passenger seat. Cherry put her hand to her throat and peeked over the edge. But her two partners had vanished into the gathering mists that now shrouded the rocks below.
         Cherry returned to the SUV and drove back down to the main road. She paused at the intersection, glancing over at Alex who directed her.
         “We’ll get a suite at the Bellagio and I’ll show you which slots to play. Then we’ll move on to the tables. You take a seat and close your eyes. Listen and you will hear me; I’ll tell you the cards to play. We’ll spend a week in Vegas gathering our stake. After that, we will see.”
         Cherry nodded numbly and turned right heading south on the Great Basin Highway.
         Who was kidnapping who?