They grabbed Honey Boo as she came out of the Ivinson Girls School in Laramie, Wyoming. Maura approached the eight-year old girl in the heavy navy coat, gray skirt and white leggings and guided the blond-haired youngster into the van as Bob and Rex watched with baited breath.
Would Honey Boo, as they coded her, suddenly balk, think twice and then bolt? But no, she climbed into the van and settled between Bob and Maura as Rex pulled away from the school. He drove quickly to the Wal-Mart parking lot on the edge of Laramie and they abandoned the van, leaving Honey Boo’s backpack in the back seat. In a few minutes, Latinos would appear and drive the van east to Cheyenne and park it at the airport.
Escorting the girl, who was unusually composed, into a light colored SUV, they headed west on I-80. The plan was on time and going well. Almost too well, Rex thought as he drove along the interstate, glancing in the mirror to see their captive sitting quietly between Bob and Maura, his forever feuding accomplices. Maura with her sandy hair, green-gray eyes and arched eyebrows had once been a beauty. But once Maura started killing, she lost her allure.
“Are you thirsty, hungry, Honey Boo?” Maura asked.
“My name is Alice.” The girl said acidly, taking Maura aback.
Bob snickered, but then rubbed his nose and narrowed his eyes. Alice was acting as if they always picked her up. She didn’t ask about her usual driver who had been diverted by team members. Maybe this was the way of young, wealthy girls who were used to being waited on, catered to.
After twenty minutes, Rex checked the back seat and saw Maura was looking out of the window at the bleak, snow-dusted Wyoming prairie. Bob was looking sideways at Alice. Rex knew he would have to be careful not to leave Bob alone with Alice. They would have two shifts and he would take one, Bob and Maura could have the second shift. Rex knew Maua would kill Bob if he dared to touch Alice.
They encountered a snow squall outside of Laramie, but there was no traffic, just a heavy mist and blowing snow which comforted Rex, making them almost invisible. Alice’s family was wealthy beyond realization. Her father had bought the Sinclair Refinery along I-80. And now he was buying the adjacent land. The rumor was the stubborn Wyoming oil known as the kerogen deposit, was now available through technology: horizontal drilling and underground heating. Alice was an only child and her father would pay the ransom, which would yield Rex a million dollars. He smiled and shook his head, a good return for two days work. All they had to do was snatch Alice, keep her one night in the abandoned Parco Inn outside of Sinclair. In the morning, they would get the call to leave the girl at the inn and drive to Salt Lake City for the rendezvous and their money.
Listening to Fox and CNN on the satellite radio, Rex expected to hear about the kidnapping, perhaps an Amber alert for Alice. The plan was for the police to find the van and Alice’s backpack in Cheyenne. Maybe the kidnappers had spirited the girl away on a plane. The police would look east, while Rex headed west to Sinclair, hiding Alice under her father’s nose, a brilliant plan.
After an hour, Alice announced she needed a rest stop. Fortunately, they came upon the Fort Steele Rest Area and Rex pulled in. Maura took the youngster to the rest center and Bob sauntered off to the men’s room.
Standing outside Rex lit a cigarette, which he only did when he was on a job. Far to the south he could see the peaks of the High Uintas Wilderness Area, the ancient home of the Ute Indians, a place believed to harbor good and evil spirits, as well as the kerogen. The mountains in the mist made Rex shudder and he caught a whisper in the wind.
Perhaps it was only his imagination. Rex exhaled and wondered how it had come to this. Now he was a kidnapper of young girls. He shook his head, but found solace that the money would allow him to retire. Maybe a small place on the Chesapeake Bay where he could crab and oyster.
Rex’s thoughts were interrupted as Maura hurried out of the small building. She looked pale and distraught. “Let’s go.” She whispered. “Just you and me, let’s get out of here before it’s too late. This is not what it seems. The girl…you have no idea.”
Looking at Maura’s stricken face, Rex was taken aback. He started to speak, but Bob came out and glared at them. Before Bob could protest, Alice emerged and brushed past the annoyed Bob, and firmly took Maura’s arm and marched her back to the SUV.
Bob shrugged and then trudged after the two females. Rex was stunned at Maura’s panic, but it seemed to have passed as Alice looked back and smiled at him, her blond pony tail dancing in the prairie wind.
They left Fort Steele in silence and within the hour they sighted the Sinclair Refinery. The tangled structure loomed out of the late afternoon mist as if an otherworldly monster, the gas burn-off pipe standing as a lighthouse, warning visitors away.
Rex drove to the northwest edge of the complex and located the little-used Parco Inn, a Spanish-style relic of the high times in the 1950s. They parked and shadowy Latinos took their belongings and ushered them to a suite in the back with two bedrooms.
Bob and Maura bickered over the bedrooms and Rex gave them the master bedroom, while he and Alice took the guest room. They had a quiet meal in the eat-in kitchen and then Rex announced he would take the first watch, while Bob and Maura rested.
When they were settled, Alice propped herself up on the big bed and looked at Rex as he stared out at the bleak, snow-covered prairie.
“I chose you.” Alice said. “You had such promise and now look at you. We have to know what went wrong, what happened to you.”
Rex started, staring at the precocious girl. He recalled Maura’s panic at the rest stop. What happened at the rest stop? And now what was the girl talking about?
“Bob and Maura are naturals. If we did not take Bob, he would eventually crack and get his guns, put on camos, and go to a mall, maybe a school” Alice shuddered as she closed her eyes, visualizing the shootings.
“Of course, Maura is the interesting one, once so pretty, now an assassin. What transformed her is what we want to know. There is so much to understand about you before we settle here.”
Rex listened as Alice patiently explained the situation. A chill ran down Rex’s spine and the hairs on his neck stood up. He now understood Maura’s fear, why she said nothing was what it seemed.
The girl sat up and smiled at Rex as the humming started outside, like a noisy fridge, and then it built into a deep roar as the building shook and the lights dimmed. Next the hum decelerated as red, blue, and white lights flashed as the vehicle settled.
“Don’t be afraid.” Alice said, getting out of bed and taking Rex’s hand. “I will take care of you.”
Suddenly the bedroom door burst open and Bob and Maura stood in dread, their faces pale and mouths working, but no words.
“Get your things.” Alice ordered. “We are going on a trip, a very long journey.”
There never was an Amber alert for Alice.