Reckless Whispe(2)

By: Barbara Freethy

"That was it?"

"That was it," she confirmed.

"I'll get Oscar to look into it," Dan said, referring to one of their techs. "You get yourself to Chicago and be careful."

She set the phone down and drew in several deep breaths. She would go to Chicago because it was her job, and a child's life was on the line.

But just because she was going back to Chicago didn't mean she was going home.

* * *

After landing in Chicago just after nine a.m. on Wednesday morning, Bree received a thorough briefing at the Chicago FBI field office, led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAIC) Warren Hobbs. Warren was a stern-looking man in his mid-forties with black hair and dark eyes, and from what Bree knew of Hobbs, he was a smart, aggressive investigator, but he clearly had no patience for slow thinkers.

His briefing had been on point, from the AMBER alert, to the crime scene investigation, witness and family interviews, neighborhood searches, and media coverage. When it was over, Hobbs called on her to read the agency in on the details of the previous abductions linked to the White Rose Kidnapper and the behavioral profile they'd built so far.

Just like the three other girls, Hayley had vanished from her school, a place where she should have been safe. Bree had worked up several theories on why the school setting appealed to the kidnapper, why a white rose was left at the scene, and the fact that all three previously abducted children had been kept alive for seven days before they were either discovered or killed. If the timing held true, they had less than one week to find Hayley alive.

They had few details regarding the identity of the kidnapper, other than that he was male, around six feet tall, with a muscular build and brown hair. The surviving victim had been blindfolded through most of her ordeal, and on the few occasions the blindfold had been removed, the kidnapper had worn a ski mask to obscure his features. The victim had stated that the kidnapper's voice was deep and low and always menacing. He'd said very little, but he'd referred to her as his pretty little girl and occasionally had quoted a phrase from the Bible about redemption or revenge.

Bree thought that the seven-day timeframe might possibly be tied into the biblical idea that God had created the world in seven days, and that the kidnapper might be creating his own world in that amount of time. Whatever the reason, every minute counted if they were going to find the latest victim, Hayley Jansen, alive.

When the briefing ended just before eleven, she took a cab across town to meet with Hayley's parents. While she'd be retracing steps already taken by the Chicago special agents and the local police, it was important for her to make her own assessment, and also determine whether this could be a copycat event.

The Philadelphia case had hit the national news, and someone in Chicago might have decided to make their own play, ride someone else's coattails toward their own fame.

There were a few small differences in the abduction scenarios. The other three girls had all been blonde with brown eyes while Hayley had brown hair and brown eyes. The white rose found near the back door of Hayley's abduction had been a hybrid tea rose while the other three roses had been floribundas. They were small details and might mean nothing, or they might mean a lot.

* * *

The Jansens lived in Lincoln Park, an upscale neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Their two-story, three-bedroom home was on a beautiful tree-lined street, not far from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan.

This neighborhood was a far cry from the city streets she had roamed as a child, which was both reassuring and disturbing. As a kid, she'd always believed that children who lived in houses like these had everything they needed, that they were safe and protected. Of course, now she knew better, but it still felt wrong when she went into a community where residents weren't used to being exposed to the dark side of humanity.

As she got out of the cab, a blast of cold wind almost knocked her off her feet. The Windy City was living up to its reputation, but she was okay with that. Maybe the cold would freeze her heart and keep the memories away.

She made her way across the street, through the crowd of reporters getting ready to file their stories for the noon news. After flashing her badge, the local police officer waved her inside.

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