It took time, but he was finally able to get to a remote location on the outskirts of town, near a state park. Tabitha was still asleep, but he approached warily, helmet and goggles on to conceal his face. Taking a pair of wire cutters from his pack, he removed the security catch on the necklace.
Tabitha's eyes flew open. She tried to make a grab for him, only to find she was cuffed to the sink with her arms behind her. Snarling, she jerked her legs. They were attached to the stove on the other side. Both appliances were heavy steel and bolted to the floor.
"I just want the necklace, Princess," he purred, lowering his voice an octave, adding a Midwest accent, which was anything but natural. "I promise to call for help when I'm away. They'll find you in a few hours."
"I'll kill you, you bastard!"
"I apologize for this. I didn't count on the extra paranoia. Bye, Princess." He wanted badly to kiss her, but he was fairly certain she'd bite him. Also, some of the drug might linger on her lips—not to mention, he would deposit his DNA. Controlling his impulse, he gave her a saucy salute and was gone. The road was a little rutted, but the bike could handle it. Taking off with confidence, he was on his way.
Tabitha knew better than to fight the restraints. Trusting the man was telling the truth, she tried to get comfortable, not easy in this position. Despite the awkwardness, she dozed off.
Strange noises and flashing lights woke her sometime after moon rise. The doors of the van flew open and her black dress was dotted with red lasers. A phalanx of SWAT officers faced her.
"Stand down," one of them barked. "You all right, Miss Levi?"
"Yes. I'd kill for a scotch, neat."
The man chuckled as he hopped into the van with a key. Taking the handcuffs from her wrists, he put in an evidence bag and handed off to his second. The cord around her ankles went into another bag.
"You won't find anything on those. They wore gloves."
"You seem very sure." His eyes narrowed.
"I'm former Israeli military. I've been trained to observe."
"Do you think you could describe them?"
Tabitha paused, wondering what to do. Had she been faced with the question the day before, she'd have answered with an immediate yes. Now—he'd kidnapped her, tied her up, and had seen to it she was rescued. He hadn't harmed her, merely taken the necklace, which was heavily insured. The insurance company might cry, but they were well paid in premiums.
"Maybe. They were wearing helmets and goggles."
Why had she indicated more than one? The kidnapper had been alone. But such a job would have to included more people. Probably four or five. Her bet was the catering staff, since he had been her waiter. He'd covered his face and changed his voice, but nothing concealed his proud nose or sensuous mouth.
"Anything you can tell us. Voices, accents—build, height."
"I only talked to one. He was—kind."
"Kind?" the SWAT leader yelled. "He kidnapped you!"
"And set me free."
"He could have killed you!"
"He chose not to! All he wanted was the ruby."
Anton's team was anxious when he arrived at the remote rendezvous spot.
"You're almost two hours late!" Kirby, the chef, yelled.
"Unforeseen circumstances. I had to take the girl."
"What?" Dewey bellowed. He was the chemist who had formulated the knockout drops.
"Chill. I called the cops, and they'll have rescued her by now. And I had to run the necklace through the degauser."
They had all done the same thing with their loot. After an unfortunate robbery a few years ago, the company had placed trackers on all their jewels.
"Where's the hand-off?" Dewey asked.
"He hasn't called me yet." Moments later, his burner phone rang. Only five people had the number. He was with four of them. "Yes?"
"Peanut Museum tomorrow—"
"No way. We do this tonight. Come in the pedestrian entrance to the Peaceful Hill Cemetery. One hour. Don't be late, or I find another buyer."
His men shifted, obviously unhappy with that idea. Anton put a finger to his lips. "Do we have an accord?"
"Yes, damn you."
"No friends. I'm alone, you're alone. I'll know if you lie."
"If you're alone, how will you—?"
Anton hung up. "Dumb ass."
©2021 Dellani Oakes