Loading...
Menu

Walking Between The Raindrops

 

Walking Between The Raindrops

 

Mary and Paul Roland

Shakespir Edition

 

[* Copyright@ 2015 by Mary Roland *]

All rights reserved.

 

ISBN-9781310725685

 

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favoirite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is also available in print at most online retailers.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Forward

Part One – The Crime

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Part Two – The Investigation

Day Three (Continued)

Interrogation – Abraham “AB” Weber – Laredo

Day Four

Interview – Tom Roland

Interrogation – Bobby Earl Sharp, III

Interrogation – Samantha Ann Casablanca

Interrogation – Bartolo Dominguez, Jr.

Day Five

Interrogation – Abraham Weber – Wilco

Day Six

Day Seven

Interrogation 2 – Abraham Weber – ATF

Interview – Lance Self

Day Eight

Interrogation – Jorge Oracio Benavidez, Jr.

Day Nine

Interrogation 3 – Abraham Weber – Wilco

Day Ten

March 2008 – May 2008

Part Three – Justice and What Came After

June 2008 – December 2008

[+ January 2009- April 2009 +]

.

What Came After

May 9, 2014

Author’s Note

Author’s Playlist

Dedication

Credits, Notes and References

 

[]FORWARD

Jana McCown

 

Sometimes in the morning when I’m getting into my car in the garage, I think of Paul Roland. When you are a prosecutor for as long as I was, there are a few cases that will always stay with you. Paul Roland’s kidnapping was one of those for me. When I learned that Mary was writing a book about Paul’s experience, I immediately knew that it was a story that needed to be told. Not only because of the rarity of a true, stranger kidnapping in a world filled with bizarre and unexpected crime, but because Paul’s ordeal brought out some of the best police work I ever saw.

Perhaps a dozen different agencies worked together for that 72 hour period—tracking cell phones and arranging for ransom money and trying to learn why anyone would want to kidnap a 73 year old man. I was lucky enough to be involved from the early stages of the investigation through the trial of those involved. Crimes that have ties to a Mexican drug cartel don’t come up all that often in Central Texas, especially when it’s not related to a drug trafficking case.

Meeting the Roland family reinforced for me one more time that even in the midst and aftermath of terror, the resiliency of the fragile, human spirit allows us to endure when the worst happens. Tragic events unexplainably bring out the best in people, as it surely did in this case. I wish that what happened to Paul and Mary had never happened. Because it did, however, we have ties to folks we might never have met otherwise.

I believe that God puts people in your lives for a reason. We may not always understand why, but I’m willing to accept that maybe we don’t need to understand. Paul Roland’s survival is a reminder that there are silver linings everywhere. All you have to do is watch and wait.

 

 

[]PART ONETHE CRIME

 

 

 

[]DAY ONE

February 26, 2008

 

 

Paul

 

It started like every other day: up at 6 am for a shower, coffee and a breakfast roll. I take my medications. By then, Mary is out of the shower and getting ready for work and drinking coffee. We talk about our respective days. I tell her I have an appointment with a customer in Houston.

 

About 6:45 AM, kissing Mary good-bye, I go into the garage, opening the overhead garage door and closing the apartment door. I open my truck doors with a key clicker. I pick up one of two briefcases on a chair and walk toward my truck. As I’m walking, I see what I think are two high school kids, a boy and a girl in hoodies, standing near the mail kiosk across the parking lot from my truck talking to each other.

 

I put one of the cases onto the rear seat of my four-door truck, turn and go back into the garage and grab the second briefcase which has my lap top in it. I’m putting it into the rear seat when the guy in the hoodie rushes up behind me and shoves me, halfway, into the back seat of my truck.

“Are you Paul?” the man asks. I realize that the boy is a man and then, he knows my name!

“Are you Paul?” he yells at me, pushing me further into the back seat.

 

I push back, angry now, “Yes! What do you want?”

 

He begins hitting me. I fight back but I’m in an awkward position. I feel the barrel of a pistol in my ribs. Then I catch a glimpse of another person – the girl in the hoodie. She’s helping him push me, more securely, into the back seat! They push me across the seat. I try to turn to see their faces. We struggle harder. He shoves the gun barrel deeper into my side.

 

I try to reason with them, “Take everything! I don’t care about any of it.”

 

He hits me again; much harder, knocking my glasses off and pushes the pistol, a black automatic, into my face. I continue to struggle.

 

“You fool!” he yells. “This is a Desert Eagle!”

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“I’m a crack head,” he laughs, “I’ll do anything for a hundred bucks!” He orders me to empty my pockets and give him my billfold. He tells me to remove my hearing aids and watch. When I take my hearing aids out, I drop them into the rear edge of the seat. They tie my hands behind my back with a plastic zip-tie and put a blindfold around my head, covering my eyes.

 

“I need my medications,” I explain, hoping they will decide I’m too much trouble for them and just take the truck and everything else.

 

They don’t respond. The man yells at the woman to close the garage door, take the keys and drive. She has trouble getting the garage door to close. Then she has trouble backing the truck out of the space. Once backed up, she struggles to get the truck moving. She finally gets it going, but it feels like she hits something before she gets the truck out of the apartment complex.

 

Although my eyes are covered, I can look straight up or down and manage to see a fair amount of light. I can’t see faces. I am terrified! This is not the movies! I’ve been taken against my will by people I don’t know and I don’t know where they’re taking me or why. Questions race through my mind. What if I’m never seen again? What if they put my body in an old well and it’s never found? What will my family think? This is not just robbery. This is much more serious!

 

 

Mary

 

It’s turning into an awful morning. The fruit platter I ordered for the sales meeting isn’t ready or even on order at the store. So, I just get donuts…again. Road construction either blocks or challenges traffic both ways which, of course, makes me late. When I finally get into the office and everything’s set for the sales meeting, Alice and Charlotte pull me aside to deliver a huge bombshell. They’re announcing their retirement at this morning’s meeting and it’s effective immediately. It’s the worst news! I only took this job was because I like Alice and Charlotte so much! After the meeting, I sit at my desk and watch as, one by one, tearful agents leave the office. Finally, the last one leaves and Valerie, my assistant, and I are alone in the quiet.

 

“The drama is over,” I sigh and dig into my stack of listing updates. I jump when my cell phone rings and notice the time is 10 AM. I smile to see my husband Paul’s face on the screen. “Hi, handsome! Are you in Houston already?”

“Mary?”

 

“Oh, Mike,” I say as flippantly as possible, “What have you done with my husband?”

 

“Have you heard from Paul this morning?” He cuts me off. Mike doesn’t sound right. I look at the screen again, confused, wondering why Mike is asking me where Paul is when he’s using Paul’s phone? Then, I see the small print under Paul’s face which read, “Office”. “Oh, he must have forgotten that Paul’s going to Houston today,” I think, my confusion turning toward irritation.

 

“No, not yet,” I answer, “but I don’t think he’s had time to get to Houston. He’s supposed to call me when he gets there.” There’s a definite pause on the other end.

 

“The Houston meeting isn’t until this afternoon. We’re supposed to go together. I’ve been working out at the lake and there’s no cell service out there. I haven’t heard from Paul either and he never came in to the office.”

 

“That can’t be. He left at 7 this morning. There must be some misunderstanding.” A sharp twisting churns from my chest to the bottom of my stomach.

 

“Did he take both of his cell phones? I’ve called both,” Mike interrupts again, “but every call goes into voice mail.”

 

This makes no sense. Paul would never not show up. I don’t think Paul would ignore calls from Mike either. Both phones? Paul carries a personal cell phone and a Nextel cell phone. The Nextel has a radio feature, “Direct Connect”, that allows him to talk to supervisors via radio on various jobs around Texas and to the office with the touch of a button.

 

“You know Paul’s routine and so do I.” Mike goes on, “Every morning, he kisses you goodbye with one breath and in the next breath, he calls me. Every morning Mary. Every morning.”

 

Suddenly, my heart is beating so fast I can hardly breathe. “Look, Mike,” I beg, “let me go home and make sure his phones aren’t there. He may have left one and the other one isn’t working or something. He could’ve gone to check a job and been so busy that he’s not aware that we’re looking for him. I’ll call you when I get to the apartment, okay?”

 

He agrees. I grab my purse and keys, make a hasty explanation to Valerie and leave the office, yelling over my shoulder, “Gotta go make sure Paul has his cell phone. No one’s seen him and we can’t reach him. I’ll be back as quick as possible!”

 

I don’t care if I break speed limits or cause near accidents as I make my way home. I keep trying to reach Paul on both of his cell phones as if my calls might be magically answered. The forty minute trip feels more like forty hours.

 

We’ve been planning to move closer to my work and, right now, our apartment is scattered with boxes of all sizes – some packed, some only partially – reminders that I have to get this move organized. The new place is half way between our offices – a compromise. Our move-in date is April 1, just a little over five weeks away. We’ll miss this apartment, I muse for the hundredth time; a sprawling-three bedroom, two-bath apartment with an attached two-car garage and formal front door.

 

A lot has happened to get us here. Paul and his brother, Tom, were competitors throughout most of their careers. Both are electrical contractors. In the 1990’s, both of them were in the Austin-area- single-family housing market and both were successful. In 2000, Paul sold his company to an up-and-coming team of women contractors who wanted to expand their business into electrical and plumbing services. To help them transition, they hired our sons, Eric and David and David’s wife. Paul acted as intermediary and encouraged his clients to keep their business with the new owners.

 

Unfortunately, the additional business became more of a cash burden than the women were able to handle and they closed their doors after only a few months. They left many unpaid bills including most of the balance of what they owed to Paul for his business. Even so, Paul was more concerned that all the clients were taken care of and that their houses were finished. He now encouraged those same clients to take their business to Tom’s company, Phoenix Electric, and promised that they’d be in excellent hands. He briefed Tom on the clients and what he’d told them. He also recommended our youngest son, David, a solid electrician and young man, for Tom to consider hiring because David was out of a job with skills that Tom was most likely to need. Tom hired David. Most of the clients went to Tom’s company, too.

 

Paul went into semi-retirement. We remodeled our home in Lakeway which kept Paul busy for a while but, after a few months of “retirement,” he became restless. He found a job as a material buyer for CS Electric, a large electrical contractor who did the wiring for new apartment construction all over the state. The company is run by two brothers: Carl and Lance. It was a great job and Paul became good friends with Lance. After two years, Paul realized there was no career growth for him at CS, a family business, and began looking around for other opportunities.

 

Tom expressed interest in expanding his business to apartments to Paul. After several lunches and meetings, he pitched Paul on the idea of Paul coming to work at Phoenix to manage that expansion. They struck a deal and the brothers who’d been competitors now worked together. Tom’s wife, Liz, and I were elated! Still, the brothers weren’t overnight social buddies. When men are in their late 60’s, they don’t change their ways easily. So, Liz and I had to be happy with catching a movie or lunch together and every now and then to successfully get Paul and Tom to spend an occasional evening together.

 

I finally arrive at home and rush inside searching everywhere that I can think of that Paul might have left one or both of his cell phones. No cell phones anywhere. Defeated, I call Mike.

 

“No phones here,” I manage, “have you heard from him?”

 

“No.” There’s a heavy pause and I feel myself getting calm, the problem solver side of me taking over. What is the next step?

 

“Sara can track the phone’s GPS!” I demand, referring to their office manager at Phoenix Electric.

 

“No, I already asked her about that,” Mike replies.

 

“OnStar,” I move on, “ask them to find the truck.”

 

“Okay, yeah, I’ll ask her to do that.”

 

 

WILCO – Williamson County

 

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is housed in a small building on Rock Street in Georgetown, Texas, a small town north of Austin. Next door, is the jail and next to that building is the Williamson County Justice Building which houses the courtrooms, district attorney’s offices and various county clerk offices. On Tuesday, February 26, 2008, at approximately 10:30AM, an Intake Sergeant takes a call that will change many people’s lives.

 

“Yes, sir, if you could just tell me from the beginning, I’ll get things rolling,” the Sergeant directs the caller, adjusting the form on his desk so that he can take notes.

 

“This is Tom Roland!” booms the deep, authoritative voice on the other end, “My brother, Paul Roland, didn’t show up for work this morning. We can’t reach him by phone and his wife doesn’t know where he is.”

 

“Okay, when was the last time you saw him?”

 

“About six or so last night,” Tom replies impatiently.

 

“He’s only been missing since last night?” The sergeant pauses in his note taking.

 

“That’s when I saw him,” the booming voice corrects. “He left his place about seven-fifteen this morning. Mary said he left for work then.”

 

The sergeant looks at his watch. “Mr. Roland, it’s only eleven in the morning now. Could he have run an errand or had another appointment he didn’t tell you about?”

 

“No sir, I don’t believe that’s the case,” snaps Tom Roland, “He was supposed to meet another employee here at the office and they were going to head out to Houston to meet with a client. He didn’t have time to go somewhere else.”

 

“I take it he didn’t get to Houston either?”

 

“No sir.”

 

The sergeant asks a few more questions and gets a description of the man: 73 years old, white male with no known health issues, drives a maroon 2006 Chevrolet quad-cab pick-up, wears glasses, and hearing aids. He’s approximately 190 pounds, 5’11” with gray hair and light beard. “Again, Mr. Roland, I have to ask you if there is any special reason you’re concerned about that you’re not telling me. I know people his age can sometimes get a little confused and get lost. Is that what you think happened to your brother?”

 

“No sir, that’s not my first concern. Paul tends to stick to routine. He’s very dependable.” Tom continued, “He’s not answering anyone’s calls and that’s a worry. I’ve called OnStar and asked them to track his truck. We pay thirty dollars a month for that service.”

 

“That sounds like a good idea, sir. Have they found the truck?” The sergeant’s mind raced ahead wondering if the old man had driven into a ditch?

 

“That’s why I’m calling you,” Tom’s voice now is more like a growl, “They won’t find the truck unless you call them and give them a report number.”

 

“And there we are,” thinks the Sergeant but he says only, “Okay, Mr. Roland, let’s get that started.” After getting all the necessary information, the sergeant promises, “I will call you as soon as we have any information.” He looks over the Incident Report and makes a silent bet that it won’t come to much more than it is right now. These things usually didn’t in Williamson County.

 

Initial Missing Person Report

 

 

 

Paul

 

We drive just a short distance before the truck pulls over and, what I catch in a quick glance is, a white pickup pulling up next to us. People get out of my truck and new people get in – there are now two men and a woman in the truck with me. The men get into the front seat and the woman climbs into the back seat. She holds me down so I can’t see anything. We drive and drive. I’m beginning to lose track of time with the rhythm of the tires on the road. No one talks to me for a while. Every now and then the woman force feeds me water then shoves my head back down to the floorboard. She doesn’t say a word.

 

The men in the front seat are a different matter. They talk on their cell phones constantly. What I can make out sounds like they’re trying to sell the truck and my watch. They talk very loud and share “stories” with each other about what happens to people who screw up. I think they’re telling these stories for my benefit because that’s when they talk in English. In one, they tell in gruesome detail how a man caught stealing was murdered at rock crushing plant. Another man was tied up and nearly beaten to death but not quite. Then, the boss stuck him in a barrel, poured motor oil over him and burned him alive. In another story, a guy who didn’t pay a debt was fed to the boss’s pet lion. After they tell the stories, they laugh. They laugh a lot.

 

“What do you want with me? I ask again for what seems the hundredth time, “This is a mistake!”

 

“Shut up and don’t move or we’ll shoot you!” is their only reply.

 

We pull off the road on to a side road and stop. My captors get out of the truck and leave me for a moment. I hear new voices; excited and proud, “We did it!” I hear palms slapping – high-fives all around. I hear shouts in Spanish I can’t translate but understand to be extreme satisfaction. The rear passenger door opens.

 

“Okay, Paul,” a man says, pulling my legs toward the open door, “We’re going to move you. Do what I say. Don’t try anything or I will kill you.”

 

“Where? Why are you doing this?” I beg.

 

“Move! Or I’ll shoot you!” is the only answer.

 

As I’m shuffled out of the truck, I sneak a peek from under my blindfold and see a small green van, its loading door open. I’m put in the van on my knees with my head kind of on the console. A woman, I’m not sure if it’s the same one, sits in the back and holds me down. I think there are two guys in the front seats. I think that one of the guys is a different man. How many people are doing this to me? The new one has the gun. He pokes it into my side to make his point when he talks to me.

 

“Stay down or I’ll use this. I don’t care.”

 

“I take medication. I have to have my medication,” I tell them again. No one answers. I feel the van begin moving and feel sleepy. “I have to stay awake! Where am I? Where are they taking me?” I think as I drift off to the chirping of their Nextel radios.

 

I struggle to wake up as we pull onto a gravel driveway. I look out the top edge of the blindfold and see several people standing around the van looking in. One man is really angry, cussing and going on in a mixture of Spanish and English.

 

One man shouts “We did it!” Then he growls, “Get him out of here before someone sees him.” (The boss, I wonder?)

 

I try to see out because I think we must have been at his house but the jostling is too much. I fall asleep again. We are moving down a smooth road now. After some time, I wake and hear road noise. We are still traveling!

 

“Why are you doing this?” I manage to ask yet again

 

“Your brother, Tom, owes big money,” says one man.

 

“Yeah, big money for the drugs,” says the other and laughs.

 

“Tom would never get involved in that!”

 

“Everybody wants to make a buck, man,” is the reply followed by more laughter.

 

“What does this have to do with me? Why are you taking me?” I can’t make sense of anything.

 

“He owes the money,” one of them says, “and when he pays five hundred thousand dollars for you everything will be okay.”

 

“Five hundred thousand dollars? What? He’ll never pay!” I yell at them, horrified.

 

“He’ll pay, Paul, because we know where everyone lives, where they work and what cars they drive.”

 

As if he’d grabbed the next terrified thought from my mind, he adds, “We know your wife, Mary, works in Lakeway. She drives a black Hummer. We got her cell number, too.”

 

 

Mary

 

Somehow I make it back to the office. I rush in hoping some agents are back and that I can find someone to catch the phones while Valerie is out to lunch. This is the last place I want to be. Whether Karen has three closings or Steve lost a listing is so inconsequential to me. My world wobbled off its axis this morning and I didn’t notice. I thought it was a major crisis that a stupid platter of stupid breakfast junk wasn’t ready.

 

Paul is missing! When did I stop paying attention to what matters most? I used to walk Paul out in the mornings, blowing him kisses and waving good-bye, doing my best to give him a great start for his day. Lately, I’d rushed our goodbyes because I was so preoccupied with other things; other things I can’t even remember now.

 

Valerie is alone in the office when I come in the front door and very, very anxious to leave. Before I can get a word out, she’s out the door. I just sort of flop into my chair and stare into space. Thoughts bounce through my mind with every possible scenario from the possible to the absurd. He’s had an accident. He’s sick. He’s sick of me and ran off with someone. He’s lost. He’s lost his mind. He’s been car-jacked. The phone on my desk rings and I jump. It’s just a title company clerk. Busy work while I wait.

 

My cell phone rings. The screen shows a number I don’t recognize. I take a deep breath and answer, checking the time: 12:30 PM. “Hello?”

 

“Is this Mary Roland?” a deep voice asks.

 

“Yes,” I say as my heart thuds in my throat.

 

“I’m with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.” Did he say his name? I can’t think straight. I realize he’s waiting for me to say something, to acknowledge him in some way.

 

“Is this the call? Is this where time stops and my world becomes black and grey and cold?” I think, trying to push panic away. I manage, “Is Paul ok? Have you found him?”

 

“Uh, no ma’am,” He says softly and corrects any misunderstanding quickly, “we haven’t found him.”

 

“Oh,” is all I can say.

 

“I need to ask you a few questions about your husband, Paul,” he begins gently, “Are you able to talk to me now?”

 

Praise God! It’s NOT the call! There’s still hope! The idea that I could have anything more important to do right now than to answer his questions is so ridiculous I almost laugh but instead begin babbling. “Has OnStar found his truck? It’s on his truck. They can find him. Has anyone called them yet? I told Mike to get Sara to call them. It’s Tom’s truck so it’s their account.”

 

The man waits patiently for me to take a breath, jumping in at the end, “That’s why I’m calling, ma’am. OnStar won’t do a search unless there’s a missing person report. I’m opening that now and once we’re done, they’ll be able to track the truck.”

 

“Okay,” I say, not wanting to waste any more time on words, wanting now to get this done as quickly as possible so Paul can be found; found and brought home safe so I can say good-bye properly when he goes to work. Please God, one more chance.

 

“When was the last time you saw Paul?” he asks.

 

“This morning,” I say, “when he left for work about 7 or so.”

 

“Have you heard from him since then?”

 

“No.”

 

He asks me about Paul’s health (great), any medications (high blood pressure, but managed at the least amount of medication and some medication he takes for a tremor condition- nothing life threatening for right now) and what he was wearing today. He asks me to describe him: 5’11”, 190 pounds, salt and pepper hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion, glasses, hearing aids, soft spoken with a gentle east Texas drawl that fifty years of living in the big city of Austin never changed.

 

As I tell him about Paul’s two cell phones, their numbers and how numerous attempts to reach him on both phones have failed, I see Paul’s face in my mind – the first time we met and his shy uncertainty when he looked at me. I tell him that Paul wears glasses, hearing aids in each ear but that he is not an old man. He works and runs circles around men thirty years younger than he is. I stress again, “He is NOT a frail old man.”

 

“Okay then,” he wraps things up, “the case number for this is C-08027430. My phone number is 943-1100. Just call that number and ask for me or just talk to anyone if you hear anything or have any questions. Give them that case number.”

 

I thank him and we say goodbye. I look around the office and notice that several agents have returned and are walking by me toward their offices. Two women, Cathy and Kim, stop in front of me and ask me if I’m okay. I look at them and break down slightly, “No,” I say, crying harder, “my husband is missing.”

 

Cathy and Kim rush to my side, their kindness giving me strength. I quickly get them caught up to what I know and what I don’t know.

 

“You need to go home,” Kim says, recognizing the elephant in the room.

 

“I will,” I reply, “I’m just waiting for Valerie to get back from lunch.”

 

Kim pulls me up from my chair. “I’ll drive you home,” Kim commands as Cathy hands me my purse and cell phone.

 

“I’ll follow and drive us back,” Cathy offers.

 

Kim picks up the office phone and punches a few numbers. “Sharon, we need you to watch the phones till Valerie comes back. We have to take Mary home now.”

 

Sharon suddenly appears and I’m whisked out of the office. I don’t resist this hi-jacking of my life by these women. I don’t give the office another measurable thought. I simply try to will traffic out of our way and every stop light to be green. Each delay is agony. When we finally pull up to my apartment’s garage door every muscle in my body is stiff from being clenched for forty minutes.

 

I remember my manners long enough to thank Kim for her kindness and promise to keep her posted as we get out of my car when my cell phone rings we all stop in our tracks. I look at the number on the screen. “It’s my brother-in-law!” I tell them. I’m all smiles and hoping he’s got good news.

 

Cathy and Kim give me some space and walk back to Kim’s car. I listen to what Tom has to say and ask him to repeat himself.For a moment, I feel like nothing’s real. This is a very bad dream and I’ll wake up any minute now to coffee and the newspaper and rushing to get ready for work and trying to find that place where we’ll all be happy.

 

“Look,” Tom’s commanding voice brings me back to reality, “Liz is on her way over there. Why don’t you stay with us until we get this sorted out? We both think that would be better.”

 

I mumble my thanks and hang up. Looking around, I see that Kim and Cathy are watching me. “They found Paul’s truck,” I manage to get out before fresh tears pour down my cheeks, “but not Paul.”

 

 

WILCO

The sergeant can’t shake the bad feeling he’s getting about the missing man, Paul Roland. The OnStar™ operator located the man’s truck on a farm road off the main highway in Hays County. Hays County borders the southern edge of Travis County which places the truck nearly thirty miles south of where Mr. Roland lives. Not a huge distance, as distance goes in Texas, but significantly far away from where he was supposed to be. He calls the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and requests that they send a patrol car out to the truck’s location and to call him back their findings.

 

About thirty minutes later, he gets a call from the officer in the field. “It’s parked off the roadway on County Road 104 in a heavily wooded area just about smack up against a fence.”

 

“Any sign of Mr. Roland inside or outside the truck?” the sergeant asks.

 

“No, sir,” drawls the Hays County Deputy, “in fact, the truck appears to have been washed recently. Oh, and it’s cold to the touch so it’s been there a while.”

 

“You see anything in the truck? Any sign of trouble?”

 

“Well, it’s pretty cleaned out,” the officer pauses, “There’s a Pennzoil receipt but I can’t see the date. The truck is locked. There’s a pair of hearing aids sittin’ on the back seat. Looks like whoever was in that truck come out on the fence side. Passenger-side mirror is pushed in and there’s scratches on the door. Yes sir, appears to be a footpath into the field.”

 

“Mr. Roland is considered a missing person, possibly endangered. We’ll send some people down there and we’d appreciate it if you could keep the area free of people for the time being.”

 

“No problem. We’ve got some cars coming to rope it off. I’ll call D.P.S. and see if we can get a bird in the air. I’ll keep you posted.”

 

 

Damaged side mirror

 

 

Paul

 

I am on a high platform inside a rock-crushing plant beside the rock crushing chain and standing between the two guys from the van with my blindfold off. I see another man outside talking to someone who drives up in a Black Hummer. A man and a woman get out of the Hummer. It’s Mary! They come into the lower building door. They’re coming to free me! Then I watch, horrified, as a big tractor pulls in behind the Hummer, lifts it up and moves it out into the yard. It’s lowered to the ground and a huge bulldozer rolls back and forth over the Hummer crushing it. The tractor lifts the pile of metal and dumps it into a huge hole at the side of the lot. A couple of guys in a pickup truck drive through the lot stopping near the hole to watch the Hummer fall. The crash of the scrapped Hummer is deafening as it hits the bottom of the hole.The men in the pickup never see the bulldozer as it crawls up the back of their truck, crushing them inside before pushing the whole mess into the hole on top of the Hummer and covering it up with rocks and dirt. The men holding me are laughing. They say those men stole from the boss.

 

The door next to us opens and Mary and this slick Mexican guy step out on the platform with us. Mary is hanging onto his arm! She looks like she’s drunk or drugged or something. She’s not herself. I can’t believe what I’m seeing! That man leans down and kisses her, fondles her, then grins. “We’re partners now!”

 

“Mary, what is going on?” I ask. “You don’t have to do this to get rid of me. Tell them to let me go!”

 

Mary and the Mexican guy only talk to the two men in Spanish that are holding me and then leave. The men take me and tie me next to one of the rock buckets on the crusher. One of the men hits a button and suddenly I drop down five stories. I scream as just ahead of me a bucket of rocks is crushed to fine gravel. I’m sure this is the end of me but at the last moment, the machine is stopped and I’m untied from the bucket.

 

One of the men puts the blindfold back on over my eyes saying, “That’s what your whole family will look like if you don’t do what you’re told.”

 

I wake up, suddenly and shaking, in the van to their chatter, to their non-stop Nextel chatter and wonder, was I dreaming? Did it really happen? The woman helps me drink more water as we continue to drive. I have the feeling we are going south, but I don’t think we’re on I-35. Maybe we’re on 183 south. I’m losing energy but still fight to stay awake. I keep slipping in and out of sleep. We finally stop. They get me out of the van and I try to catch glimpses of my surroundings. Maybe this is New Braunfels? Before I can recognize any landmarks, I’m marched, bound and shackled, with a man on both sides of me, from the van toward a doorway.

 

“Watch your step!” one of the men says, “There’s a handicap ramp there.”

 

It’s a cheap motel room from the smell and what I’m able to make out. It has two double beds. I’m led to the farthest end of the room and told to lie down. I catch a glimpse of a bathroom nearby.

 

“Are you hungry?” asks the guy who seems to be the leader.

 

“Yes,” I reply.

 

“Wendy’s all right?” he asks. Why would he ask what I want? I don’t trust them but I’m hungry.

 

I lie down and see a chest of drawers across from me. I stay very still and listen. I hear them push a little table across the floor when the food comes and I‘m led to sit in a chair. From their voices, I know my back is to them. They change the tie on my hands so that my hands are tied in front. Someone puts a sweaty soda cup in one hand and a burger in the other hand.

 

“Don’t turn your head or try to get up,” a man says behind me, tapping my shoulder with the end of a pistol in his hand. He has a Mexican accent. He is the “Mexican-with-the-gun.”

 

I eat the food and do as I’m told. When finished, the “Mexican-with-the-gun” tightens the bandana around my eyes.

 

“You need to piss, old man?” he asks.

 

“Yes,” I say, hoping for a chance to get away from these thugs. I’m led to what can only be the bathroom threshold, when the zip tie around my hands is cut off and I’m shoved forward.

 

“Get to it! Don’t waste my time!” he yells and the door shuts behind me.

 

I pull up the blindfold, a red bandana, take a look around and take care of business. No way out from the bathroom. Cinderblock construction and no windows; not even a vent in the ceiling. As I take care to make all the right sounds, I’m reminded of an article I saw in a recent men’s magazine, ironically about what you should do and not do if you’re ever kidnapped. The article assumed you were in another country, not the USA, but basically, I remembered it saying to remain calm and try to pay attention to your surroundings. Washing my hands, I remember some of the other survival tips: make them see you as a person, be passive and respectful, avoid sudden movements, be prepared for a lengthy detention and attempt escape only as a last resort.

 

Absently, I flush the commode again, just buying time and thinking about how those tips might help me now. Banging on the door startles me into finishing up and quickly putting the bandana back over my eyes.

 

“I’m ready!” I yell to whoever is on the other side of the door, being careful to keep my back to the door and my hands behind my back.

 

“Ah-chi-wow-ah,” he cackles as he jerks my wrists together in a new zip tie and leads me to the bed, “You like a girl; you so slow!”

 

I’m told lie down. Right away, the chirping and beeping of cell phones and anxious Spanish voices fill the room. Nextel traffic has gone wild! Eventually, the chatter dies down. I feel steps coming toward me and a weight upon the end of the bed.

 

“You give me the pin numbers to your cards!” a man orders, shaking me.

 

“My credit cards don’t have pins,” I explain.

 

“You got the debit. It has a pin number,” he pushes again.

 

“I never use that one. I have no idea-” I manage before he interrupts me.

 

“You think Tom can come up with the money?” he asks

 

“Maybe, but the bank won’t have that kind of cash lying around.” I explain. “It takes a couple of days, at least, to put it together. No bank is going to hand him that much money without calling the cops.”

 

They seem to consider what I’m saying so I continue, “Cut me loose and let me get you some money. I can get my 401K money and my savings: at least $100,000. You can always come get me if I don’t come through.”

 

They just laugh at me. I don’t know what time of day it is or how long I’ve been gone. The two men and the woman argue a lot. One guy seems to be in charge. He seems tough, reckless, and impatient and he has the gun. The second guy is about the same, but I get the sense that he’s scared. The woman seems to be a calming force and keeps them from going off on me. She makes sure I’m okay. I think she might be somebody’s girlfriend. They seem to have some respect for her. Even so, it seems the pistol’s shoved into me just for fun. It scares the crap out of me.

 

I’d bet these guys are addicts as well as dealers and I hope I get through this without getting killed. I can’t think very well. I feel very weak. I’m drinking lots of water. Mostly, I’m praying as much as my mind will let me. God, do you hear me?

 

There’s a third guy with us now who acts like the woman’s little brother or helper. He jumps at everything she says. I wish I understood more Spanish. Even in my dazed condition, it would be a big help. More people keep coming and going – new voices. One man sounds familiar, like maybe someone I’ve worked with at Phoenix. I hear names similar to guys who’ve worked with us.

 

There are more women in the room, too, and they all seem to know each other and answer to the woman taking care of me. I feel like a prize. It’s like they’ve called all their buddies to show off! There are at least eight or more people in here. There’s a lot of laughing and loud talking in Spanish. Above their voices, the Nextel radios are going constantly. The chatter and the noise go on and on. It feels like an hour or more has passed. They are getting more and more excited. I don’t understand all the words, but I know something is about to happen.

 

Bam! Bam! The room shakes. Everything gets real quiet. I hear the door open and two new voices as greetings are exchanged. The new people walk over to where I’m sitting on the bed.

 

“Stand up! Show respect!” a man yells as he hits me across my shoulder with a pistol. I stand. “Can you see me?” he demands.

 

“No,” I lie.

 

“Good,” he says and moves a step away. “Keep your head down.”

 

I can’t see his face but I can see his Mexican-cowboy chrome and gold belt buckle and his all-white pants and jacket. He has a big chrome pistol, too, probably a .357 magnum, stuck in his belt. There’s something familiar about his short, chubby, asshole build. He says, “Tom keeps his part of the bargain and everything will be okay.”

 

“I need my medications,” I say, hoping he’ll realize this has been a bad plan for them.

 

“If Tom gets my money, you will get all the medicine you need. If he doesn’t, you won’t need medicine anymore.”

 

The Boss, or whoever he is, talks in Spanish to the others in a low voice for a few minutes and then I hear the door open and the sound of people leaving. The crowd returns to their normal noise level.

 

A woman gives me some aspirin and helps me to lie down on the side of the bed nearest the bathroom. I face away from the other people in the room. Sometime later, I hear the door open and some more people leave. I think it’s just the woman and the two men remaining now. I’m having a hard time keeping them identified in my mind. Even though I’m blindfolded with a bandana and without my glasses, I can still see blurry bits of images when I look up or down. The hard part is not moving my head to do that. If they see me move my head, they’ll know I can see something and that could get me hurt or killed.

 

I strain my ears to listen to them talk. I think the “leader” that’s been left here is a career criminal. This is not his first kidnapping. This guy is also doing drugs from the sound of things. He’s a thug. The other guy, I think, is somewhere in between on the criminal career ladder but still dangerous. They’re having a heated discussion in Spanish and I don’t understand much of what they’re saying. I clearly understand one word: Coka. They keep repeating that word and I know they don’t mean the soda! They argue a long time about it and, eventually, I hear the woman make a call followed by one of the guys going out. I don’t think she wants to leave me alone with either of these men.

 

Or, maybe it’s something else. I hear the “Mexican-with-the-gun” and the woman making out nearby. Loudly. It isn’t a big deal to either of them that I’m right here. Now, it’s full on sex. They are having sex right next to me! For the first time, I am thankful for my blindfold! It finally gets quiet and then the sound of murmurs from the bed, like whispers, alert me again to listen.

 

“You don’t say nothing. You got that?” he growls, the atmosphere so mellow a moment ago is again hot with stress.

 

I hear her laugh and reply quite clearly, “About you? About that? Don’t worry!”

 

They move back to the other side of the room near the door and even though I’m trying, it’s very difficult to stay awake.

 

I wake up to the sound of a low-flying helicopter, its bright lights flashing in the windows. It sounds like its right on top of the building! People in the room are yelling,“Get on the floor! Get on the floor!”

 

I roll off the bed and onto the floor, hitting my head on the nightstand. Somehow I know a SWAT team is moving door-to-door, is, in fact, at the other end of the motel looking for someone. Looking for me! They’re here to rescue me! A man, in our room, pulls out several automatic assault weapons and passes them out.

 

“I’m going to die here for sure,” I realize, “These idiots are going to try to shoot it out with the police and I’ll just be collateral damage.”

 

Everyone looks poised, ready for a confrontation. The tension strangles me. I can’t breathe. The cops are only a couple of doors away! Then, I can’t believe my ears! They’ve stopped! They’re walking the other way! They’ve left!

 

I wake up on the floor feeling like I’ve been kicked. The woman is with me, helping me get up.

 

“You fell off the bed and hit your head,” she says as she helps me into bed and gives me some water.

 

Even in sleep, there’s no escape.

 

 

WILCO

Detective James Maugham of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, parks his pickup truck in the adjacent parking lot on Rock Street in Georgetown, Texas and happily thinks about what he and his wife might do to celebrate their wedding anniversary tomorrow. He wants to do something different this year. He’s already bought a gift and a card – in his line of work, you don’t leave that to the last minute – but he wants this anniversary to be something really special, something they’ll always remember.

 

He looks around the half-full parking lot as he slides his imposing figure out of his truck and locks it. He pulls the zipper of his light jacket up to his neck as an icy northern wind rips past. His ten-gallon hat does little to keep his head warm and his short, military haircut leaves his ears uncovered. It’s hard to believe that just yesterday the temperature was 91 degrees. “That’s winter in central Texas! 80’s one day, a hard freeze the next!” he thinks to himself and then remembers that today’s high tops out in the 50’s and there could be a hard freeze tonight.

 

He passes other officers on his way into the building saying hello or goodbye depending on which way they’re heading. He knows most of them because he’s been with the Sheriff’s Department for over twenty years and, most recently, been promoted to Detective in the Criminal Investigations Division, or CID, as it was called. All of his cases deal with missing persons and most are easily solved when the right information is provided. He finds that a lot of missing persons are missing of their own accord. Adults disappear trying to get away from their lives and juvenile runaways were standard. Sometimes a child would go missing because one parent or the other took the child in a custody dispute. They’d had the occasional senior who’d gotten disoriented and wandered off, too. It was interesting work and he was happy in his role to resolve the cases.

 

The plan for the day was that James finish paperwork and answer phone calls and then head home; a nice, quiet day. Lunchtime comes and goes. After clearing up nearly everything else, he looks at the clock. It’s 4:30PM. Perfect. And then his phone rings.

 

“This is James,” he says checking his email.

 

“James, this is Pete. Just got something I think you should look into.”

 

James hangs up, sighs and heads to his commanding officer’s, Sergeant Hughey’s, office. James and Pete have worked together a long time and James can tell with one look at Pete’s face that this is no ordinary case. He hadn’t seen Pete look so disturbed since the Georgetown girl went missing in 2002. James feels his heart begin to beat faster.

 

Sergeant Pete Hughey quickly brings James up-to-date on what he knows about the Roland case.

 

“D.P.S. can’t do aerial surveillance right now because the winds are too high,” he explains, “so they’re out there doing a foot search for now. May bring in the dogs later. We had to get OnStar to unlock the truck. Preliminary reports say it looks like a scuffle went on in the truck.”

 

“Really?” James asks, prompting for more information.

 

“It looks like someone tried to wipe it clean,” Pete concludes.

 

James asks, “Anything on the man’s phone yet?”

 

“Got officers looking into them. He’s got two-”

 

“Two?” James asks not sure he heard right.

 

“Yeah, two,” Pete continues, “We’re getting the records and what not. One’s AT&T and the other is Nextel. AT&T got a possible location on the other side of New Braunfels. We got people on their way to check that out and local law helping to recover it.”

 

“Tell me what you need me to do,” James volunteers, anxious to get to the point.

 

“I’d like you to be lead on this. We’ve already got several agencies involved. You lead the investigation and coordinate everything from this office; disseminate information. Matt Lindemann will assist with recruiting from state and federal agencies, but everything goes through you and from you to me.”

 

James accepts the assignment and, immediately, puts everything into motion for all reports and information on the Roland case to channel through him. First order of business is to interview the Claimant’s wife, Mary Roland. If foul play has occurred, James knows, it’s often at the hands of the spouse or some other family member. As he dials Mary’s phone number, he sighs. The last thing he needs on his wedding anniversary is to be chasing some crazy married couple or crazy anybody trying to get out of paying their tax bill, run away with their mistress or anything like that.

 

 

Mary

 

I sit in our bedroom; a small, empty suitcase open at my feet. My sister-in-law, Liz, is on her way over. I’ll stay with them until this is resolved. Someone from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department is also on his way to talk to me. This and what I should put into the suitcase are nowhere in my thoughts. Instead, I’m remembering a conversation I had with Paul a few days ago. Even after Paul went to work for his brother, Tom, he’s continued to be friends with Lance, his former boss and now a current competitor. CS Electric is a very similar business to Phoenix Electric. They have the same business structure, the same construction niche and even some of the same sub-contractors.

 

I suddenly remember that Paul talked to Lance a few days ago. Normally, these talks are about fishing, hunting and Lance’s uncanny ability to remain a bachelor. But, this time the conversation was much different. Lance told Paul that he’d started out one morning, a couple of weeks ago, and two masked men, one holding a gun, ambushed him outside his garage! Lance said that they’d threatened him, “Comply and you won’t die!” They made him empty his pockets and give them the keys to his truck. Then, the gunman saw the recently-installed gun safe bolted into the garage floor and ordered Lance to open it.

 

Lance hadn’t had the gun safe long. His uncle, a lifelong gun collector, passed away recently and left his gun collection to Lance. Lance had only recently bought the safe to house the collection and had it installed securely to the garage floor shortly after that. He’d had no time to memorize the combination. He explained this to the men and that he’d have to go inside the house to get the combination.

 

They don’t believe him. After some argument, the men finally agree to allow Lance to go inside to get the combination. As Lance turned to go into the house, he saw the gunman relax, just a bit, and threw a punch at him. The man’s arm flies up and hits Lance across his skull, leaving a nasty gash. Luckily, the effort through the guy off balance and he fell on his butt! Lance took off, out of the garage and to a neighbor’s house. He called the police but by the time they got there, the masked men had already disappeared. As far as I knew, they hadn’t been found.

 

“Hmm,” I think, “Paul left for work this morning and now his truck is in Buda, some thirty miles away, in no way the direction he set out on. Lance works with his brother. Paul works for his brother. CS does electrical construction on new apartments in Texas. Phoenix Electric does the same. That’s too many coincidences!”

 

I can hardly breathe as I catapult myself from the bed to the hall to the garage door and out of the garage to the spot where Paul has always parked his truck. Liz pulls in and behind the Hummer as I stand there, staring at the empty space. I glance over as she gets out of her Escalade.

 

“Have you heard anything more?” she asks. I look at her and look at the driveway again, shaking my head.

 

“No, nothing,” I finally answer, “but, I may have figured something out.” I tell her about Lance’s ‘home invasion’ incident and how I think it’s related to Paul. “I think someone car-jacked him! What if he’s been hurt bad and is lying somewhere out there near the truck?” New tears stream down my face as I blurt out the awful thought.

 

She listens quite patiently. I look away from her to the pavement. Something sparkly catches my eye. Liz follows my gaze and sees it, too. We surround the object like road workers studying a hole in the street.

“Don’t touch it!” I snap, “Let me get something to pick it up with. We’ll give it to the deputy that’s coming over.”

 

I sprint into the apartment. For the first time since Mike’s call this morning, I feel like I’m doing something. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it feels good. I look around the bedroom we use for an office and grab the first envelope I find: a nine by twelve brown mailing envelope. I sprint back outside and join Liz by the ‘evidence’: a small, gold-hoop earring.

 

“How are you going to pick it up?” Liz asks, “You don’t want your fingerprints on it.”

 

I hadn’t thought of that. I look around but there’s nothing obvious to pick it up with. In my sweater pocket are my keys. The apartment key is perfect. Scooping it up with the tip and letting it slide on one of the key’s teeth works like a charm. Then, plop, into the envelope and I finish with the seal.

 

“Maybe one of the persons responsible for Paul’s disappearance is a woman,” I consider out loud.

 

 

Paul

 

I guess their love fest is really over because the man and woman are arguing non-stop now. In English. Very loud and very CLEAR English.

 

“He’s taking too long!” the man yells.

 

“He’ll be here soon. Shut up!” she yells back.

 

“He uses more coka than he sells,” he roars back, “El stupido will bring the cops right here!”

 

Just then, the door opens and the room is silent. I smell food. The woman sits on the bed beside me, raises me to a sitting position and begins to remove my blindfold.

 

“No!” The man’s voice stops her instantly. “We can’t take any chances. Feed him as he is.”

 

She feeds me a few mouthfuls by hand then gives me some water. “Go to sleep,” she whispers to me as she pushes me to lie down.

 

I lie there listening and trying not to fall asleep. I’m scared I won’t wake up. Their talk and laughter now sounds more like they’re partying. Maybe the other guy brought back drugs for dessert? Thinking about what people have done while doing drugs terrifies me. Even so, I am so groggy now, it seems like I’m just getting weaker and weaker. Straining every muscle to stay awake, I hear them talking about the money, about taking me to Laredo, about getting more money from Tom. This is really bad for me! Why am I getting so weak? There’s nothing I can do to save myself in this condition – always weak, thirsty and sleepy.

 

Sleep just comes over me like a dark cloud. There are always weird sounds around me and I don’t know if they’re real or part of nightmares. The only way I can tell reality from dreams is that when I’m dreaming, my blindfold is off and I can see everyone. In the dreams, they don’t care if I can see them because they’re going to kill me anyway. Awake or asleep, it doesn’t matter; they can do anything to me they want to do. As I accept this reality, I relax and drift again.

 

Salty air hits my face and the smell of the Gulf is strong. I am in what looks like an abandoned grain elevator with the men who took me. We must be near the edge of a salt water bay. As I look out a window, I see other men unload bundles from shrimp boats. It must be late night as dark as it is out there. I’m very cold. They’ve taken my shoes and socks and my light shirt gives me no protection.

 

I look around and see four other people, young Mexicans, their hands tied behind their backs, being unloaded from a truck. Once unloaded, they are told to get down on their knees and wait. After what seems several minutes, a couple of men carrying guns walk from the building I’m in and lead the four back through a big door I realize is on the side of this building I’m looking out the window from. The door slams behind them. Suddenly, I hear screams and the popping of gun shots. I pull away from the window and drop to the floor. It becomes deathly quiet. Even the sea is silent. I sneak a peek out the window and watch as four men drag four bundles, each about the size of a man. They load them into the shrimp boat. I can’t look away!I watch what’s going on outside the building and, filled with despair, think, “This is what’s going to happen to me and my family will never know what happened. They will never find my body.”

 

A VW convertible drives up. A young guy and pretty blond sit in the car with the motor idling. A Mexican man walks over to the car. I watch as everyone jumps to attention as he approaches and to whatever he’s saying to them. He and the couple talk for a moment before the driver gets out of the car, walks to the trunk and opens it, removing several bags of luggage. He then pulls out what looks like a briefcase and hands that over to the Mexican who opens it. He reaches in one hand and pulls it out, bringing his hand up to his face. I don’t know if he’s tasting or sniffing but whatever he did makes him happy. He pulls a thick envelope from his pocket and hands it to the pretty blond girl, leans down and kisses her, then waves them off.

 

“Another dumb college kid got lucky carrying drugs across the border,” I think to myself, “Didn’t get killed or caught. This time.”

 

As the VW drives off, an old motorhome pulls up and the same thing happens again, only this time, it’s an old couple who gets out and approaches the Mexican man. The Mexican laughs when they get out with their dogs, cats and a large bird and motions for his men to go into the RV. The men put on gas masks! They are in and out very quick, lugging large bags of what looks like bricks. I guess all the odors from the animals and the old couple confuses drug dogs and border police? The Mexican snaps his fingers and another man runs out to his side carrying a briefcase. He hands it to the Mexican who passes it to the old couple. They all shake hands and the old couple and their animals get into the motorhome and drive away.

 

The Mexican turns and walks back and into the building. A few moments later, he is standing beside me. I know he’s going to kill me now. He looks me up and down. He frowns at the men holding me.

 

“Get the jacket we took from one of the thieves and put it on him! RÁPIDO!”

 

A little while later, two brown-camo Suburbans arrive, roaring outside with lights flashing across their roofs. They stop and eight or nine swat-team-looking guys jump out with guns ready. Four are guarding the trucks and the others come running into this building. They must be here to rescue me! But they don’t pay me any attention. Soon, the guys run back out carrying what looks like a foot locker. They get back in their vehicle, followed by the guard unit loading up and then both Suburbans take off.Is this a cop payoff?

 

Before I can finish that thought, another vehicle, an older, red Ford pickup pulls into view and three tough looking younger guys get out looking around. They spot me in the window and laugh.

 

“What did you do, bitch?” One of them yells.

 

Just then, the Mexican comes out with three of his workers who are carrying machetes. The young guys open the truck bed and pull out packages, showing them to the Mexican. The Mexican nods and motions for them to bring everything inside. They all go into the big, main door. Suddenly, there are loud voices followed by screams. I watch, horrified, as one of the young guys runs out, his eyes bulge with horror and blood covers the front of his shirt. He’s carrying a big plastic bag. He tosses the bag into the truck bed, jumps inside and peels out.

 

The Mexican comes out and looks around at the other men, at me and makes sure every eye is on him.

 

“They lost part of the load! I sent that perrito back with only part of his partner to show to his compadres what happens when you come up short with me!” he bellows, his eyes flashing in the dark room.

 

It seems like I’ve been watching cars, trucks, SUV’s, cops and people coming and going all night and day. What is the end of this? Finally, the Mexican takes me to another part of the old plant where he has a medium-sized travel trailer. I look at the steps leading to the door. Do I go up or wait?

 

“Turn around, Senor,” he commands but in a softer tone.

 

I look at him and twirls his index finger to indicate that I should turn my back on him. That idea fills me with terror but I manage to do what he says. I look behind to see him pull out a switchblade and open it to reveal a very long knife! I reflexively take a step away and he grabs my arm, pulling me back. Schwack! He cuts my plastic ties. My arms are free and for a moment I’m still too afraid to turn and look at him. When I do, he’s watching me; not really smiling but not menacing.

 

“Over there,” he points to some scrubby plants beside the trailer, “relieve yourself.”

 

I do as I’m told. When I return, he zip ties my hands in front.

 

“Let’s go inside,” he says as he helps me into the trailer.

 

His being nice is more frightening than witnessing his brutality earlier. As I go inside, I look around for weapons – anything to tell me what will happen now.

 

“Sit on the floor over there,” he says calmly, “you are probably hungry. These animals! They have no respect for abuelo!”

 

He feeds me warm beans and tortillas and gives me a bottle of water.

 

I have a blanket on me when I try to wake up during the night. I’m in the motel room! I try to make some sense of what’s happening. My water bottle keeps getting lost and it seems like I’ve been somewhere else. How did I get back to this room with these people? These people are going to kill me if Tom doesn’t pay the money. I can hear them talking in what sounds like a mixture of English and Spanish. I can’t be sure, but a lot of it seems to be about Mexico.

 

I ask, again, “Please. Let me call Mary. Please! I need to tell her I’m alive.”

 

Laughter.

 

“He’s awake!” I hear a man say.

 

“Here! Call her!” Someone hands me a phone and laughs.

 

They don’t take the tie off my wrists or the blindfold from my eyes. I fumble with the phone and the buttons. My hands shake with tremors when I’m not terrified. This fear on top makes it ten times worse. The phone falls to the floor. More laughter.

 

“Can’t you help me?” I beg.

 

“Try again!” from someone else and I feel the phone in my hand again.

 

It’s no use. It’s beginning to dawn on me that this is just another sick game for them. They know I can’t physically do this with my wrists tied together, my eyes covered and shaking all over. I lie down and close my eyes. I’m startled when the one that I think is the leader, the Mexican-with-the-gun, holds what feels like the business end of a pistol to the back of my head.

 

“Let me shoot him and get it over with!” he snarls thickly.

 

He pulls the trigger. SNAP! That chamber was empty. I shake with terror and I shake with relief. He laughs. Where are the others? He repeats this several more times. I stop reacting. It’s not that I’m suddenly not afraid anymore. It’s because I know how this will end. They are not going to let me go, not alive anyway. Even if Tom gives them the money, I’m going to be a problem to them. I begin to pray, “God, thank you for all my life and for my family. Please forgive me for everything I’ve ever done.”

 

 

WILCO

James observes the area around the apartment complex situated on a farm-to-market road as he approaches the property. Road construction is south of the complex for a major loop with a new east/west toll road. Within a mile east is Interstate Highway 35, called “the I-35 Corridor,” that runs through the middle of the US from Laredo, Texas at the southern end heading north to Minnesota. The apartment complex itself is fairly generic. Gated but not monitored. James parks his patrol car in an empty parking slot across from the Roland’s’ garage and walks to a front door located on the side of the building. A black Hummer H-3 is parked in a space in front of the garage. “Is that significant?” he wonders as he rings the doorbell.

 

Mary Roland answers the door and invites James in. She’s a small woman, maybe five feet tall, with short brown hair. She has blue eyes that are probably pretty when she’s not crying and she’s been crying – a lot. Her face is puffy and red. Another woman, Liz Roland, Tom’s wife, joins them at the dining room table. Liz is attractive, tall and slender with short brown hair. As James settles in, he notices moving boxes stacked in the living room. He makes a note in his notebook: Moving?

 

“Would you like some coffee or some water?” Mary offers.

 

“No thank you, ma’am.”

 

James turns a page of his notebook as the women take seats at the other end of the dining table facing him. He notices, immediately, that Liz is nervous or fidgety and rarely looks him in the eye, whereas, Mary’s steady gaze never wavers.

 

“Do you have any new information?” Mary asks.

 

“What have you heard?” James asks.

 

“Just that they’ve found Paul’s truck and he wasn’t there,” Mary says, the last part hardly above a whisper. She seems impatient, maybe even agitated. This doesn’t surprise James and it doesn’t rule her out…yet.

 

“We’ve sent some people down there to assist the Hays County Detectives searching the area. We haven’t heard anything yet.”

 

The women seem to take this in. Liz holds Mary’s hand which tells James that Liz is keeping the wife calm and they seem to genuinely care about each other. “That could be a good sign,” he muses. “Are you and Mr. Roland getting along okay? Any problems?”

 

“No. No problems. We have a great relationship. That’s why I know something’s happened.”

 

“If he had a little stroke or something,” Liz interrupts her, “he might have wandered off. When Tom had his T.I.A.’s, he didn’t know where he was. That could’ve happened to Paul.”

 

“He didn’t have a stroke, Liz,” Mary says firmly as she withdraws her hand and looks directly into James’ eyes. “I think he’s been car-jacked.”

 

James hides his surprise at Mary’s leap to this conclusion and patiently listens as she relays the story of their friend, Lance, who’s had a recent home burglary incident. As she talks, she walks over to a counter top in the kitchen and picks up a large, brown envelope.

 

“I found this earring close to where Paul’s driver-side door would be” She slides the envelope across the table to James. “on the driveway. I didn’t touch it. I picked it up with the end of my house key and slid it inside.”

 

James looks at the envelope but doesn’t touch it. He thinks to himself, “CSI makes everyone a freaking detective!” He knows that even if it’s a legitimate piece of evidence, he can’t use it. The only evidence acceptable in a court of law is evidence gathered by forensic experts. Better to just ignore it.

 

“Would your husband have stopped to get gas or anything on the way to the office?” he changes the subject.

 

“I don’t know, maybe. If he did, he’d have gotten gas there on Greenlawn along the toll road or further down on the other side of the toll road across from Meister. He’d have used his American Express™ business card.”

 

Liz nods and adds, “Tom’s office manager can tell you if there’s been any activity on the card.”

 

“Did you or Mr. Roland have any problems with neighbors?”

 

“No.” Mary answers then adds, “There was an incident recently. Paul said it looked like someone spilled some liquid or spit on his windshield. He thought it was the upstairs neighbors but we couldn’t be sure.”

 

“Did he talk to them or anything?”

 

“Paul’s not like that. He just cleaned the windshield and forgot about it.”

 

“Can you think of any reason your husband might have gone to Buda or that area?” He watches her face as she thinks about it.

 

“They wire apartment projects all over the state so he might have gone that way if he’d been called with a problem. But he would have called the office to let them know.”

 

“What about medical problems?” James probes.

 

“He takes 10 milligrams of Lisinopril a day for high blood pressure, but it’s just about the lowest amount you can take. I take more than he does.” She watches as James writes, waiting for him to stop. “He takes some other medications for what they call benign essential tremor.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“His hands shake. It’s the same condition that Kathryn Hepburn had, but she had it in her face and neck. It won’t kill him but it’s no fun for him. Makes him a little self-conscious and uncomfortable.”

 

James nods as if he knows what she’s talking about and writes down the term ‘tremors’ before continuing, “What about his hearing aids and glasses? Does he need them one hundred percent?”

 

“He can function without his glasses. He won’t walk into doors or anything. He needs them mostly to read and to fine focus on distance. His hearing aids are another thing,” she says the last with a laugh causing James to stop writing and look at her. “He hates his hearing aids! I think he wears them to make me happy but, yes, he needs them. He only hears about half of what’s said to him without them.”

 

“Is that everything? He take any other medication?”

 

“Yes, I mean, that’s it,” Mary corrects. “Other than a daily vitamin or an occasional Advil, that is. Detective Maugham, my husband is healthier than everyone in this room and then some.”

 

James closes his notebook, “Will you be here later if I need to talk to you?”

 

“Not here. Tom and Liz have suggested that I stay with them for now, but you can reach me on my cell phone.”

 

James nods and assures her as he leaves, “I’ll call your cell phone if I have any new information.”

 

 

Mary

 

We live on the north-eastern edge of Austin, where Williamson County and Travis County connect and Austin, Round Rock, and Pflugerville Texas come together in a point on the county maps. It’s only about six miles from my sister-in-law’s home but it may as well be one hundred miles. Paul and I have rarely visited them. Now, here I am, about to stay in their home for who knows how long? I’m not even sure where the bathrooms are. Thankfully, Liz leads me to a large guest room – one with its own bathroom.

 

Liz is a gracious and sweet woman who is fortunate to have, if not the home of her dreams at least, this home exactly the way she wants it. A rambling ranch on two lots, every room is open and magazine-spread perfect. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms are on one end, a giant kitchen and master suite anchor the other. In the center is Liz’s project room, her enormous Christmas closet (she rolls her fully decorated tree in on New Year’s Day!) with drawers and organizational styling that would make a gift wrap department jealous, a giant family room and dining room.

 

I wander out of the guest room and head toward the kitchen. It’s 5 P.M. and I want a cup of coffee. I don’t want to sleep. “I won’t sleep until Paul is home,” I promise myself. My cell phone rings before I reach the kitchen. I can now tell by the prefix that the call is from someone at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department.

 

“Hello?” I answer and hold my breath.

 

“Mrs. Roland? This is Detective Maugham of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department.”

 

“Did you find him?” I blurt before he can say anything else.

 

“No, ma’am, no,” he replies, “I talked to the officers who examinded Mr. Roland’s truck. There wasn’t anything in it, really, but they found his hearing aids in the back seat.”

 

“What?” I’m not sure I heard this right.

 

“Mrs. Roland, did your husband have a habit of leaving them in the back seat?”

 

My mind pictures Paul’s Z-71 pickup truck: one of those trucks with a full front and back seat. There’s a large console with a deep inset between the front seats that Paul keeps extraneous things in. “No, he never does that. He’d put them on the console if he didn’t want to wear them. It’s indented and holds things pretty well.”

 

“Well, they found both hearing aids in the back seat.”

“If you found them there, it can only be because Paul was sitting in the back. He wanted us to find them! He’s leaving clues!” I am so proud of my husband for showing them all he isn’t senile or stroking out or running away! The detective promises to call if they find anything else. I tell Liz about the hearing aids and what I think about Paul deliberately putting them there.

 

“That could be, but Mary, when people have these little strokes they sometimes do strange things. I wouldn’t put too much into it,” she says with a sympathetic smile.

 

I promise to keep an open mind, but in my heart, I know the clock is ticking and that Paul is out there, somewhere. He could be hurt very badly, maybe dying and we need to find him now.

 

The time has come to call the kids. My heart sinks and tears pour down my cheeks no matter how hard I try to hold them back. I’ve been clinging to the hope that, by now, Paul would be home or at least found and safe; that the whole incident would be something to tell them all in the past tense. Now that we know that we might not know anything for a while. I can’t justify not telling them what’s going on.

 

Paul and I have six children between us. Not quite the “Brady Bunch” but, so far, with that sort of loving dynamic. Paul has two daughters and a son from his first marriage and I have three sons from mine. His children were all grown and “out of the nest” when we met and married twenty years ago. Mine were younger.

 

I ask Liz to stay with me while I make the calls because I’m not sure I can. How do you tell someone that their father is missing and might never be found?

 

The first call is to Penny in Virginia. Looking at the kitchen clock and adding an hour, I estimate that she is either still at work or on her way home. Penny is the career woman of Paul’s two girls. A government affairs counselor for a very large law firm in D.C., she often works late. Her husband, Hank, is a stay-at-home dad for their children. Paul is so proud of her and her family. In many ways, he’s always seemed closer to her than anyone and her opinion carries more weight than even mine.

 

I hear the cell tone connection and then her voice.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Penny,” My voice breaks and I can’t talk.

 

“Mary? What’s wrong?”

 

I stammer, “Your dad.” My emotions overwhelm me. Liz takes my cell phone. I listen as she tells Penny what we know. I’m even okay with Liz telling Penny that she thinks he may have had a medical emergency and someone’s probably helped him but didn’t know to call us. No point in speculating on what I fear has happened.

 

Sandra, the oldest of Paul’s kids, is next. She and her family live in Austin. Sandra has always been considered somewhat fragile by everyone in Paul’s family and they protect her from most of the harsh realities of life. I think she’s a lot stronger than they give her credit for but, right now isn’t the time to test my theory. I tell Liz to call Sandra’s husband, Walter.

 

Paul’s son, Eric, is still at work. He and Paul are very close. I know him the best of Paul’s three kids. In many ways, he’s the one responsible for us being together at all and we’ve been close since Paul and I were dating. I worry how he will handle this news.

 

“Eric? This is Aunt Liz.”

 

“Hi,” Then, “Everything ok?”

 

“Well,” she sighs, “No, honey, there’s a problem. Your dad has gone missing.”

 

“Missing? What does missing mean? Where’s Mary?”

 

“Mary’s here with me. She’s pretty upset as you might imagine. We don’t know a lot just yet,” she soothes, “he left for work this morning and never got there. The police found his truck. They’re searching everywhere for him.”

 

“His truck? Was he in a wreck? Where’s his truck?”

 

“No, we don’t think there’s been a wreck. We just don’t know.”

 

“Where do you think he is? Do they have any idea?” Eric demands as calmly as he can.

 

“Well, we don’t know. Like I told you, I think that maybe he’s been sick and someone took him to a doctor or something. They’ll find him and then we’ll know.” Liz promises to keep him updated and Eric promises to come over as soon as he gets off work.

 

Now for my kids and I think to myself, “These are the hardest of all.” How much more can these kids take? Their father committed suicide four years ago on February 6. There are no words to describe the utter devastation this kind of thing does to the family of the one who makes this choice. Here we are in February again; another crisis, another father in trouble.

 

I think about what I call the “February curse” as we continue to call the kids. In February 2005, a year after my ex-husband’s death, my youngest son, David, came home one day to find his wife of seven years had left him. In February 2006, the wife of my oldest son’s best friend drowned tragically. It seemed like we were getting a break in 2007 but even in that year, we had near catastrophe with another of our kids. Remembering all this, I couldn’t let Liz do any more calls. I call David, the youngest, but get his voicemail. I leave a brief message for him to call me, saying only that Paul is missing and that we’re doing everything we can to find him.

 

Last, and so much harder to call, is Sam, the oldest. He feels things so much more than his brothers and all these tragedies have taken a terrible toll on him. I call his number, trembling and fighting back a new wave of tears.

 

“Sam?”

 

“Yeah.” He sounds distant as if he’d really rather not be talking to me or anyone else right now.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I’m okay.”

 

Silence. I take a deep breath and prepare to dive off the high board. “Look, honey, I’m calling to let you know that Paul is missing.” I don’t give him time to interrupt. “The police are looking for him. Everyone’s looking for him. I’m sure we’ll find him but I wanted to let you know what was going on.” I wait a long and silent moment.

 

“Missing? How long has he been missing?” Like a flipped switch, Sam is now completely engaged.

 

“Well, since this morning when he left the apartment,” I say and add, “They found his truck and everyone thinks maybe he got sick or something and someone took him to a clinic or hospital and we’ll get the news any minute. Aunt Liz thinks maybe he’s had a little stroke.”

 

We talk a little more and I urge him to stay in contact with his brothers and promise to keep him updated. When we hang up, I realize that I truly BELIEVE Paul will be found – found alive. I look at Paul’s picture on my cell phone and, looking into his eyes, whisper, “Don’t you give up. Don’t you give up. Don’t you give up. Don’t you give up.”

 

Suddenly, my cell phone rings and I nearly jump out of my skin! I recognize Detective Maugham’s number.

 

“Mrs. Roland?” His voice is firm, giving nothing away.

 

“Yes!”

 

“Are you at your sister-in-law’s or at your apartment right now?”

 

I tell him where I am, not liking his tone of voice at all. My stomach sinks and my heart begins to pound in my ears.

 

“Can you meet me over at your apartment in a few minutes, please?”

 

“Yes, right now. Has something happened?”

 

“We need a cap or something of Mr. Roland’s for the K-9 unit that’s searching the area around Mr. Roland’s truck.”

 

 

Hearing aids found inside truck

 

 

WILCO

Texas Ranger, Sergeant Matt Lindemann, a tall, good-looking Texan, reviews various reports at his desk when his phone rings. It’s 6:48PM.

 

“Matt,” Pete Hughey greets him.

 

“Yes, sir,” Matt responds a little surprised at the lateness of the call. He can tell it’s not a social call from Pete’s tone of voice.

 

“Matt, we got a situation here, a missing elderly man. He was grabbed outside his apartment over near La Frontera this morning and we found his truck abandoned in Hays County.” Pete ticks off the details as he knows them.

 

“What do you need, Pete? You got it,” Matt assures the other man as hair on the back of his neck begins to rise.

 

“James Maugham is lead on this for the county and I’d appreciate any help you can give him in getting additional resources from the state or where ever that he might need. This is looking like a wide spread operation. There’s already five other agencies besides ours so, with you and the Texas Rangers, well, you see what I mean.”

“Of course, Pete,” Matt says, “I’ll get with James and see what he needs, then make some calls. Whatever you need.”

 

Matt, a seasoned D.P.S. officer with over twenty years of service, eleven years as a Texas Ranger, the elite law enforcement branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety, doesn’t like the feel of this case. He’s seen his share of high profile crimes and, while the description of the missing man doesn’t seem to fit that box, he has a growing suspicion there is more going on than meets the eye. Matt likes working with James. They’ve been friends since attending the Police Academy and worked many cases together.

 

Matt takes a moment to tie up and hand off his current cases to another Ranger and then calls the Company “F” Ranger office in San Marcos. He advises the Ranger on the duty desk everything he knows of the case and the abandoned truck in nearby Buda.

 

“We talked about bringing the truck back up here for evidence gathering,” Matt tells the other Ranger, “but it’s already secured at the San Marcos Police Department. If that’s a good spot, we can leave it there for now.”

 

Matt looks at a map of Texas hanging on one wall of his office, his mind playing out possible scenarios and what other law enforcement resources might be needed before this is over.

 

 

Mary

 

Liz drives us to the apartment complex. The parking lot is mostly full. It’s dark and the sparsely-placed light poles cast eerie shadows that bounce and shift as we drive in. We pull up to the driveway in front of our building and I notice at least three Williamson County Sheriff Department cruisers parked close by. We get out of Liz’s Denali as Detective Maugham and another officer meet us and walk with us into the apartment.

I tell everyone to have a seat in the dining room as I turn on lights then head into our bedroom to get something of Paul’s to give to the deputies. Everything hangs in the same place it did this morning. Nothing’s moved. Nothing’s changed. Everything’s changed. My breath catches in my throat. I’m looking for a piece of my husband for search and rescue dogs! My eyes move from the clean shirts and slacks hanging neatly in the closet to the basket of clothes to be washed. His scent won’t be on the clean clothes. The dogs need something that is filled with him. I need that, too. The t-shirt he wore last night and an over shirt that he wears sometimes is on a small stool in the closet. I put the t-shirt into a plastic bag for the deputies. After taking off my jacket, I hold his shirt up to my face and inhale his scent as deeply as I can. Tears roll down my cheeks and into the fabric. After a moment, I put Paul’s shirt on over my own and my jacket over the shirt before joining the others in the dining room.

 

“It’s a t-shirt that Paul wore Sunday,” I say as I hand Detective Maugham the bagged shirt, “I can’t seem to find any caps. He probably had some in the truck.”

 

“This’ll be fine,” he says and he hands it off to the other officer. Then, “Can we go over Mr. Roland’s normal, day-to-day routine again?”

 

I recite the same information I gave him just a little over an hour ago.

 

“Have you located his phones?” I ask.

 

“Did Mr. Roland call you after he left this morning?” he asks mildly.

 

I hand over my cell phone showing all the recent calls, “No. He kissed me good-bye and left.”

 

“When they checked the call records for Mr. Roland’s phone, it showed a call to your cell phone a little after eight.” He says, watching my reaction.

 

“What?” I say as I pull my cell phone back, frantically scrolling up and down on the recent call list. “It didn’t ring. It didn’t.” Fresh tears stream down my cheeks at the thought that he’d called and I missed it.

 

“He could’ve bumped it. I’ve done that,” he says and I realize he didn’t mean to upset me. “Is there anyone that Mr. Roland has problems with? Someone who might want to do him harm?”

 

“Paul is very laid-back and easy going,” I reply, “He’s always nice to everyone.”

 

“So, there’s nothing recently that you can remember going on at work or around here?”

 

“No, nothing,” I remember all the patrol cars in the parking lot. “Are you looking for something here? All those patrol cars outside?”

 

“We’re just talking to your neighbors to see if anyone saw anything.” He says.

 

“Did they? Have you found anyone?”

 

“No, no, nothing yet,” he hedges, then adds, “but we did get a report that one of his cell phones was near New Braunfels around 2:30 PM today.”

“New Braunfels?”

 

This makes no sense. Paul’s truck was found several miles north of there. Alarm bells go off in my mind. It’s getting hard to breathe. Something very bad is going on! I push the brown envelope with the earring across the table to Detective Maugham.

 

“You didn’t take this with you earlier. It could be important. I don’t think Paul’s wherever he is because he wants to be!” My tone is a little harsher than I mean it to be but at least he takes the envelope and tucks it under the plastic bag with Paul’s shirt in it.

 

“Now, Mary,” Liz soothes, “I’m sure that everything that can be done is being done.”

 

“Has anyone looked into Paul’s credit cards to see if they’ve been used?” I ask, ignoring her. I’m not going to sit quietly by without trying to find answers.

 

“The office manager checked on the American Express card,” Detective Maugham tells us.

 

“And?” Liz interrupts.

 

“There haven’t been any charges on it today as of the end of the day,” he finishes.

 

“What about his personal cards?” I insist.

 

I feel like I’m trying the detective’s patience now, but he merely says, “You can call and check on them if you want.”

 

I run into the room we share as an office and pull out Paul’s “Bills to Pay” basket. As I’m gathering the statements, I hear Liz introducing Eric, Paul’s son, to the officers.

 

Eric grabs me, hugging me tightly as soon as he sees me. I tell Eric to have a seat and lay out the statements on the dining room table, picking up one and calling the customer service number.

 

After navigating the menu options a human voice finally says, “How can I help you?” All eyes in the room are on me. “I’d like to know if there’s been any activity on this card today,” I say in the calmest voice I can muster.

 

A saccharine voice replies,“I’m sorry, ma’am, but this card belongs to Paul Roland and I can only give him that information.”

 

With every fiber of my will, I hold back the nuclear-level anger that is dying to explode. “Look, Paul Roland is my husband and he’s missing and we’re trying to find him. You’d have no problem harassing me for payment if he defaulted. This information could save his life!”

 

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m not allowed to give anyone but Mr. Roland or a police officer that information. I’m really sorry.”

 

“A police officer?” I ask as my eyes lock with Detective Maugham’s blue eyes. “Hold on, just a moment, please! I happen to have one here.”

 

Detective Maugham takes the phone from my outstretched hand. As I turn the statement around so he can see it properly, I quickly tell him what the operator’s just told me. He identifies himself and after a few moments, he writes down several quick notes. “Thank you,” he tells the operator, “and please keep this credit card open. My office will contact you shortly.”

 

He looks at me as he hands my cell phone back, “Can I have these other statements?”

 

“Of course,” I say as I shove them across the table, adding, “Where was the card used? When was it used?”

 

“In San Antonio a couple of times today. H-E-B for $160.90 and at a CVS for $112.05.”

 

“Paul didn’t make those purchases,” I say emphatically looking from face to face.

 

“Now, Mary, he might have,” Liz coos, “Maybe he needed things. Or whoever is helping him needed them.”

 

Liz isn’t trying to be stubborn. She really needs to believe that something like a medical problem has to be the reason for Paul’s disappearance. I know this. I take a deep breath. I look from Detective Maugham’s face to the other deputy’s face. “He. Didn’t. Use. This. Card.”

 

“Okay,” Detective Maugham concedes, “we’ll get someone over there to get their video. Hopefully, they haven’t recorded over it yet.”

 

Everyone stands and heads to the door that opens into the garage. Detective Maugham stops and turns to me, “Oh, the shirt!”

 

I rush to the dining table and grab the bag with Paul’s shirt and the brown envelope and put them both in his hand. “Find him and bring him back to me, please. Please bring him home.”

 

 

WILCO

James and the other detective arrive back at the Sheriff’s Office as other officers are leaving to go home. They go inside and James heads to his office. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be an early evening so he takes a moment to call his wife and let her know. She’s used to this, a cop’s daughter and, although he wasn’t a cop when they married, she’s been completely supportive ever since he decided to go into law enforcement. Son of a carpenter, he learned his father’s craft and was good at it. Contracting jobs kept the bills paid until the bottom fell out in the mid-80’s. He found himself, as thousands of others had all across the country, on the hard end of the economic crisis. There were no construction jobs and the work he’d finished was going unpaid. Finally, it was his wife who asked him what he’d really like to be doing. He shared his childhood dream of being a police officer and she encouraged him to pursue his dream. He did. Twenty-two years later, he still loves his job.

 

James puts the brown envelope on his desk then heads over to a desk where an officer has been working on tracking Mr. Roland’s phones. He gives him the credit card information and explains that he is going out to the truck location with the shirt for the dogs to try and track. He advises the officer to follow up with the other accounts and to contact the San Antonio Police to see if they can get video from every business that shows activity as soon as possible and report each back to him immediately and to send him video if possible.

 

Before James can get out of the office his cell phone rings. It’s coming from Dispatch. “Detective Maugham,” James answers.

 

“Uh, sir, we’ve had a report come in this evening that a child who lives at the same apartment complex as that missing man claims to seen an elderly man being pushed, by two people, into a truck this morning.”

 

James quickly takes down the information and, asking the same detective to come with him, heads out of the office and back to the apartment complex. The scent dogs will have to wait a little longer. This was “too coincidental” as Mrs. Roland said earlier. He was beginning to believe her. “Wonder what the kid has to tell us?” James thinks to himself as they pull out of the parking lot.

 

Jessica Robbins, young, maybe 30, answers the door. A male, also 30-something, introduced as her boyfriend, sits beside a nine-year old girl on the couch. The girl is Lola, the witness to an assault or something this morning. James observes that Lola isn’t afraid of the officers and seems composed, if a little excited.

“Okay, Lola,” James encourages her, “tell us what happened this morning. Take your time.” To Jessica, he asks, “I’d like to have your daughter walk me through what she saw and heard from your apartment until she got on the school bus, if that’s all right with you?”

 

“Sure,” she says and nods to Lola, “Show us how it happened.”

 

The detectives follow as Lola and her mother walk outside the front door of the apartment.

 

Lola stops and looks from the apartment door to James, “I locked the door and went down the stairs.”

 

Everyone follows her down the stairs. She walks east in the general direction of the Roland’s apartment, just two buildings away.

 

“I was walking to the school bus this morning.”

 

“What time was this?” James asks.

 

“Around seven.”

 

“I leave before she does to take my son, he’s two, to daycare before I go to work,” Jessica adds.

 

At the edge of the Roland’s apartment building, approximately thirty feet from where Mr. Roland was said to have parked his truck, the child stops. “I was here when I saw them pushing their grandfather into a truck. They were really mean, too.”

 

“Okay,” James directs her, “let’s start with the old man, I mean, grandfather. Tell me what you saw and heard. What made you look?”

 

“I heard him making noise.”

 

“Where was he when you heard the noise?”

 

“In the truck. The boy was pushing him and punching him.”

 

“Can you describe the boy? How old did he look?”

 

“He was young, maybe twelve.” Lola’s eyes grow larger and angrier at the memories.

 

“Was the boy she saw really a young kid or just looked that young?” James muses writing everything down. He knows, very well, that children are often unable to judge the age of people older than themselves. A small adult is easily mistaken for a child and any adult over twenty may be described as old.

 

“Okay, he was young. Was he short or tall?”

 

“He wasn’t very tall.”

 

“Do you remember what he was wearing?” James asks gently for more detail.

 

“Yes, sir. He was wearing a camouflage hoodie and blue jeans.”

 

“So, you were here and you saw the boy and the grandfather. He was pushing him?”

 

“Yes,” Lola repeats and James sees a flash of outrage shining in her big brown eyes again. “He was pushing his grandfather into the truck and punching him and saying bad words to him.”

 

“What about the other person?” James prods for more details.

 

“It was a girl. She didn’t say anything but kept pushing the door in. I think they were trying to get their grandfather into the truck so they kept pushing him in.”

 

“Tell me about the girl,” James again speaks gently.

 

Lola moves a couple of steps forward and looks back at her mother uncertainly. James knows to keep his face and voice neutral. Children often forget what they’ve witnessed if they feel rushed or frightened. Jessica nods reassuringly and walks over to Lola, putting her arm around her daughter’s shoulder.

 

“Tell him everything you told me. It’s okay.”

 

Lola looks James in the eye, “Well, when the girl drove the truck backwards, she almost hit me!”

 

So, a woman, or someone who resembled a woman to this child, was driving the truck. Good information.

 

“Were you here by yourself when you saw the boy and girl push the old man into the truck or were there other kids with you?”

 

“I was right here, walking by myself and then I stopped when I saw them hitting their grandfather. Another girl saw, too.”

 

“Do you remember her name?” James asks, “the other little girl who saw what you saw?”

 

“Um,” Lola thinks about it, “no.”

 

James feels like she’s hiding something about this other little girl but decides not to push. He’ll have the other officers canvass the apartments for any kids who might have seen something.

 

“Can you describe the girl to me? The one in the truck? Do you remember what color hair she has and what she was wearing?”

 

“Yes, sir. She was wearing a white hoody and some white shoes.”

 

“Was she wearing a dress or pants?”

 

“Blue jeans.”

 

“Could you see her face? Her hair?”

 

“She has brown hair and it was in a ponytail.” Lola says, her eyes as round as saucers remembering the scene.

 

“Was she wearing the hood up or down?” James asks.

 

“It was down.”

 

“Could you tell if she was white or Hispanic or something else?”

 

“I think she was Mexican. She looked Mexican and the boy, too.”

 

“Did you hear her say anything?” James follows quickly. Lola looks tired and James realizes it’s probably past her bedtime.

 

“No. She just pushed the door and got in the truck and drove away.”

 

Lola shows them where she remembered Mr. Roland’s truck being parked and how she walked through the complex to where the school bus comes every morning. James looks back through the parking area in front of the Roland’s apartment and pictures the event in his mind as Lola described it to him.

 

Finally, the detectives walk Jessica and Lola back to their apartment and promise to let them know when the “grandfather” is found. James is more than impressed that such a young child has such a good recollection of what she’s witnessed. Taking Lola’s hand in his, James praises her, “You’ve done a very good thing, a brave thing, to tell us about these people and what you saw. Thank you very much, Lola.”

 

James gives instructions to the other officers on the property to broaden their search to anyone with kids that ride the school bus in the morning, hoping another child will corroborate Lola’s experience, maybe even give them more details of what happened to Mr. Roland this morning. While the officers on the property are looking for more witnesses and more clues, he and his partner leave to take the tee shirt to the K-9 unit in Buda. As they are exiting South Interstate Highway 35, about a half mile north of where the truck was abandoned and the field search is going on, James gets a call.

 

“This is James.”

 

“Yeah, James, this is Townsend. San Antonio got the tape from CVS. We just got a feed from them of the video surveillance.”

 

“That’s great!” James had held little hope of getting it.

 

“I’ll send it over to your laptop,” Townsend continues, “It shows two men using the credit card. Not a great picture, of course, but they look to be about five-seven and five-nine maybe; on the heavy side.”

 

“Doesn’t sound like our missing person. Are you getting any other hits on the cards?” James is sure they’re closing in on some answers.

 

“We are. We’ve got communications open with the card companies. We’ve asked for itemized receipts of what’s being purchased.”

James thanks him and hangs up. He calls Mary Roland. After a polite greeting, James asks, “How tall did you say Mr. Roland is again?”

 

After a brief pause, “Five-eleven. Why?”

 

James can hear the fear in her voice and hurries to reassure her. “The officers in San Antonio got video from CVS where his credit card was used. There were two men using the card. Neither one of them was Mr. Roland.”

 

 

Mary

 

Maybe I should have been happy to be right. After all, I’d been insistent that whatever had happened to Paul was not of his choice. Yet, knowing that two men in San Antonio were on a shopping spree with Paul’s credit cards didn’t make me feel anything except more scared. My head spins and, for a second, I think I might black out. Luckily, one of the couches in the family room is nearby and I manage to sit down to clear my head.

 

“What?” Eric demands, “You’re white as a ghost. Who was that?”

 

I tell him and the others, all sitting around the enormous kitchen island, about the video tape. Everyone becomes very quiet; thoughtful. There’ll be no more discussion about Paul having a “senior moment”. Tom, Liz and their friends are drinking either wine or mixed drinks and beyond him, on the counter, is a full pot of fresh coffee.

 

“Can we get you some wine or something to drink, Mary?” Tom asks.

 

I do my best to smile as I say, “No thanks, I’ll just get some coffee if that’s okay.”

 

Liz pulls a coffee mug from a shelf and hands it to me, “Everything’s here to fix it like you like it.”

 

I take the mug gratefully and fix myself a cup of coffee. For a few moments, I can look busy as I steal a private moment. Thank You, God, I pray silently, for being with Paul and giving him strength to hang on until we find him. Thank You for providing me the strength I need to get through this and being with me. Thank You for all the people looking for him and for Your guidance in helping them to bring him home safely. Thank You for causing those who are guilty of this to be brought down and punished.

 

The room is too silent now. Turning, I realize that someone has asked me something but I’ve missed it. “What?”

 

“Are all the kids coming in?” Liz repeats.

 

“I don’t think so –yet,” I answer, hoping everyone will interpret the “yet” for themselves.

 

Eric looks at me funny and then asks, “But, Penny’s coming, isn’t she?”

 

For Eric, Penny is the sister he counts on, a steady influence that he usually respects and the voice of reason when Paul, his rock, isn’t available. For Eric, I know that Eric can’t imagine a world without one or the other to lean on.

 

“There’s no reason for her to come right now.” I reason with him, “A last-minute flight would be expensive and I’m sure they’ll find Paul soon.”

 

I’m not sure of anything except that if we tell the kids who live out-of-state to come home, it’s almost like we’ve accepted the worst. None of them need to believe that. Not yet.

 

Liz’s friend, Diane, pushes a plate of sandwiches across the island in our direction, “I bet you haven’t eaten all day!”

 

Eric and I both look at her, startled.

 

“Diane and Pete brought these over from Pecan Street Deli,” Liz explains, “They’re really good. You should try and eat something.”

 

I take a sandwich and mumble my thanks even though my stomach feels like it’s filled with cement. I know Liz’s friend is right. I need to eat something. We sit here, everyone quiet now and I look from face to face wondering what they’re thinking? What would they be doing right now if we hadn’t been pulled into this common crisis?

 

“How is it,” I wonder, “that the world just keeps turning and turning when my life, my heart, has completely stopped?”

 

Around 10 PM, everyone leaves. I settle on the floor near the fireplace, my arms across my bent knees and head on my arms. Liz leaves the room and returns with a map of Austin and its surrounding counties and opens it on the floor in front of me. “Do you know where Lance lives?” she asks.

 

“No,” I say, trying to remember anything at all about the new home he’s just moved into. “It’s in South Austin. That’s all I know.”

 

“That’s okay,” she says, “what about jobs they’re doing in South Austin?”

 

“There may be one or two but I mostly hear about jobs in San Antonio.” I reply, feeling completely useless.

 

She looks at Tom, sipping a Scotch and water thoughtfully, “Tom, are y’all doing any jobs in South Austin?”

 

Tom thinks about it a moment before saying, “Hunh! Springs at Onion Creek. Mike would know if there are any others.”

 

Liz marks the spot where Paul’s truck was found and where Springs of Onion Creek are going up. It’s no more than ten miles away! It might not mean anything, but it might mean everything. I am completely convinced now that Paul’s disappearance is related to his work.

 

“Did Paul have any reason to go to the property today?” I ask Tom.

 

“Well, Mary,” he begins in his deep drawl, “that’d be something we’d have to ask Mike. I can’t say that I know.”

 

I pull my cell phone from my pocket, but Tom has already got Mike on the line on his new iPhone.

 

“Mike,” Tom demands, “would Paul have any reason to go to Onion Creek this morning?”

 

He listens, shaking his head at us. “Well, just thought it might be something. Thanks. No, no word yet.”

 

Disappointed, Liz folds the map and takes it back to her office. I stay seated on the floor in the same position, legs bent in front and my arms crossed on top of my knees, willing Paul’s image into my mind and memories from when we first met at a happy hour I didn’t want to go to and about when we married at our best friends’ home, on their deck overlooking a beautiful canyon. I remember watching our kids graduate from high school and college, all the family holidays, Paul’s last big birthday party – a Hawaiian luau – a slow dance in the living room by candle light and the sweetness of a love long lived.

 

“Hang on. You have to hang on.” I whisper.

 

 

 

[]DAY TWO

 

February 27, 2008

 

Paul

 

I have prayed nearly continually since I was taken, asking to be saved from this situation and returned to my family. I realize now that I need to thank God for the wonderful life I have been blessed with and my wonderful family – and to please let the cops find my body if they do kill me. Once I find this new way to express myself to God, I feel I can face whatever is ahead.

 

I manage to get my hands on the bottle of water the woman gave me when she put me to bed and take a few sips. It is quiet except for the television, which is always on. The people are all sleeping restlessly, moving, groaning, snoring and cussing. I start to think that I should be able to slip out of here and go for help but then I realize that I can’t stand up without help or think straight for more than a few seconds. I don’t have the strength or nerve to try. These thoughts go on all night.

 

The Nextels™ start up again. The bosses have had a long, maybe, 30-45 minute conversation in Spanish. The guy that seems to be in charge here is arguing with someone about Laredo. Now, the second Mexican guy here gets involved. He uses more English so I get a little clearer picture of what’s going on. From what I understand, the first guy doesn’t want to go to Laredo.He tells whoever he’s talking to, to send the other Mexican to pick up the money. Then they start talking about their cuts of the money. I can feel them looking at me – looking at me like hungry animals.

 

 

Mary

 

It’s midnight. The house is quiet. The doors are closed and locked. We say our goodnights and go to opposite ends of the house. I close the bedroom door and look around at the pretty room. Liz collects antiques, quality antiques, and this room is filled with her distinctive touches. The only reminder that this is the year 2008 is the digital alarm clock on the vintage dresser. It’s cold, blinking numbers read 12:15AM.

 

I know I won’t sleep so I sit on the bed and move the pillows behind me. The house is so quiet! What is Paul is seeing? What is Paul hearing? Is he sleeping? Is he afraid? Is he hurt? Is he alone? It’s really clear now that all of this is in God’s hands, not mine. It’s always been in His hands. For a moment, helplessness turns to peace. For a moment. Then peace is pushed away by sudden, fierce anger. I want to scream! Why? Why MY family? How much can we take? How much can I take? You say You won’t give us more than we can handle. I can’t handle this!

 

My pity party goes on and, for some time, I remind God of all the terrible things that have happened to this family. I just can’t stop crying. When I look at the clock again its numbers blink and flash 1:00. I’m feeling a little better. In any event, the ‘poor me’ feeling is gone and in its place is a resolve to handle this and face whatever comes. I am not alone.

 

God is with me. God is with Paul. I thank Him for my life, our family, our friends and all the officers and unknown people who are working to find Paul. I thank Him for being with us every step of the way no matter what happens. I thank Him for placing guardian angels around Paul to protect him and I thank Him for bringing Paul home safe whenever it is His will to do so.

 

Memories of the past twenty years keep me company through the long night. I remember, again, the night we met and how I loved his eyes. How, on our first lunch date, the way his hand reached for mine to help me into his truck. I remember, too, how those hands have, ever since, been always kind, always loving like no other man in my life has ever been.

 

I hear a phone ring in another part of the house and jump. It’s a little after 4 AM. The ringing stops and I wait, but no one comes to get me. I wait for several minutes more, and then decide that it couldn’t have been any real news. I lie awake for another hour watching the clock until it finally reads 5:00. As quietly as possible, I get out of bed, put the pillows back where they were and take everything into the adjoining bathroom to shower and put on fresh clothes – except for Paul’s shirt. I won’t stop wearing it until he’s home safe. I won’t stop wearing it no matter what. I hold it to my face and try to breathe in his scent again. His scent isn’t as strong now as when I first put it on. That makes me feel like crying again.

 

Liz is in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and fixing breakfast for Tom when I get there. Tom plans to go into the office today like any other day. I know there’s nothing for him to do here and I remember I have an appointment for a follow-up mammogram. I beat breast cancer four years ago. I still take Tamoxiphen and have semi-annual checkups. I make a mental note to reschedule. Breast cancer is the least of my concerns right now.

 

“Did you sleep at all?” she asks me.

 

“No, but I rested,” I assure her.

 

“Detective Maugham called about four. Did it wake you?” She asks as she pulls oatmeal and coffee from the cupboards, facing away from me.

 

“I was awake. What did he say?”

 

“No news. They stopped the search.” She tells me this as if this news is expected, nothing special, still assembling breakfast items.

 

“What do you mean stopped the search?”

 

She realizes what I’m thinking and gently say, “Oh, no, not completely. It was just too dark. They’ll start again when the sun’s up.”

 

“Good,” I manage, “they can’t give up.”

 

“You know you have to think about what needs to be done if they don’t find Paul.”

 

“They’ll find him, Liz,” I state but, in my mind, I know she’s right.

 

I know she means well and that she’s not trying to upset me. Liz might be right but I am not ready to give up on Paul. Not yet.

 

“Would it be okay if I used your computer?” I change the subject. “I need to let people know that I won’t be in to work today.”

 

She leads me to a little room off the family room and tells me to help myself. I send email to my boss and then write friends. We need prayers for the officers, prayers for our family, prayers for Paul and prayers for me. Hitting the “send” button strangely comforts me. It’s as if I’ve been given my second wind (or tenth or twentieth by now) and a feeling of calm assurance returns. I close out the email, turn off Liz’s computer and then head back to the kitchen where Liz hands me a cup of coffee as Tom joins us in the kitchen.

 

“Good morning,” I say as I sit on the stool at the kitchen island across from him.

 

“Good morning, Mary,” he says as he places his iPhone and charger next to his plate and inserting the power cord plug into an electrical outlet set into the island. “Did you get any sleep?”

 

“No. Did y’all?” I reply.

 

“Not much.” he says.

 

I’ve never been comfortable around Tom. We rarely say more than pleasantries to each other. Part of the discomfort is that he’s always intimidated me. He’s a big man with a big voice. Big men with big voices have always been a source of pain in my life. He’s easily twice the size of Paul and even though Paul is older, it’s always seemed to me that everyone is subordinate to Tom. Now that Paul works for Tom, that feeling is stronger. Added to that is the fact that Tom and Paul are polar opposites, personality-wise, and there is even less common ground to share.

 

Liz puts a steaming bowl of oatmeal beside Tom’s black coffee. Tom eats it silently. Liz stands in a corner of the kitchen sipping her coffee lost in her own thoughts. I stir my cup and look at the clock on the wall. It’s 6:45AM.

 

Tom’s iPhone rings. He fumbles with the touch screen on his new cell phone. Finally connected, he holds it up to his ear. “Tom Roland!” he bellows.

 

I watch him hoping it’s the Sheriff’s office with news or telling us they’re back on the search but it only takes a moment to know that if it is them, it’s bad news. Tom’s face, so flush a moment before is suddenly drained of all color. Every nerve of my body is at attention.

 

“Is he okay?” Tom asks, then, “I see. I understand.” He listens some more and then hangs up.

 

I wait for him to say something but it seems to take forever for him to talk.

 

He looks from me to Liz, “Paul’s been kidnapped! They want five hundred thousand dollars, today, or they’ll kill Paul and if we get the police involved, they’ll kill Paul.”

 

 

Paul

 

The Nextel chatter and chirping has quieted down, in fact, the room is quieter than it has been since we’ve been here. I am about to doze off but then I hear the Mexican who likes to shove the gun in my chest or arm or ear is speaking a name I recognize.

 

“Tom?”

 

I strain to hear without anyone seeing me do this.

 

“We have your brother,” he pauses, listening. “He’s not doing too good. He needs medicine. He needs a doctor.”

 

I scoot over as much as I can toward the sound of his voice to hear him better.

 

“We want five hundred thousand dollars by the end of today, Tom. That’s what we want or we’ll kill him. Don’t call the cops either or we’ll kill your brother. We’ll call later with instructions. Remember, no cops.”

 

One of them has called Tom and demanded a half million dollars for me! Are they crazy? Don’t they know that honest people don’t have that kind of cash lying around? Don’t they know that even banks don’t have that kind of cash lying around? I have just heard my death sentence. I think its morning. There are several people here from all the conversation that started after the phone call. I’m not sure how many and while I’ve tried to keep their attention off me, I know I have to say something.

 

“He can’t get that kind of money; not that fast.” I rush to add, “Even if he has it in the bank, the bank won’t just hand it over. They don’t keep that much cash around either.”

 

“He’s got it and you better hope he gives it to us.”

 

I hear comments and laughter in the room and try to recognize voices but they all run together. Maybe someone here has some sense. I try again. “Tom may have that much money, but it’s not all in cash. It will take days to liquidate enough to actually have dollars. It’s impossible,” I beg, “You have to give him more time,”

 

In truth, I don’t know whether Tom has that kind of money or not, or, if he does, that he’d even be willing to risk it all on me, the brother he barely tolerates. If I can convince them to give him more time, maybe I can find a way out of here or maybe someone out there will find me.

 

“He’d better get it by the end of today,” the Mexican laughs, “or he can use it for your funeral!”

 

 

Mary

 

I am frozen in place. Tom’s words don’t make any sense. Kidnappers? Five hundred thousand dollars? But then, I hear my own voice in my head repeating over and over, “He’s alive! He’s alive!”

 

Tom finds the number to the Sheriff’s office and taps the number on his phone. “This is Tom Roland,” he commands, “I need to speak with Detective Maugham right away.” He listens a moment, clearly not happy with the response on the other end. “They spent all night looking for my brother, Paul, and I’ve just received a call that he’s been kidnapped! I need someone to call me back right away!”

 

Tom gives the other party his phone number and clicks off the connection. To us, “There’s no one there yet. Shift change or something. She said someone would call me back.”

 

I look at the clock. “I bet they get in about seven. Just a few more minutes. What’s wrong with Paul?”

 

Tom shakes his head and starts another call on his iPhone. “The man said he wasn’t doing well. That he needed his medications and probably needs a doctor.”

 

I think about this for a moment. Medications? Like I’d told the detective, Paul could easily go without his medications for several days without serious problems. Maybe Paul told the kidnappers this to make them feel scared that they had a man who could die on them before they could get the money. A wave of fear grips me. This isn’t good. What if that’s the reason Tom has so little time to come up with the ransom? Would the caller really kill Paul?

 

“Yes, Tom Roland,” Tom says with all the restraint he can muster, “It’s been fifteen minutes since I first called. It’s seven o’clock. There has to be someone there who can talk to me. This is an emergency. My brother’s been kidnapped!”

 

It occurs to me that now is the time to call the kids but I’m slow to move, wondering, how do I tell them without causing panic? The first one I call is Eric and I can tell by the way he answers that he didn’t sleep much either, if at all, last night.

 

“We got some news, Eric,” I say and wait for him to wake up a little more.

 

“You found Dad?” He half-mumbles, half-shouts.

 

“No. Your dad’s been kidnapped.” I try to keep my voice even.

 

“Kidnapped?”

 

“Yes. Tom is talking to the Sheriff’s office now,” I say quickly and then before he can say a word, “He’s alive, Eric! He’s alive!”

 

I call the rest of the kids with pretty much the same dialog. Sam, Peter, David and his fiancée, Angela, tell me they will get flights to Austin as soon as possible. Penny is at work when I reach her. She’ll be flying in as soon as she can arrange it. I hear relief and fear in all their voices. The calls done, I have a moment to absorb this information a little more myself but there’s just no way to wrap my mind around it. Kidnappings happen in other countries. They happen to people like journalists, soldiers, high profile executives, wealthy people and politicians. My husband is an electrician, a project manager at a successful but small company. Regular people. We work, pay taxes and, if we’re lucky, we’ll retire one day.

 

I remember having read an article not long ago that, in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, kidnapping has become a cottage industry. The writer estimated that a person is kidnapped for money, in Latin America, every ten minutes. Every ten minutes! Whoever thought that kind of border crime would spill over into our own backyard? This is the United States of America! Politicians see the border problem as an immigration issue when they should be seeing the border problem as a crime issue.

 

“This is what they intended to do to Lance,” I connect the dots in my head, “but he got away.”

 

“The Sheriff’s department is sending someone out here,” Tom announces, “and they’re calling everyone back in.

 

 

WILCO

 

James worked the Roland case until 4 AM, coordinating various search groups from Hays County south to Comal County, including aerial and K-9 units. Officers from several agencies joined in the tedious process of searching every inch of the woods and fields that flanked the road where Roland’s maroon pickup was found. Aerial and foot searches were done over the field where Roland’s cell phone last signaled. All the searches came up empty. It was decided that better luck might be had once the sun came up.

 

James and the detective riding with him drove the sixty miles north to Georgetown and were on their separate ways home by 5:30AM. James’s wife is asleep as he creeps as quietly as he can into their master bathroom for a shower. The shower feels great but does little to wash away the questions that keep running through his mind: Where is Mr. Roland? Why was he targeted? Who has him? Is he alive? Will we find him in time? Who are the men using his credit cards? What is really going on here? Showered and hoping for a few hours of sleep before heading back to the office, James quietly opens the bathroom door to find his wife sitting up and smiling at him.

 

“Good morning!” she says with the prettiest smile, the smile he fell in love with.

 

“Happy Anniversary!” he volleys back, proud that he remembers the date as he sits on the side of the bed.

 

“Happy Anniversary to you! Long night for you if you’re just getting in,” she adds and slides out of bed, slipping her robe over her pajamas and sliding her feet into slippers. “Go to sleep. I’ll make you a great big breakfast when you wake up.” She turns to kiss his cheek only to find that he’s lying down and already fast asleep.

 

Thirty minutes later, James’s cell phone rings. As a man, he wants to ignore the ring and hang on to the bliss of sleep but, as a lawman, he’s obligated to answer this call. With hardly a nap under his belt, he’s alert and listening, out of bed and heading for the closet for fresh clothes. “On my way. Thirty minutes,” he tells the caller before turning on the shower.

 

Ranger Matt Lindemann had been able to get a little more sleep than James having left the Sheriff’s Office closer to 2:00 AM. He wasn’t surprised by Detective Hughey’s call or the new developments in the Roland case. He was somewhat relieved. They already knew from the girl’s eye-witness account that Mr. Roland had been abducted in his own truck from outside his apartment but, finding the truck abandoned and no sign of the victim, he had feared that the man was dead. Now that a ransom demand was in play, Paul Roland should be alive. And, while that news raised the stakes and put a timer on the clock, it’s still good news.

 

Matt finishes his breakfast and then kisses his wife goodbye, already building a list in his mind of other Rangers that will be valuable resources in solving this case. He calls his boss and brings him up-to-date on the latest news and then requests the first of several Rangers to be assigned to him. That taken care of, he mentally itemizes everything he knows of the case and, like a chess player, analytically devises what moves might be played before this is over.

 

Detective Pete Hughey has summoned every officer, regardless of whether they’d just gone to sleep or not, back to Georgetown to continue working the Roland case. Then he summoned every other available officer who could be spared. He needs as many eyes and ears as possible if they’re going to be able to apprehend the kidnappers and recover Mr. Roland in the next twelve or so hours. As the officers assemble in an open area of the building, he pulls James and Matt into his office for an emergency meeting. It’s 8:00 AM. Because he knows they’ll likely need warrants of all types and without any delays, he invites Jana McCown, the First Assistant District Attorney for Williamson County to this meeting. Jana is second only to the County DA, John Bradley. No judge will question the critical need of a warrant drawn by her and, turnaround, so critical with the deadline they have, should be minimal.

 

Pete briefs them. “Tom Roland got a call this morning at approximately 6:45AM from a Hispanic male voice stating that they had his brother. The voice called Tom by name and said that Paul wasn’t in very good shape and was in need of a doctor, that he may even need to go to the hospital.” Sergeant Hughey pauses to check his notes. “The caller went on to demand $500,000 and no sign of cops. At this point, Mr. Roland was so upset he wasn’t sure what the voice threatened exactly. It was something to the effect that if there are any signs of cops, his brother will die. They want the money by tonight and will call back with instructions.”

 

“Little late for no cops,” James says to no one in particular.

 

“Did the kidnapper call Tom at home or at his office?” Matt interjects, stifling a smile.

 

Sergeant Hughey flashes a brief smirk before answering, “He said the call came to his cell phone at home. He’s not sure if it was direct or not. He has his office number forwarded to his cell phone when he’s away from the office. The caller ID read, ‘Blocked’.”

 

“Did he recognize the voice?” Jana asks as she reviews the briefing statement provided by Hughey.

 

“No, he said he may have heard it before but he can’t place it. I also asked him if he could think of any person who could have done this. He said he had no idea.”

 

“I’ll get someone out to Tom’s house to keep an eye on things and to be there when the kidnappers call back,” Matt offers.

 

“Good,” Hughey begins, “I told Tom we’d send someone as soon as we could. We’ll talk to him again later today. Jana, we’ll keep you posted. Some of the credit card companies and other vendors may begin pushing back on providing information. We need to be ready with search warrants.”

 

“Just let my office know you need to talk to me. I’ll make sure you get through and we’ll do whatever needs to be done.”

 

The four leave Sergeant Hughey’s office to brief and organize the officers gathering in the outer room. The number of agencies working on this case has now climbed to nine: Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, D.P.S. State Troopers, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, San Marcos Police Department, Comal County Sheriff’s office, San Antonio Police Department, FBI, and the Austin Police Department Violent Crimes Task Force.

 

 

Mary

 

Why can’t Tom have a normal cell phone like the rest of us? Why does he have to get the newest everything all the time? Well, now his obsession to have the latest and greatest has reached out and bitten us all. The Texas Ranger that’s come to “babysit” us brought a phone recorder from Radio Shack that’s completely useless with the new Apple iPhone. It’s so frustrating!

 

After messing around with the contraption for an hour, Tom calls his son, Rory, home to see if he can make the thing work. No luck. If Rory can’t make something work, it’s not going to work. Tom will have to remember everything the kidnapper tells him when he calls again. I’m praying he doesn’t have one of those T.I.A.’s and forget everything.

 

We just sit around the house or pace or look out the window waiting for the next call from the kidnapper. It’s maddening. The Ranger brought another officer with him, someone from the Sheriff’s office. Neither of them says much. The Sheriff’s Deputy sits at the dining room table with his laptop tracking things. He showed the CVS video of the men using Paul’s credit cards to Tom. Tom told us that he didn’t recognize either of the two men. They won’t show it to me for some reason.

 

So far, nothing is like what’s in movies or on television except, I guess, one thing. I’m the wife of the victim so I’m immediately under suspicion and kept out of everything. I think I might lose it. But then I remind myself that no temper tantrum of mine will bring Paul back any sooner so I just keep to myself and listen.

Eric, however, is a different story and very well may go completely ballistic. He’s probably called Penny fifty times to complain about how slow things are going and how they don’t have the technology they should have. I have to remind him that everything that can be done is being done and beg him to calm down. This is, of course, met with a stony look right before he storms outside for yet another cigarette.

 

All the kids, but Sam, are arriving tonight and, thank God, about the same time. That’s a relief. As tired as we all are, multiple hour and a half round trips to the airport would push one or all of us off the edge. Sam can’t come until tomorrow. Eric will meet everyone and bring them back here to Tom and Liz’s house. Not sure where everyone will stay but we’ll figure that out later. My plan is to go back to our apartment.

 

It’s mid-afternoon when Liz asks me to go to the grocery store with her and I’m thankful for the distraction. There’s nothing worse than waiting for news. The Ranger here tells us to wait for a few minutes so that he can assign one of the officers watching the house to follow us. Somehow, we hadn’t realized that the authorities had us under surveillance. He tells us that there are “several” undercover police officers in unmarked cars on the streets around us for our protection. We finally get the “go” to leave and head for the grocery store.

 

“Wonder which car it is?” Liz asks me as she looks in the rear view mirror.

 

I turn around and look at the line of cars behind us and spot a likely sedan. “Maybe that one two cars back?” I say and then laugh for the first time in what seems like weeks.

 

Liz gives me a devilish grin, “Wanna see if we can lose him?”

 

“Yeah, let’s have some fun and see how good he is!” Laughter feels so foreign to me.

 

Liz laughs, too, and maneuvers her SUV through the two lanes crowded with after-school traffic. I look into the visor mirror to see behind as we pull into the grocery’s parking lot and the car that I picked out is still about two cars back, pulling in right behind us.

 

“Well, he’s pretty good or we’re pretty bad at losing a tail,” I say laughing again as we get out of the car.

 

“Wonder if he’ll follow us in the store? I know I can lose him there!” Liz challenges.

 

He doesn’t follow us inside but is there waiting when we come out and watches as we put the few bags of groceries into the back of the SUV. We wave. He doesn’t. Then it strikes me how foolish we may have been. What if the kidnappers also had someone watching us? What if we just tipped off some thug that we had a police escort? The kidnapper told Tom that he’d kill Paul if we brought in the police. Our moment of silliness may have put Paul into more danger. The thought must have crossed Liz’s mind, too, because we ride back to Liz’s house in silence. I pray that my moment of foolishness doesn’t cause any harm to Paul as we pull into the garage, closing the overhead door quickly.

 

Eric meets us in the garage and helps bring in groceries. “Uncle Tom talked to Dad,” he says and I can tell by the expression on his face that it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

 

 

Paul

 

The people talk about getting throwaway phones, cash and some food. I hear the woman say she’ll go and is told to take one of the others with her. They want non-traceable phones to make the calls to Tom. I hear people leave and the motel door slam. Whoever is still here is talking where I can’t hear them over the television. The television is on some Spanish-language station all the time. I roll away from the noise and close my eyes.

 

It’s been a while since she left. I wonder if she’s coming back. Then I hear a door slam and smell fried chicken. I hear the sounds of eating and aluminum tabs being pulled open which explode in my head. I hear what sounds like packaging being ripped apart.

 

“Quanto? Quanto?” one of them asks.

 

“Fifty,” she says and then, “One hundred; two of them.”

 

Then, I hear the Mexican-with-the-gun call Tom again.

 

“Tom?”

 

I only hear this side of the conversation and have to strain to do that.

 

“You got the money?” the Mexican asks, then quickly, “You better move faster or all you’ll need cash for is for bury your brother!”

 

The Mexican laughs again. He really thinks that’s a pretty funny thing to say over and over. At least now I know this will be over today – one way or another.

 

Steady streams of people come in and out of the motel room. They sound young and they sound excited. Why are they here? To look at me or to get drugs or hook up as they say? There is lots of loud music, laughter and talking in mixed English and Spanish. I pretend to sleep so I won’t become the guest of honor. It seems like the extra people stay and stay.

 

“Everybody out!” It’s the head guy, the Mexican-with-the-gun, the one that called Tom.

 

The room gets quiet for just a moment and I hear people leaving. The door slams shut and then I hear chirping. Nextels! I hear them all talking at the same time on the radios. I hear what sounds like someone in charge talking to the Mexican-with-the-gun. He isn’t so tough when he’s talking to him. A little later, a voice yells, “Give him some food and water!” So, a woman gives me water and feeds me some chicken and fries.

 

“I need to go to the bathroom,” I say when I’ve finished.

 

The woman leads me to the bathroom. I feel the plastic tie around my wrists cut off and hear the bathroom door open. She gently pushes me inside the bathroom. I take enough steps to clear the door, reaching to close the door behind me. I make sure to keep the blindfold on until the door is shut, then take care of my business and wash my face and hands. Every time I come into the bathroom I look for a way to escape. There’s no window. The walls are solid cinder block. I can’t stay too long but examine the corners of the room again to see if there’s any weakness anywhere.

 

“Hurry up!” the Mexican-with-the-gun yells through the door.

 

I flush the toilet for the second time and turn on the faucets, pretending to wash my hands as I fumble with the blindfold and worry if I’ve got it on right.

 

“Move your ass, old man,” he shouts as he bangs on the door, “or I’ll come in there and light your ass up!”

 

I open the door and offer my hands, behind my back, wrists together, as calmly as I can. The plastic tie makes the ‘zip!’ noise as he pulls it tight and I’m thankful that the woman, not him, leads me back to the bed and helps me to lie down.

 

“No, sit up,” orders the Mexican-with-the-gun tapping my temple with the barrel end as he sits down beside me.

 

I sit up on the edge of the bed and wonder what could possibly happen next?

 

“Is this Tom?” I hear him demand.

 

“Have you got the money? What?” he asks, then, “I give you two hours.” Seconds later, I hear the Mexican-with-the-gun curse under his breath before he puts the cell phone to my ear and pokes me, yet again, with the barrel of his gun.

 

“Tom?” I ask.

 

“Paul!” Tom sounds glad to hear my voice. “Are you okay?”

 

“Not too good!” I say and then realize I have this one chance to tell him something useful. “We are south…” is all I manage before my head explodes with pain and everything goes black.

 

 

WILCO

 

James reviews the map of Central Texas that’s hanging on the wall of the command center. The UnSubs, unknown subjects, have been very busy making charges on the victim’s credit cards. A growing cluster of colored pins mark areas where each card has been used; each color signifies the particular card used. Additionally, flags are posted on the map wherever the FBI reports that one of the cell phones, called “burners,” purchased with the gift cards bought with the victim’s credit cards, has been used. The map reveals almost all of the activity has taken place in a small area of San Antonio, Texas, a little over eighty miles from where Mr. Roland was abducted the day before.

 

Matt works with his contacts at D.P.S. to secure “flash money” to be used as ransom cash to secure Mr. Roland’s return from the kidnappers. The cash, real US currency, will be shown to the kidnappers at the time of the exchange. The plan is to arrest the kidnappers before they can take the money, of course. However, if the money does leave with the bad guys, the cash is recorded, photo copied, marked and contains tracers to help get it back. Normally, flash money is used by the D.P.S. Narcotics Unit so special permission had to be obtained to use it for this case. Matt’s given assurances that a significant amount of cash has been released for his operation and a Texas State Trooper will meet them at the staging area in Pflugerville.

 

All day, field officers report back to the command center with information found in various store videos. Matt and James make sure that search warrants are secured and evidence is documented for whatever trials might happen in the future. Things are happening so fast, neither can stop for a break of any sort. Just as they’re reviewing another grainy surveillance photo, they watch as a team of volunteers drop off sandwiches, soft drinks and coffee for all of the officers. Rarely have so many people worked so hard together on any project. Matt and James are grateful and proud to be among them.

 

Matt simultaneously wolfs down his sandwich and calls D.P.S. forensic experts at the Austin Crime Lab for their help to enhance some especially poor surveillance video from yet another store in San Antonio.

 

Officers from various agencies, county, state and federal, continue to arrive at the Georgetown office and offer their assistance. Kidnapping for ransom is rare and word has spread through every major law enforcement agency that prior expertise and assistance is wanted and will be greatly appreciated. The command center buzzes like a crowded beehive.

 

“Let’s compare notes in Huey’s office,” James suggests to Matt, “before someone gets their toes stomped on.”

 

They go to Sergeant Huey’s office and shut the door behind them. Pete looks up from the report he’s preparing.

 

“We got a lot of officers out there and we need to give them something to do,” James observes as he sits in one of the chairs in front of Pete’s desk.

 

Matt leans against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, “I’ve got a lot of video that needs to be picked up and looked at.”

 

“You know you can send our people out, Matt,” Pete reminds him, then to James, “What’s going on with the cards?”

 

“We are so close! So close!” James nearly shouts his frustration. “We got a report that a card was used at an H-E-B and our team got right there, picking up the video not ten minutes later. Before they could even get out of the store, we get another hit – a Golden Chick – and I’ll be damned if the chicken place wasn’t directly across the street from the darn H-E-B! We are literally just minutes behind them!”

 

“No kidding?” Pete muses, “Good. We’re getting close. Stay on it.” He pauses just a moment before adding, “The kidnapper called again and gave Tom two hours to get the money together.”

 

“Speaking of money,” Matt says, “we have access to some cash, but, I’m concerned about it. You know, getting set up for any sort of meet when we don’t have any idea where it’s going to be. It’s gonna be a bitch to get all the teams in place at a moment’s notice.”

 

“We’ll have to adjust as best we can. I have faith in our people.” But, Pete’s face says he’s worried, too.

 

“Do we know any more about the victim’s condition?” James asks.

 

“We know he’s alive. At least, he was during the last call,” Pete shares with James and Matt, “The kidnapper allowed Tom to speak with Paul a moment. When Tom asked him how he was, he said, ‘Not too well. We are south’ and then the line went dead. Tom told the agents at the house it sounded like Paul had been struck, hard, just before they were disconnected.”

 

The men, silent for a moment, grow more concerned and certain that everything they’re learning only validates that this is a very bad situation with very dangerous and violent people.

 

“You have anything on any of the videos, Matt?” Pete asks.

 

Matt nods and leaves the office for a few seconds, returning with a laptop. Once it’s plugged in and booted, Matt selects a file. It opens to reveal a grainy black and white photo taken the afternoon before.

 

“We’ve pulled these out of one. We don’t know who they are yet, but here are three suspects using one of Mr. Roland’s credit cards at Macy’s yesterday,” Matt says as all three men look at a series of photos.

 

“A woman and two men,” James notes, “that goes along with some of what the little girl told us that at least one woman is involved.”

 

“San Antonio looking at these people?” Pete asks Matt.

 

“Yeah and we’ve got the photos going through other agencies, too. We could have something soon.” Matt clicks open a third photo. “This last picture is the one that has me worried. It was captured after the suspects entered the store. It’s from behind the last male.”

 

Pete exclaims, “Is that what I think it is?”

 

“Yeah,” Matt answers, “This guy’s carrying brass knuckles and a knife into a Macy’s Department Store.”

 

Macy’s surveillance photo of suspects

 

Macy’s photo of close-up on suspect’s hands holding knife in brass knuckles

 

 

 

 

Mary

 

No, no, no! I must’ve heard him wrong! I’ve missed it? The one moment I’ve waited for since yesterday – to hear Paul’s voice – and I’ve missed it? I race to the kitchen where Tom and the Ranger are sitting at the kitchen island drinking coffee. Tom knows what I want and he doesn’t wait for me to ask.

 

“The kidnapper called and asked me if I had the money yet. I told him I was working on it and that I needed to talk to Paul,” he nods at the Ranger, “proof of life, like we talked about.”

 

“Is he okay? What did he sound like? What did he say?” I string the questions together like a lifeline.

 

“Well, at first he just hung up,” Tom says and then adds, “The kidnapper. Then, he called back and Paul was on the phone and said, ‘Tom?’ and I asked him how he was. He said he wasn’t doing too good. He started to say something like, ‘we’re south’ and I think I heard him get hit real hard before the phone went dead.”

 

I have to grab the back of the chair to stay standing. Deep breaths. Stay calm. Keep focus. Deep breaths. Stay calm. Keep focus.

 

“He’s still trying to help us find him,” I blurt out.

 

“Every opportunity to speak to Mr. Roland is a good sign,” the Ranger says soothingly, “We know he’s still alive and as long as he’s still alive, we have the ability to find him and bring him home.”

 

I don’t want my hand patted! I want action! I want the Cavalry to ride in on white horses or Captain John McClain from the “Die Hard” movies to come to our rescue! I don’t want to just wait for the phone to ring! Like a broken record, I repeat what I’ve said a before. “Did you tell him,” I ask Tom, motioning to the Ranger, “about Lance?”

 

It’s obvious by the look on the Ranger’s face that he has no idea what I’m talking about. Tom looks at me for the first time with something close to a smile. “I have not. You know more about this than I do, why don’t you tell him?”

 

Again I relay what I know about the attack on Lance concluding, “Everyone thinks it’s a home invasion or burglary attempt, but I don’t think so. I think they intended to abduct Lance, just like Paul, only they got sidetracked by the gun safe in the garage and Lance got away.” Both men seem to be considering my theory so I rush on, “There are too many coincidences here! Can’t you see that? The brother of one electrical contractor is attacked outside his home but he gets away. A few weeks later a different electrical contractor’s brother is abducted right outside his home. These are connected! At least, call Lance and ask him about it. Maybe he knows now who it was. Maybe he can help.”

 

This seems to work. Tom calls Lance. After talking to Lance for several minutes, he hands the phone over to the Ranger. The Ranger interviews Lance, gets his case information and the officer’s name that handled his case.

 

“He doesn’t think they’re related,” the Ranger says to me as he hands Tom’s phone back to him. “But, I’m going to call his case officer and see what they think.”

 

I have to be satisfied with that. At least someone is doing something. The Ranger speaks with someone at Travis County Sheriff’s Office for quite a while. He gets off the call and looks at me.

 

“There’s no connection that we can find. It looks like his was a home invasion.”

 

“Okay then,” I concede, “I’ll drop it. Thanks for looking into it.”

 

We have very little time to think about it before the Ranger gets a call. Tom and I exchange a look and, for the first time, I feel a connection with him.

 

“Officers will be here soon,” the Ranger announces, “to get Tom’s vehicle set up with a GPS and to get Tom and the money ready to move.”

 

No one sees Liz until she suddenly appears at Tom’s side. “Tom? Why does Tom go? Can’t one of your Rangers go?” she begs, clearly not prepared for this.

 

“The kidnappers know Tom’s voice and we have to believe they also know what Tom looks like. We can’t risk putting someone in his place. I can assure you that he’ll have protection at all times. He’ll wear a vest, too.”

 

“Vest?” Liz interrupts, all color draining from her face.

 

“It’s just a precaution. We don’t anticipate any real need for it,” the Ranger adds, quickly backpedaling.

 

Everyone moves out of the kitchen to give Tom and Liz a few moments alone before Tom’s whisked off to an unknown future. My heart breaks for her. I silently pray that neither of us wakes up a widow in the morning fully knowing that there is a better than average chance that one or both of us might.

 

The front door opens and Eric leads in three D.P.S. Detectives and an FBI Special Agent. The FBI Special Agent is a middle-aged man who is so non-descript as to be stereotypical. He immediately takes control of us all.

 

“Mr. Roland, this officer will ride with you to our staging location,” he begins, “He’ll be on the floorboard so that anyone who is watching will believe you’re leaving alone. He’ll tell you where to go once you’re out of the garage.”

 

The FBI Special Agent looks at me, takes my hand and offers a quick consolation, “Mrs. Roland, I know this is very hard on you and your family. We will do all we can to recover your husband safely.”

 

I sort of mumble ‘thank you’ only to realize he’s already moved on.

 

“Are you ready, sir?” the FBI Special Agent asks Tom.

 

“Yes, sir,” Tom replies and starts toward the laundry room that leads to the garage.

 

“Wait!” Liz cries, pulling Tom back and wrapping her arms around him.

 

Tom embraces her and nods slightly to the rest of us as he leaves. The other officers leave as well. There’s an eerie quiet now. It’s just Liz, Rory, Eric and me. Liz, like me, is left wondering when or if she’ll ever see her husband again.

 

 

Paul

 

I know that time has passed since I spoke to Tom because there are several more people in the room again. People that weren’t here then. I can’t tell who they are or what time it is, but I can smell fresh, takeout fried chicken again. KFC or something must be close by – that’s all they seem to eat! One of the women sees me moving and props me up in the bed. She feeds me some chicken and helps me drink more water.

 

“Give him the Ensure!” the Mexican who acts like the boss yells.

 

I hear someone walking my way, then hear him ask, “Is there anything you want, senor?”

 

“A shot of scotch,” I answer truthfully.

 

Everyone in the room laughs.

 

Despite the order to give me the Ensure, the woman continues to feed me some bits of chicken and helps me drink more water. I’m not that hungry and tell her, “Thank you, but no more,” and then I lie back down and fall into a half sleep, fighting hard to stay awake. The water tastes so good – too good – for bottled water. Maybe I shouldn’t drink it anymore? I must have dozed because I wake up to one of the guys shaking me and waving the pistol in my face. I feel the weight of it whizzing by, not even an inch from my face.

 

He yells into my ear, “Tom’s taking too long to get the money! I’m going to kill you!”

 

The woman yells, “We need him alive! Until we get the money, leave him alone!”

 

 

WILCO

 

Throughout the afternoon, the command center has buzzed with phone calls, small groups talking and office machines being stressed to maximum output. James looks out over the room and takes a moment to consider how this small room has changed in less than twelve hours. The bare walls this morning are now covered with maps, screen shots from video surveillances, photos of suspects and the victim.

 

More phone numbers are added to a list on the wall as the suspects continue using the burner phones. While the unsubscribed phones can’t provide them the names of the suspects, some of the phone numbers they are calling are listed to people who can be identified and can be tracked. With such wide-reaching assistance from other agencies that have access to even more advanced technologies at their disposal, the amount of information being collected is amazing. A stack of photo-copied search warrants grows on a corner of James’s table.

 

Like a general on the field of battle, James stays in constant communication with the various teams across Central Texas, directing their moves and driving the investigation forward. He works well with the other captains from other agencies that are also working from here in the command center. They are a team with two goals: to find and rescue Paul Roland and to arrest and convict every person connected to this crime.

 

Matt pulls his gray Stetson hat a little tighter onto his head against the brisk wind whipping around the staging area they’ve chosen to fit Tom Roland’s truck with a GPS tracking device. Tom, an experienced cross-country rally driver, prepares for the road trip of his life. Never has there been more at stake.

 

Ranger Sandoval called Matt an hour earlier to tell him that Tom received another call from the kidnapper. This time, when the kidnapper asked Tom if he had the money, Tom said that he did and was told to head south on Interstate 35 out of Austin, warning that he was being watched and would be watched every step of the way.

 

Matt requests additional undercover officers to be sent to watch Tom Roland’s home for the evening and to protect the family that’s there before he leaves Georgetown. He drives south on IH 35 to the rear area of a warehouse in Pflugerville joining the other surveillance teams from the Sheriff’s Department, including Sergeant Hughey, Texas Rangers, D.P.S., the FBI and the U.S. Marshall Fugitive Task Force to prepare for what promises to be a very long night. Matt knows these people are trained for hostage situations and that everything that can be done to ensure the safe return of the elder Mr. Roland is their first priority. He also understands that allowing Tom Roland to be part of the operation increases the danger to everyone. Tom Roland is a civilian and he’s tied emotionally to the victim. Tom could easily become a victim, too, if he gets scared or disregards their instructions at any time.

 

As if summoned by Matt’s thoughts, a young man, carrying a duffle bag, walks up to Matt and sticks out his hand, “Hey, Matt!”

 

“Kirk Medina!” Matt smiles and shakes his hand, then nodding to the bag, “That our ransom?”

 

“Yeah,” Kirk nods as he attempts to hand it off to Matt.

 

Just then, Tom Roland drives up and parks his truck. From the back seat of the truck another person suddenly appears and both men get out. Matt and Kirk watch as officers swarm the truck and Tom.

 

“That’s the victim’s brother,” Matt says, watching Kirk, “he’s the one taking the money.”

 

Kirk watches as Tom strips off his shirt and one of the deputies helps him put on the Kevlar vest. “He’s doing the drop?” Kirk, incredulous, asks and when Matt nods, “Who’s going with him?”

 

“We’ll follow behind and around him,” Matt says evenly, “he’ll never be out of sight.”

 

“No,” Kirk repeats, “who’s going in the truck with the money?”

 

Matt looks around then looks at Kirk and smiles, “Why not you? You don’t have more important plans tonight, do you?”

 

Kirk, observing all the activity of law enforcement that’s gathered here, chuckles softly, “I guess I don’t, do I?”

 

Tom is led to the group with Matt for briefing as officers mount and test the GPS device on his truck. With the GPS in place, they’ll be able to follow Tom at a safe distance before the drop and have as much control over the situation as possible. That’s what they tell Tom anyway. What they don’t add is, if something goes sideways, if Tom gets away from them or gets hijacked somehow, it will also be how they will recover his body.

 

Matt introduces Kirk to Tom and explains the plan, adding, “The kidnappers may seem to be calling the shots right now, but we’ve got teams in place in San Antonio and everywhere in between that are ready. WE stay in control of how this goes down.”

 

 

Paul

 

I wake from a sound sleep lying on my back on the bed with no pants on. The Mexican-with-the-gun and another guy are standing over me- grinning down at me.

 

The Mexican-with-the-gun says, “I don’t need bullets to take care of you.”

 

A bunch of folded blankets lay across my lap so I can’t see below my waist. He holds a gallon bottle, clamps and some rubber tubing.

 

“The blood bank always needs blood, so you are going to give them some,” he sneers. “We gonna cut your balls off and get your blood!”

 

I feel nothing but a warm sensation on my lower body.

 

“Be still! Be still!” they yell at me.

 

All I can think is that I’m going to die. They are going to let me bleed to death! The next thing I know, they are arguing about what to do with me …after. I scream but no sound comes out.

 

Suddenly, I realize it was another nightmare and I’m awake for real. I’m still wearing a blindfold with my hands bound.

 

“That’s no comfort,” I think. “This is worse – a living nightmare.”

 

I know this will only end when they kill me. Time is going by so slowly. I don’t know if it’s day or night. How long have I been here? It seems like weeks. Wherever I am must be hard to find. How many days ago was it that I spoke to Tom? I hear men arguing and then I feel the gun barrel against my head for what feels like forever.

 

“I going to end this and teach his brother!” he yells finally and pulls the trigger. SNAP! The gun snaps so loud I’m sure it’s gone off but he’s merely pulled the trigger on an empty cartridge.

 

“I told you he couldn’t raise that kind of money!” I remind him. “Let me call Mary. Let me tell her to get the money from our retirement accounts!”

 

The gun barrel is back against my temple, grinding against my temple.

 

“Forget Mary, asshole! She doesn’t care about you!”

 

SNAP!

 

I can’t take this anymore! Crying, I plead, “Just shoot me, you coward! The police will kill you all then.”

 

All I hear is laughter.

 

 

WILCO

While Tom and his escorts prepare to head south toward San Antonio, a small group of law enforcement officers gather within the San Antonio Repeat Offender Program Office, or ROPs (ropes), as it’s referred to. The group includes Texas Ranger Carlton, another Ranger, San Antonio Police, Deputy U. S. Marshalls, FBI and Williamson County Sheriff’s Detectives. Their focus is to assist the caravan driving from Pflugerville and provide additional surveillance on the road and wherever the drop meeting takes place. They are also discussing likely places the kidnappers may be holding Paul Roland based on the data that has been collected and reported to them from the command center in Georgetown by Detective James Maugham.

 

It’s decided that all communication will be done via cell phone, not radio, in the likelihood that the kidnappers are monitoring police scanner frequencies. The branches divide their resources equally to three main tasks: observing and tailing the escort once the caravan has reached an area near mile marker 190, following up with businesses that have transactions with the victim’s credit cards and monitoring a small corridor of San Antonio where cell phone activity on the burner phones has been high. They hope this is where Paul Roland is being held.

 

With the help of new technology loaned to this investigation from Texas D.P.S. and Homeland Security, investigators have been able to track the activities of the cell phones purchased with gift cards bought with Paul Roland’s credit cards. Although they don’t know who’s using them, yet, they can track their usage and identify, within a few yards, where the calls are originating and terminating.The best guess, right now, is that the victim is being held in the vicinity of Old Highway 90 West. Several low-end motels, bars and industrial buildings dot the area. A detachment of undercover officers from the San Antonio Police Department and Texas Rangers is sent to canvass the area and report any unusual sightings to Ranger Carlton immediately.

 

6:15 PM: Ranger Matt Lindemann calls Ranger Carlton to tell him they are on the road. Sergeant Pete Huey is riding with Matt as they follow Tom down the highway.

 

Additional, unmarked sedans with Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputies, U. S. Marshalls, FBI field agents and D.P.S. SWAT teams escort Tom and the money south through Austin, Texas along Interstate 35. The vehicles are both in front of and behind Tom’s truck, traffic flowing between them during the evening rush hour. They keep an eye on Tom’s truck but also watch for suspicious cars that might carry “spotters” for the kidnappers.

 

Matt tells him, “We’ve had another call.”

 

“Same guy?”

 

“Yes, sir. He asked if Mr. Roland had the money. Mr. Roland affirmed and told the caller that he’s just about to leave.”

 

Ranger Carlton asks, “Any instructions?”

 

“Just to drive south on thirty-five and wait for instructions,” Matt replies.

 

“Did the guy ask him if he was alone?”

 

Matt chuckles, “Yes, sir, he did. Mr. Roland assured him he was completely alone.”

 

By the time Tom reaches the city limits of San Antonio, he is escorted by no less than thirty-four armed officers in undercover vehicles from five law enforcement agencies.

 

7:23PM: Tom’s cell phone rings. “This is Tom,” Tom barks into the receiver.

 

“Where you at?” barks back the Hispanic male voice on the other end.

 

“Driving south on thirty-five. I’m just about to Kyle.”

 

“You better be alone, man,” the caller warns.

 

“I’m alone.”

 

“What’re you driving?”

 

“I’m in my truck – a white GMC pick-up.” The line goes dead. Seven minutes later the kidnapper calls back.

 

“This is Tom,” Tom says firmly, not wanting to let the man think he’s stressed or intimidated or scared.

 

“Keep coming south. Your brother is being held in Austin but he will be brought to where we tell you to go. Don’t stop. We got eyes on you.”

 

Again, disconnected. The call detail is relayed to Matt and he shakes his head. Everything they have indicates that the suspects and the victim are in San Antonio. He advises everyone to stay with the plan and continue their efforts in San Antonio. By cell phone, Matt, Ranger Carlton and the other lead officers determine that if the suspects do not give Tom a place to stop in San Antonio when they reach the city limits, they will pick a spot for Tom to stop and hold.

 

The concern is that if Tom drives somewhere outside San Antonio, especially south, the safety of Tom and every officer involved will be jeopardized. With all the resources concentrated in San Antonio now, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to provide enough security, in just minutes, anywhere else. The suspects could lead Tom off the highway, cause him to wreck his truck and then rob him of the ransom money. They could even kidnap or kill both Tom and Kirk.

 

By now, Ranger Carlton and his team have intercepted the caravan at Mile Marker 190 and fall in around the vehicles. San Antonio Police join them at a safe distance. All officers are heavily armed with automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

 

Additional high-powered ordnance and gear are within reach with even more firepower inside the trunks of all of the escort law enforcement vehicles. Everyone is wearing bulletproof vests and on high alert, ready for whatever it will take to protect Tom Roland, arrest the kidnappers and, hopefully, rescue Paul Roland.

 

Another group of Williamson County detectives, San Antonio ROP officers, FBI and US Marshalls connect in central San Antonio to monitor cell phone traffic, credit card usage and suspicious areas they think are most likely spots where Paul Roland could be held. They’ve gotten word that one of the gift cards purchased by one of Paul’s credit cards has been used at a TETCO gas station about twenty miles south of San Antonio. Shortly after that call another call comes in telling them the same card was used to purchase wireless equipment. This information is relayed to Detective Maugham, overseeing all the operations in Georgetown.

 

James adds the new information to the file and notes the locations on a Texas map he is using to track all the activities. The map has dozens of pins, most of them along and around north central San Antonio off Loop 410 near Highway 90 and this new location gets a mark south of San Antonio.

 

Tom and his escorts arrive in San Antonio around 8:30 PM. The suspects have called continuously for updates on his location but have not told him where they want to meet, only for him to ‘keep going south’.

 

“Tom,” Kirk says evenly but with authority, “We want you to exit the interstate now.”

 

“But the guy didn’t say where,” Tom argues.

 

“We want you to exit the interstate and pull into the parking lot of the South Park Mall. South West Military Drive. Should be coming up. Right?”

 

“Yeah, okay.” Tom’s voice betrays his doubt about this move.

 

“Make the kidnapper come to you, Tom. We can control the situation here. There’s a lot of desolate highway between San Antonio and Mexico. They could have you go anywhere and then rob and kill you or kidnap you. Then they’d have you and Paul both.”

 

Tom parks his truck in a highly visible slot that also allows several of his armed escorts to park inconspicuously nearby. An unmarked van, loaded with a fully-armed SWAT team is one of the vehicles to park nearby. Snipers in other cars take positions further away but still with a clear view of Tom and the area around his truck. The remaining escort vehicles, including the one that Matt and the Sheriff are in, park in another parking lot nearby and wait for a call to provide backup.

 

9:00PM: “Where are you?” demands an angry Hispanic voice.

 

“Parked at the South Park Mall. I’m not going any further. Bring my brother here if you want your money.” Tom takes a deep breath and wills himself to stay calm.

 

“Son of a bitch! You got to keep going south. I told you!”

 

“I’ve been driving and driving! I have your money! Bring my brother here!” Tom commands.

 

“You’re not the fucking boss, man. You drive south like you’re told or you get your brother back in pieces!”

 

 

Paul

 

It’s just me and the Mexican-with-the-gun and it’s been somewhat quiet since the Mexican who acts like he’s in charge left. In the background, I’ve been aware that the Mexican-with-the-gun has been on his cell phone nearly non-stop. I’m almost relaxed when I’m jerked up to a sitting position. The Mexican-with-the-gun shakes me, and then holds my head by my hair with one hand. I hear him cursing in Spanish under his breath. He seems out of control and I wonder if he’s loaded the gun this time. I feel myself shaking all over, this time from fear.

 

“Where are you?” he shrieks and then begins slapping me across the face and head. It takes me a moment to realize he’s talking to someone on his phone. “Drive south, asshole,” he demands, “or I start cutting things off!”

 

He pushes me to my back and I watch a part of him pace the room like a caged animal. I hear the motel door open but no one comes in. I remain as still and quiet as I can, hoping that someone will come before he ‘starts cutting things off’.

 

Has he left? Am I alone? Please, someone come and take his place or take him out! Just please, someone come!

 

 

Mary

 

People have come and gone all night. All of them are kind and concerned. We haven’t been able to let many people know what’s really going on. The email I sent out this morning seems like years ago. How things have changed since then! I’m not sure yet if they’ve changed for the better or the worse. My friend, Amber, has been texting me and I haven’t been able to tell her the truth. They want the kidnappers to feel secure. If word leaked to the press, things could go very bad. It’s been about five hours since Tom left with the Texas Ranger and we haven’t heard a word from anyone.

 

Liz’s pastor, a very nice man, came by earlier. For the life of me, I can’t remember his name. In fact, I can’t remember any of Liz’s friends’ names. I smile and nod and say, ‘thank you’. It’s as if I’m on hold. Watch the faces. Watch the clock. Look at the phone. Repeat. I don’t mean to seem rude. The house phone rings and we all jump.

 

“Hello?” Liz answers. We watch and wait as she listens to whatever the caller is telling her. Finally, “Okay, thank you.”

 

She turns and looks from Eric to Rory to me.

 

“That was one of the officers,” she begins, “They’ve got Tom parked in a shopping center and are waiting to see if an exchange can be made. The kidnapper has called Tom several times.”

 

“Has he talked to Paul again?” I ask.

 

“Not that he mentioned,” Liz says, “but I’ll ask next time they call. He said they’ll call us again soon.”

 

Rory sits close to his mother, as supportive as he can be. I wonder if my face looks like hers? I bet it looks worse. She’s scared. She’s angry at her helplessness. I turn away and stare into the blackness outside the family room picture window.

 

In my mind, I see Paul’s face and I whisper, “Hang on, we’re coming.”

 

 

WILCO

 

10:05 PM: In the parking lot, Tom struggles with what the officers are asking him not to do. Every call from the kidnapper is increasingly threatening and demanding. They hit his brother again! Paul’s life is on the line! He wonders what the greater risk is: staying put as Kirk insists or obeying the man who threatens to kill Paul if he doesn’t keep driving south?

 

10:31PM: Tom’s cell phone rings.

 

“Are you moving south?”

 

Tom takes a deep breath, then, “I’m where I was the last time you called.”

 

“Your brother’s a dead man and so are you.” The call ends abruptly.

 

Tom grabs the steering wheel of his truck and snaps at Kirk on the floor behind him. “He said Paul’s a dead man and so am I. I think I’d better do what he says!”

 

“No, Tom,” appeals Kirk, “If you do what he says, you’ll only get both of you killed. Stay put. Trust us.”

 

“I don’t know,” Tom anguishes, “how do I tell Mary that Paul died because I didn’t do what they wanted me to do?”

 

“It’s hard, but you have to believe that what we’re doing here is the best possible action.”

 

 

Mary

 

More than an hour goes by before the house phone rings again. It’s so late at night that I know it’ll be that officer who called Liz before with an update. I do everything I can to stay fixed in this spot fighting the anger that’s threatening to boil up.

 

Why don’t they call me?

 

I tell myself to stop thinking that somehow Tom and Liz have become more important to the authorities than Paul or me. Tom is risking his life to bring Paul back and I’m being petty about whose number the police are calling with updates. My cheeks burn with shame.

 

“The kidnappers tried to get Tom to go to Laredo but the police won’t let him. They’ve moved him again, to a 24-hour H-E-B parking lot because they felt like there were people watching Tom’s truck and the parking lot was getting too empty.”

 

“What about Paul?” I ask, hoping she remembered to ask the officer, “Did they say anything about him?”

 

“No,” she says, “but they think they know, within about a block, where he is.”

 

“Thank God!” I let myself sigh.

 

“It’s not for sure,” Liz adds cautiously, “and he said we need to be prepared for a long night. They don’t know what they’re going to find when they do move in, so they aren’t moving fast.”

 

I nod and silently say another prayer of thanks.

[] DAY THREE

 

February 28, 2008

 

WILCO

 

12:03 AM: Investigators show grainy photos from Macy’s surveillance videos to the desk clerk at the Safari Inn Motel.

 

“You see any of these people check in here in the last day or so?” the officer asks the indifferent clerk.

 

“No, sir, haven’t seen them. They aren’t stayin’ here.”

 

This had been the response at the other motels in the area, too. However, due to high traffic in and out here at the Safari Inn and one undercover officer’s visual account of a Hispanic man using a cell phone at the same time Tom Roland was receiving a call from the kidnapper, James and Matt asked for more police coverage around the Safari Inn.

 

Two covert officers are on the property posing as transients. In a pool hall parking lot across the street, two detectives, in an unmarked unit, watch vehicles coming and going from the motel.

 

Everyone knows that the kidnapper has been calling Tom every few minutes demanding that he continue south on IH-35 and threatening that Paul will be taken to Mexico by morning if he doesn’t.

 

Los Dos Laredos, what the locals call the border towns of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, sit across the Rio Grande River from each other. Nuevo Laredo has become one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico with gangland-style gun battles in the streets. Kidnapping and extortion is just a daily part of the drug business there. Innocent citizens, usually business people, are targeted, daily, for quick cash by the cartel gangs. It’s becoming more evident to all the officers that the kidnappers’ end game has always been to get Tom to Laredo. It isn’t hard, either, to figure out what will happen to Tom if he follows their instructions.

 

12:38AM: Tom is becoming more and more concerned about Paul’s welfare. Stonewalling the caller for several hours now, he wonders, how long can this go on?

 

Kirk tries to keep Tom calm but tells the officers on his cellphone update that Tom is getting impatient to do something. “I’m not sure how much longer he’s going to listen to me,” Kirk tells Pete Hughey.

 

Pete calls Tom directly to reassure him, “Hang on Tom, we’re closing in on them and we’re pretty sure we have Paul’s location. Trust us. Trust me.”

 

Tom isn’t sure anymore. Still, he reluctantly agrees to stay put. He thinks, ‘Are they only worried about their money? What if they catch these guys but Paul’s beat up so bad he can’t survive?’

 

“Tom Roland,” Tom answers his cell phone again.

 

“You headed south?” the caller, a different Hispanic male voice this time.

 

“I am not,” Tom says.

 

“We have your brother in Laredo, man,” the voice sneers, “and I will start cutting pieces off him if you don’t get moving right now! I don’t think the old man can take it. Do you?”

 

The caller hangs up and Tom nearly breaks down.

 

“That was someone else. I don’t think he’s just talking!”

 

12:40AM: Tom’s phone rings again.

 

“This is Tom.” Tom tries to steady himself by gripping the steering wheel with his free hand.

 

“Okay, man, you leave me no choice. His fingers will be cut off now.” The caller hangs up.

 

Tom throws his cellphone on the seat next to him, pushes the key into the ignition and starts the truck.

 

“No!” from the back of the truck. “Don’t do this, Tom!”

 

“You didn’t hear that voice! He’s going to cut off Paul’s fingers! I believe him. He’s not the same guy. He’s – He’s – I have to go!”

 

Kirk hears the anguish in Tom’s voice and understands how frightened Tom feels for his brother’s safety, but he knows, with absolute certainty, that it will be the wrong decision for Tom even if the caller did go through with his threats. They’ll find these criminals and bring them to justice one way or another. If Tom heads off toward Laredo, it’s almost for sure that they’ll lose both brothers.

 

“Tom, we don’t believe Paul is in Laredo. Sergeant Hughey is sure his location is right here in San Antonio. Let us do our jobs, sir. Hold on, a little longer.”

 

Tom turns off the ignition and for a few seconds the quiet in the truck is broken only by Tom’s ragged breathing.

 

Kirk calls Sergeant Hughey, “Sir, we’ve just had a couple of calls. Mr. Roland says this is a new actor. The caller indicated that they have the victim in Laredo now. They’re threatening mutilation if Mr. Roland doesn’t continue driving south to Laredo.”

 

 

Safari Inn, San Antonio, TX

 

 

Paul

 

More people are here now but they’ve moved away from me and talk in a low tones among themselves. I begin to hear people leave, yet the Mexican-with-the-gun keeps talking. It takes me a while to realize he’s not talking on his cell phone. There is someone else in the room. A woman. The Mexican’s cell phone rings. His conversation, in Spanish, sounds excited.

 

“Get everything together! Get my stuff!” He yells after he gets off the phone. I hear them gathering things and the sound of plastic bags. “Put his shoes on and cover him up! We’re leaving.” He orders.

 

The woman comes to me and puts my shoes on my feet. She wraps a blanket around me. Where am I going? Did Tom pay the ransom? Is this nightmare finally over?

 

“Where are we going?” I hear the woman ask.

 

“Not you,” he growls, “Take off.” Silence, but I can still feel her near me. “Now! I’ll call you later.”

 

She leaves and I hear the Mexican on his cell phone again. “When you coming?” he asks. CRASH! He must have kicked something or thrown something hard against the wall.

 

“Thirty minutes?” he yells and then swears in Spanish. He’s quiet once more, listening. “Yeah, yeah.”

 

I hear his footsteps approaching me and then his hand is on the back of my neck. “We are gonna call your brother. All you gotta do is tell him to bring the money to Laredo. If you say anything else, I’m gonna kill you right now. Understand, old man?”

 

I nod and struggle to hear the voice on the other end of the call. “Tom?”

 

“Paul!” Tom says and I can hear the stress in his voice.

 

The Mexican shakes my head on my neck as a reminder. I feel sick. I struggle to find my voice. “Tom, you have to bring the money to Laredo. I’ll…” is all I manage to get out before the phone is taken away and I’m slapped and shoved away.

 

I’m terrified. Telling Tom to go to Laredo can only mean they’re taking me there, too. Laredo means death for me and possibly Tom if he goes there. All hope, that I am ever going home, is gone.

 

Room 203, Safari Inn

 

 

Mary

 

Eric, Penny, Peter, Angela and David arrive at Tom and Liz’s house. It is indescribably good to have everyone here and yet my heart is broken with the reason for it. I see the confusion and worry in their exhausted faces. I also see love and support for me. It’s been non-stop questions since they arrived.

 

Penny has been in contact with her counterpart in Austin, a prominent legislative attorney, all day. He’s been in touch with Sheriff Wilson, an old friend, and has been her source of information as she traveled. She’s exhausted and clearly worried about her father’s safety. Still, she takes time to comfort me, too, assuring me that everything will be all right. She’s not my daughter, I realize, but my heart fills with love for her anyway. If I’d had a daughter, I would’ve wanted someone like her.

 

Peter and David surround me with their arms and their strength. All of them ask if I need anything and stay close. My sons have long been my source of strength and reason for being. In my opinion, I’ve made lots of bad decisions in my life. The three right decisions, perfect decisions, were to bring Sam, Peter and David into this world.

 

Angela, who’s newly engaged to Peter, impresses me, too. Welcome to the family! What a terrible situation to be brought into with people she hardly knows! Yet, she’s grace under fire. Every so often, she hugs me and squeezes my hand as she walks by. I wonder what she must be thinking and pray this doesn’t cause problems for them later. I give them all the latest information we’ve been given. They’re all concerned about Tom and agree that he should not go to Laredo.

 

I tell the kids, “They’re watching a motel in San Antonio.”

 

“Do they know how many people are with him?” David asks.

 

“They haven’t said anything that detailed,” Liz answers, “but they did say it could be hours before this is resolved.”

 

 

Paul

 

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! I jump. I hear and feel the wind whip in as the door opens. Someone comes in. Another woman. They talk with the door open and I can’t make anything out. The door shuts and I hear the Mexican-with-the-gun moving things around swearing as he does.

 

“I’ll move the van closer to the door. Stay here!” he commands.

 

The motel door opens and slams shut. I think the woman might come over to me but she doesn’t.

 

“The van? What’s going on?” I ask.

 

Silence.

 

“Are you there? Help me, please?”

 

Silence.

 

Am I alone? I move to my side and try to see what’s going on from under the blindfold but only see the silhouette of someone standing there. Just as I try to adjust my position to see better, the motel door opens and slams shut again. The Mexican-with-the-gun is back.

 

“Help me get him in the van!” he commands.

 

“Where’re we going?” she slurs her words. Great, another addict.

 

“Nuevo Laredo.”

 

“We can’t go to there! You know what will happen to us if we go there!” she argues a little more clearly. I hope she wins this argument but the only person who seems able to control this man has been gone for a long time.

 

“You know what will happen to us if we don’t?” he snarls back.

 

“There has to be another way,” she pleads.

 

“These are orders. His brother has not paid. Better to be caught by the Policia than by him,” then, “Get him in the van. You gag him.”

 

They put a poncho or something like that over my head. It has a hood which they pull up. On top of the hood is something else. A cap? After that, I am more or less carried, pulled and pushed into the van. They have trouble getting the seat belt hooked up around all the coverings they have on me. I hear plastic bags of stuff being shoved into the van near me followed by the driver’s side door opening and someone landing in the driver’s seat with a thud. The engine starts.

 

He yells, “Hurry up!”

 

The van’s side door closes. I hear the woman get into the front passenger seat. The vans backs up slowly and then forward a short way. I feel the van stop then dip down. We’ve pulled out of a driveway onto a street. He said that Tom hasn’t paid the ransom. This is it. Game over, as the kids say.

 

Will I be murdered in Mexico or somewhere else along the way? Will my family ever find me? Has Mary forgotten me?

 

 

WILCO

 

1:55 AM: Between 15 and 20 law enforcement units, both marked and unmarked, surround and observe the Safari Inn Motel, as well as, the surrounding perimeter of the property. Intel gathered to this point directly implicates this area as the likely source of all communication between the kidnapper and Tom Roland until earlier this evening. Even with the new caller saying that the victim is in Laredo, the surveillance of the past six hours says otherwise.

 

Surveillance officers report that a full-sized gray Dodge pickup has pulled into the motel parking lot and is parking near the back of the lot. Shortly after, they observe a van being pulled out of a parking slot and driven near one of the rear units of the motel. The van is parked in such a way that it blocks a clear line of sight to the rooms on the other side. A few minutes later, the officers report both vehicles are driving off the property, heading east bound on West Commerce Street at 34th.

 

Officers of the Tactical Response Unit hear the report sitting in a marked patrol car near the motel. They’ve been assigned to assist the officers of the Repeat Offenders Program on surveillance for this kidnapping case. They immediately respond, driving rapidly to pull in behind one of the vehicles. Suddenly the Dodge pickup makes a hard southbound turn onto South San Gabriel, nearly losing control before it takes off, dodging in and out of traffic.

 

The officers take off in pursuit with no lights or siren yet. The Dodge pickup is accelerating but not speeding. As the patrol car catches up and pulls right behind, the Dodge speeds up. It turns west onto Buena Vista, then south onto San Horacio, increasing speed, with the patrol car not far behind. The pursuit goes east onto Monterey, then north onto North San Felipe. The patrol car stays close, its emergency lights and sirens on full. Additional patrol cars and unmarked cars race to provide backup, hopefully clearing the streets of other traffic. Still the suspect in the Dodge accelerates even more, turning east onto West Commerce and then north onto San Felipe, again attempting to throw off police cars in pursuit.

 

The pickup attempts to elude police by stopping, turning and then taking off at a high rate of speed, turning west on Ruiz, south on San Gabriel and west on Calle Sur. Finally, the Dodge turns south onto San Joaquin and accelerates even more. The driver attempts to turn west onto West Commerce but loses control and crashes, wedging the truck between a building and a pole on the south side of West Commerce.

 

The officers park their police car behind the crashed Dodge pickup, lights blazing and carefully exit their car with guns drawn. They’re pretty sure there’s only one person in this vehicle, but know, too, that officers die when they assume anything.

 

“Get out of the car!” yells one of the officers. “Show us your hands!”

 

The driver, a young white male, ignores the officers and attempts to get the truck unstuck. The officers approach the vehicle slowly and repeat their commands several more times. In one quick motion, they rush the truck, open the driver’s door and physically pull him out and onto the ground.

 

Still, the suspect fights off the officers’ attempts to handcuff his hands. They struggle. The suspect pulls his hands away and under his body, trying to push away to stand and run, ignoring the officers who are yelling at him. The officers fight with the suspect, eventually throwing a few punches in order to subdue the man and get him under control. The suspect is placed in the back of the police car while the officers run a check his license and the Dodge’s plates.

 

“Well, well, Bobby Earl Sharp, the third, what have we here? Parole violation, driving a stolen pickup and aggravated kidnapping! Looks like a triple-play! Looks like you’ve won a lifetime prize!”

 

Two other marked units with officers from the San Antonio ROP team pursue the van on West Commerce when the Dodge pickup turns south on San Gabriel. Because the other vehicle aggressively flees from police, the two patrol cars immediately turn on their emergency lights letting the persons in the van know they are to stop immediately. The van continues driving west turning south on General McMullen.

 

The patrol cars attempt to stop the van at General McMullen and Buena Vista but the van keeps going, not really speeding but not stopping either. This continues for several more blocks. Kind of like O. J. Simpson and his Bronco without the media hype. Suddenly, the van appears to stop near San Fernando and South San Augustine.

 

The patrol cars pull in behind. Just as the officers are about to get out of their cars, the van rolls forward, engine still on.

 

“Hell, he’s taking off!” yells one of the officers as they all jump back into their vehicles.

 

The police get ready for another pursuit when the van stops again and the engine is turned off. The occupants remain inside the van. The officers approach the van by twos: two on the driver’s side and two approach on the van’s passenger side. The officers see three occupants: a driver and passenger in the front seat and a passenger seated on the middle row seat behind them. The officers have guns drawn, ready for anything.

 

Four voices command, “Get out of the vehicle with your hands up! Now! Put your hands up!”

 

The officers continue toward the van, watching as the passengers in the front seat raise their hands. The passenger in the middle seat does not move.

 

“Get out of the van and keep your hands up!” yells the officer closest to the driver.

 

“What’s the matter?” the driver yells back at him. “Why are you stopping us?”

 

The officers close in. “Get out of the van! Get out now and keep your hands where we can see them!”

 

“I don’t understand! What’s going on?” the suspect yells again.

 

The officer yanks open the driver’s door and pulls the man out.

 

The suspect pulls away from the officer, waving his hands, “I don’t know what’s going on! Why are you doing this?”

 

As one officer tells him again to get on the ground, the officer holding the suspect swipes the suspect’s legs with his own leg, knocking him to the ground. The suspect resists, bucking and pushing up from the ground, knocking the officer off and away. This just makes the officer mad and in one swift motion, the suspect’s back on the ground and one wrist is cuffed, subduing the suspect. Officers on the passenger side of the van cover the two passengers as they approach. The passenger in the front seat sits with her hands up but also doesn’t attempt to get out of the van. The passenger in the middle seat doesn’t show any hands or make any visible moves.

 

“Get out of the van!” an officer yells, his gun drawn and ready, “Show me your hands! Now!”

 

The officer closest to the front passenger door, opens the door and pulls the female out. “Get on the ground, now!” he yells at her. She complies but once he tries to put handcuffs on her, she, too, begins to fight back and is quickly subdued and under control.The officer near the rear passenger side door, pulls his gun, pointing it directly at the suspect in the the middle row. They can only see that this passenger is wearing a jacket with a hood. The hood is pulled up. The passenger’s head is turned down. They can’t see face or hands or if this person has a weapon or about to draw down on them.

 

“Show your hands! Show your hands! Now!” the officer commands even louder as he keeps his gun pointed toward the door and pulls the door open with his free hand.The passenger in the van does not look up or show any hands. Another officer comes up beside the first officer, touching the officer’s arm. He yells, “No, No! That’s the victim! This is it! This is it!”

 

 

Paul

 

We’ve been driving just a short time. I can’t hear much with all this stuff they have on my head and I can’t move or see where we’re going. I feel the van swerve to the right and pause, then start forward again and then everything stops. The next thing I hear yelling outside the van.

 

The door on the driver’s side opens. A voice yells, “Get out of the van! Keep your hands where I can see them!” Is he talking to me? I feel and hear the front passenger door open and close and more muffled voices. I begin to shake all over. I can’t stop. I’m terrified. I can’t see who’s out there and I’m afraid they’ll kill me. Is this is just another game they play?

 

The side van door opens and a man’s voice orders, “Show me your hands! Now!” I know he’s yelling at me! I can’t raise my hands! My hands are tied! I can’t respond! I’m gagged! I make grunts and shake my head a little bit and try to move away from whoever is at the door. Through the thin material covering my eyes, I make out the shape of a man with a gun pointed at me!

 

For some reason, he hesitates. Another voice, somewhere nearby says, “No, no, it’s the victim! It’s the victim!” and a hand pulls the hoodie back and takes the blindfold off. I watch his face as he looks at me in amazement. “This is it! This is it!” he screams.

 

I struggle against the hands pulling me out of the van, terrified of what’s going to happen next. Someone unties me, un-gags me. My eyes blink and blink in all the bright lights flashing around us.

 

“Mr. Roland? Are you hurt?” they all ask at once. I don’t want to answer them. I’m afraid they aren’t real police or they’re like the ones I saw taking the payoffs.

 

“You don’t have to be afraid, Mr. Roland,” one of them says, “We’re here to take you home. You’re safe now.”

 

“I think I’m okay,” I finally manage. I’m cold, dizzy and don’t know what’s going on. Am I dreaming again? Is this real? I see a young Mexican man face down on the ground with his arms cuffed behind his back. A young Mexican woman is being led off by two other officers in what looks like SWAT gear. I look around. I have never seen so many armed lawmen in one place before. The whole world is filled with flashing red and blue lights.

 

A Texas Ranger approaches me and, pointing to the two people, asks, “Do you know who these people are?”

 

“I don’t know,” I reply as they lead me to a warm pickup to wait for an ambulance crew. I’m real dizzy and can’t really stand up. I’m still shaking and I can’t seem to get warm.

 

“Mr. Roland,” the Ranger says, “your wife, Mary, and your brother, Tom, have both been notified of your rescue.”

 

“Thank you,” I whisper.

 

A news crew arrives just ahead of the ambulance. The EMS crew arrives and checks my eyes, blood pressure and does a general check before telling me I need to have more tests done at the hospital.

 

“The closest hospital is full,” I hear one of the EMS people tell the Ranger.

 

“Get them on the phone,” the Ranger commands.

 

In just minutes, I’m lying in the ambulance and ask the paramedic who’s checking my blood pressure, “Where am I going?”

“That Ranger just got you into the hospital that turned us down!”

 

 

WILCO

 

2:20 AM: Ranger Matt Lindemann gets a call from Ranger Carlton that three suspects have been arrested and that Mr. Paul Roland was rescued. After sharing the news with Sergeant Hughey and Sheriff Wilson, they head over to the parking lot where Tom has been parked for the last four hours and give him the good news. At 2:36AM, Tom’s cell phone rings.

 

“Tom Roland!”

 

“You on your way to Laredo, man?”

 

Tom indicates to Matt that it’s one of the kidnappers. Matt signals for Tom to keep him going. “I told you I’m not going any further. You come here,” Tom holds his phone so the other officers can hear both sides of the conversation.

 

“That’s not how this fucking works, man. Your brother’s gonna die because of you.” The caller hangs up.

 

“We’ve been closing in on a guy,” Matt explains to Tom, “We think he’s the same one that’s been calling you from Laredo. Obviously, he doesn’t know that his three associates have been taken into custody.”

 

 

Mary

 

“He’s alive, Mary! They’re both safe!” Liz shouts. “They’re taking Paul to a hospital in San Antonio.” She hangs up and everyone is in a hugging frenzy! We’re all crying and laughing with relief.

 

“I’ve got to get there,” I say to everyone and no one, “who’s coming with me?”

 

Liz offers her SUV because we need the three seat rows to hold us all. Eric volunteers to drive and I am so grateful. We start gathering things to go to San Antonio. All we’re waiting for is the location of the hospital. The officer who called Liz said that Tom would call in a few minutes and tell us which one.

 

The phone rings again. This time, it’s Tom. I fight the jealousy of their being able to talk to each other. I want to see Paul. I want to hear his voice. I want to touch him and make sure he’s not hurt even though I know that if there are no visible injuries, the worst will be the ones inside.

 

“Are you all right? What’s wrong?” Liz asks, and then gets real quiet. She listens. She glances at me and at Rory and then everyone in the room in one fast sweep before she completely turns away.

 

I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m pretty sure, I’m not going to like it by the expression on Liz’s face. Terrible scenarios, each one worse than the one before it, play at lightning speed in my mind.

 

“Get in the car,” I tell the kids, “I’ll be right out.”

 

“Don’t go!” she yells at us before anyone moves. “Tom said not to go yet!”

 

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

 

“They haven’t got everyone,” she says with a tremble, “and the ones they haven’t got have threatened to kill us all. They know where we live, what we drive and who is who.”

 

I feel the blood drain away from my head and grab for the back of one of the bar stools for support. It’s not over. This nightmare won’t end and now our kids are in danger, too. Why us? What did we ever do to anyone?

 

“They’re going to have officers watch us and our homes but Tom said we need to find other places to stay for a while.” Liz’s words bring me back to now, “They’ve taken Paul to University of Texas Medical Center. Tom will let you know when it’s safe for you to come there.”

 

I sit in the closest chair and will myself to stay calm. Liz comes to me and puts her hand on my shoulder.

 

“Tom was at the hospital,” she begins.

 

“What did he say about Paul? Is he okay?” I’m so tired and frustrated. Will I ever get to Paul?

 

“He’s shook up and disoriented but otherwise seems fine. They’re doing tests and running x-rays now.”

 

“What did he tell you about the people they didn’t catch?” Penny interjects with all the other kids murmuring behind her.

 

“Tom was with a Ranger talking to Paul at the hospital and got another call. He said the man must’ve just found out about the others being arrested and Paul being safe because he was very angry. Very threatening. Tom said not to leave yet. He’ll call us when it’s safe.”

 

 

WILCO

 

Sergeant Pete Hughey, Ranger Matt Lindemann, Ranger Sandoval and several San Antonio Police Officers wait with Tom Roland at the hospital where his brother, Paul, is being checked over in the over-crowded emergency room. Because of the special nature of the case, the officers are able to have Paul kept in a separate room where he can be watched and protected by law enforcement. It’s 4:00 AM on Thursday, February 28. The adrenaline rush of the rescue and arrests is beginning to fade. Then Tom’s phone rings.

 

“Tom Roland.” Tom answers, then listens, looking at Pete and Matt and indicating it’s the Laredo caller again. “I’m at the hospital.” Tom says and then looks confused when the caller has asked a question.

 

Pete pantomimes a heart attack to Tom, realizing that the caller still doesn’t know what’s happened to his partners.

 

“I have chest pain! All your threats; you promised to bring Paul if I brought the money!” Tom listens then pulls the phone away. He looks at the officers watching him. “He hung up.”

 

Twenty minutes later, Tom’s cell phone rings again. A string of profanity in Spanish can be heard several feet away. Tom nods to the officers and they crowd around Tom to listen.

 

“Speak English!” Tom commands into the phone.

 

“You are fucking dead, man, and your fucking family and the fucking old man’s family! You’re all dead! You fucked this up and you are all dead now! Do you know who you’re fucking with? We know where you live. We know where everyone lives! We know about everything! We will fucking kill everyone!”The caller hangs up.

 

No one speaks for a moment as they absorb all the threats just made against Tom and Paul Roland.

 

“We’re still in danger?” Tom groans. “Mary and the family! They’re leaving my house now!”

 

“Call and tell them to wait, Tom,” Matt says, “We think we have eyes on the guy in Laredo. We should have him soon. We’ll get cars to follow Mary and to keep an eye on your place. Let me make a few calls.”

 

“He’s not the only one out there is he, Matt?” Tom says more than asks as the reality of the situation dawns on him.

 

“That’s how it looks to me, too. Probably a good idea for everyone to re-locate until we get this sorted out. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going, just say you’re going out of town for a few days and then really do go out of town for a few days.”

 

 

Paul

 

The EMS crew wheels me into the emergency room and turns me over to a bored intern and a bored nurse who looks my way and goes on with what they’re doing: giving some dope head a fix. The Ranger and I wait a while until finally the Ranger got a supervisor. Things pick up pretty quickly after that. They give me several shots, (shots to keep me safe from some of the people in the ER, I think!) and take lots of blood. There are some bad looking people coming and going in the ER of this hospital. The Ranger told me that Mary and the kids have just left Austin and are on their way to the hospital. I’m a little nervous to see Mary, as the dreams, or whatever they were, still linger in my mind. I’m not sure of anything right now except that I want to go home.

 

Finally, Tom and the Ranger, Matt, come in to my room. Tom looks like he’s aged ten years since I last saw him. I wonder, exactly, when was the last time I saw him? A week ago? Two weeks? Three?

 

“Thank you,” I manage to say to both of them.

 

“How are you feeling?” Tom asks.

 

“Better and better,” I don’t want to complain in case these people try to keep me. I have to get out of here. “It’s good to see some friendly faces,” I add with what I hope is a smile.

 

Ranger Lindemann tells us that he’s sent one of the other Rangers back to the crime scene to oversee the windup. I tell Tom and the Ranger that I need to tell them about what I’ve seen and heard at the drug warehouse on the coast. I begin to tell them everything I can remember, but I can tell they don’t believe anything I’ve said.

 

Ranger Lindemann tells me he’ll get a statement later after I’ve had a chance to rest. “Do you know any of the people involved with this, Mr. Roland?” he asks.

 

“I heard voices. I didn’t see faces. But, I think that maybe one or two of them might have worked for us at some point, but I’m not sure,” I answer, trying to remember distinct voices and if I remember hearing any names. “I’ll keep thinking about it. Maybe I can think of some possible names once my head clears.”

 

Tom and Ranger Lindemann go out of the room. They’ve been gone just a few minutes when an orderly pushes me into another room. This room has two doors. One of the doors opens out into a high-traffic hallway. This terrifies me! People can see me as they walk by in the hall. I don’t see any of the Rangers or Tom or the police. The kidnappers will get me again! I find the call button and frantically call a nurse.

 

“How’d you get in here?” demands the nurse when she answers the call.

 

“A guy pushed-” I’m cut off.

 

“You are NOT supposed to be in here!” she grumbles as she calls someone on her cell and turns off the call sign.

 

Ranger Lindemann charges through the other door. “Who authorized moving this patient?” he demands.

 

The grumpy nurse suddenly looks scared and is speechless for a moment. Finally, “They needed that room for another patient. It has equipment that isn’t in any other room.” Then much softer, “I guess they forgot to run it by you first. Sorry.”

 

“This man is NOT to be moved again until he’s released by us. Is that understood? And, that door,” Ranger Lindemann says with patient force, “the one to the public hallway, is to be locked at all times.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the nurse says as she makes a hasty exit.

 

After a couple of minutes the hall door is locked and, I believe, Ranger Lindemann assigned security people outside both doors.

 

“Mr. Roland,” a doctor says with a smile as he enters the room about an hour later, “I think we can release you. We didn’t find any drugs in your system. We’ll get those lacerations on your head bandaged and you’re good to go.”

 

“No drugs?” I can’t believe this.

 

“None,” he repeats, “and, other than some dehydration, you appear to be in good condition considering what you’ve been through.”

 

“No drugs?” I ask again.

 

“Nothing showed up. I’ll get the paperwork going. You’ll want to follow up with your primary care physician in a couple of days, sooner if you have any problems,” he announces and then promptly leaves.

 

Tom and Ranger Lindemann come into the room to tell me they’re leaving.

 

“I’m headed out to meet Liz and Rory in Corpus,” Tom explains. “The Sheriff’s men and Ranger Lindemann, here, think it best if we all stay somewhere else for a while until they wrap this thing up.”

 

“There are a lot more people involved than three,” I say as firmly as I can.

 

“We know,” Tom says, “You and Mary and the kids need to find somewhere safe to stay for a while, too. I’ll call you later.”

 

We shake hands and Tom leaves.

 

“I’m heading out to the motel where they kept you,” Ranger Lindemann says as he, too, shakes my hand, “I’ve stationed another Ranger, Ranger Sandoval, a good man, to stay with you and escort you back to Austin. I’ll check with you later and see how you’re doing, okay?”

 

I thank him again and spend the next hour or so wondering what will come next. Little did I know then that not only was the nightmare NOT over, but some of the worst things were still to come.

[]PART TWOTHE INVESTIGATION

 

 

[]DAY THREE (CONTINUED)

 

February 28, 2008

 

 

WILCO

 

Matt listens as a San Antonio police officer from the ROPs Division (Repeat Offender Program) and a Williamson County detective detail the events of the early morning in a crowded briefing room in the S. A. P. D. office while he waits for Detective Maugham to arrive with the hard copy arrest warrants and transfer orders for three kidnapping suspects arrested in connection to Paul Roland’s abduction. He and James will interview them prior to transfer. Talking to them fast before they have a chance to confer together and come up with fabrications is key to finding additional suspects still at large.

 

Matt looks around the room at all the faces of the officers and detectives. He knows that so many here, like their counterparts in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, played critical parts in the success of Paul Roland’s rescue. Not only the many who were in the field – at the motel, in the streets surrounding the motel and watching over Paul’s brother, Tom – but countless dedicated men and women worked behind the scenes and helped get information to the field officers, answered phones, and worked computers all night. There were volunteers, too, that brought food and supplies to the officers so they didn’t have to stop working the case for a minute. In spite of bad news and bad days, it’s this kind of community that makes him proud to be a Texas Ranger.

 

Detective Maugham thinks about the last two days as he makes his way to the S. A. P. D. office. What started as a missing person case, something he was very experienced with, had evolved into a kidnap-for-ransom, multi-agency case that was, even now, still developing into who-knows-what? Although he’s had little sleep in the last forty-eight hours, he’s excited and full of energy. He hasn’t stopped for more than a few minutes since Sergeant Pete Hughey called him in the early hours of Wednesday morning to tell him they’d heard from the kidnappers. Then, just after two this morning, he received another call from Pete.

 

“We got him!” Pete had yelled through the phone, “Got those sons of bitches, too! Three of ‘em! There’s more out there, but we got Mr. Roland safe and sound!”

 

James smiles to himself, remembering the exhilarated shouts of the exhausted detectives, officers and so many others with him in the office when he delivered the news that all their hard work paid off.He knows, too, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure justice is served.

 

Just moments after the takedown, he and First Assistant District Attorney, Jana McCown, awakened Williamson County Precinct 3 Judge, Steve Benton, the judge on call, to get specific arrest warrants and transfer paperwork for James to take custody of the three suspects. And nearly before the ink was dry, he was in his car headed south to San Antonio.

 

Like Matt, he wants to talk to the suspects before they have a chance to fix an alibi or be coerced into covering for the others they haven’t caught yet. How many more are involved?

 

In San Antonio, Matt’s attention is grabbed by a re-enactment being done by the ROPs officers and WILCO detectives who were present for the takedowns. It seems like every officer in the building is huddled in this room to hear all the details. Even in a big city like San Antonio, kidnap-for-ransom is rare, usually a once-in-a-lifetime event. No one wants to miss a word of the officers’ accounts. Matt’s pretty sure a similar scene is happening in the WILCO office, too.

 

“We got word from the FBI that they thought they had a good location. A Hispanic male was observed on his cell phone outside, in the parking lot of the Safari, at the same time the money guy was getting threatening calls from the kidnapper. So we headed down there,” one ROPs detective explains with every eye on him, every cop feeling, again, the surge of adrenaline that comes with tense takedowns.

 

The WILCO detective picks up, “We got to the Safari Inn down on Old Highway 90 and just watch and wait. There were all sorts of eyes on the place and intel is coming in constantly.”

 

“Well, after a few hours,” another WILCO detective interrupts, “they’d determined that Room 202 had a register that used a fake DL number. Then FBI reports they got a real strong signal coming from near Room 202, too.”

 

The officers take a breath, eyes bright.

 

“Then I see the guy on a cell phone, young, Latin, wearing jeans, Texas sweatshirt and ball cap. While I’m callin’ that in and the Feds are tellin’ us, again, they got a kidnapper on the phone with the brother at the very same time!”

 

“Covert moves in, checking the action rooms down the side toward the far end of the motel all night, but this guy was a solid connect to the case,” the WILCO detective adds.

 

“Marked and unmarks were out of sight and down the street pulling over every vehicle that left the property,” a ROPs detective jumping into the narrative.

 

“I’m surprised y’all didn’t storm the place! You had a guy!” another officer laughs.

 

“There was talk. There was talk,” a ROPs officer eyes Matt and the WILCO detectives before continuing, “Some of the county guys wanted to take it down before we had warrants, but your Sheriff kept them cool. Some of our guys headed to the room next to 202 to get close if we’d have gotten the okay. Our Captain pulled them back. Hell, we all wanted to bust a door.”

 

Matt and the others exchange knowing looks and nod. Hard to let paperwork stonewall the work, especially, when lives are on the line. He understands. They all understand. The law is there to protect everyone and that means everyone.

 

“Then an unmarked unit at the bar across the street sees this Dodge truck. It’d been parked in the parking lot near them but they hadn’t noticed it. It pulls out, crosses the highway and goes into the motel parking lot!”

 

“Good thing, too, if they’d made the stolen truck before everything went down, they might not have recovered the vic,” another ROPs officer.

 

“Anyway, before we could do anything stupid,” interjects the Williamson County detective sarcastically, “we see the Dodge truck pull up close to the room. He pulls in to the back of the motel and parks in a slot near Room 202.”

 

“We have to just watch! We’re still waiting for the damn warrant!” the ROPs officer takes over.

 

“That’s messed up!” from the perimeter of the group.

 

“Yeah, anyway,” the ROPs officer continues, “he doesn’t really park there. He pulls it back some on the lot, basically blocking the view of the doors at that end. Then we see what looks like a van, the van as it turned out; move in closer, completely blocking our view. Parks kind of catty-corner.”

 

“We got no idea what’s going on,” another ROPs officer jumps in, “Now there’s real talk of storming the place and letting the powers-that-be go to hell. We don’t know what is happening. Our vic was maybe there and the brother had been told over and over that they were gonna cut him up into pieces; kill him and all kinds of crap like that.”

 

A WILCO detective interrupts, “Yeah, I kept thinking what if the old man was still alive right now and we lost him because of a freaking piece of paper.”

 

The group erupts into shared frustration of how they’d felt if this had ended badly.

 

“So,” another WILCO detective says, quieting the crowd, “the truck idles there. Kind of looks like it’s waiting on that van. I’ll be damned if, a few minutes later, the two vehicles don’t leave together!”

 

“We follow them out of the parking lot and watch them change lanes together,” another ROPs officer finishes, “like a pair of freakin’ dancers or something.”

 

“Did you know it was them, the kidnappers?”

 

An officer distributes paper cups steaming with fresh coffee all around. Most of these officers haven’t slept in the past twenty-four hours and are grateful for this shot of energy now that adrenaline levels are going back to normal.

 

“Figured they were part of something,” he nods and takes a sip of coffee, “One of our ROP units fell in with us and followed the vehicles until marked units caught up and got behind them. Soon as that happened, the truck turns right and takes off with the marked unit, lights flashing, right behind him!”

 

“Everyone splits off. One after the van to pull it over and ours heads out to help in the truck pursuit. By the time we catch up, he’s wrecked the truck and they got him in cuffs.”

 

“He didn’t want to get out of the truck,” an S.A.P.D. officer adds with a wink, “We had to help him. And then, the perp tries to get away! Pendejo!”

 

This gets a laugh from the crowd.

 

“The van was a lot easier to take down. They looked like they weren’t going to stop, but after a few blocks pulled over,” an S.A.P.D. officer comments.

 

“We thought we had three suspects in the van. No idea what we were gonna find,” a ROPs officer remembers. “Then, after the guy and the girl sitting in front both pulled their commando moves, trying to get away from us, I wasn’t in the mood for some hopped up junkie pulling a piece from the back seat. Still, I just kept sayin’ to the guy, “Show me your hands! Show me your hands!” But, he just sits there shaking and moving away from me.”

 

“Good thing ya don’t have an itchy finger, man!” laughs another officer.

 

“For sure!” he agrees, “Something told me this was it. This was our guy, the victim.”

 

“Bet he was glad to see you!” another officer.

 

“Actually, he acted like I was one of the bad guys,” the officer says, “He was scared to death of me.”

 

“Who knows what that guy’s been through for the last two days? I understand.”

 

“The good news is, we recovered Mr. Roland alive and arrested three people. Nobody got hurt or killed! That’s some damn good police work!” this from a WILCO detective.

 

 

 

LAREDO, TEXAS

 

 

The Laredo Police Department CID detectives, Cortez and Lopez, stake out the El Cortez Motel with L. P. D. SWAT and other CID detectives watching for two Hispanic males, known only as “Vince” and “Gil,” possibly from San Antonio using a gift card purchased with Mr. Roland’s credit card to rent a room at the motel. They’ve been given descriptions from surveillance footage where the gift card was purchased.

 

The hotel staff is interviewed but no one recognizes anyone matching the two men’s descriptions. They have not found the person or persons who used the gift card to rent the hotel room. At the suggestion of their counterpart with the Williamson County Sheriff’s CID, they run the license plates of every vehicle parked at the hotel since about 4:00 AM this morning to see if anyone is from San Antonio or Austin.

 

Detective Cortez reviews video surveillance footage from the motel parking lot and notes that, at approximately 4:58 AM, a two-tone gray and black Ford F-150 arrived at the motel, driven by a Hispanic male wearing an orange Texas Longhorn T-shirt, ball cap and blue jeans. He was accompanied by another Hispanic male, heavyset with a very, very long ponytail.

 

Detective Cortez re-checks the guest register names against the driver’s license numbers given on room registrations and discovers that one guest, a Mr. Hernandez, is registered to room #103. His license number is correct and from San Antonio. Detective Cortez and his partner, Detective Lopez, stake out the area outside the room and, at 11:15 AM, see Abraham (“AB”) Weber exit room #103.

 

Weber is male, Hispanic, approximately 5’9” and weighing around 180 pounds will turn 30 in the next couple of weeks. Dressed in jeans, a University of Texas tee shirt and ball cap, his forearms covered with tattoos, he looks like any one of thousands of young men in Texas. But, he’s not like any one of those thousands. He’s the man that Detectives Cortez and Lopez saw on the surveillance video renting a room at the motel.

 

Cortez gives the signal to move and, what looks like to AB, every law enforcement officer in the state converges on the young man for the take down. AB surrenders without protest. The Miranda warning is read to AB as detectives cuff him and put him into their cruiser. The detectives ask him questions about his involvement with the kidnapping case in San Antonio.

 

At first, AB denies knowing anything about the kidnapping, but as they draw closer and closer to the police station, he begins to talk. He talks a lot.

 

 

El Cortez Motel, Laredo, TX

 

 

Mary

 

We got the okay to leave Tom’s house around 4:30 AM. The drive from Tom’s house to the hospital in San Antonio should only take an hour and a half in light traffic. Eric drives. Penny sits next to him. Peter and Angela share the middle row and David sits next to me in the third row. It gives me the opportunity to close my eyes for a moment. Now that Paul is safe, I can close my eyes.

 

My mind immediately jumps to a list of fears and questions. How bad has Paul been injured? I know he’s been hit at least once. Tom told me about their brief call and how he’d heard the sound like a hard slap or smack before he was cut off. There’s no reason to believe that’s the only time.

 

What about injuries we can’t see? Paul is healthy and strong but, at 73, he’s not as resilient as he once was. What do we do now? What is the next step out of this nightmare?

 

They’ve arrested three people but say there are more. How many more? The police told Liz that Tom had been told to go all the way to Laredo from San Antonio. That information alone screams Mexican Drug Cartel!

 

The media and politicians tell us all the violence is between gangs fighting for control of drug routes. They say these gangs only go after people in the drug business. We don’t have anything to do with that world. Why us? Why Paul? Why Tom? Will they really kill us? When will we feel safe again?

 

We’ve been travelling for about a half hour when I realize this is the same route Tom took just twelve hours ago and very likely the same route Paul’s abductors took two days ago. That last thought makes my stomach lurch. As we close in on San Antonio, I feel as if my nerves are stretched as far as they will go. A drive that’s always seemed quick and fun before is now excruciatingly slow and painful.

 

We catch every red light and keep missing turns trying to find the hospital. Finally, the hospital is in sight, yet it takes us thirty minutes to find the right entrance to the right parking lot and find an open spot to park in. We run-walk to the Emergency Room entrance and into a crowded waiting room.

 

The kids hang back as I race to the information desk.

 

“I’m Mrs. Paul Roland. My husband was brought in here a few hours ago. Can you tell me where I can find him, please?” I say evenly; trying not to cry.

 

The nurse looks at me and the crowd around me, then scans her monitor, clicking a few keys. “R-O-W-L-A” she begins before I cut her off.

 

“R. O. L. A. N. D. Paul.”

 

“Date of birth?” she asks not looking up.

 

“September twelfth, nineteen thirty-four,” I reply with unmasked impatience.

 

She looks up at me. “They’ve released him. Are you the responsible party?”

 

“Released? Where is he?” I look frantically around the waiting room. “I don’t see him out there. Where is he?” Fear threatens to overtake my impatience.

 

“I don’t know, ma’am,” she says blankly, “Are you the responsible party?”

 

I tell the kids to wait in the waiting room, and then turn on this unfeeling automaton.

 

“My husband is here because some people kidnapped him, beat him up and would have killed him if the police hadn’t saved him. You’re telling me that we have to PAY for the crimes done against him?”

 

Without so much as a blink, she mutters, “Yes.”

 

Realizing I might never see Paul again unless I deal with this hospital red tape, I sink into a chair, pull out insurance cards, checkbook and begin the next round of victimization. After what feels like hours, I leave the business side of the ER and head into the waiting room.

 

I clear the doorway. I see Paul surrounded by all the kids. Angela hangs back a little, letting the other kids embrace him. He’s smiling at them. I notice the Texas Ranger that stayed with us yesterday at Tom’s house standing by Paul’s side.

 

I don’t want to interrupt the kids with their father in this moment so I walk slowly toward them. Paul looks around and sees me. I smile, crying and thanking God over and over in my head, as I move toward him. The expression on his face stops me in my tracks.

 

He’s not smiling anymore. He looks angry! He’s not happy to see me? Still, I move forward, telling myself, “He’s just tired. He’s still scared. Everything will be all right when we get settled.”

 

I embrace him and kiss him on the cheek. He stiffens at my touch. I step back and look into his eyes. Something’s wrong. Terribly wrong. Thank God Ranger Sandoval pulls me aside and Paul is momentarily distracted by everyone else.

 

“Have you been told about the threats?” Ranger Sandoval asks.

 

“Yes,” I say, my eyes cutting over to watch Paul with the kids.

 

“I’ve got a friend who manages a long-term hotel and I thought I’d call her and see if she could arrange some suites for us.”

 

“Good,” he says, “I’ll drive you and Mr. Roland there and make sure we have units around the property.”

 

We rejoin Paul and the others. “Let’s get out of here,” I say as cheerfully as possible.

 

“I’ll drive you back to Austin, sir,” Ranger Sandoval says, “You, too, Mrs. Roland.”

 

Paul looks around and asks, “Can Penny ride with us, too?”

 

The Ranger looks at him and at me and nods, “Sure, I’ve got room for her and Mary.”

 

Taking that cue, I tell the others, “Y’all head back to Austin in Liz’s car and return it to her, please? Then get all the suitcases. My stuff is in one of the guest rooms. Meet us at hotel on Great Hills. I know the manager there. Penny, Paul and I are going with the Ranger and we’ll have everything set up by the time you get there.”

 

Eric leads the others out one direction into the parking lot. We follow the Ranger in another to his car, an unmarked sedan. Paul sits up front beside the Ranger. Penny and I sit in the back. Even though Paul stiffens every time I touch him, I cannot resist the urge, the need, to touch his arm or his shoulder every few minutes.

 

We head up the highway in silence for a while. Exhaustion weighs on every limb of my body but I can’t close my eyes. I vaguely hear Penny and the Ranger talking about something. Then–

 

“I thought Sea Island was on the left side of the highway?” Paul says to no one in particular.

 

“It’s always been there,” I say as casually as possible.

 

“No, whenever we come back from the island, it’s on the other side,” he argues.

 

“Oh,” I realize he’s got his locations confused, “In Corpus Christi it’s on the left but here, in San Antonio, it’s on the right.”

 

“San Antonio?” he asks the Ranger.

 

The Ranger looks at Paul and quickly reassures him, “This is San Antonio, Mr. Roland. They kept you here in San Antonio.”

 

“San Antonio.” Paul says almost under his breath.

 

Paul turns to Penny, “How long was I gone?”

 

“Two days, Daddy.”

 

“No. It had to be two weeks,” he counters, “What’s the date today?”

 

“February 28, 2008. How long do you think you were gone, Dad?” Penny asks gently.

 

“That can’t be,” he argues, “I’ve been gone at least a week, maybe more.”

 

 

Paul

 

After about an hour, I’m escorted downstairs to meet my family by a nurse and Ranger Sandoval. It’s unbelievable! Peter, David, Penny and Eric are here! I forget my ordeal for a moment seeing the fear and confusion on my dear family, standing there, looking at me like they aren’t sure it’s me. I look for Mary and someone says, “She’ll be here. She’s taking care of the bill.”

 

Suddenly, there are hugs and kisses. I assure them I’m okay. Then I realize Angela is here! I look around, taking inventory, and see that Sam and Sandra are not here.

 

Mary comes around the corner and the memory of her and that man rushes back to me. She puts her arms around me and hugs me. I stiffen at her embrace. I’m still not sure of her. Then, everyone starts talking at once. I can’t tell where one sentence starts and another begins but it’s all music.

 

Ranger Sandoval pulls Mary aside and talks to her privately.

 

“We need to get going,” Ranger Sandoval announces when he and Mary step back.

 

“Where are we going?” I ask.

 

Ranger Sandoval explains that we can’t go back to our apartment. Tom and Liz are headed to their house in Corpus Christi. There are still people out there and they’ve threatened all of us.

 

“They told us this before we left Tom’s,” Mary tells me.

 

We ride in silence for several minutes. I see a Sea Island Restaurant sign, a favorite place, on my right side and comment, “I don’t remember Sea Island on the right side of the highway.”

 

Mary, sitting behind me says, “It’s always been there.”

 

Penny agrees with her and tells me we’re in San Antonio. San Antonio? I was sure I was at the coast! Relief runs through me. I’m glad I didn’t get to talk any more than I did on the phone. I would have led them to the wrong place.

 

“What day is it?” I ask.

 

“Thursday,” Mary answers.

 

“February 28th,” from Penny.

 

“It can’t be!” I argue, “How many days was I gone?”

 

“Two days, Daddy,” Penny replies.

 

I was sure I’d been with the Mexican for a whole week, maybe two! We finally get to the hotel in Austin. The Ranger calls the front desk and talks to several people on the phone before he finally says, “Okay, you can go in now.”

 

We go inside to the Front Desk. Mary registers with her credit card, but uses a D.P.S. false name for the register. The Ranger reminds the hotel manager not give out any information on these two rooms to anyone and to call the number on his business card if they see anyone out of the ordinary hanging around.

 

To us, the Ranger says, “You should be safe here. We have you all under surveillance at all times and will continue until we’re sure that everyone involved in Mr. Roland’s abduction is in custody.”

 

We head up to the more secure third floor rooms. The California kids are sharing one suite. Mary, Penny and I are in the other. Each suite has a kitchen, living room and one or two separate bedrooms with studio beds in the living room. Our suite has one separate bedroom with two double beds. I lie down across one of double beds and immediately fall asleep.

 

 

[] INTERROGATION- ABRAHAM WEBER – LAREDO POLICE DEPT

The interview room in the Laredo Police Department is pleasant enough and looks fairly new. The walls are a soft gray; the institutional plastic table is a soft cream with padded purple chairs. You can almost imagine that you’re in the conference room of a doctor’s office or school except there’s the shackle connectors bolted to the floor and other connectors bolted under the table top for handcuffs. Oh, and the table is bolted to the floor. There are no pictures on the wall, only a two-way glass that lets people see into the room, not out. Still, it’s more comfortable than some “interview” rooms in other police stations around the world.

 

Detectives Cortez and Lopez sit in chairs across from Abraham “AB” Weber. AB is still wearing the clothes he was arrested in earlier. His hands are cuffed in front but not bolted to the table.

 

“You want something to drink? Water?” Detective Cortez asks AB.

 

“Yeah,” AB nods.

 

As Detective Cortez leaves the room, AB points from the three photos on the APB flier to his cellphone, “He’s on there, too.”

 

AB points to the flier. Detective Lopez slides the paper closer to AB. He taps on the faces.

 

“Who? Vince?” Detective Lopez asks.

 

“Both of them,” AB says without emotion, grabbing his ball cap and putting it on his head.

 

Surprised, Detective Lopez looks at AB, then pulls a form from his papers and begins reading, “We need to remind you before we go further. You have the right to remain silent.”

 

AB, shaking his head, reaches across the table and takes the paper away from Detective Lopez and motions for him to hand over the pen.

 

Detective Cortez returns with a Styrofoam cup and mutters as he hands it to AB, “Here’s your water.”

 

“I know this whole shit already,” AB shrugs, taking a drink.

 

Detective Lopez reaches out to get the paper, “Let me finish reading it.”

 

AB pulls it back, still shaking his head ‘no’ and reaches for the pen. Detective Lopez hands AB the pen.

 

“You want to read it first?”

 

“Nah, I already know this or I wouldn’t be here right now.”

 

AB signs the document and slides it back. Detective Lopez looks it over and slides it under his legal pad. AB takes off his ball cap, wipes his eyes, one at a time, with the backs of his hands, rubs his hands over the top and back of his head and then stretches. This will be a frequent ritual throughout the afternoon. The time is 12:23 PM. It’s going to be a long afternoon.

 

“All right, brother,” Detective Lopez begins, “the reason why we brought you in right now is for questioning…”

 

AB nods, his hands clasped in front on the table and his head bowed over them as if he’s in prayer.

 

“…in regards to what was happening, all right?”

 

AB sniffs and nods, stretching his arms across the table. The detectives settle into their chairs. Detective Lopez begins, “Apparently, you checked into the hotel with a stolen credit card?”

 

“Wasn’t no credit cards. I used a gift card.”

 

“Well, a gift card that was purchased with a stolen credit card.”

 

AB shrugs, “I don’t know. They give them to me. That’s not what I want to talk about.” AB snorts, wipes his nose on his sleeve.

 

“What is it you want to talk about?” Lopez leans in, looking over at Cortez who’s taking notes.

 

“See that shit? She didn’t have anything to do with it.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Samantha. She didn’t.”

 

Lopez looks through his notes, “You talking about, uh, Samantha Casablanca?”

 

Cortez jumps in, “Is she your chick or what?”

 

“She’s like a real good friend; you know what I’m sayin’?”

 

The detectives frown and both nod, “Okay.”

 

AB continues, “Someone I take care of. She looked out for me, too. Got me out of shit.” AB moves his arms out, brings them in, takes off his ball cap and tosses it on the table. It lands in the middle of the table against the wall. “And I fucking called her up and just said, ‘I need you to do me a favor! I need you to go over to that dude before he does something stupid to that dude.”

 

“What dude?” Cortez asks, his pen in mid-air.

 

“What dude are you talking about?” Lopez repeats.

 

AB looks at them blankly, “Bart.”

 

“Bart?” both detectives at once.

 

“Bart,” AB repeats as he takes a sip of water, “The one that they got.”

 

“Okay, do you know his whole name or just ‘Bart’?” Lopez asks.

 

“I know him by Bart and, um, I said, ‘before he does something stupid to him and you need to get him out of there.’ I said, ‘Please go get him. Take somebody.’ Vince was supposed to go.”

 

Lopez holds up the APB flier, “Which one is Vince?”

 

AB cocks his head toward the sheet, looking it over. “That one. The one in the middle.”

 

Lopez points to a photo, “The one in the middle?”

 

“Yeah, that’s the one that I know and the other one is Gil.”

 

Lopez points to another photo, “This one?”

 

“Yeah, his number’s in there.” AB cocks his head toward the cell phone on the table.

 

“What were your specific instructions to Samantha?” Cortez pushes for more information. Detective Lopez scrolls through the cell phone and writes notes.

 

AB pauses, looking from one officer to the other, “Just to fucking ask her if she can do me a favor. To get him to move him from one place to the other. That’s it”

“That’s it?”

 

“Yeah. She didn’t want to do it. I told her to fucking do it, man, or it’s gonna be my ass on the fucking line.”

 

“So, she, uh, goes and does it.”

 

“She was just going to follow him.”

 

Lopez looks confused, “Follow who? Follow those two guys or what?” and points to the APB flier photos.

 

“No, follow that other dude. They weren’t at the motel. They put up at the motel. They put up at the other-”

 

Lopez isn’t following any of this, “What?”

 

“Where that happened. Just follow Bart and make sure he didn’t do anything to him ‘cause he wanted to fuck him up”.

 

Lopez asks, “You wanted to fuck him up?”

 

“No, Bart did.”

 

“Bart? Bart wanted to fuck up the person?” Lopez guesses.

 

“That’s right. He was already fucking out there.”

 

Lopez sits back, nodding, “You guys were gonna do what?”

 

“Take him and the money away and over to the plaza boss in the truck.”

 

Lopez perks up again, “Which plaza boss?”

 

“Miguel.”

 

“Miguel?” Lopez repeats, clearly wanting to make sure of this name.

 

Cortez, putting down his pen, leans in, “So the plan was what? Miguel was the guy to force the guy to get the money or what?”

 

“It was already only supposed to be two hundred eighty thousand,” AB tells them like they should already know this stuff.

 

“Yeah? They raised it up to five hundred thousand?” Cortez ignores the attitude and continues.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So who was doing this whole raising stuff? Who jacked it up to five hundred thousand?” Cortez pushes.

 

“Miguel,” AB states again hanging his head and rocking back and forth, “and I’m fucked up for real now. Those fucking Zetas don’t bullshit.

 

Both detectives watch AB very closely. He has their full attention. Lopez asks, “Let me ask you, who’s this Miguel guy, man? Describe him.”

 

“He runs the fucking Zetas over in Nuevo Laredo.”

 

“He what?” Lopez can’t believe what he’s hearing.

 

“He runs the fucking Zetas in Nuevo Laredo.”

 

“Miguel Trevino?” Lopez asks.

 

AB nods. Cortez asks, “Quarenta (Forty)?”

 

AB sighs, “Si, Quarenta.”

 

“Was Miguel Trevino present or was everything done on the phone?”

 

AB pantomimes someone clicking the radio on a Nextel Direct Connect radio-phone.

 

Lopez says quickly, “On the radio.”

 

AB, nodding, “He got to him on the walkie-talkie thing whatever. I’ll tell you right now, if you want to get all that shit over there, the drugs and shit, there’s the number right there on the phone. Get it.”

 

Lopez picks up cell phone and hands it to AB, “Okay, which number am I looking for? You want to show me or what?”

 

AB scrolls through contacts and pauses, “That’s electric company, but I can’t fuck with him right now.”

 

Lopez takes the phone and looks, “What? Who’s this?”

 

“Jorge.” (Pronounced hor-hey)

 

“What about Jorge? Who’s Jorge?” the detectives ask.

 

“He’s the one that runs drugs and all that shit. He runs companies. Has connects with Miguel and handles the dope.”

 

“Is he from Laredo?”

 

AB nods, “He’s the one with the long hair. He’s the one in all those pictures. He’s the one who walked into the motel with me.”

 

AB presses a fist against his forehead.

 

“He dropped you off.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“He lives here?

 

“He lives in Austin. Hey, can you have someone call my brother?”

 

“Why? Just to let him know you’re here?” Lopez asks.

 

“Yeah, just to let him know that I got caught up in all this shit.” AB points to a contact on the phone and Detective Lopez writes down the number. Detective Cortez puts the number into his own cell phone.

 

“How about your mom? You want me to tell him to get a hold of your mom?”

 

AB considers this a moment, “Yeah. Just tell them that the Feds got me.” AB hangs his head and starts to cry. Detective Cortez leaves the room.

 

Lopez comments as he scrolls through AB’s contacts on the cell phone, “Well, right now, this stuff is State, bro. I don’t want you to-”

 

AB interrupts, shaking his head, “No, it’s Fed, dog.”

 

“All right, let me check on that.”

 

AB continues, “It’s Fed because it’s considered, uh, fucking hostage and, um, ransom.”

 

“Okay,” Lopez doesn’t want to argue the point. Whatever this guy wants to believe is all right so long as they get information.

 

“It’s already on the TV. I seen it on the news here.”

 

Changing the subject, Lopez asks, “What time did this shit happen?”

 

“It happened last night at two o’clock in the morning.”

 

Lopez redirects the questions, “So now tell me about this. About this- the plan was?”

 

“I secured that shit for that dude. I was just supposed to get him and keep him until they got the money and let him go and that’s it.” AB flips his cap off and on his head.

 

“The old man?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Did he owe money to Miguel Trevino or who was he?”

 

Shaking his head, AB explains, “Nah. He didn’t owe money. He was just a fucking somebody that had money and they knew he would pay or his brother would pay it. But, his brother went to the feds. That’s why they didn’t meet him at South Park.”

 

Detective Cortez returns and sits down. “I’ve spoken with your brother. He’s gonna contact your mom.”

 

AB looks concerned, “What’d you say?”

 

“I just told him that you were over here in Laredo. He was surprised, said, what the hell you doing in Laredo? So, I told him we were just talking to you on some case and he goes, Esta Bueno. Chingow! What’s he doing over there in Laredo?”

 

AB puts his head down and rocks back and forth.

 

Lopez continues, “Okay, so this guy, Bart, was he part of the Raza Unidas or something?”

 

“No and that’s why everyone’s freaking out, man, ‘cause I only hang out with Unidas.”

 

“Okay, well let me ask you, who came up with the plan on this, on this, this kidnapping? Who approached you or did they call you? Were you the one that organized it?”

 

“Bart.”

 

“What did Bart tell you?”

 

AB looks at the detectives and shakes his head, “I’m not taking the rap for this.”

 

Lopez asks, “Why would you be taking the rap?”

 

“‘Cause it’s gonna come back on me.”

 

“Explain to me first, before you make any decisions to who’s gonna take the rap, how does this happen? Who came up with the plan? And when was this planned?”

 

AB sighs, “They just called me and told me if I wanted to fucking take care of something ‘cause they know what I do and I don’t give a shit.”

 

“Okay, who called you?”

 

“They called. Another man and Bart, so we went over there and checked it out.”

 

“When was this?”

 

“I think about a month ago.”

 

Lopez pushes again, “All right and did Bart explain to you who was giving the orders?”

 

AB nods, “Miguel.”

 

“Miguel?”

 

AB nods again, “And they gave it to that dude.”

 

Lopez comes back a little sharply, “Which dude? You keep saying ‘this dude’, ‘that dude’.”

 

“Jorge.” AB looks directly at Det. Cortez, “You know what I’m talking about?”

 

Cortez replies, “More or less.”

 

AB explains, “He used to work electric and all that shit in Dallas and Austin and all that shit.”

 

Detective Lopez gives Detective Cortez the phone number. “See if you can find anything.”

 

“Yeah, we got that going,” Detective Cortez replies.

 

AB continues, “He works with the Zetas. He’s the one who has to do shit.”

 

Lopez asks, “How much were you going to be paid?”

 

“One hundred.”

 

“One hundred thousand? And Bart gets one hundred eighty thousand?”

 

“Who, Bart? No. Miguel is owed three hundred eighty.”

 

Lopez looks at AB for clarity, “Miguel gets three hundred eighty thousand dollars?”

 

Nonchalantly, AB shrugs and says, “It was supposed to be a whole mil.”

 

Lopez looks at Cortez, “A whole mil?” Cortez, incredulous, asks AB, “They were gonna try to get a mil?”

 

“They were.

 

Lopez asks, “Okay, Jorge had what part to do with this kidnapping?”

 

“Exactly,” Cortez adds, “What was his role in this kidnapping?”

 

“He was the one ordering everything on this side of the border.”

 

“He was the one receiving orders from Miguel Trevino?”

 

AB nods and looks at the detectives, “Yes.”

 

Lopez pushes further, “Jorge? He’s from Laredo living in Austin?”

 

“He’s originally from here, yeah. He’s an electrician and shit. Maybe he’s from Mexico but here, yeah.”

 

“So, he’s an electrician? Miguel, too?” Cortez asks.

 

“No.”

 

“How do you know? How can you tell it’s Miguel talking to you guys?” Lopez probes.

 

“It’s his deep voice.”

 

Cortez redirects, “Yeah? Why were you here? While that was happening there, why did you guys come down to Laredo?”

 

AB laughs, “Man, they didn’t tell you guys shit. The money was supposed to come to Laredo.”

 

“Here? The money was supposed to come here or you were to pick it up?”

 

AB cocks his head backward, “No, across the border.”

 

“So, you were supposed to pick it up here?” Cortez asks, leaning across the table.

 

“No, we were supposed to pick up across the border.”AB flips his cap onto the table and it lands almost exactly in the middle. “So, I’ll tell you right now, that’s where we were going. They wanted me to take care of it and that’s it.”

 

 

Abraham “AB” Weber

 

 

WILCO

 

As Paul Roland is being treated by EMS, a Texas Ranger and an S.A.P.D. officer head back to the Safari Inn. Investigators and officers on the scene tell them that the suspects and victim stayed in Room 203, not Room 202. S.A.P.D. detectives have already secured the room and given the Ranger the hotel registration card they’d gotten from the motel office. The card reads that the room is registered to Bartolo Dominguez for “four” people. The Ranger will transfer custody of the registration card to his superior officer. That officer will designate it as “Exhibit 1.1, Safari Inn Motel Registration Card”.

 

At 4:06 AM, the Ranger is informed that evidentiary search warrants for the motel room and the two vehicles (Dodge truck crashed by Bobby Sharp and Chrysler mini-van in which the victim was found) have been obtained and signed by a judge. With the warrant in place, the Ranger presents the search warrant for the Safari Inn, Room 203, to the hotel manager. S.A.P.D. Crime Scene Technicians process the room for evidence. This process will consist of taking photographs, lifting for latent prints and seizure of items. The Ranger maintains a list of the items seized.

 

S.A.P.D. technicians take possession of the items to be analyzed and processed for latent prints. The Ranger does a rough sketch of the room. The entire room is processed by 6:10 AM, at which time, the Ranger releases custody of the motel room back to the Safari Inn, noting that they found no guns or syringes in the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room 203 photos and registration card – Safari Inn Motel, San Antonio, TX

 

 

Mary

 

By the time we reach Austin, I can see, in no uncertain terms, that Paul is feeling lost; completely untethered to our world. My heart fills with love and protectiveness. I make a silent vow to see him through this, whatever comes. At the same time and just as strong, a rage grows inside me toward the people who did this to him; a very dangerous rage.

 

We arrive at the hotel and claim our suites. I give the manager my credit card as the Ranger explains that both rooms need to show a pseudonym for any inquiries. He tells her the entire property is under surveillance from several agencies and to call his office immediately if anyone reports anything out of the ordinary at all. He warns her to watch out for members of the press and that he’d appreciate the press leaving us alone.

 

Penny offers to get clothes for Paul and me from our apartment and pick up some cold drinks and snacks to stock the fridge, giving Paul and me some alone time. I’m so grateful to her for this kindness. Even though I’m moving and getting things taken care of, all I can really think about is why isn’t he happy to see me? Why does my touch turn him to stone?

 

I follow him into the bedroom. His back is to me for a moment. Suddenly, he turns on me. His eyes are dark and angry. He snarls, “Are you having an affair? Do you want a divorce?”

 

I have to take a step back. My legs hit the edge of the bed and I sit. Thud. For a minute I’m too shocked and too tired to answer.

 

THIS is the first thing he says to me? Something he’s NEVER said in all our years together.

 

“Affair? Divorce?” I finally throw it back at him, “I haven’t slept or done anything but pray for your life and safety for the last two days. How can you ask me that?”

 

“You were part of it,” he accuses, “I saw you with one of them!”

 

I’m speechless. My husband has lost his mind.

 

“If you don’t want me anymore, Mary, you don’t have to have me kidnapped! You just have to say so.”

 

“I wasn’t there. I have been with Tom and Liz since we found out you were missing,” I state slowly and firmly trying to stay calm.

 

“They knew things. About you. About me. About us. I saw you,” he accuses again.

 

“You did not see me, Paul, because I wasn’t there. I had nothing to do with this. You can ask anyone where I’ve been and they’ll tell you the same thing. These people must have done something to you – drugged you or something. You don’t know what you’re saying.” I pause to gauge whether I’m reaching him. “You’re exhausted. You need to rest.”

 

He nods in agreement and lies down on the bed. Within a few minutes, he’s sleeping soundly, evenly. I go into the living room, carefully closing the bedroom door behind me. Thankfully, I’m alone in the suite as I fall to my knees on the floor and weep. My husband left for work two days ago. The police brought back a man who looks like him but is not the same man. My husband is still missing.

 

I hear the kids in the hallway outside the suite and duck into the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. Looking into the mirror, someone else’s face looks back at me. Ugly, fiery blotches explode randomly across otherwise pale skin. Puffy, watery blue eyes express a pain I can’t even name yet.

 

Penny and Angela, unload grocery bags in the kitchen, then turn to look at me as I walk out of the bathroom. A smile comes easy and I laughingly shush them and point to the closed bedroom door to indicate that Paul is sleeping. They go back to what they’re doing and I head toward the couch, thinking I’ll close my eyes for just a moment. It’s 4 PM. By my count, I’ve been awake 58 ½ hours; a world record for me.

 

Just as I get comfortable, my cell phone rings. The number on the screen is unfamiliar. “Mary?” A deep voice says and then, just as I’ve recognized it, “this is Lance. How’s Paul doing?”

 

“Oh! Hi Lance. He’s pretty shook up and disoriented and he’s sleeping right now. I’ll have him call you when he wakes up, okay?” I say protectively.

 

“Sure, whenever he feels like it. Hey, I saw the rescue on TV this morning.”

 

“On TV?” I ask and begin looking for the remote control for the television nearby.

 

“Yeah, San Antonio television news ran it a couple of times,” Lance pauses a moment before continuing, “and I have to tell you, those two guys they arrested? I’m pretty sure they’re the same ones. Mary, they’re the same ones that attacked me at my house.”

 

 

WILCO

 

Detective James Maugham arrives at the San Antonio Police Department and is quickly directed to where he can find Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann. The officers visit briefly, sharing updates on the case, then interview each of the three suspects before appearing before a local judge to officially transfer custody from the San Antonio Police to Williamson County. They want to get a feel for the suspects’ condition and mental states. It would be ideal if they confessed and gave the officers all the details of the kidnapping, but that wasn’t likely to happen and, of course, it doesn’t.

 

Samantha Casablanca appears high and barely coherent. She admits to using Paul Roland’s credit cards with the two men in the video surveillance video but denies knowing their last names (or anyone else’s); anything about the kidnapping, the stolen truck that Bobby Sharp was driving or who the man is who was driving the van when she was arrested. She does admit to knowing Bobby Sharp.

 

Bobby Sharp denies knowledge of the stolen vehicle, the kidnapping or the credit cards. He tells the officers that he is a driver for Ms. Casablanca, a prostitute, and was just dropping her off and leaving, not following the van. Then he cries.

 

Bartolo Dominguez says nothing. He only gives his name, his address and phone number.

 

An armed escort goes along with the officers and suspects from San Antonio, Texas to Georgetown, Texas. As they make their way north, James and Matt have several phone calls with Detectives Cortez and Lopez in Laredo. Detective Lopez relays the information they’ve obtained from their interview including that the ransom money was to have been delivered to Miguel Trevino, a high-ranking member of the Los Zetas drug cartel, a para-military enforcement arm for the Gulf cartel in Mexico trained by US military special forces. James asks the Laredo Police investigators to keep AB there until they can connect with the Assistant D. A., Jana McCown, and get a warrant generated as well as arrangements to bring the suspect to Georgetown. The Laredo detectives agree to hold him.

 

“By the way,” Detective Cortez adds, “the suspect is absolutely terrified that Los Zetas will ambush and kill him if he is moved out of the jail here. From what we know of this group, it’s quite possible and extreme caution should be used in moving him out of Laredo.”

 

The plan is made to send two vehicles and a D.P.S. plane to Laredo to transport Abraham Weber to Georgetown. Snipers will go, too, and be kept on standby at the pickup and drop off locations. Once there, decisions can be made as to which vehicle will actually hold the prisoner and which vehicles will be decoys.

 

 

Mary

 

Lance’s announcement that the men arrested for Paul’s abduction could also be his attackers gives me the tenth or eleventh wind I need to keep moving forward. I give him the phone numbers for the Sheriff’s office and urge him to call them right away. He tells me about what he’s been through since his attack: nightmares, panic attacks and not wanting to be home anymore. He’s even decided to put his house up for sale. He shared the name of a therapist he’s been seeing.

 

“Paul’s going to need someone to talk to, Mary,” Lance says sadly, “and you might need someone, too.”

 

I promise to stay in touch. A few minutes after we hang up, I begin scouring news channels for anything about the kidnapping. KVUE, a local television station, provides my first glimpse of the media’s version of what happened to Paul.

 

Paul in the ambulance after being rescued

 

Rudy Koski tells viewers, “A 74-year old Williamson County kidnapping victim is in hiding after a dramatic pre-dawn rescue in San Antonio.”

 

Video follows with the arrest of three people, two men and a woman, handcuffed and being led away by San Antonio police. Mug shots of Samantha Casablanca, Bartolo Dominguez and Bobby Earl Sharp, III flash across the screen as Rudy identifies each one. This is my first look at the people who have destroyed our lives.

 

Rudy continues, “At first, it was thought this was a missing person’s case. That opinion started to change when Roland’s car was found near Buda. The case was designated a kidnapping when Williamson County Deputies got a phone call. The kidnapping in the apartment parking lot was witnessed by a 9-year old girl.”

 

WHAT 9-year old girl?’ That thought is followed by another question: WHEN did they know this and WHY weren’t we told? Then a video of Paul being taken away by ambulance rolls across the screen and I see how frail he looks, breaking my heart again.

 

Paul is awake and a little less disoriented now, but still clearly agitated and unsure of things. He watches the news story with the rest of us and I can see the fear in his face.

 

“Investigators say those involved in this kidnapping are not related. Roland works at an electic company and it is not known why he was targeted,” Rudy continues, smiling into the camera.

 

“We are looking into that as well as possible other suspects,” says Foster, a spokesperson for Williamson County Sheriff Department. “Roland and his family will remain in protective custody while investigators continue to wrap up the case. All three accused kidnappers are in the Williamson County Jail, each under $500,000 bond.”

 

Strange to listen to complete strangers talk about Paul or talk about us. Stranger still, to watch a video of the ambulance taking him away. He looked so frail, so confused. He looks like he’s aged ten years in forty-eight hours. The rage that’s been building up, threatens to boil over toward the people who have done this – are still doing this – to him and our family. One thing every news article had right was how very lucky we are that this ended without anyone being killed. My cell phone rings.

 

“Mrs. Roland?”

 

“Yes?” I don’t know this number or the caller’s voice.

 

“This is Matt Lindemann with the Texas Rangers.”

 

“Yes?” Not sure how I should respond. Is this good news? Bad news? Checking on Paul?

 

“How is Mr. Roland doing?” Matt asks politely.

 

“He’s rested a little. Do you want to speak with him?” I ask and almost hand off the phone to Paul before he stops me.

 

“Not right now, ma’am. I’d like to come by and talk to y’all if that would be okay?”

 

“Um,” Exhaustion taking over, I fight a giggle and wonder if anyone ever says ‘no’, but say instead, “That’ll be fine. Do you know where we are?” I confirm the room number and hang up.

 

“A Texas Ranger is coming by to talk to Paul in about an hour.” I announce to everyone, then to Paul, “oh, and Lance called while you were asleep.”

 

“That’s nice,” Paul murmurs.

 

“Yeah,” I pause for emphasis, “he said the guys they arrested with you are the same ones that attacked him.”

 

 

Paul

 

When I wake up from my nap, all the kids are in the hotel room huddled around Mary and Penny watching the capture on various channels of TV news. We all realize that there are a lot of people still loose. Mary told me that Lance called and that his attackers are the same men who were arrested for my kidnapping! That just reinforces my feeling that I knew one or two of them even though I can’t figure out who they are. I don’t know any of these people that have been arrested.

 

We are discussing how long we might be here, in the hotel, when Mary’s phone rings. Ranger Lindemann and another detective want to come up and have me give a statement as to what happened. When they arrive, everyone stays real close and listen as I tell the story, as I remember it happening, with, what I hope, is lots of useful and detailed information. (When I look back later, with a clear head, I had to accept that some of my wild dreams were just that, dreams. But, why, after all this time, do I still remember them so clearly?)

 

Ranger Lindemann reminds us that the Austin Police Department has assigned additional unmarked police cars in the area to back up his unmarked security. He advises us to think about using other cars for the time being as Mary’s Hummer is pretty noticeable in any setting. She promises to get it done the next day when we’re out getting other things done.

 

The kids and grandkids come to see me later and the youngest one runs into my arms when he sees me. It’s the best hug I’ve ever gotten! I thank God over and over for bringing me home. I hug them and tell them I love them before they leave and tell them to please be careful. I go back into the bedroom and fall asleep almost as soon as I get in bed. I feel good and think I’ll sleep really well with family close and police guarding the hotel.

 

A great hug!

 

 

WILCO

 

Several specialized teams from Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, working with law enforcement teams in San Antonio and Hays County and various Federal agents, canvas various crime scenes collecting evidence and tagging property. Every vehicle, every item in possession of the suspects when they were arrested and the hotel room where Paul Roland was held for over forty hours has to be thoroughly inspected, photographed, collected, catalogued and assigned evidence numbers. Many items will be processed in the field. The results will be sent to crime labs or bagged and sent with other items to the Evidence Unit for safekeeping in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Georgetown.

 

In Hays County, forensic specialists go over Paul Roland’s truck, taking pictures, cataloging property and dusting the truck for prints. The property evidence is bagged and labeled, then shipped to Georgetown for safekeeping. Prints are carefully lifted, assigned an evidence number, bagged and sent to the crime lab which is also in the Sheriff’s Department building. Trace evidence follows the same procedure. Once everything is examined, labeled and bagged for transport, the last task is to secure the truck to the county’s tow vehicle and take it back to Georgetown.

 

When everything is in Georgetown, the evidence list is turned over along with the items themselves to the evidence lock-up. They will only hold Paul’s truck for a few days to make sure they don’t need to lift a print again or obtain an additional swab of trace evidence for the lab.

 

 

Swab “positive” for blood from Paul’s truck

 

 

 

[]DAY FOUR

 

February 29, 2008

 

Paul

 

I wake up with Mary’s arms around me. That is such a great feeling to wake up to! I can’t believe I’m alive! I feel clearer and, with each passing hour, stronger. It is indescribable to wake up away from those people and their constant threats.

 

The morning is a whirl-wind of activity to get me back to some kind of “normal”. The hotel has free breakfast with delicious coffee. Penny and Mary juggle cereal, fruit, oatmeal and coffee up stairs and down the long winding hallways to our room. Everything tastes delicious. As soon as we finish, Mary’s on the phone with my doctors to set up emergency appointments. These include a family doctor, an eye doctor and a neurologist and, after a brief discussion, Mary is able to get all three for today! Dr. Joe, my eye doctor, is first because I have no spare glasses. We finish there and take my prescription to Lens Crafters at the Arboretum so I can get them in two hours or less. On our way to the family doctor, we stop by the apartment. I grab my personal laptop so I can check in on work. I grab my pistol out of the closet slipping it into my briefcase. If someone else is out there, I want to be ready this time. I find my prescription sun glasses, so at least, I can see things better. Going back to this apartment, even for a few minutes, terrifies me. This is the place I was grabbed at gunpoint and taken away by gangsters and drug addicts. This is the place where a part of me was destroyed forever.

 

We stop at the car dealership where Eric works and get things out of the Hummer that Mary might need. This is where Mary and the kids rented two cars and now we can add Sam to the list of approved drivers. She rented two cars because she knew we’d have so many things to do over the next few days and it will go smoother if we can divide up some of the work. Two cars mean we have two teams getting things done.

 

We go to Dr. Pham’s office, our family doctor, and she checks me over including taking blood, redressing my cuts and bruises then tells me to check back in a few days. By now, it’s nearly lunchtime so we head back to the Arboretum and meet the kids at T. G. I. Friday’s.

 

They seat us by ourselves in an open area were we can talk. The guys tell me I look really cool in my “Schwarzenegger glasses”. This is the best meal I’ve ever had at Friday’s! After lunch, David, Peter and Angela go off to pick up some things they need and then back to the hotel to get some rest. Mary, Penny, Sam and I go to Lens Crafters to pick up my glasses before heading off to see my neurologist. The last thing on our list is to stop at AT&T and get me a new personal cell phone.

 

Now that we’re done with all that, I’m ready to call it a day. We still need to get out of the apartment we were planning on leasing before this all happened. I don’t feel safe there either. Our apartment is going to be too close to the road, they don’t have any real security in place and it doesn’t fit, at all, with what the Rangers told us we should move into. Mary and Penny volunteer to go and take one of the guys with them while I rest. All I want to do is get away from crowds and strange cars. Earlier today, a car that wasn’t even close to us backfired and I jumped so bad, it scared the others.

 

 

Surprise at Eric’s office

 

 

WILCO

 

Two Texas Rangers execute evidentiary search warrants for the suspects’ grey pickup and green mini-van that have been kept secure by the S.A.P.D. Ground Transportation Division in downtown San Antonio, Texas. The Rangers search and process both vehicles for evidence and take possession of seized items for analysis, as well as, four fingerprint tape lifts from the Dodge pickup and six fingerprint tape lifts from the mini-van.

 

Evidence collected: Dodge Pick-Up Green Mini-van, vise grips, a small digital scale, an attaché case, a white envelope, a makeup kit, sunglasses, a cell phone, several empty soda cans, a hooded jacket, a key ring with keys, a Coach purse with a receipt from H-E-B for a Vanilla Gift Card (purchased with Paul Roland’s Wachovia card), Paul Roland’s credit cards, a brown Fossil wallet with contents, black sunglasses, green Ogio backpack, Woodland camo rain jacket*, flex cuff*, “Texas” knit cap*, Fruit of the Loom™ boxer shorts and t-shirt room key with green tag “203,” Razr cell phone, Motorola cell phone – black, LG cell phone – red, Motorola cell phone – black, keys, disposable camera, set of Ford keys, nylon holster, flex-fit cap*, red bandana*.

*Taken off the victim at the scene and left in the mini-van.

 

 

 

 

 

Evidence photos

 

 

Mary

 

Paul woke up looking as though he finally got some rest and, although I slept, it was fitful and full of nightmares so I’m still feeling pretty exhausted. It was a late night last night, again, for everyone. Sam flew in from LA and arrived at the hotel around 1 AM this morning. I was so anxious to see him and hold him close for a moment, but, when I opened the door, he ran past me to the bedroom where Paul was sleeping. He opened the door quietly and went in, stood beside the bed and just watched Paul sleep for a few minutes. I think he wanted to see for himself that Paul was alive and safe. Once he was satisfied, Sam came out of the room, shut the door and gave me the bear hug I needed.

 

We watch the local news as we eat breakfast. Mostly, it’s a rehash of yesterday’s news but there is some additional information about the three people arrested. All of them have criminal records. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’re in hiding, that there are still people out there who want to kill us because they didn’t get the ransom money they wanted to steal from us. How ridiculous is that?

 

At lunch, Paul seems relaxed and eats well. No one, looking at us from outside, would ever guess what we’ve been through in the last seventy-two hours. He still seems a little shaky to me but has checked out okay with everyone who’s seen him so far. Still, this morning Dr. Pham, our family doctor (the best family doctor ever), ordered some blood tests to see if there were any drugs or problems that she could find. She also ordered HIV and Hepatitis blood tests. She told me that he’d had a slight concussion per the hospital report and that he has a slight case of pneumonia and is still a little dehydrated. She treated the abrasions on his forehead and his left hand, prescribed an antibiotic for the pneumonia and advised both of us to get trauma counseling. I add that to our list.

 

We go by the old apartment to get some more clothes and personal items and can’t get in and out of there fast enough. This is where it all happened. Are people watching us right now?

 

 

[]INTERVIEW – TOM ROLAND

 

As the retrieval team travels to Laredo, Detective James Maugham, Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann and Sergeant Pete Hughey, sitting in Pete’s office, prepare to conduct a phone interview with Tom Roland. Matt turns on the tape recorder and starts the documentation with, “Nine-thirty AM, February twenty-nine, two thousand eight.”

 

Pete adds, “This is a call to Tom Roland.”

 

“Hey, Mr. Roland, this is Matt Lindemann calling you back. Would it be all right to put you on speaker? I got Detective Maugham, the lead detective from the sheriff’s office here and also Pete Hughey. (pause) Can you hear me now?”

 

Tom answers in his strong, bass voice, “Yessir, fine.”

 

The investigators exchange nods to confirm they are ready. Matt continues, “All right, myself, Pete Hughey who’s a sergeant over the detectives and, and Detective Maugham are here in the room and just wanted to give you a call.”

 

“Hello, Pete!” Tom sounds very happy to know Pete’s there.

 

Pete replies, “Morning, sir! What’s goin’ on with you today?”

 

“Well, I just heard that you got the man that was making the calls.”

 

Matt agrees, “We believe so. Yes, sir.”

 

“Well, who was it? I keep wondering if that’s somebody I knew?” Tom demands.

 

Pete asks Matt, “You know his name?”

 

Matt checks his notes, “Uh, Weber. Abraham Weber.”

 

“Okay. Man,” Tom says considering it.

 

Matt goes on, “He was, uh, checked in, into a motel shortly after those calls stopped coming to you. When was that? Thursday morning at four-forty or somewhere around there? He checked into a motel in Laredo using a gift card that was bought with Paul’s credit card.”

 

“Good Lord!”

 

“Yeah,” Matt says softly looking at Pete.

 

Pete jumps in, “Do you know that individual, sir?”

 

Tom pauses a moment, “That name is not familiar. What does he do, besides crime, do you know? Does he have an occupation?”

 

“We haven’t had a chance for that. We’re anxious to get him back up here to Georgetown so we can all visit with him, but, uh, we don’t know a lot about his background now. So far, he’s been the one that’s given us the most information about the whole ordeal,” Matt replies.

 

“What age man is he?” Tom asks, now the questioner.

 

“He looked pretty young, maybe in his 20’s by looking at the photo of him,” Matt again.

 

“Really. Really,” Tom repeats, sounding a little skeptical.

 

Matt looks around to Pete and James, “Yes, sir. (pause) We had a nice talk with Paul yesterday evening. We don’t know if you’ve talked to him or Mary after that. We visited with him for a couple of hours. He’s still confused about a lot of things but it seemed like it’s all coming together.”

 

“Good,” Tom says and waits.

 

Matt says, “Yeah.”

 

Tom wants to talk about Abraham Weber. “Well, the man I was talking to on the phone Wednesday, the one that made the initial call, sounded like a more mature voice than a man in his twenties.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Matt lets Tom redirect the conversation a moment.

 

Tom continues, “It was a little bit of a deep voice, but it sounded like a man in his forties or fifties. And, for some reason, I want to think of him as a man that’s, uh, uh, not a slight man. I don’t know how I – how I made that connection to a voice, but it was, I don’t know, it was a little bit on the deep side.”

 

“Yeah, we just don’t have any idea right now of how many people were actually involved. We’re still trying to work to identify all of the players and it may be some time before we do that,” Matt responds, watching James take notes.

 

Tom goes on, “Yeah. Well, (clears his throat) so that guy – I wonder where that guy was from?”

 

“That Weber fella?”

 

“Yup,” Tom confirms.

 

“I don’t know. We’ll get all that as things move along. One thing-” Matt tries to change the subject again.

 

“Weber?” Tom asks as if Matt wasn’t speaking.

 

Matt tries again, “One thing that Paul told me-”

 

“Andrew Weber?” Tom interrupts again.

 

“Abraham,” Matt answers patiently.

 

“Abraham. Okay,” Tom says finally satisfied.

 

“One thing that Paul told us and concerned us a lot and he was talking about a lot of things that he said – some of ‘em didn’t make sense, some of ‘em did – but he swears that, uh, they told him during the time that he was being held captive that, uh, that you paid them $150,000.”

 

“That what now?” Tom asks.

 

“Paul claims that the guys that were holding him told him that you had already paid them one hundred fifty thousand dollars towards his release,” Matt repeats and waits.

 

“Hmmm.”

 

Pete motions for Matt to keep going. Matt continues, “And Paul said that he thought that you had confirmed this when he saw you at the hospital.”

 

“No.”

 

“And I told him that if you did it was without our knowledge or our direction, that, that we didn’t know anything about that.”

 

“No and I didn’t confirm that at the hospital,” Tom denies, defensive now.

 

Matt softens the edge in his voice, “Okay. So that didn’t happen.”

 

“No, sir.”

 

“Okay,” Matt seems to accept the answer, yet Tom feels compelled to continue.

 

“And, Paul thanked me at the hospital when I first saw him. He said thank you. I don’t know what that, I don’t know what he was thinking I had done.”

 

Matt says, “Well, maybe that was it.”

 

Tom keeps talking, “Yup. Maybe so. Maybe so. I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t – it didn’t ring quite right him thanking me. I thought maybe he was thanking me for being there.”

 

Pete writes a quick note and Matt reads it, and then says, “Right. Some of these guys have mentioned something about a debt. Someone said a debt of several hundred thousand dollars that was owed by you or by your son?”

 

“Hunh,” Tom grunts, clearly this is not what he thought they’d be talking about.

 

Matt begins, “And, uh,”

 

Tom interrupts, “Really?”

 

Matt ignores the interruption and pushes on, “And, if there’s anything like that, regardless, these guys are still just as guilty and they need to be arrested. But, if there’s something out there that we don’t know about, it would sure help us with our investigation.”

 

“Okay. Well, did you say some of them or several of them?” Tom sounds upset.

 

“Well a couple of different ones mentioned it. One of them said a debt. One of them said a drug debt,” Matt explains.

 

“Well, I certainly don’t know anything about it.”

 

“Okay. What about any difficulties you may have had with people over business?” Matt probes again.

 

“They happen, but, uh, you know, if you do anything, you’re gonna have disagreements. But, I can’t think of anything, anything of any significance,” Tom sounds sincere, “not anything. You know, not anything that has something like this about it.

 

“Yeah, well, obviously someone in this group thinks that, uh, that you had the means to come up with five hundred thousand dollars.”

 

Matt lets that settle for a moment before saying, “I told Paul that we’d need to interview him again up here at the Sheriff’s office because I realize he’s gone through a lot of trauma and his family was all there.”

 

Matt looks at the others in the office to make sure they’re listening as much as he is now, “I feel like there may have been some things, and I don’t know this, but there may have been some things he didn’t want to tell us just because his, you know, his wife and kids were sitting there.”

 

Tom, relieved, responds, “Sure.”

 

Matt continues, “And, I don’t know if that’ll take place before next week or when, but we definitely, we’re gonna need to do a more extensive interview with him. I told him also that the Sheriff’s office has victim’s assistance and they provide counseling. He’s gone through a helluva deal here and I know he knows that but it may sink in a little more as time goes by.”

 

Tom sighs, “Yeah.”

 

“I told him that if he feels like he needs to talk to somebody about it that nobody’d think anything less of him,” Matt continues, adding for emphasis, “You know, people go through bank robberies and a week from now they get all shaken and rattled and they want to talk to a professional counselor.”

 

“Right,” Tom replies softly.

 

“That’s available to him and, uh, he needs to have reassurance that if he needs that, that it’s okay to, you know, to take advantage of it,” Matt advises, pausing for a moment.

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

Matt goes on for emphasis. “‘Cause we want to make sure this thing isn’t any worse on him than it already has been.”

 

“Okay. I will reinforce that with him. I will probably talk to him later today,” Tom promises half-heartedly.

 

“He talked to us about, uh, the other gentleman who owns the other electric company similar to yours.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“About his attempted abduction?” Matt is probing again.

 

“Yessir.”

 

“And, uh, you know these peoples’ pictures were on the news last night and, uh, the fellow that owns that company, I don’t have his name right in front of me but the CS Electric. He looked at them and he said that he thinks the two males were the same ones that tried to abduct him from his house.”

 

Tom sounds surprised, “Really?”

 

 

Matt goes on, “That’s what Paul and Mary told us.”

 

“Mm-hmm. (pause) Well, I’ve always felt like there was a connection there.”

 

“One other thing he told us is that, that all these electricians that are of Hispanic descent, seventy-five percent of ‘em come from the same area in Mexico,” Matt adds.

 

“Yessir.”

 

“So, we’ve got a a helluva large group of people that could potentially be involved if needed if it does turn out that its employees. He, uh, he thinks he recognized some of the names, uh, some of the voices that came from some of the captors as being some of the people who worked for you all?”

 

Tom corrects him, “They’re not employees. They’re subcontractors.”

 

“Okay, well, we’ve asked you a lot. Do you have a question for us?” Matt asks.

 

“No, sir. I’d just like to – I’d just like to know what’s going on and who you’re turning up under what rock. I would really like to know the connection between us and those guys.”

 

“Right. We would, too and we’re working – working, working, working – trying to figure that out and exactly how many people and who they are that are involved.”

 

Matt promises to keep Tom up-to-date and encourages him to call either himself or Detective Maugham if he has any questions or anything. It seems as though the interview is over when Pete takes over the call.

 

“Mr. Roland? This is Sergeant Hughey.”

 

“Yessir!”

 

“If you don’t mind, I’d like you to try and pry into your family just a little bit and see if anybody has thought of anybody having any problems.”

 

“Okay,” Tom says, a hint of irritation in his voice.

 

“You know what I’m sayin’? That maybe they didn’t want to share it with anybody or tell anybody?” Pete continues.

 

“Right.”

 

Pete says quickly, “Yeah, ‘cause we really need to know, if, if, yeah, if they’ve done something’ that they’re not real proud of. That’s fine. But, we need to know about it if they’ve got a problem. You know, money related or, uh, drug abuse problems or anything like that. That you think or they think that anybody of this bunch of folks is focused with. It would sure be vital for us to know that. And, I’m not saying that any of your family’s done any of that, please don’t think that, but please ask that question. And, if they have, we need to know that immediately.”

 

“Okay,” Tom replies although it doesn’t sound okay at all.

 

“Because, obviously, if they’ve got a problem or something going on with one of them, then we need to know who they got in a bind with,” Pete finishes.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“That would be very vital and very important to us,” making sure that Tom knows that he will hold him responsible if he hides anything to protect family.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Okay?” Pete makes doubly sure.

 

“I’ll ask the question,” Tom promises finally.

 

“I appreciate it!” Pete closes confidently.

 

 

[] INTERROGATIONBOBBY EARL SHARP, III

 

Bobby Earl Sharp, III nervously waits in an interview room. He looks younger than his twenty-two years. He’s a big guy; six-foot four, two hundred and fifty pounds. Of the three suspects arrested in the Roland kidnapping, he is the only non-Hispanic. He looks perpetually surprised, a façade that masks a cold-hearted gang-banger.

 

Detective James Maugham and Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann read the Miranda warning to Bobby then settle in to get Bobby’s participation in the kidnapping.

 

“All right. We’ll start with your, your full name,” James begins watching Bobby’s expression as Matt takes a seat.

 

Matt opens his own notebook and prepares to write notes.

 

“My name’s Bobby Earl Sharp the third.”

 

“Bobby Earl Sharp, the third?” James asks.

 

Bobby nods, “Yes sir.”

 

They go through the address dance until Bobby tells them he’s been staying with a couple named Kim and Jeff in a gated community in San Antonio, Texas.

 

“And that – and so for the last two months, you’ve been staying with Kim and Jeff?” James asks.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Bobby says, looking around the room.

 

“With your friend, Samantha?”

 

Bobby looks at James, “Yeah.”

 

“How’d you meet Samantha?” James continues. Matt stops writing and watches Bobby.

 

“I’ve known her – for- since I got out of T.D.C. (Texas Department of Corrections)”

 

As if James didn’t already know, “Since you got out of T.D.C.? When did you get out?”

 

“Uh, April 26, 2006,” Bobby answers fidgeting in the chair.

 

“What were you there for?”

 

“Uh, I had a arson and two burglary charges,” Bobby says watching both lawmen suspiciously.

 

“Okay. And so, you and Samantha’s been kind of hooked up for how long? Two months?” James redirects.

 

“Couple of months.” Bobby shifts in the chair, tenses up.

 

“Couple,” James goes on, “and, what does she do?”

 

Bobby pauses and looks from James to Matt and back, “Uh, she’s an escort, but it’s a legal escort company.”

 

James and Matt exchange amused looks, “Okay, well, we’re not here for legal or illegal escort issues.”

 

“Well, no, I’m just saying…uh,” Bobby continues to try to explain.

 

“We’re just trying to find out what’s going on.”

 

“Okay, but most everybody gets their – gets their own idea when I say that. You know what I mean?” Bobby finishes.

 

Matt asks, “What – what do you – when you say legal, tell us what it is?”

 

“Uh, they go – she goes in there and then talks and then usually, they kick her out because they’re looking for something else,” Bobby says and almost seems embarrassed.

 

James and Matt patiently work with Bobby to get a picture of his activities as an escort driver. Basically, he would “borrow” whatever vehicle was available and drive Samantha from one “booking” to another whenever she needed him. On the night he was arrested, he’d rented the Dodge truck for the whole night from their friend, Vince, for $50 cash, money Bobby insisted was from selling used computer and stereo equipment.

 

James continues to probe for a timeline, “Okay, so about two hours before you crashed the truck, you were at Kim and Jeff’s house?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Matt asks, “Do you have a cell phone, Bobby, that you’ve had for a long time or-”

 

Bobby interrupts, “I had, I had a cell phone. I don’t know where it’s at. Not now. It was in the truck.”

 

They get the number and confirm the number with Bobby and how long he’s had it. He tells them it’s a Pocket Phone, pre-paid each month.

 

“Okay. Did you have it with you that night?”

 

“Yeah, but I hadn’t, I hadn’t been, uh, I hadn’t been using it because I, I’ve been meaning to pay my bill, so it had been cut off for a couple days or whatever,” Bobby rambles on.

 

“So it wasn’t even operational?” James confirms.

 

“It was already off for a couple of days already. I’d been meaning to go pay, but hadn’t had the time or the vehicle; do you know what I mean? I hadn’t had a vehicle. I’ve been staying over at Kim and Jeff’s, just stuck there because I didn’t have a ride, you know. I’m kind of lazy, I never even feel like walking to the Pocket Store,” Bobby mumbles and shrugs.

 

For several minutes, James establishes that Bobby basically only drives for Samantha and sometimes Kim. He doesn’t trust the other girls not to steal from him. James empathizes with his distrust of the “other girls” and leads Bobby back to the night in question. For several minutes, he talks about waiting around for Samantha to shower and get ready to leave for her “calls” until finally Bobby is at the point in his story that he and Samantha are one the road.

 

“Okay, where was the call?” James asks patiently.

 

“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. She, she was getting ready to go on calls. You know what I mean. And then, then from that point there, then she kept booking calls, like, like people would call and then she would tell them that she was gonna be there, but, like, she, she had the lines for, for Kim, where she knew that all the, all the lines for the, for the, um, service got transferred to her cell phone,” Bobby talks as though they know the system.

 

“To whose?” James asks confused.

 

“Samantha’s cell phone.”

 

“Okay. What did she say when she got done? ‘We gotta go” or, I mean, where’d you go from there?” James asks for clarification.

 

“No, that’s what we always do. She gets ready and then I go drive her.”

 

“Okay, so when we all left there, where we all headed to?” James asks a little more impatient now.

 

“The Safari. She booked, she booked like, she booked several calls. I think she booked like five or six calls, and that was the first stop. And then it freaked me out because she got in. She got in the van and then we started to drive, but I asked them if they were going to the ATM to pick up the fee, that’s why I followed them. But then I saw the red – the- the cars behind me and I was on the run from parole already, so that’s why I took off. And then it turns out I’m in a stolen car, which…”

 

James tries to move Bobby forward, “Okay. So…she booked at this – at this one, at the Safari Hotel. And, you said she had three, four booked there?”

 

“No, not there, no,” Bobby replies, a little impatient himself, “All, all around. I think one was at the Westin and then, um-”

 

“But her first book was the Safari?” James interrupts.

 

“Yeah.”

 

James pushes back in his chair and looks coldly at Bobby, “Okay, because here, here’s what I’m understanding, okay?”

 

Bobby sits back to put some distance between them. “Yeah.”

 

“This is what you told me. You said that while she was getting – taking a shower and everything over at Kim and Jeff’s house, she booked several calls.”

 

Bobby shakes his head and leans forward, “No, when, when we’re in the car and she booked the calls. Like she just got ready at Kim and Jeff’s and then she, she transferred the lines. And then once she transferred the lines to her phone, then we, we got in the car and we started driving towards Monica’s house. And then on the way to Monica’s house, she had booked several calls and then one of the calls that she booked we were already next to, so we were going to stop by there, pick up the money and she was gonna do the call there and then we were going to go to Monica’s -”

 

James cuts him off again, “Okay, so what does she tell you? Does she go, ‘I got a call with this – at the Safari Hotel’ and you said ‘all right’. So, you started going that way?”

 

“She just said the hotel’s over there.”

 

Matt looks up, surprised, “And she knew the location?”

 

Bobby covers quickly, “Well they – she asked for directions.”

 

James asks quickly, “Did you know – do you know the location?”

 

Bobby shakes his head and says sheepishly, “No, I didn’t even know the name of the hotel. They usually don’t tell me. They don’t usually tell me jack. So, she gave me, she gave me directions down, down that road. And then I, we turned in the hotel. I didn’t really like it because it looked like a little ghetto hotel. And then, like, from there-”

 

James asks, “Do you know about what time of day this was?”

 

Bobby kind of rocks in his seat thinking it over, “It was night, like.”

 

“Like real late,” James pushes.

 

Bobby considers, “It was like-”

 

James continues, “early evening?”

 

Bobby finally answers, “It was like, twelve or one in the morning.”

 

“So, around twelve or one in the morning is when she went over there?” James confirms what Bobby’s saying.

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

James looks at Matt and sees that Matt is watching Bobby closely. “Okay, and then did she go into one of the rooms?”

 

Bobby seems to be losing interest and mumble, “Mm-hmm.”

 

James makes sure to keep eye contact with Bobby, “Which one?”

 

Bobby looks around and sees both men watching him; waiting for him to answer. “Uh, I think it was two-oh-three.”

 

Matt writes casually in his notebook as James shifts in his chair and leans in a little closer to Bobby before asking, “How long was she in there?”

 

Bobby pushes away from the table a little, “Chh, uh, not even five minutes, not even five, ten minutes before she came out and then they got into that van and-”

 

James quickly asks, “Who got into that van?”

 

Bobby looks around the room, “She and the guy. But, I was, I assumed that she had left her purse and everything in the truck, you know what I mean, because she was going on her call. She doesn’t take that stuff in there.”

“Okay.”

 

Bobby explains further, “Because in case they rob her, you know what I mean? And the, I assumed that they were going to collect the money from the ATM, because that-that happens- that happens sometimes. But she didn’t let me know anything, so I was just, I was in the truck, and they’re driving off. And so I’m like, what the hell? So I follow them, you know what I mean?”

 

James interrupts him, “So…okay, let’s back up a little bit, let me ask you this question. When you take her on these calls – how do you, how does she normally contact you saying, hey, I’m ready to go?”

 

“She just comes up and we go.”

 

Matt asks, “Are you always just sitting out in the vehicle?”

 

“I just, I just sit out in the car and I watch the door because if, if the guy comes out and leaves, then something’s wrong, you know what I mean?”

 

“You don’t got a, a system set up?” Matt asks surprised.

 

Bobby nods, “Yeah, well, okay. What, what usually happens is, is this: she goes into the room. She goes into the room, about three to five minutes later, I go up to the door and knock and then I collect the fee. I get the money, I go to the car and I wait then, after, for an hour. So after that time passes, then they come out and we go.”

 

James leads Bobby back to the night of the crash, “How many people got into the van?”

 

Bobby looks at his feet, fidgets, “Just, just him and her. That’s it.”

 

Matt jumps in, “Was somebody already in the van?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

Matt challenges Bobby, “Well, you were sitting there watching the whole thing.”

 

“Yeah, but it’s – all I saw was him and her get into the van. Because the van was right, it was parked on the side where, like, the sliding thing was by the room. So I couldn’t really see that much. I just saw the, I could just see whoever was getting into the front two doors. You know what I mean? They came and they, it looked like they put some bags in, in the door, and then he got in the car.”

 

“And that didn’t surprise you any when he put the bags in there?” James asks skeptically.

 

“I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going on. I don’t know. It’s his – that’s his deal.”

 

“Okay, so during this timeframe, you were sitting watching, right?” James backs up a little.

 

“Well, I was just sitting in the truck. I don’t want to scare him off, so, I’m parked the other way. A lot of people get freaked out when they see a guy watching them, you know what I mean? So I always kind of look the other way.”

 

“So the van was backed up?” James asks after establishing on paper where Bobby and the truck were and where the van was.

 

“Mm-hmm. Yeah, but he didn’t look like he put, he didn’t put nothing, nothing big in the car. He didn’t put anything big. He just, he just put something like a, like a bag of something. Then, um, she got into the, the front and then he got into the car. This, this was, I don’t really understand what was going on, but I, I just kept looking down the other way because I didn’t want him to see me, because if he saw me, I didn’t want him to cancel the call and I didn’t want her to blame me.”

 

“Well, I mean, the way it’s set up, the way it sounds to me, they’ve gotta know somebody’s out there because you’re, they’re-” James says in disbelief.

 

“Someone’s collecting the money,” Matt finishes.

 

“Yeah, but it’s-” Bobby’s voice shakes a little.

 

“You knock on the door and collect the money,” James repeats from his notes.

 

“Like, but as long as I get the money first, it doesn’t matter,” Bobby says with a whine.

 

“So, it’s all about the money?” James asks.

 

“Yeah, really.”

 

“You don’t care if they cancel it or not?” Matt asks as if he’s interested.

 

“Well, if they, well, if they cancel it, I mean, we’ve already gotten the money, you know what I mean? As long as your time’s already started, it doesn’t matter. There’s no refunds, as long as your time’s started.”

 

“So, you hadn’t got any money yet, so you just, you-”

 

Bobby interrupt James, “That’s why I followed them, because she, her cell phone, I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t want her to get hurt, you know what I mean? Because that’s happened a bunch of times before where we follow the people to the ATM’s and they’re, they’re cool with you being there and everything.”

 

“So, for example, what’s her fee?” James asks, like Matt, encouraging Bobby to be the expert.

 

“Two hundred.”

 

“And that covers what?” James asks.

 

“An hour.”

 

“Just an hour. Right. And, so you were thinking they were heading out to an ATM?” James pushes.

 

“Mm- hmm.”

 

“So when the van left out, you were right behind them? Uh, of course, you had your lights on the van? Looking to the van, how many people could you see in there?”

 

“Just two,” Bobby says looking away.

 

“And then you were following ‘em, police come up behind ‘em?” James says.

 

“Well, the police came up behind, behind me. I saw them pull out, that’s when I, I, I took off,” Bobby explains.

 

“And then the chase was on?” James continues.

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

“Mainly because you got a parole warrant?” James asks and Bobby nods, “And so then you crashed and it was all over then, huh?”

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

“All right, here’s the deal,” James smiles disarmingly, “I think you’re involved a whole lot more than what you’re willing to talk about.”

 

“I’m not.” Bobby protests.

 

“No, no, no, let me talk first, okay?” James waves him to be quiet.

 

“Yes sir.”

 

James continues, “And, I’m gonna give you an opportunity soon. There’s a whole lot going on here that we need answers for. And we’re gonna get these answers, okay? Trust me, we will get the answers. What I’m gonna afford you right now is an opportunity to give me your involvement about this whole mess. And when I give you that opportunity, you need to lay it all out on the line, because I got a lot of people that we’re talking to.

 

“A lot of people have been picked up,” Matt adds.

 

“A lot of people have been picked up and arrested and not only that night, but they’re still continuing to be arrested. So, if you’re not one hundred percent straight with me on your involvement, they’re gonna roll over on you, too. Right now, we’re in a dog-eat-dog world,” James says seriously.

 

James and Matt talk in rapid succession causing Bobby to look back and forth from one to the other as if he’s watching a tennis match.

 

“You know, we’re already-” Matt lobs back to James.

 

“It’s whoever talks first,” James interjects.

 

Matt continues, “They, they tell something that’s gonna help them. They don’t give a damn about you.”

 

Bobby, looking panicked, starts babbling, “Well, see that’s what the other officer told me, too. But see, you all think I’m more involved than I really am. I really don’t know what’s going on. When they arrested me for this, I was shocked! I was all, what the hell? Because I didn’t see anybody. I was in this truck, and they told me it was stolen and that was the worst – the finding out the truck was stolen was bad and then to find out that I didn’t have somebody else, what, do you know what I mean? Like, I’ve never even been in this county before, just being, I don’t know, I don’t even know what’s going on, you know what I mean? I was just shocked. I don’t know. What the hell? For reals like, if I knew more, I would tell you. All I know was that I was taking her on a call, that’s – that’s it. That’s all I know. And then, from that point, like, this, this guy and then all this shit. I, like, what do you want to know? I mean, I’ll tell you as best I can.”

 

However, for the next thirty minutes, Bobby tells them nothing as best he can.

 

Bobby Earl Sharp, III

 

 

WILCO

 

Williamson County detectives trace credit card and gift card transactions tied to Mr. Roland’s case and document the amount and locations of each one noting that as time went by, this information evolved. For the last few days, almost all the transactions were in an area of San Antonio close to the Safari Motel. Then a few popped up in Laredo which were connected to Abraham Weber and the man who’d been seen with him, Jorge. Now, they’re collecting several hits from Kyle, Texas, a small town on Austin’s southern border.

 

Purchases have been made at a gas station, a KFC fast food restaurant and an H-E-B grocery store. Contact is made with the stores’ managers for receipt copies and, if available, copies of surveillance footage.

 

Other detectives scour the confiscated cell phones that were on with the three suspects in custody. An interesting item is found on the cell phone that belongs to Samantha Casablanca. Working with the Austin Police Department’s High Tech Crimes Unit, a forensic examination is done on her cell phone followed with an exam report and digital photos of screen shots burned into a CD for the investigation team. The detectives contact James Maugham about two entries located in the “phonebook” portion of the cell phone. One entry is listed as “TOM” with the victim’s brother’s cell phone number preceded by *67 which is used to block the caller information from being received by the intended incoming call receiver. The second entry is noted as “C” with the same cell phone number – Tom Roland’s.

 

 

[] INTERROGATIONSAMANTHA ANN CASABLANCA

After a brief break and update on other parts of the investigation, Detective Maugham calls the jail and asks them to bring Samantha Ann Casablanca up to the interview room. Samantha is just 22 years old, but looks older. The ravages of the life she’s chosen are visible in the hard set of her jaw, the puffiness around her eyes and the dead stare in her brown eyes.

 

James introduces Samantha to Matt. Matt reminds her that they’ve talked briefly before in San Antonio. James reads the Miranda Warning to Samantha and confirms that she understands what it means. They confirm her full name and address. As with the others, there is some hedging on exact addresses other than her parents’ address. She tells the investigators that she moves around a lot but most recently has been staying with a couple, Kimberly and Jeff Simpson, at their home in a gated community. She tells them that she and the couple are the only ones that live there.

 

James leans back in his chair and looks at her, “Do you go by Samantha or do you go by something else?”

 

“I go by Samantha,” she says and yawns.

 

“Do they ever call you Sam?”

 

“Sometimes,” Samantha looks around the room, watches Matt for a moment.

 

“Who calls you Sam?” James asks casually.

 

“Mostly my family.”

 

“Mostly your family? All right, Samantha, what do you do for a living?” James asks. Samantha looks at James then looks away, shrugging.

 

“Nothing, really,” she yawns again and stretches her arms up, clearly bored and unhappy that her movement is limited by the shackles.

 

“Nothing? Do you have any kind of training?” James asks as if he can’t believe her answer.

 

“Um, I was going to school for cosmetology,” she says warily.

 

“Cosmetology? Were you ever in the healthcare field?”

 

Samantha looks surprised by this question, “Yes.” Her knees go up and her feet tip-toe on the floor.

 

“What did you do then?” James asks quickly before she can think of a lie.

 

“Um, I was going to somebody’s house and take care of them.” Samantha looks confused for a moment then recovers.

 

“Okay. When you say you take care of them, what did you do?”

 

An enormous yawn is followed with both hands pushing her hair back before she manages to say, “Uh, cook, feed, stuff like that.”

 

Matt asks, “Home healthcare?”

 

Samantha looks at Matt as if she’s just found him in the room, “Uh-huh.”

 

As James watches Samantha, Matt probes further, “How long did you do that?”

 

“Two years, maybe three.”

 

“Who did you work for?” James asks.

 

Samantha slowly turns to James, “Um, Girling Healthcare.”

 

James continues, “Girling Healthcare. Did they send you to school for any kind of training?” When Samantha shakes her head ‘no,’ he follows with, “No? So, basically you kind of worked on a rotation where you go to the house, visit at the house, do some cooking, cleaning, make sure they take care of their medicine, got washed and stuff like that?”

 

“Mm-hmm.” Samantha mumbles and looks like she’s about to go to sleep.

 

James and Matt exchange looks, them James asks, “Okay. So what you been doing of late?”

 

Samantha sleepily gazes at James, then at Matt, “Sorry?”

 

James repeats, “So what have you been doing lately?”

 

“Nothing really,” she answers and stares at the wall just above and beyond James.

 

“What kind of work does, uh, Jeffrey do?” James changes the subject.

 

“Um, Christmas lights and stuff.”

 

James looks at her questioningly, “Christmas lights and stuff? What else does he do?” Samantha shakes her head. “Do you know that he does anything else?” James continues to push.

 

Samantha yawns again and, stretching her arms out again, says, “That pretty much takes up his whole day.”

 

James laughs, “It takes up his whole day? What does he do during this time of year when there’s nothing to do with Christmas lights?”

 

“I don’t know. I know the business does other things but I really don’t-”

 

James cuts her off, “Let me let you in on a little secret, okay? We know a whole lot about you. We know a whole lot about Kimberly and Jeffrey. And what we’re trying to do here is get to the truth of this whole thing and find out what everybody’s involvement is, okay? So, what does Kimberly and Jeffrey do?”

 

Samantha looks away and back “Affordable Christmas Lights.”

 

“And what else?” James demands without humor.

 

Samantha seems to draw into herself a little at the change in James’ voice, “Um, that’s what Jeff does. Kim – Kim runs an escort service.”

 

“Okay,” James encourages her, “How many girls does Kim have working for her?”

 

“Uh, including me, four or five.”

 

“And how long have you been in that?” James asks.

 

“Um, about a year. Two years,” Samantha says. She looks over at Matt and watches him write in his notebook.

 

James calls her attention back, “Two years? Do you drive?”

 

Samantha frowns at him, “No.”

 

“Do you have a driver’s license?”

 

“No.”

 

James continues, “Just an ID card?”

 

“Not even that.”

 

“Yeah? So how do you get around?” he asks with interest.

 

Samantha relaxes and yawns, pausing, “Somebody drives me.”

 

“Okay. So, if you’re in the escort business and Kimberly has a place for you to go, how do you get there?”

 

Matt pauses writing and watches Samantha. After a big, long yawn, Samantha mumbles, “Uh, the driver.”

 

“And is it always the same driver?”

 

“No.”

 

James continues to question Samantha about how she gets around and finally gets the information that Kim, not Jeff, usually drives her to calls. She deflects answering questions about who else drives her for several minutes. As James and Matt continue to push her on her activities, they watch her body language. When they’ve asked something that strikes a nerve, she pulls her legs and arms in tight to her body with her feet flexed on tiptoes to the floor. They continue to probe about her different friends with the purpose of finding out about the men she was seen on the video surveillance from Macy’s.

 

James asks, “When was the last time you saw Gil?”

 

Samantha, acting bored, says, “A couple of days ago.”

 

“A couple of days ago? Where?” he asks.

 

Samantha stares at the wall, yawns and then shakes her head as if it’s hard to remember. “I guess it wasn’t much after we were shopping, maybe.”

 

“Who was shopping?” James asks quickly, glad to be getting somewhere finally.

 

“Me and Gil,” Samantha admits.

 

“And who else?” James asks before she’s taken a breath.

 

“ …and Vince.”

 

“And so y’all went shoppin’. What did you – what did y’all go in to buy?” James probes deeper.

 

Samantha yawns again, “Makeup.”

 

“What else?” James pushes again.

 

“That day,” Samantha looks at his notes before answering, “I guess, we bought gift cards and makeup.”

 

After numerous repeat questions, Samantha tells them they bought the gift cards with Paul Roland’s credit cards. Samantha dodges the questions about who gave her the credit cards and says “Robert” gave them to her but doesn’t know how she knows him or even when or where he gave her the credit cards. James tries to lead her through a timeline from the first of the week. She states that she pretty much hung around Kim’s house all day with Gil, who is not her boyfriend, until he went to work.

 

James decides to move on, “Okay. So let’s go on into Tuesday. Where were you at on Tuesday?”

 

Samantha covers her face with her hands, pushes her hair back and yawns, not answering at all. Tip toes on the floor.

 

James, getting frustrated with her evasiveness, “Okay, let me ask you this – did you go out on some escorts Monday night?”

 

“Probably.”

 

“Tell me, tell me how it works,” James continues, “When you get a call, tell me how, how it all goes down.”

 

Samantha looks around the room as she talks, “Uh, you’re driven over there. You go over there, um, they give me the money, the money’s handed out. I pretty much give them the rules.”

 

“Okay,” James says, “So who do you give the money out to?”

 

“To the driver.”

 

“To the driver,” James repeats, “And what’s the time period from the time you go in till the driver comes up to get the money?”

 

“About forty-five minutes,” Samantha answers and yawns.

 

“Forty-five minutes? So the driver doesn’t come back to the door for – he just drops you off. You’re in there for forty-five minutes? And then are you done at that point?” James isn’t buying this.

 

Samantha smirks, looking from James to Matt, “Mm-hmm. Well, it’s pretty much over.”

 

“Then why are you handing the money out?” James asks her to confirm the time again.

 

“Well, it’s just for safety purposes,” Samantha shrugs and stretches, “If they think it’s something other than what it is, they want their money back.”

 

“Okay,” James decides to try a different angle, “So do you make a phone call to tell him to come up there or how do they know?”

 

She nods, “I make a phone call.”

 

“Okay. So when you get into his room, whatever’s going to go on, you kind of lay down the rules to him,” James says, watching for Samantha to agree or interrupt him, “He pays you and y’all sit around and chit-chat, whatever, and then you make a phone call and say, ‘Hey, come and get the money; we’re just about finished?’ And so, you’re thinking just, like, forty-five minutes from the time you get there before you make that call? Or is it, like, two or three minutes and he comes and gets the money?”

 

“Well, we go up there first,” Samantha backtracks, realizing her mistake, “in two or three minutes then they’ll go get the money and it depends on how long it takes to get the money. Sometimes they’re-”

 

“Do you ever have to leave to go get the money?” James interrupts her.

 

“No.” Samantha shakes her head seriously.

 

Matt interjects, “They always have the money?”

 

“Yeah,” Samantha says, looking at Matt now, “Sometimes you have to wait. They have to leave because they have to go get it.”

 

James asks, “What do you mean?”

 

Samantha looks at James, “It has to be cash, so, if they have a credit card, then they have to go to an ATM. They have to go pull their money out.” She looks away then, yawning and stretching and looking at the clock.

 

“Do you ever go with ‘em if they have to go to the ATM?” James asks quickly.

 

“No,” Samantha answers again, “just wait with the driver.”

 

“So you don’t get in that car with the person that called for you and go anywhere with them?” Matt restates what’s been said. Samantha nods and he says, “Not safe huh? You don’t know where they would take you, right?”

 

Samantha nods and rubs her face again with both hands, finally pushing her hair back. She yawns and acts like she can hardly stay awake.

 

“So Tuesday morning, where were you at? At Kim’s or did you go make a trip somewhere else? You didn’t take a trip to Austin with anybody?”

 

“No, sir,” she answers defiantly.

 

“When was the last time you were in Austin?”

 

“It’s been a while – at least over a year. I was locked up for like, six, seven or eight months,” she explains.

 

“You were up in Austin for seven or eight months?” James asks, looking at Matt.

 

“No, I was locked up,” she states, “Just about three or four months ago, maybe. So, it’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere.”

 

James and Matt continue questioning her about her whereabouts for Tuesday and Wednesday without any clear answers for over twenty minutes. She admits to having problems remembering things because she’s been abusing drugs like Xanax and to taking at least two bars each day for the last several days although she has no prescription. In exasperation, James and Matt provide her with the time line they’ve established from credit card surveillance and Bobby’s interview ending with the moments when Kim and Vince left Samantha and Gil at the house to go and pick up chicken.

 

“There wasn’t anybody else there?” James asks.

 

Samantha pauses a long time, considering, “Mmm, Bobby?”

 

“Who’s Bobby?” James asks.

 

“He’s a friend of mine.”

 

James tries to get her to divulge more information about Bobby even as he realizes that, once again, her answers are running in circles. Matt calls her out.

 

“Most of this stuff we’re askin’ you, girl, we know before you’re answerin’ it, so you’re sittin’ here and you’re acting like you’re tired and you act like you don’t remember. We know most of the answers. So, if you’re sittin’ there holdin’ back, there’s no point in it. We need to get to the chase. I’m not tryin’ to be ugly with ya, but we’re not going to ask something we probably don’t know the answer to. We’ve been sittin’ here for thirty minutes; this is the first time you – Bobby’s name’s come up, and he’s been all around you. He’s around you all the time. You’re actin’ like you don’t know who he is.”

 

Samantha back pedals, “No, he’s been around me all the time, but…”

 

Matt rolls on, “But now, we’re just hearin’ about Bobby. We’re not sittin’ here lyin’ or bullshittin’ you, so don’t do that with us.”

 

James asks, “Just lay it out on the table, okay? What is your involvement in all this?”

 

Samantha twists in the chair, looking trapped, “The credit cards. I know by some kind of videotape, by my sweater that day, y’all think I was involved in this.”

 

“No, we don’t think. We know,” James assures her.

 

“A lot of people have been arrested in this investigation – more are going to be arrested. We’ve already talked to a lot of people. Like I told you in San Antonio, that was your time to tell the truth and, and once again today,” Matt adds.

 

Samantha throws up her hands, “I did not kidnap that man! I didn’t!”

 

She glares at the men with a combination of defiance and anger, more emotion than she’s shown in all the time they’ve been talking to her. It’s time to push a little harder. Matt leans in closer and looks her in the eye.

 

“How much time did you spend with him?”

 

“With who?” Samantha asks defensively.

 

James answers, “With the old man.”

 

Samantha looks from one face to the other, “About five or ten minutes.”

 

“A day?” James clarifies.

 

“No, one day. The night we got arrested.”

 

“Okay, so why did you go over there?” James softens his tone.

 

“Tell us about that. Where did you see him?” Matt counters with less patience.

 

“At the hotel. He was on the floor watching TV.”

 

Matt doesn’t believe her, “On the floor? Just like laying over here like he’s all relaxin’, watchin’ TV?”

 

Samantha looks away and repeats, “He was just layin’ on the floor. He was covered. Had a pillow, just watching TV.”

 

Matt probes, “His eyes weren’t covered up? He didn’t have a blindfold on his head?”

 

Samantha relaxes and shrugs, “Not when I walked in.”

 

“What about his hands?” Matt asks, remembering how they’d found Paul when he was rescued – the bandana around his eyes and the flex tie that bound his wrists.

 

“I don’t know. He was all covered,” Samantha lies.

 

Matt pushes harder, “Let me ask you this. If you were called on an escort – for an escort- how many times do you go to a motel to meet people? Pretty often? And you’ve been doing that for a year, two years?” Samantha nods and he continues, “On all those calls that you’ve gone to motels to meet a man for whatever reason, how many times has there been another man just lying on the floor over there watching TV? Has that ever happened?”

 

Samantha shrugs and smiles, “There’s been other people in the house. I mean…”

 

Matt shakes his head, “Really? Really? I think that’s kinda weird.”

 

James changes the direction, “So who was the guy that called you up?”

 

Samantha looks at James, “When I went to the hotel, it wasn’t for the service.”

 

James gives her a world-weary look and sighs, “We know, okay? So what was your purpose in going there?”

 

Matt asks, “Was it your turn to watch the old man?”

 

“I hadn’t watched him.”

 

James looks at the clock, the pushes away from the table as if he’s going to give up, “Okay, look. We’ve been up for a long time. We’ve been tracing leads and this and that, and you’re sitting here trying to give us a lot of bullshit. It’s time for that to cut. Let me tell you what you’re looking at for the rest of your life. How old are you right now?”

 

She says softly, “Twenty-one.”

 

James nods, frowning, “Twenty-one. You add ninety-nine years on top of that. That’s how old you’re going to be when you get to see daylight again if you don’t start coughin’ up some names to get this thing squared away. Because your buddies that you’re tryin’ to protect, they’re, they’re not. They’re protecting their own ass and you might want to think about doin’ that for yourself.”

 

Matt adds, “The truth will help you.”

 

Samantha stares blankly ahead. Finally, seeing the men watching her and waiting, “I don’t know what to say.”

 

James smacks his fist on the table, “The truth! Tell me ev- all your involvement in it.”

 

Matt leans toward her, “You said just a minute ago you didn’t go to that hotel for a call. You know you didn’t go for escort. Why’d you and Bobby go? Just tell us what you were going to do when you got there. If somebody threatened you and if you tell us what happened, something worse or something bad’s going to happen to you? When y’all are sitting down planning all this, did y’all, did they say, “If you tell anything that happens, you or your family’s going to be hurt?” I’m just wondering, because that seems like there’s gotta be a reason you’re not talking to us.”

 

Samantha moans and looks off toward the corner of the room. Her body is tense and and her feet tip-toe on the floor.

 

Matt continues, “And if that is the case, we can, we can ensure that nothing’s going to happen to you. We can guarantee your safety. But we got a lot of work to do and we just can’t sit here and, and…”

 

James says as he sighs in frustration, “And look at the walls, okay?”

 

Matt closes his notebook and puts his pen in his shirt pocket, “We got stuff to do. If you’re gonna tell us what the deal is, we’re willing to hear it. If you tell us the truth and it helps us with our investigation, I’ll be the first one to tell the judge or the jury or the district attorney you were cooperative and truthful with us, just like I told you the other night. But, if you sit in here and they put me up on the stand, ‘Did she do anything to help you with your investigation?’ I’ll say, we sat there for four hours while she jerked our chain and wouldn’t tell us what she knew about it. You know what I mean? That’s what I’m tryin’ to tell you.”

 

Samantha tries to read James’s notes, her head cocked at an odd angle

 

“You keep looking at what I’m writing down.”

 

Samantha straightens and looks away, “I’m sorry. I’m just lookin’, um, I don’t know what to say.”

 

“The guy you got in the van with, who was that?” James asks.

 

“I don’t know him,” she lies again.

 

“You were, you were, you went to that hotel for a purpose. What was your purpose? You were fixin’ to take a road trip to Laredo,” James proposes.

 

“No,” Samantha says firmly.

 

“That’s not what we’re hearin’,” Matt tells her.

 

Samantha, losing some swagger, suddenly looks scared, “I w- how would I take a road trip to Laredo if I don’t even have an ID? How would I get back?”

 

James and Matt exchange knowing looks and both smile at Samantha.

 

James smiles slightly, “Laredo is on this side of the border.”

 

“Nobody said you were crossin’ the border,” Matt finishes.

 

Samantha looks from one investigator to the other and knows she’s said too much.

 

“Come on, Samantha. You need to start putting it out there on the table,” James says satisfied finally with something she’s said.

 

Samantha stammers, “I really don’t. I mean, okay, they were – I did not go to Austin.”

 

“Who went to Austin? Don’t play dumb with me. Who went to Austin?” James pushes her.

 

“I don’t know who went to Austin.”

 

“Kim?” James asks ignoring her innocent act.

 

“No.”

 

“Describe Kim to me.”

 

“She’s white, about ninety pounds, real little with long blonde hair.”

 

James continues, “Long? Wears it in a ponytail?”

 

Samantha puts her hands beside her neck to indicate hair below shoulder level.

 

Matt quickly asks, “Blonde or brown?”

 

Samantha answers, “Nah, it’s blonde.”

 

“Always? She wear little silver hoop earrings?” James asks.

 

Samantha nods, “Mmm, yeah, I guess.”

 

“Do you?” James asks quickly and watches her face.

 

“I wear gold.”

 

James and Matt briefly exchange a look, and then Matt leaves the room. Samantha watches him leave and James watches Samantha, clearly ready to outwait her reluctance to fully answer their questions. He makes notes and looks through pages in his notebook until Matt returns a couple of minutes later with a cup of water. Matt places the water in front of Samantha.

 

James pulls out a stack of photos from the back of his notebook and lays them before Samantha on the table.

 

Samantha’s eyes flit from one to the other showing no interest or recognition. “I’ve never seen them.”

 

James shows her the booking photo of Bartolo Dominguez, “Know him?”

 

“Mm, I don’t think so.”

 

“I think so,” James states flatly.

 

Samantha looks at the photo again, “He looks kinda like the guy in the room.”

 

“Does he? Like the guy in which room?”

 

“The guy in the hotel room?” Samantha admits without calling him by name.

 

James demands, “Do you know him?”

 

“No.”

 

“What did you call him? You went there to the room. What did you go there for?” his patience thin again.

 

“To…I was supposed to pay him on the rest of the credit cards.”

 

James shows her more photos and she identifies both Vince and Gil.

 

She looks at the rest of the photos blankly and says she doesn’t recognize anyone. James slides the photos back into his notebook.

 

“Okay, so what was your purpose for goin’ over there to the hotel?” he asks again.

 

Samantha repeats, “I was supposed to pay him the rest of the cards.”

 

“And then do what?”

 

Samantha whines, “And then when I got there, he wasn’t even there.”

 

James, confused, asks, “Where was he?”

 

“I don’t know,” Samantha says and pulls her arms and legs into the chair as much as she can.

 

“What do you mean you don’t know? It’s not a very big -”

 

Samantha interrupts, “I don’t. I wasn’t there. When I was asking the guy or whatever -”

 

“Askin’ what guy?”

 

Samantha looks from James to Matt and back, “The guy in the room. I was asking where he was. He was telling me something in Spanish like, real quiet. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Um…”

 

“Okay. So you were there to pay him money, but he wasn’t there when you got there. So you knock on the door, nobody came or what?”

 

Samantha leans forward, her arms locked in front of her, “No, Well, I knocked on the door and then that guy answered the door. Um, I was asking him where AB was because he wasn’t answering his phone anymore. Um, he was talking in Spanish, talking real low. I couldn’t understand him. Umm…(Pause) mm…”

 

James hides his recognition of AB’s name and encourages her to continue, “Tell me what happened while you were there.”

 

“He just starts moving around. Um, he helped the old man get up and puts on his shoes. Um, we walked out. I’m trying to ask him what, what we’re doing? Um, we get in the van, take off. About two minutes, three minutes later, they pulled us over.”

 

“Did you help the old man get in?” James asks

 

Samantha hedges, “I don’t think so.”

 

“Was he blindfolded?”

 

“I think he pulled a beanie over his eyes a little.”

 

“He did or you did?”

 

“No, he did. I never talked to that man.”

 

“Samantha, you…you still know a whole lot more than you’re willin’ to share, but I don’t know why? Do you understand that, right now, the way it is, okay, you’re not helping yourself? Do you understand that this is as serious as it gets? This charge is a first-degree felony. You can get ninety-nine to life,” James explains as sincerely and clearly as possible.

 

Samantha pulls her body in close, covers her face with her hands and pulls her feet up in tiptoe position again. A moment later, she pushes her hair back and looks blankly at James.

 

“And you have done nothing to this point to help yourself. Give me somethin’ that I can help you with.”

 

“I don’t know what I can tell you,” she answers and stares off over James’ shoulder again.

 

“You can tell me everything that you know. See, I mean, you’ve given me little pieces of this and that that I already know about. You haven’t given me the stuff that don’t think I know yet, and I don’t know why that is. I’ve been straightforward and honest with you the whole time. Who are you tryin’ to protect? Who are you willing to go to jail for the rest of your life?”

 

James and Samantha stare at each other in complete silence for at least three minutes.

 

“So who’s AB?” James breaks the silence.

 

“A friend of mine.”

 

“A friend of yours? Where’s AB at right now?”

 

Samantha looks around the room, “I don’t know.”

 

Samantha leans across the table looking at James’s notes. They stare at each other again.

 

“It’s your turn to talk,” James reminds her.

 

“I don’t know where he is.”

 

“Okay. What’s his involvement?”

 

“I don’t know. I know he wanted me to go up to Austin and, uh, I said I couldn’t.”

 

They go back and forth about what she knows about the people who went to Austin and after a few minutes, James tosses his pen onto his notebook in frustration and leans across the table, forcing Samantha to look at him.

 

“You’re involved in this up to your ears. And I can tell you right now, I’m getting tired of messin’ with ya. AB wanted you to go to Austin. Did you go? Who did?”

 

“I don’t know. He told me…he had something for me to do, but I had to be there by eight o’clock.”

 

“Be where?”

 

Samantha looks at James as if the answer is on his forehead. “Be in Austin by eight, I don’t know, seven o’clock.”

 

James presses, “About 7?”

 

Samantha nods, “Yeah. I said, how do you want me to make it to Austin? There’s no way I’m going to make it to Austin. It was, like, six-twenty. I’m gonna hit traffic up there, there’s no way. He said, okay, never mind.”

 

“What did he want you to do in Austin?”

 

Samantha shrugs again, “He just said he had somethin’ for me to do. He told me he needed – only a girl could do it. Only a girl could do it. He needed me to go up there because they had to have a girl. Um, there was already a girl in Austin. I told him, what do you need me for it there’s already a girl there? He said, this girl, she’s stupid.”

 

“Let’s go to the night that y’all got busted. You were with Bobby and, uh, of course, his story’s a little different, but you got a call to go over to the hotel. Who did you get the call from?” James demands.

 

“AB.”

 

“And what did he tell you?”

 

Samantha sighs, “To go over there.”

 

James shakes his head, “To do what?”

 

“I guess to give him the rest of the money or to see what else I had got because he’d been telling me to see what else I got.”

 

James shakes his head. He’s not buying any of this. “You talked to him for twenty-six minutes.”

 

“I talked to him for twenty-six minutes?”

 

James nods, “Mm-hmm.”

 

Samantha yawns long and large and then sits there looking around the room. James watches her. They both look at the clock. It reads: 3:45. She continues to stare off into space for a couple of minutes. Matt pulls out his cell phone and scrolls through messages.

 

James breaks the silence, “Obviously you don’t…you don’t care if you go to jail for ninety-nine years, do you?”

 

“Yes, I care.”

 

“No, you don’t. You, – you could care less. You think this is a big joke, that we, we ain’t got nothing on you. Tough. You were with the old man when you got busted. That’s all I need. You are bought and paid for. You’re going to jail for ninety-nine years. Now you want to take the rest of these people with you and maybe cut yourself a deal along the line or you want to take it on by yourself? Make that choice right now.”

 

Samantha covers her face with her hands and pushes her hair away from her face, again staring blankly at James. Finally, Samantha repeats her pat answer, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

 

“Right now, what you’re telling me is that you want to do the ninety-nine by yourself; that you don’t want to help yourself at all.”

 

Samantha pulls her feet back in on tiptoe and yawns.

 

James continues, “You know a whole lot more of what’s goin’ on here than what you’re willin’ to talk about. And it may be because you’re scared of the cartel out of Mexico.”

 

Samantha covers her face with her hands again and pushes her hair back behind her ears.

 

“You ought to be. I can help you with that problem, but you gotta help me.”

 

Samantha drinks some water and looks around the room.

 

James watches her, getting no response from her at all, “What you thinkin’? See, every time we do this, you come back with a little more piece of the puzzle. So I already know you know a whole lot more than that you’re willin’ to talk about. That can only be two things. Either you’re protecting somebody or you don’t care if you go to jail. Or, you’re afraid that somebody’s going to do something to you or to your family, and that’s understandable. I can…I can believe that. But I can’t help you with that until you help me.”

 

Samantha looks at the cup of water, now empty, then her handcuffs. She looks around the room but says nothing.

 

“I’m going to step out of the room for just a second. Think about it. When I come back, I want to hear the truth, nothing but the truth. Got it?”

 

The clock reads: 3:50. Samantha watches James leave then yawns, rubs her face and eyes, leans across the table looking at the cup, then her handcuffs again. She sit’s up straight. She looks at herself in the two-way mirror. She begins to rock back and forth.

 

James returns at 3:55 with a fresh cup of water and a packaged snack. He puts both on the table in front of Samantha. Matt enters behind James and takes his chair near the door.

 

“It’s okay if I call you Sam, right?” James asks. His tone is much softer now, friendly even.

 

She nods.

 

He continues, “Sam, I think that you kinda started this thing off; didn’t know how big it was going to get into and I think you got in over your head real quick. And you may not know how to get out. But I can help you do that. But, it’s got to be one hundred percent the truth. And all at once. Not just little pieces here, little pieces there. So what do you say, Sam? Let me help you. I understand that you may have some concerns, safety issues. It’s understandable. I mean, this is a kinda bad group we’re dealin’ with.”

 

Samantha’s expression now seems to ask, “Do you? Do you really understand how bad this group is?”

 

James goes on, “I know that. I haven’t lied to you yet. Give me somethin’ to take to the DA’s office to say, “Look, Samantha Casablanca was a standup girl, and this is what her involvement with this was, and this is what the other guys’ involvement was. And she was willin’ to put it out on the line, to come clean, to help. That’s what I want to be able to go tell him. I can be your friend. You don’t want me to be your enemy. But all I got to do is tell the DA’s office that “she was uncooperative,” and from that point on, the DA’s office will go, go the max. And they can prove it because you were caught in the van.”

 

Matt says, “You saw him in the room on the floor. You had to see him being put in the van.”

 

“Then you got in the van,” James adds.

 

“With supposedly somebody you didn’t know,” Matt finishes, not hiding the sarcasm from his voice.

 

Samantha tenses up. Her hands are clasped together into a ball, deep into her lap, shoes on tiptoe. James flips the page of his notebook to a fresh piece of paper.

 

“Right here, Sam. Start fresh, okay? Start from the very top.”

 

Samantha looks around the room. Finally she mumbles, “Mm, okay. Okay, when did this happen?”

 

For the next ten minutes, she repeats the same story of being called to go to Austin but not going because it was late. She adds that AB brought the credit cards to her around lunch on the Tuesday of the abduction. When James tries to get Samantha to fill in the timeline with her activities after that, she hedges and says she can’t remember; yawning and staring off like so many times in the interview so far.

 

“Let me stop you for just a second, okay?” James says irritably, “When you start tellin’ lies, you tend to forget which one and they always come back to bite you because you can’t remember which lie you told last. My job is to sit over here and listen to you and I catch you in these lies. And I’ve caught you in a bunch of ‘em so far. So what you need to do is quit lying. Tell the truth because there’s only one truth. It will always be the same every single time. And we haven’t got there yet and I’m beginning to wonder if we’re going to get there anytime today.”

 

“I’m going to have to go pretty quick because I got other places to be,” Matt interjects, visibly out of patience, “We’ve been sittin’ here for more than two hours going over the same stuff.”

 

James adds, “We got about six minutes before we’re going to call this quits, and you’re going to face the music all on your own. So you better start talkin’ quick.”

 

Samantha looks slowly from one man to the other, “Okay, when was it you’re asking me it was that I transferred it to my phone?”

 

“We’re past all that. Tell me your involvement. Tell me AB’s involvement. Obviously, he’s involved up to his ears. And, he’s a friend of yours. He talks to you, obviously a lot. Enough, in fact, that he even trusted you to take these credit cards that you took from this old man and go out and buy him some stuff,” James says in exasperation.

 

“And, on top of that, he wanted her to participate in the actual abduction,” Matt adds.

 

Their threats work long enough to get a somewhat passable description of AB from Samantha and an age range.

 

“Tell me about the old man. What was your job to go over there that night for?”

 

Samantha sniffs and looks blankly at James.

 

Matt stands up and angrily announces, “If you wanna sit in here and listen to this bullshit, you can, but I got other things to do.” He slaps his notebook shut and leaves. The door slams behind him.

 

James looks at her and offers one last time, “Samantha, good luck, because you’re gonna need it. Anything you wanna say?”

 

“No sir.”

 

“All right. Good luck. Sit right there. I’ll have somebody come and get you.” James closes his notebook, stands up, and gives Samantha one last look before he leaves the room.

 

Samantha bends over, her head between her legs for a few seconds. She sits up, yawns, and then drinks her water watching the door.

 

The next time they try to interview Samantha she demands a lawyer.

 

 

Samantha Ann Casablanca

 

 

Mary

 

All of us – the kids, Paul and I – go over everything we can remember of the events as they’ve happened over the last two days. What we knew, what questions we had and what questions we still have. Penny keeps a running list in a notebook of everything Paul remembers and what he’s most concerned about. For instance, he’s sure that he knew one of his captors, maybe through Phoenix Electric or when he’d worked for Lance although he’d had very little exposure to their employees or subcontractors. He’s making arrangements for us to get into the Phoenix office tomorrow, Saturday, so he can look the employee and subcontractor photo ID’s in the hope of finding some choices the detectives can use to round up others who may have been involved with his kidnapping.

 

When we were at the apartment, I pulled up our checking account at Wachovia Bank on my computer to see if the suspects had also used Paul’s debit card. We discover seven transactions totaling $864.70! This discovery leads me to pull statements from our other accounts. A quick check reveals additional credit card charges of $854.41! Ironically, one credit card charged us $149 a week ago for “Credit Protection” something we’ll learn later is to protect the bank, not us.

 

On the way to dinner, we stop by the car dealership where Eric works. He asked us to come by because I needed to sign something else on the rental cars. It turns out to be a big surprise for Paul. We walk into the showroom and there’s Eric holding his youngest son. Paul’s face lights up like Fourth of July as the little boy wraps his arms around his “Pawpaw”. This is the best medicine for Paul!

 

Everyone’s working on listing all the locations where the bad guys used the credit cards and every one of them seems to be near or in San Antonio. We don’t know San Antonio well enough to have more than a vague idea of where these places are. Paul tells us he has a map of San Antonio at his office. It’s big and laminated to heavy poster board.

 

“I don’t really use it anymore,” Paul says, “so you can mark spots on it where all these places are.”

 

After nearly three days of feeling helpless and dependent on everyone else to bring our world back together, it’s the best feeling imaginable to go to bed and feel like I’m doing something. Little do I know that I will need to hold onto that feeling because it will be a very long time until I feel this way again.

 

 

[] INTERROGATIONBARTOLO DOMINGUEZ, JR.

 

Williamson County Jail personnel bring Bartolo “Bart” Dominguez, Jr. to an interview room. The room’s palette of soothing shades is in stark contrast to his surly and arrogant manner. Bartolo is six-feet, two-inches tall and two hundred and sixty pounds. There’s a sprinkling of whiskers on his chin that attempt a goatee. His voice is deep with a slight Latino inflection and he tends to slur his words together.

 

Detective James Maugham organizes paperwork in his notebook as Bartolo, in a white prison jumpsuit, lounges in the chair, his legs stretched out with feet apart as far as the ankle shackles will allow. A small bandage is over his right eyebrow. His hands are together in his lap; shackled at the wrist. Although Bartolo is a big man, he looks small next to James.

 

“Boy, wish I was back in Bexar (pronounced ‘bear’) County,” Bart complains.

 

“Wish you were back in Bexar County?” James asks with a little chuckle under his breath.

 

“Wish I was back in Bexar County.” Bart shakes his head.

 

James continues folding used sheets behind the cover and pulling out his Miranda Warning card to read to Bart once Matt joins them. Bart watches him and then looks around the room, fidgeting, one foot begins to tap nervously on the floor. James sighs but looks like he can wait forever, completely relaxed, casually working a toothpick on one side of his mouth as he waits.

 

Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann enters the interview room and takes a seat on the chair nearest to the door. James introduces Matt to Bart and then reads the Miranda warning to Bart. As James reads the warning, Bart gives Matt the ‘once over’ and watches as Matt gets his notebook ready. The officers confirm with Bart that he understands his rights.

 

“What is your full name?” James asks, preparing to write.

 

Bart looks around the room, bored, and then slurs his answer, “Bartolo Dominguez, Junior.”

 

“Spell your first name,” James directs him.

 

Bart strings the letters together real fast, “B-a-r-t-o-l-o.”

 

“B-a-r-t. What?”

 

“O-L-O.”

 

“o-l-o,” James repeats.

 

Bart sniffs and grins at Matt, “D-o-m-i-n-g-u-e-z.” He looks over at James, then, “J-r .” Bart finishes sarcastically, snickering. James and Matt ignore him and continue processing him for his birthdate and address.

 

“Okay, well, Bart, I guess you understand what you’re here for?” James begins.

 

Bart nods and rocks, “Oh, yeah.”

 

“What can you tell me about that?” James prods him.

 

Bart shakes his head, “Well, I’d rather have a lawyer on that one. That’d be cool.”

 

James, surprised, asks, “You’d rather have a lawyer?”

 

Bart confirms that he wants a lawyer so questioning ends. Matt assures Bart that if he changes his mind, he will have to ask for them to come and talk to him, that neither James nor Matt not any other officer will be asking him any questions without his express request or without his lawyer present. Bart nods, enjoying the moment.

 

“Hang on just a second before you go,” Matt says before he leaves the room. Bart stretches out, his hands clasped behind his head. James pushes his notebook a few inches away and clicks his pen shut.

 

Bart looks at James, “Well, those are some serious charges, man.”

 

James nods, “Yeah.”

 

Bart expected James and Matt to try and talk him out of “lawyering up” and now wants to have a conversation, “Yeah, some serious charges.”

 

James simply asks, “You have an attorney?”

 

“No, I don’t,” Bart replies.

 

The men remain silent and look thoughtful. Matt returns.

 

“I just got something here, James, you might need to look at real quick,” Matt says as he returns to the interview room, holding a document in one hand, standing near the door. James walks over to Matt and they both look over the document. As they’re reading it, Bartolo alternately watches them and watches the clock.

 

James looks up at Matt and smiles slightly before he returns to his chair at the table. Matt slips the document back into his notebook and, again, sits down in the chair by the door.

 

James asks Bart, “All right, you said you didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to talk about the kidnapping part?”

 

Bart shakes his head.

 

James continues, “Well, we’d like to ask you some questions about something else that may or may not concern any of that.”

 

“All right. What’s that?” Bart asks looking from James to Matt and back.

 

“Do you own a gun?” James asks.

 

“No, I do not.”

 

James continues, “Have you ever had possession of one?”

 

“Well, I’ve had possession of one, but I don’t own one.”

 

“Okay, when was the last time you had possession of one?” James pushes a little harder.

 

Bart blows air out of his mouth as if he’s trying to remember, “A while back. Why?”

 

James ignores his question, “What happened to it?”

 

Bart shrugs, “Gave it to my cousin.”

 

“Who?” James asks.

 

Bart shakes his head and shrugs, “Just gave it to my cousin.”

 

Matt nods and stands by the door, “Okay, man, like I said, we’ll be willing to listen to anything you got to say if you want to talk to us. We’ll have someone come and get you.”

James walks toward the door. Bart stands up and moves to follow. James sees the movement out the corner of his eye and turns around quickly, pointing a finger at him then snaps his finger.

 

“Sit back down!”

 

Bart immediately sits and watches the men leave. James has left his notebook, open, on the table. Bart notices the notebook but is uninterested in it. He leans his head against the wall. He sticks his finger in one ear and scrapes wax or something out, examines his finger, then repeats with his other ear. His ears cleaner now, he begins to scratch his head and examine his nails for scalp debris. Finally, he leans forward, hands clasped in his lap and sighs. He’s looking at the floor and watching his feet move with the shackles, not praying. He scratches and belches.

 

James returns and gathers his notebook from the table, “They’ll be here in a second.”

 

“Okay.”

 

James puts a stack of photos that had been under one side of his notebook inside the notebook, never looking at Bartolo at all.

 

“How much time, man?” Bartolo mumbles. “How much time you think I’m lookin’ at man?” Bartolo asks louder when James doesn’t answer.

 

“For somethin’ like this? That’s for the guys down at District Attorney’s. But, I’ll tell ya, these guys don’t mess around.” Bartolo fidgets, a trace of fear shows on his face. As James leaves the room, he stops and turns back to Bart, “Probably ninety-nine to life.”

 

James leaves. Bart leans his head over his lap again as if praying. He sits up. He looks at the two-way mirror and gets as close as possible as if that would allow him to see who’s on the other side. He sees his reflexion and examines the bandage over his eye. He pulls the bandage from his face and examines it. He folds the bandage over itself over and over until it is very small and then looks at his reflection in the mirror again. He sniffs and wipes his nose on his hand. He picks his nose. He looks at his reflection. He thumb-kicks the bandage across the room and looks at his reflection again.

 

This will be the only interview of Bartolo “Bart” Dominguez, Jr. known to Paul Roland as the Mexican-with-the-gun.

 

 

Bartolo Dominguez, Jr.

 

WILCO

 

A group of six Williamson County Sheriff’s Department detectives head south from Georgetown to Laredo, Texas, approximately 270 miles, to retrieve and transport Abraham (“AB”) Weber back to Georgetown under an arrest warrant in connection with the aggravated kidnapping of Paul Roland. At mile marker 40, they contact a local, retired Major from the Texas Rangers at the Webb County Jail and ask him to meet them in the sally port of the jail.

 

The Major is waiting for them at the jail when they arrive around 9:50 PM. The lead deputy from Georgetown briefs the Major on their transport plans for AB from the Laredo Police Station to the McCarran Airport in Laredo. The Major insists that he be part of the escort because AB is in his custody.

 

“I’ll stay with you during the transfer as Mr. Weber is in my custody in this area and, I feel I must advise you officers that you may be in danger also.” The Major explains. “Mr. Weber is potentially a marked man with the Los Zetas and Miguel Trevino of the Gulf Cartel.”

 

“We appreciate your help, Major,” the lead deputy says, shaking his hand.

 

“When you’re ready to go to the airport, I’ll lead you there, too,” the Major offers, “I know the back ways and a short cut.”

 

The Major leads the team to where AB is waiting.

 

“You know why we’re here, son?” the lead deputy asks. AB nods and begins to shake. “You are under arrest for the kidnapping of Paul Roland and it is our job to return you to Williamson County where you will be held on those charges until a Grand Jury convenes to determine if you should remain or not.”

 

AB starts to cry and shake even harder.

 

“Why are you crying?” the lead deputy asks.

 

“You’re going to kill me,” AB replies.

 

“We’re not going to hurt you unless you try to harm one of us,” the deputy says as assuring as possible, then, “Are you in danger?”

 

“Yes! Los Zetas – Miguel Trevino – they’re going to try and kill me,” AB says through tears. “They are everywhere. They drive everything. You won’t see because the windows are dark.”

 

“What do they drive?”

 

“SUV’s. Tahoes, Suburbans.”

 

The lead deputy and his team led now by the Major, escort AB out to the waiting cars and place him in the front seat of the unit that will take him to the airport. Sitting behind AB is another team leader, armed to provide lethal cover in the event of an ambush.

 

As the unit makes the six and a half mile trip to the airport, AB tenses up and starts to cry every time they pass or are passed by an SUV on the road, in absolute fear for his life. Once they arrive at the airport, AB is transferred to the waiting D.P.S. airplane and is transported to Georgetown and the Williamson County Jail without incident.

[] DAY FIVE

March 1, 2008

Mary

 

The man in the bed next to me is, for the most part, a familiar stranger. Those people took my husband on Tuesday and the authorities brought someone else back is my first thoughts as I wake up this morning. Quickly, I scold myself for thinking that. Of course, it’s Paul. How could a person’s personality, their very being, be extinguished in only forty-four hours? I tell myself that I won’t, I can’t believe that.

 

I tell myself, “Paul will heal. Everything will be all right. All we need is to get through this rough patch until they get all the kidnappers rounded up, get moved into our new place and then get back into our jobs. Everything will be fine again. We just need a little time.”

We talked some last night. I told him about Lance’s therapist, where he was and that Lance had suggested it’d be good for Paul to go and talk to someone. I told him I might need to talk to someone, too. He was less than receptive to the idea. He doesn’t see what I see. He isn’t ready to trust anyone right now. Especially me. Maybe Tom or Lance or one of the kids will suggest it later and he’ll be open to the idea.

 

He was more interested in our writing down everything that he remembers from the abduction which we’ve been doing for the last two days. It’s horrific. Penny and I write everything down but we know that many of these things did not happen. Still, something did happen to plant these terrifying ideas into his head. Something.

 

I start my own list: 1) find out everything I can about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2) find a support group for myself even if he won’t agree to go, 3) find out about the Mexican cartels; how they operate, what they do to kidnap victims, everything.

 

Everyone is up and ready to to. We head out to Paul’s office. Penny, Tim and Angela divert to pick up breakfast tacos on the way over. The Office Manager at Paul’s office meets the rest of us outside the front door. Since the kidnapping, they’ve changed the security code to the building. She gives Paul a huge hug and the new code. She seems so happy and relieved to see him safe! Paul seems surprised at the attention but he smiles and tells her he’s doing okay and expects to be back in the office really soon.

 

We enter the office and turn on the lights. It’s Saturday so no one else is working in the office. The Office Manager shows us where the employee and subcontractor files are. Paul will look through the photo ID’s to see if anyone looks familiar enough to give to Ranger Lindemann and the others to investigate in connection with his abduction. If he spots anyone, we’ll copy the photo and put together a file that Paul can take to the Ranger next week.

 

Penny and the others arrive with our breakfast tacos so everything stops for a moment. This is special food. Normally, when any of the kids come home, Paul makes his famous breakfast tacos from a special recipe he created. It truly does turn out the best ever breakfast tacos! We can’t do that this morning so Rudy’s breakfast tacos, the family’s second favorite, are happily devoured.

 

Going through years and years of personnel and subcontractor files is a huge undertaking. Paul has to look at each photo ID, everyone who has worked for Tom for years and years. Paul had been able to see a little bit from beneath the bandana they’d had wrapped around his eyes and whenever someone was standing close, so he noticed their build and some of the items they wore. He thinks he heard some familiar names mentioned between people in the room, too.

 

The plan is to photocopy any of the file copies that stand out to Paul. After looking at several hundred, Paul has picked out six that he thinks are worth looking at closer. They are all subcontractors. We make copies of the ID copies to give to the authorities. One subcontractor is Jorge Benavidez.

 

We finish the photocopying. Paul pulls a large map of San Antonio that’s been mounted and laminated on foam board from behind a filing cabinet and shows it to the rest of us. It’s perfect! We’ll use this to track the credit card charges. We load the map and copies into the car and drive back to the hotel.

 

Paul needs to rest and everyone needs a rest from Paul, from me, from this thing. I don’t know if I will ever rest again.

 

Paul wakes after about an hour and I remind him that we need to cancel the lease application we put in with the other apartment we’d planned to move into before everything happened. We’d only put a deposit down and move-in wasn’t scheduled until April 1, but some places are sticklers. They could try to legally force us to move in or pay out the lease. Paul doesn’t feel up to going so Penny and Sam volunteer to go with me.

 

A very nice young woman meets us at the counter. I explain that Paul and I need out of our lease application, if at all possible, because we have been advised that we need a higher level of security.

 

“We are secure.” she defends the property, “We have an electronic gate and a security person does a well check at least once per evening.”

 

“That’s like the apartment complex we’re moving away from,” I repeat, “and my husband was abducted at gunpoint in front of our secure apartment, taken to another city and held hostage this week. We need more.”

 

Her eyes widen in surprise. She clearly doesn’t know what to say to this.

 

“The unit that we were taking here is right beside one of your gates. There will be a high level of Austin Police and FBI officers sending patrol cars wherever we live to provide extra protection and surveillance for a while due to the death threats to our family from a Mexican drug cartel. If you’re confident that your residents won’t mind this type of potential danger moving next door to them, I guess you could force us to take the apartment.”

 

She takes a protective step back then, “I, uh, I think if you write something to the manager explaining all that, your, uh, special circumstances, that they’ll let you out of the lease.”

 

Everyone is working on the map when we get back to the hotel. We all work on it before and after dinner with color-coded flags representing different credit cards. Patterns emerge. Other than a couple of purchases, most were made within a small segment of northwest San Antonio.

 

As Paul and I get ready to go to bed, I can tell that he’s thinking about something. “What are you thinking about?” I seem to ask this a lot because he’s pretty shut down around me when we’re alone.

 

“I wish I could cry.”

 

“Oh,” I say, my brain searching for something helpful to say but merely mumbling, “It will come. Just give it time.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Then he rolls onto his side and goes to sleep while I lay here unable to stop crying.

 

 

[] INTERROGATIONABRAHAM WEBERWILCO

 

On March 1, 2008, at 9:53 AM, Abraham “AB” Weber is brought into the interview room at the Williamson County Jail for the first of several interviews with Detective James Maugham and Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann. AB enters wearing the white pants and V-necked pullover shirt issued to all Williamson County inmates. “INMATE” is stenciled up the side of each pant leg. His shoes are jail-issue tan slip-ons. The brown belt around his waist connects to the metal handcuffs on his wrists. His feet are shackled at the ankles with a chain that gives him an approximate stride of twelve inches. AB tends to keep his hands folded together, like a person in prayer, and to use both hands as one when talking.

 

After reading the Miranda Warning to AB, inquiring about his trip up from Laredo in the small D.P.S. plane and how well he’s slept the night before, the investigators settle in to, hopefully, expand on the details AB gave to the officers in Laredo and their own extraction team. However, before they can ask their first question, AB is telling them that a lot of information that would be helpful to their case is on his phone and with other items that were confiscated by the officers in Laredo.

 

“They’re trying to get it – ‘cause they’re trying to get the Feds, ‘cause I told them I wanted to get Fed time, and they told me to just talk to them. I said, ‘no, I don’t want to talk to them until they give something for sure,’ and they said they’re gonna get me the Feds,” AB rambles without so much as a breath, “’cause there’s one individual that’s here that ain’t supposed to be here, which is Samantha Casablanca, ‘cause she didn’t have nothing to do with it. She was just there. And I told her to go over there, ‘cause she knew my life was in danger.”

 

James waits for the young man to take a breath, “To go over where?”

 

AB looks at James with surprise at his question, “When I told her to go do me a favor when I was in the raid. She’s not supposed to be here. She was just – going over there just to do that favor real quick. She was never involved in none of the stuff that happened – at all. And, I can make for sure. The only thing she got involved with was that credit card thing. Other than that, she didn’t have nothing to do with it. And I can make sure about that one hundred percent. I don’t even know why they – they say she was one of the ones that did that, ‘cause she wasn’t.”

 

Finally a breath and James jumps in, “So what – why – I’ll tell you what, let’s, let’s back it up to the very beginning.”

 

AB looks around, looks at the two-way mirror. Points at it with both hands, “There’s people in back of here, too?”

 

James looks up at AB, “Huh?”

 

With his hands clasped together, AB points at the mirror again, “There’s people back here, too?”

 

James, “No.”

 

“Nobody wants to work on Saturday, man,” Matt adds.

 

James asks, “Did you have another – another cell phone?”

 

“It was a throw away I bought.”

 

“You know the number?” Matt asks quickly.

 

AB looks over at Matt shaking his head, “No, I don’t. They didn’t even give me a chance to get any of my stuff. They was going through my phone. I was, I’ll tell you, like, if you can get them, if you can get the phone, my phone or the phone numbers are in there. I’ll tell you a couple of other people that you can get ahold of right now.”

 

James nods and tries to cut him off, “Okay-”

 

AB talks over James, “I’m not trying to do nothing. I just want to go with the Feds, ‘cause I know I’m gonna get a lot of fucking time. If you all can help me out with that, then maybe. You know what I’m saying? I ain’t got no choice but to…”

 

James tries to interrupt again, “Well, here’s the deal-”

 

“I mean, really, tell you the reality, and I ain’t gonna sit here and bullshit you. I’m really the only one you all got right now to fucking tell you all the whole, real story. What went down and who was there. Who you all are missing in the whole picture.” AB looks at the investigators seriously.

 

“Okay,” James offers, “and, that’s what we’d like to hear.”

 

“‘Cause I ain’t gonna sit there – the other dude – you all are gonna get, there’s one in Mexico and there’s two other ones that ain’t never gonna be found out.”

 

“Why?” James says encouraging AB to continue.

 

“They won’t be found. They’re already out in the distance. Completely out of distance,” AB says and sits back, quiet, for the moment.

 

“Why would they be out of distance?” James asks.

 

“They’ve already been gone since it happened.” AB shrugs, wipes his nose with the back of one hand and adjusts how he’s sitting in the chair.

 

James writes then looks up at AB and asks, “They’re down in Mexico?”

 

AB nods, “One’s already out here – one’s already probably in Mexico right now.”

 

James sits back. He looks over at Matt who is writing furiously in his notebook then asks AB, “Yeah? Okay, before we get into the little details and stuff, can you tell me why all this took place?”

 

AB shrugs again and replies very matter-of-fact, “Somebody owed somebody money and then they got somebody that had money.”

 

“Somebody owed somebody money? Who owed who money?” James demands.

 

“Somebody in Mexico.”

 

James wants specifics and pushes a little harder, “Somebody in Mexico was owed by who?”

 

AB falters just a second, “Some – somebody in Mexico owed money to somebody else in Mexico.”

 

Matt cuts in, “And, these people – this man that was kidnapped, he didn’t owe them nothing? They were just trying to get money out of them?”

 

AB nods and smiles like a teacher who’s student has mastered a difficult concept.

 

“So how – how did he become part of this?” James asks now.

 

AB casually looks at James and replies, “Because his brother has a lot of money.”

 

James probes more, “Okay. Well, how does he come up with that conclusion?”

 

AB looks at the men. He considers his answer and, smiling, says, “Somebody already knew that he had money and that was an easy target for them.”

 

“And who was the somebody?”

 

AB wipes his nose, adjusts the legs of his jumpsuit and nods, “The one that I tell you I got on my phone.”

 

They go over the phone numbers that James has listed on his notebook and AB confirms the ones that he recognizes. AB makes his plea for getting his charges and eventual sentence to be handled on the Federal level and the investigators promise only to make the case to the district attorney based on his full cooperation. He’s fearful that someone from the drug cartel will have him killed in the State prison system. James pulls several photos from his notebook and places them in front of AB who doesn’t recognize anyone until the fourth photo. He chuckles when he sees it.

 

“Who’s that?” asks James.

 

“I’ll tell you right now. Put that one to the side. Gil.”

 

James smiles and nods, “Okay and Gil should be arrested sometime today – if he wasn’t arrested last night. You know this one?” James puts another photo on the table.

 

AB pulls back in the chair, “Fuck. I’m gonna tell you right now. Fuck.”

 

Matt looks at AB and nods, “He looks crazy.”

 

AB squirms a bit and agrees, “Yeah, he is. Trust me. Go ahead.”

 

James puts another one out, “Know him?”

 

AB shakes his head, “Huh-uh. Go ahead.”

 

James stops, looking directly at AB and tapping the photo, “You don’t know that one?”

 

AB relents, “Oh, yeah, from the escort service. Where you all got him?”

 

James throws another photo on the pile, “Who’s that?”

 

AB isn’t enjoying this anymore, “Oh.”

 

James asks, even though he knows the answer, “Jeff?”

 

AB is starting to get the picture that the investigators are further ahead of this than he thought they’d be, “Yeah. Damn, he’s fucking through!” pausing for control, “You all got some of the good stuff and then you all got some little bullshit stuff ‘cause that’s still missing a lot.”

 

James smiles, “Well, fill me in.”

 

AB points to the photo pile to the side, “Those are just credit card gigs right there, except for that last one. And then you got – those right there, put – go ahead and put those to the side, and put that bottom – last one – well that one’s probably a credit card right there – that dude right there.”

 

He moves the photos around and directs James where to put others.

 

James looks at the last photo AB moved to the side, “Do you think so?”

 

AB nods, “He has to be a credit card.”

 

“Why?”

 

AB shrugs, “‘Cause he’s white.”

 

James, pointing to another photo, “Who’s this guy?”

 

“Jorge.”

 

James asks as though he’s surprised, “That’s Jorge?”

 

AB confirms his identity, “Yeah. Haven’t gotten him yet? I don’t think you guys fucking will.”

 

James asks, “Why?”

 

AB replies almost reverentially, “Getting him – ‘cause he’s been – they’ve been trying to get him for a minute. He already knows you got some – probably be in Mexico.”

 

James sorts the photos to catch AB’s reaction to how he’s piling them together. AB shakes his head and tries to take the photos but James pulls them back.

 

“No, I’m saying that one. Put him with those – put the guy – white dude on the bottom,” AB directs James’s sorting.

 

James stops and looks at AB, “Put this white dude on the bottom?”

 

“Yeah, put Jorge on that,” AB says pointing to another pile.

 

“Why is that?” James wants to know his importance.

 

AB, totally misses the point, “Huh? ‘Cause that’s his name.”

 

James hides a chuckle, “That’s Jorge? I already knew that.”

 

AB rocks back a forth a little, nodding, “Those are the ones I tell you, you got to deal with.”

 

James points to the pile with Jorge’s photo on top. AB nods, “Because me – my life’s very in danger one way or another.”

 

James pulls out some more photos, “This one here?”

 

“He runs with them dudes from – they’re the ones that do communications and stuff in Mexico,” AB answers, “kidnapping and this shit.”

 

James pulls another photo out and shows AB.

 

“Looks like Miguel.”

 

James nods and puts the photo on the stack with Jorge, “Okay.”

 

AB continues, “So they’re – they’re just telling you whatever – they’re telling you probably some bits. They’re not telling you about the real shit. That’s what I’m trying to adjust. I’m trying to get with you. I don’t want to be stuck in the middle. I tell you what I had said, self-incriminating myself, ‘cause right now they got bits and parts to where they can get me for what they got. ‘Cause that’s why it took it, took them so long to pa- or seize the paperwork and everything to get me a warrant from down there over here, and then they didn’t even have the uh, evidence they needed to get me fully booked; you know what I’m saying? ‘Cause the reality – all they got is me coming out of the motel. And people saying what I did and didn’t do.”

 

James leans across the table slightly, “Well let me tell you this, okay? This I know for a fact. I have enough evidence on you that whether or not you say another word you’re gonna be prosecuted for kidnapping. Plain and simple. I mean, I already got that. So, the only thing you can do from this point on is help yourself by telling me what you know, and then I will do my part on trying to help you get where you want to go. I understand you want to do Federal time. All I can do is say, look, the guy has been cooperative. He gave everything on the table. For his own protection, he wants to do it in the Federal Pen.”

 

AB listens and after a moment, “You all got one of the main dudes…Bart.”

 

“Bartolo?” James asks with some real surprise.

 

“Yeah, Bartolo. Yeah, you guys got one. You all got one of the main dudes right there, no matter what.”

 

Matt interrupts AB, “He’s not – he’s still not the mastermind though.”

 

“No. The mastermind you’ll never find, even the Feds, I can tell you right now.”

 

James sighs, “Well, tell me who he is.”

 

AB adjusts in his chair and looks at both men, “Miguel.”

 

James asks again, clarifying, “Miguel?”

 

“The head Zeta.”

 

James isn’t sold, “Yeah?”

 

AB continues, frowning, “I’m not trying to waste your time and I’m not trying to bullshit you or nothing, but it’s like, I’m just trying to get my safety for sure, all the way around. ‘Cause like they told me, like I told my mom, just uh, when I said, ‘Mom, just talk to somebody,’ so I could – or to go over there and then whatever, just to make sure I’m gonna have my safety. ‘Cause in reality, this shit right here, it’s not just like no ordinary crime anybody else has.”

 

AB appears sincerely scared and, working for a plea deal, is willing to do anything to convince the investigators to plead his case for federal time vs. state time. The investigators are sympathetic, but skeptical, and urge him to step up and help them put together a complete picture of the kidnapping plan and all the players.

 

James adds, “Well, I’ll tell you. I, I mean, I can protect you here while you’re in this facility.

 

AB nods, looking from James to Matt, “But, that, that’s here! You know what I’m saying? That’s what I’m saying. It’s like I just want to have a full, and you, you know, ‘cause you work, not just here in Texas. You get shit from all over and you know what the Zetas’ about. They’ll go over there and have somebody that you don’t even think. It’s like I’m telling you right now, his brother, Tom – you all better have his house surrounded, surveillance and shit – and don’t say I didn’t tell you yet. ‘Cause I told the Feds to make sure that you all had this house watched, ‘cause they’re supposed to be following that fool right now.”

 

James asks with doubt, “Really?”

 

“They’re supposed to be. That’s how he fucked up and, they’ve got other people here in Austin, Georgetown, over here in uh, all these places, all through right here that work for them people. That’s how they found out‘cause half of them work for them. They work for him and other people…construction companies. For so long, they know how much money, where they go, how they do it, and everything. So, I’m telling you right now, his brother is not, not that far. It will be dealt with one way or another by them people – for the incident – the way he did what he did.”

 

“So, the fact that he did what? Are they gonna come back on him?” James asks.

 

“The fact that he set everybody up and went down with the cops and the Feds and they didn’t get their money, yeah.” AB shakes his head with contempt.

 

“Because the brother didn’t go?”

 

AB cuts him off, “Yeah, because the brother didn’t. The old man, he’s all right. The old man, he’s all right. He, man, that fool right there did not get – he didn’t get touched, nothing like that at all. And he’ll tell you himself. He did not get hurt at all.”

 

“Did he get drugged?”

 

AB is surprised. “Drugged? No. He was on, he wasn’t on medication so long to where his body felt like kind of weak. I fed him.”

 

James and Matt exchange a look and AB charges on,“Hey, they fed him. He had food, brushed his teeth, all that shit. He had everything. He didn’t go over there, they even, I even made sure that they took the damn ties off him. He didn’t have no anklets, no nothing. Not unless they put them on when he left, ‘cause they were already pissed off. All he had was a handkerchief on the whole time.”

 

“Handkerchief?” James asks.

 

“That’s it.”

 

“Over his eyes?” Matt asks.

 

“Over his eyes, but that’s it. That’s it. I made sure about that because I’m not, I don’t like that shit, doing that shit on old people. You know what I’m saying? I’ll beat the shit out of somebody else that can fight back, but the thing is that, and I even made sure they let him go over there and talk, you know what I’m saying? So he can talk to his relatives, let them know he’s all right. That’s, man, that dude right there can, I guarantee you, he cannot say that he ever got hurt, man at all.”

 

James states, “Right now, he’s still very, very…disoriented and everything else.”

 

AB nods understanding, “Yeah, shook up.”

 

Matt says, “He thought it went on for two weeks.”

 

AB shakes his head, “Probably because every time I’d leave, fucking people fucking go in there and talk shit to him. Fucking Bart.”

 

Matt probes deeper, “Threatening him with a pistol and shit?”

 

“Probably so,” AB agrees and then, “I’m gonna tell you right now. It’s a hard decision for me. ‘Cause I got to deal with it and it’s already a loss of a certain amount of money to get somebod in the situation. I’m gonna do time. I’m, I’m looking at it already.”

 

“State times are up to life.”

 

AB goes on, “Yeah, well me, well, for me it’s up to life, regardless. ‘Cause I already got, I already got three times. I’m institutionalized already. Me, my life isn’t – I’ve been locked up since I was younger. You all see my whole background. It’s been awhile and I’m gonna tell you about another incident, too, that occurred that you all probably don’t even know about. So-”

 

Matt interrupts him, “An attempted abduction?”

 

“There’s, there’s a whole thing and there’s still more things coming. You know what I’m saying?”

 

Matt shakes his head, “Not really. They got more plans? This deal wasn’t the last one, huh?”

 

AB answers Matt, “There was one, there was another one, there’s-”

 

James interrupts, smiling, “The first one went kind of haywire, didn’t it?”

 

“Huh?”

 

AB tries to fend off questions regarding the attempted abduction of Lance Self surprised that the investigators have already drawn the connection between the two crimes. Matt works from another angle.

 

“Bobby. Bobby says he’s not involved but he knows a whole lot about it,” Matt announces.

 

“Yeah, Bobby, yeah, ‘cause he’s all, he’s all hooked up on dope and shit. He’s trying to get his ass out of it.”

 

James adds, “He’s been talking.”

 

AB nods as if he understands what’s happened, “Yeah, he’s been talking, but that’s how you all got those.” He points to the photos. “Sam. She’ll tell you real because she don’t-”

 

James cuts him off, “I know. We talked to her for about three and a half hours yesterday.”

 

“Yeah, she, she’ll be hard ass about it. That one right there? That’s why I’m telling you she didn’t know shit. You know what I’m saying? She knew to a certain extent with that right there. But, not this right here. You know what I’m saying? That’s why, reality, she don’t have nothing in that, about going with us, doing all this and wa,wa,wa. No. There was none of that ‘cause there’s been several trips down here. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

 

“Were you there that morning?”

 

AB looks around, “Where?”

 

“At the apartment complex when they abducted the old man?” James clarifies.

 

“Yes and no. I can’t tell you.”

 

James pushes back, “So tell me who was there.”

 

AB hedges the question and no matter how hard they probe, he maintains being less than knowledgeable about the persons who did the actual abduction at the apartment.

 

He ties Jorge to the scene of the crime. “He was the only one of those that was from Austin. I do know a lot. There’s a couple other dudes there that I used. That drive and all that shit. That do all that other shit. That isn’t, I just don’t. That abduction shit, I’m telling you right now. One of the main mother fucker’s right there – on this side of the border.”

 

James asks, “So, he’s one of the big connections on this side of the border?”

 

“Hell, yeah! The one that runs all this part between Austin and shit!” he replies emphatically.

 

James looks at Matt and watches him writing in his notebook a moment before coming back to AB, “Okay. Let’s start with – ‘cause we already know Jorge is one of the main players. Let’s start with that level right there.”

 

AB nods, “Okay.”

 

“That’s what I’m looking for is the full truth.”

 

Matt adds, “And if I could stop things from happening in the future, I want to do that, too.”

 

AB stretches out as much as he can in the chair to find a comfortable position, “What do you want?”

 

“Just whatever you think that you can give me that you can give to me right now,” James says softly, pausing, “I’ll tell you what. Let’s deal with just this incident right here, okay?”

 

AB’s face gets serious. He looks around the room, then answers, “Mm-hmm. That incident is gonna get my ass in enough trouble as it is.”

 

James chuckles, sits back, “You’re already in that. You’re bought and paid for on that, so that one ain’t gonna make you any difference. So, how many people was here that morning at seven o’clock?”

 

Even though AB seems willing to talk to them, he avoids most of the direct questions regarding the other people involved with the abduction, even to not knowing who they were or that they would be in place until the day of the crime. AB does confirm Paul Roland’s account of the initial drive being shortened by a change of drivers, but AB doesn’t confess to being the one who took over driving Paul Roland’s truck. The investigators go over the route they took from north Austin to the Safari Motel in San Antonio.

 

“Who rented it?” James asks.

 

“It’s under Bart’s name.”

 

Matt pushes for more detail, “So that old man, when they put him in the van or whatever, they took him straight to that room, he was never held in a different location and then moved?”

 

AB shakes his head, “Huh-uh. Hell, no. they were gonna take him to the next – it was just-”

 

Matt finishes, “Another sorry-ass motel somewhere else?”

 

“Yeah, just another motel just to keep him calm. Bart started getting all strung up on dope and shit.”

 

“Okay. So, that morning you all took off and the first time he comes out of that, out of his truck, was when they dumped it, the same place they dumped it at?” James asks.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So they just dumped the truck, took him and boogied?”

 

AB corrects James, “Bugged off.”

 

“And went on in San Antonio?” James continues, ignoring him.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“And then, who stayed with him there?”

 

“Bart.”

 

AB fidgets a little; adjusts the legs of his jumpsuit, wipes his nose with the back of one hand and moves around in the seat of the chair.

 

James continues, “Bart was with him the whole time?”

 

“Mm-hmm. Like I said he was all up. He was all wired all the time.”

 

Matt asks, “On meth?”

 

AB shrugs, “On uh, a little bit of that and that other – that cocaine.”

 

James quickly asks, “Like crack?”

 

“No, like coke.”

 

“Just coke?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And so who did – how many times you go by and check on him?” James moves the direction of the questioning.

 

“About two times.”

 

“So, like, on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday? Did anybody else ever go by and check on him?” James wants specifics about how many people were in the motel room.

 

“Just really, just me, and they had some girl go over there and visit, but she didn’t even know what was going on, ‘cause if anybody went over there, that fool was put away. You know what I’m saying? They had a closet there and they had a restroom. You know what I’m saying? How many people do you know that you have a hostage and everything, and you go, “Hey, you know what? Come on, let’s go get together.” You know what I’m saying? It wasn’t really like that man, I felt, I had my conscience.” AB crosses his arms and sits up straighter in the chair.

 

“Just ‘cause he’s old?” James offers.

 

“Yeah, ‘cause he’s old, man. He was like, ‘Man, what’s going on? Why? Why?’ I’m like, man, I don’t know. I couldn’t do no more because they already had my family’s addresses and all that shit. You know what I’m saying?”

 

James nods sympathetically, then adds, “Well, that’s what we’re trying to figure out, is why him?”

 

“‘Cause his brother’s got money. That’s it.”

 

AB confesses that they told Mr. Roland his nephew owed money on a drug deal just to control him. He maintainded that it was as simple as he’s said. He also tells them that there are no players in San Antonio. Jorge is the key person and he lives in Austin.

 

“So, Jorge here, he instigated the whole thing?” James asks.

 

“Really the one across the border but, on this side, yeah.”

 

“He’s the one that hired up all the drivers?”

 

“Right.”

 

“He’s the one who picked the mark?”

 

“Right. Set the plans.”

 

“Who did the surveillance on the mark?”

 

“Him.”

 

They go over phone numbers and rehash AB’s requests yet again. Matt leaves the room. AB tells James that he’s not been able to contact his family and James assures him that if the numbers they’ve been given are good, he will facilitate a phone call after their interview concludes.

 

For the next twenty minutes, AB repeats most of what he’s already said and implicating Bobby Sharp as more involved than they think. AB and James sit quietly for a few moments until Matt returns. The questioning returns to who is in trouble with whom?

 

AB shakes his head. “‘Cause now, the brother’s got that on the other side already. There’s a bunch of people in trouble on this side already.”

 

“‘Cause they fucked up? It didn’t go right?” Matt asks.

 

AB looks at Matt and shifts in his chair. “I know I didn’t fuck up. I was in Laredo.”

 

“So who else was up here that fucked up?” James asks.

 

“Just him,” AB states.

 

“Just Bart all by himself?”

 

“He was always strung up. He was doing that, talking on the phone like he shouldn’t have been talking on the phone.”

 

“So who was making all the phone calls?”

 

“I don’t know. I’d be very surprised,” AB says, shaking his head.

 

“Well, surprise me.”

 

“No, no. Surprise you? I’ll surprise you when, I mean when, uh, put it like this, man. That dude? That dude’s brother. Seriously. That’s no game. These dudes come with S-K-S’s, man!”

 

“So who’s blaming him? He didn’t screw up,” James corrects him.

 

“Man, everybody was just – you shouldn’t have got the cops involved.”

James shakes his head and says, “Well, that’s gonna happen. The fact that you all took him and didn’t make no demands in twenty-four hours! That already got us involved for missing person and then we found the truck. So, whether he told us or not, we were already involved.”

 

AB hadn’t thought of that, “Yeah.”

 

Matt comes back to the threats, “Who does the brother need to be concerned with? Watching out for right now?”

 

AB cocks his head back as if that’s the direction to Mexico, “Them people from over there, from Mexico. Them fools don’t play.”

 

“So, you know what they’ll be driving? It’s not like, it’s not Jorge?” Matt asks.

 

AB shakes his head then looks from James to Matt serious, “Uh-uh. But, they’ll probably come in Tahoe’s or some shit which is out of the blue. Some low bullshit, shitty cars. Just fucking go light them up.”

 

 

Matt Lindemann (TX Ranger) and Det. James Maugham interview Abraham Weber

 

 

 

WILCO

 

Sergeant Pete Hughey, listens as James and Matt brief the investigative team and members of the District Attorney’s office about the serious information that’s been gathered over the past 24 hours.

 

“Abraham Weber, arrested in Laredo,” James explains, “has supplied information indicating that a Jorge Benavidez, from Austin, Texas, arranged the kidnapping of Paul Roland to extort money from Tom Roland. Jorge is an electrician and a sub-contractor.”

 

“Weber told Laredo investigators and us,” Matt continues, “that Jorge is connected to Los Zetas, a Mexican gang with affiliations to the Gulf drug cartel.”

 

“What does the Gulf cartel got to do with the Rolands?”A question from the group.

 

“According to Weber,” James explains, “the plan laid out by Benavidez was to work with contractors, making contacts through his status as an electrician. With surveillance of relatives of the owners of the contracting companies, the intent is to kidnap one of the family members and extort money from the owner of the company. The plan was then to transport the kidnapped person to Mexico and give them to Los Zetas to extort more money.”

 

“We learned, too,” adds Matt, “Benavidez has been dealt with by the Laredo P. D. in the past.”

 

In closing, James warns the group, “There may be a “hit” out on Tom Roland or his family in retribution for bringing in the police and not completing the ransom drop. Benavidez is suspected of transporting arms and could have access, at his house, to grenades, automatic rifles and a number of stolen multi-passenger vehicles. He’s to be considered armed and dangerous. An expedient capture of Jorge Benavidez is of paramount importance.”

 

 

Miguel Trevino – La Quarenta (40) – Los Zetas

 

 

Paul

 

Another busy day today. The California kids will be packing the kitchen and living room at the old apartment while the rest of us go to my office. They’re flying back to California on Tuesday and want to help us with the apartment while they’re here. There are boxes and packing materials already there so they’ll be a big help to get us going. Mary warns them to be alert and keep the garage and every other door shut and locked as long as they’re there.

 

I transfer my office cell calls to my new personal cell and listen to all the well wishes on my voice mail from customers. It makes me feel really great! I call each of them and thank them for their prayers. I can’t believe how many prayer groups I was on! Coast to coast! Amazing! We get everything we need from my office then stop by the apartment to help the kids with the packing for a while. Mary works on our bedroom and I work on the kitchen. I don’t know where we got all of this stuff! I always say that when we pack to move. We work for a couple of hours and then all go back to the hotel. Everyone’s hungry. We decide on Whataburger.

 

Mary, Penny and I continue trying to match the credit card purchases with addresses on the San Antonio map from my office. Most of the purchases were made in a small area between Loop 410, Babcock and IH-10. There’s one on the north side of San Antonio and three more in Laredo. There’s a distinct pattern to the purchases, too. They purchased phones, gas, cash cards, makeup, fast food and drinks. We work for a long time looking up legal terms and maximum lengths of sentences for the charges they might get. We’ve heard each has a bond of $500,000 and that each of them possibly have multiple charges against them. What a fool thing to do! Their whole lives ruined. By the time they get out of jail, they’ll be very old.

 

I still feel nearly certain I stayed at two motels during my capture and am having a hard time giving that up. The dreams I understand but I can’t put the sequence of events all together. Everyone assures me that I was only at the Safari Inn in San Antonio from Tuesday afternoon until I was put into the van to be taken to Laredo. I’m realizing, more and more, just how scared I was. Maybe I should just put things out of my mind?

 

 

 

 

Tracking the credit card charges

 

[] DAY SIX

March 2, 2008

 

Mary

 

No one got up early today. Penny and I barely make the hotel breakfast bar cutoff and find slim pickings left. We manage to get a few items; the most important one of all: coffee. We also find Angela near the coffee pot and the three of us put together a plan for the day.

 

Paul and I still have to figure out where we’re going to live and fast. I’ve managed to negotiate a small discount on the two rooms here at the hotel and, even though one of them will be empty on Tuesday, the expenses are stacking up by the minute. I know very well that Paul and I can’t afford to rent rooms and cars much longer.

 

So, first order of business is to find a new apartment that we can move into immediately. Paul mentioned he felt safest in going to an apartment complex we’ve lived in before. I enlist the girls to go with me to the apartment office and see what’s available, hoping to have something working by the end of the day.

 

We get back to the room with the coffee and I notice the Sunday paper is still on the coffee table in the little living room. Our bedroom door is shut. Penny and I put the breakfast and coffees on the table and I go into our bedroom. Paul is lying in bed, on his back, staring at the ceiling.

 

“Are you all right?” I ask.

 

“I’m not feeling too good,” he says, looking at me with wary eyes. “I think I’ll stay in bed for a while.”

 

I bring everything into our room; coffee, food and the newspaper. As brightly as possible, I tell him that Penny, Angela and I are going to look at apartments.

 

“Don’t decide anything,” he demands, “until I’ve had a chance to see it first.”

 

His tone and implication hurt a bit, but I smile and agree. There’s something in his eyes that keeps me from saying something sarcastic or in anger. I can see the fear of leaving the safe haven of this place, with me, is very real to him.

 

Angela, Penny and I go over to the apartment complex around 1 PM and are touring their model units within a few minutes. Armed with prices, photos, an application and floor plans, we return to the hotel to see if Paul feels well enough to come and look at a unit or make a decision based on what we’ve found.

 

Paul is still in bed when we get back but says he’s feeling a little better. He’s gotten a call from Tom. Tom’s asked us to come over later today to meet with Ranger Lindemann and another officer from the Pflugerville Police Department. We are both hoping that we get some more answers and whether they’ve caught anymore people involved with his kidnapping.

 

The girls and I show Paul all our photos and the floor plans. We discuss prices and specials. I fill out the application. Paul doesn’t want to tour any model apartments. He’s decided that we should rent an apartment like we had before: a two-bedroom/two bath with a garage.

 

I take the application to the apartment office with checks for the deposit and application fee. “Once it’s approved,” I ask, “how soon until we can move into that unit?”

 

“You can take possession on Thursday, March 6.”

 

As I drive back to the hotel, I can’t help but think how crazy this is! Look how much has happened! A week ago, all I was worried about was getting refreshments to a sales meeting on time. In two days, it will be a week since Paul was kidnapped. Two days after that, only a week after Paul’s rescue and we’ll be living in a new place; a place we hadn’t even considered two weeks ago!

 

Penny comes with us to Tom’s house. We’re all so glad to see each other and grateful that everyone’s safe. We’re catching up on everything when Ranger Lindemann and the Pflugerville Police Officer arrive.

 

First, Ranger Lindemann and Tom recall the trip to San Antonio with the ransom money. Then, Ranger Lindemann tells us about the other officers and what they were doing and how worried they’d been that Tom might drive off to Laredo against their orders.

 

Tom looks at me. “I didn’t want to be the one to tell Mary that I didn’t bring Paul back. That guy was saying some pretty horrible things.”

 

I don’t know what to say. Tears of gratitude fill my eyes knowing that this man was willing to face death to save Paul, his brother.

 

As if hearing my thoughts, Ranger Lindemann says, “If you’d have gone down to Laredo, Tom, they’d have taken you across and killed you. At the time, we didn’t know if Paul was on this side or that side and we couldn’t chance losing you both.”

 

We talk long into the night and ask questions about everything from other suspects to what comes next. The conversation turns to what do we have in place for personal protection? Tom has several guns. Paul now carries a handgun in his briefcase whenever he travels out of the hotel room and keeps the gun in the nightstand beside the bed at night.

 

Neither Liz nor I have any experience with guns. I’ve been pretty anti-gun my whole life and don’t like having them around at all. Ranger Lindemann suggested we think about getting concealed handgun licenses so that we can all carry protection legally. Tom and Paul, of course, think this is a good idea. Tom promises to find out about classes as soon as possible.

 

“We still haven’t picked up Jorge Benavidez,” Ranger Lindemann adds as he’s leaving, “but we have four people in the jail and we’re talking to lots of other people. We should have Jorge pretty soon. Still, y’all need to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.”

 

“Do you think we’re still in danger?” I ask him. “What would you tell your own family in this situation?” I don’t want him to give me the company line. I want the truth.

 

“I don’t know,” he finally says after a moment, “all I can tell you is to keep aware of your surroundings, what’s going on. Stay in contact with your family and stay in contact with us. Stay vigilant.”

 

[] DAY SEVEN

March 3, 2008

 

[] INTERROGATION 2 – ABRAHAM WEBERATF

 

Detective James Maugham and Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann escort two agents from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a Federal agency, into the interview room to talk to Abraham “AB” Weber. The two ATF agents, Ken and Luke, are clean cut young men in their early 30’s. They read the Miranda Warning to AB who visibly relaxes, warming up to the younger men, happy to be talking to Federal-level personnel.

 

Ken starts them off, “What information do you have for us?”

 

AB smiles sincerely, “What do you want to get?”

 

“We’re here for the guns, um, but listen, before we even, I’m not gonna, we can’t guarantee you anything. All right? We can try to help you out the best way, but there’s no guarantee. I want to tell you that right now. It will depend on what information you have for us to work with. Right now, we don’t have anything to work with, okay? So, I wanna help you. You can help yourself out, okay?” Kens says and AB nods, “We got some questions for you. If you answer these questions for us, we can see what we can do. You understand?”

 

AB smiles big and looks at Ken’s notes, “I see you got Miguel on there.”

 

Ken picks up his notebook and holds it out of AB’s reach and sight, “I got a lot of people on here. You reading my notes?”

 

“Keep ahead of the game on all this.”

 

Ken nods and puts his notebook back on the table, “All right. Well, you know how the game goes. Are you a convicted felon?” AB nods. “Did you go to T.D.C.?” he asks.

 

“I went ten years,” AB says proudly.

 

“Ten years? Where?” Ken asks, surprised that someone so young has been locked up so much.

 

AB acts as if it would be easier to say where he hadn’t been, “Ferguson, Caulfield, McConnell-”

 

Ken asks, cutting AB off, “For what?”

 

“For aggravated robbery. Bexar County. The other one was for organized crime but they dropped it down to regular robbery.”

 

“Okay, so altogether, T. D. C. time is ten years?”

 

AB nods, “Ten years and T. Y. C. (Texas Youth Corrections); Texas juvenile when I was 16.”

 

“Who do you hang with?”

 

“I used to be Raza Unida but I just did it for a reason,” AB says as if that makes everything perfectly clear.

 

“Raza Unida?”

 

“Yeah, Raza Unida, but it wasn’t all that.”

 

“You got tattoos on you?” Ken asks.

 

“Yeah, I got all. I got religious, old school stuff . They don’t know,” AB says and pulls one sleeve up to display the tattoo, “Here’s the one that’s hidden.” Ken helps him get the sleeve up as far as it will go and leans closer to get a good look. “You can’t really see, but here’s the ‘R’ and then the ‘A’.”

 

Ken smiles at AB, impressed, “That’s cool! You get that in prison?”

 

“Nah, I got that out here.”

 

“You do it yourself or another artist?”

 

AB shakes his head and pulls his sleeve down, “Nah, I did it. I just did it. Some people don’t know what it says or what it means.”

 

“In T. D. C., how are you identified?”

 

“Tex-R-U.”

 

“Texas R.U.?” Ken asks to make sure.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Anything else?” Ken asks, writing it down. Later on, he’ll run AB’s file against the national gang database.

 

“No. They tried to get me to be T. S. (Texas Syndicate), but they, they didn’t have enough proof.”

 

“Okay.”

 

AB continues, “That’s all I kicked it with out here.”

 

Ken asks, “With T. S.?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“What about Tango Blast?”

 

AB leans back and nods, “Oh, I know them. I know a bunch of them. They had me when I was young.”

 

“Yeah?” Ken asks, trying not to react to AB’s reference. He checks his notes and confirms to himself that AB has just turned 32.

 

AB, unaware of himself, “Yeah, ‘cause I was always mixing it with Mexican Mafia. I left them. I made an example out of them by going with the Raza Unida. Pissed everyone off.”

 

Ken asks, “What about H. P. L.?”

 

“Nah, I never have anything to do with them.”

 

“Okay. Let’s go on.” Ken shifts gears, “What you got to tell us?”

 

“Well, put it like this: if y’all can get hold of that one dude, Jorge?”

 

“Jorge?”

 

AB shakes his head and takes a breath, “Yeah. Y’all ain’t got a hold of him yet? You get him. He’s the one. He’s the one with the fucking AR-15’s and fucking grenades.”

 

This information definitely gets Ken interested, “In his house?”

 

AB shakes his head, “Around in the back yard. I know he got a shed in the back yard and he always talks about how they got the AR-15 and the, uh, fucking grenades. They got a box of one hundred.”

 

“When did you see this?”

 

“They had them in the truck that one time. AR-15’s for two hundred and fifty dollars and the grenades for fifty bucks.”

 

“Why so cheap?” Ken asks.

 

“To get rid of them.”

 

“Where’d they get them?”

 

AB smiles and leans forward, “From over there. From right by Laredo. As a matter of fact, from one of y’alls!” AB laughs. He’s the cool one now. He’s the one in control, “They had a thing where they hit up these people and took all their guns and they just bought ‘em from a guy from right there ‘cause he works with them from down in Laredo.”

 

“How come the guns came up here instead of going through Mexico?” Ken asks because, historically, guns and money go to Mexico. Drugs come here.

 

AB shrugs, “Why? Because they already got enough and at the time, they couldn’t cross it with the heat that was going down with that kid, that other one that got kidnapped.”

 

“Okay, so you brought them up here.”

 

“They brought them,” AB emphasizes, “They brought ‘em from down here and asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to buy the AR-15 for two fifty and the grenades for fifty.”

 

Ken shakes his head, “That’s damn cheap.”

 

“Yeah, it is.”

 

They discuss the amount of each type of ordinance and how each was being packaged and transported from the back of Jorge’s vehicle.

 

Ken asks, “Who has these right now?”

 

“Jorge.”

 

Luke, who’s been taking notes from the beginning, looks over at AB and asks, “Jorge Benavidez?”

 

AB looks at Luke as if seeing him for the first time, “Yeah, that’s his name.”

 

“Jorge Benavidez,” Ken repeats, “Where does he live?”

 

AB shrugs again and changes position on the chair a little. Finally, he says, “Somewhere between here and Austin.”

 

“You’ve never been to his house?” Ken asks, surprised.

 

“I’ve never been to his house. That’s the only thing.” AB moves again, uncomfortable now. He is counting on these agents to help him get the deal he wants and fears that this will kill the deal.

 

Ken looks at his notes, “You said it was in back of his house.”

 

“Yeah, he has a place in back that he uses; something like a trailer or some shit.”

 

“But, how did you? Did you actually witness it or did you actually see it with your own eyes?” Ken asks, looking like someone who’s just been pranked.

 

“No, I didn’t see that part, the trailer.”

 

“So, who told you he has this?” Ken asks.

 

AB sits up, “He did.”

 

“He did.” Ken doesn’t look convinced.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So you have never seen the guns?” Ken asks directly.

 

AB smiles, “The guns? Yeah, we were there that day. We were there. We were gonna take some back.”

 

“At his house?”

 

AB shakes his head, “No, over there at one of the truck stops.”

 

“Oh, he was driving the F-150?” Ken asks referring to the truck that AB rode to Laredo in with Jorge.

 

“Nah, he was driving his friend’s Tahoe. A black Tahoe.”

 

“So there were only two cars? You guys had a minivan and an F-150.”

 

“Right,” AB agrees.

 

Ken says, “Tell me this-”

 

AB interrupts him, “There’s another. Tahoe. The one that brings all the shit over from Mexico. I don’t know his name, but he comes north from Mexico in a black Tahoe. He’s got Tahoes in Laredo and one down here. They got all the information on that one dude down there.”

 

Ken stops writing and asks, “He works for who?”

 

“He works for Miguel,” AB answers without emotion.

 

“Miguel?”

 

“Yeah, he’s connected to the Mexican Mafia, but he works for Miguel. Crosses over dope and everything,” AB explains.

 

“Does the vehicle have Mexican plates or-”

 

“No, it’s got Texas plates.”

 

Ken asks, “How tall is the guy?”

 

“He’s not even that tall. I’ve seen him one time, but I couldn’t, like, from the back part when he got out of the truck. I could say he’s around five-seven.”

 

“How old is the guy?”

 

AB thinks about it a moment, “Oh, he’s a younger guy, somewhere like around twenties, late twenties, somewhere more around there like around my age.”

 

Ken changes the subject, “Were you there at the original kidnapping when you got that old man?”

 

AB doesn’t move or answer so Ken asks more firmly, “Were you there?”

 

AB nods slightly, “Yeah.”

 

“Yeah? Who else was there?” Ken asks with authority.

 

“Me, Bart, Jorge.”

 

Ken nods and, looking at his notes, “Who else?”

 

“Two other people,” AB hedges.

 

“Who would that be?”

 

AB doesn’t want to answer this question but manages, “Jessica.”

 

Ken motions for him to continue, “Uh-huh.”

 

AB sees both men watching him; waiting for an answer, “And a dude.”

 

Ken jumps in immediately, “A dude? You don’t know his name?” AB shakes his head ‘no’. “How did you meet up?”

 

“Got there and met up on the south side,” AB says, not smiling anymore.

 

“South side? You just picked him up?” Ken asks, implying that AB’s story is thin and that his patience is thin, too.

 

“No, we knew the girl.”

 

“So how did you know Jessica?”

 

“We knew her from a bunch of friends that she used to go jacking around with so we just took her with us,” AB explains.

 

“Willing participant?”

 

“Mm-hmm.” AB starts chewing on a fingernail and looking off into space.

 

Ken pushes on this line, “Did you guys tell her what you were gonna do?”

 

“Yeah,” AB says absently.

 

Ken looks over at Luke, “She was cool with that?”

 

AB looks at Ken expressionless, “Yeah.”

 

Ken writes a few notes, then, “So were you guys supposed to make money out of this?”

 

AB is beginning to realize that this is an extension of all the other interviews. He frowns, “Mm-hmm.”

 

“How much money were you gonna make?”

 

“About one hundred.”

 

“A hundred thousand for each?”

 

AB looks hard at Ken and shakes his head, “Just me and, uh, Bart.”

 

This is beginning to sound like AB is a bigger player than he thought. Ken follows with, “Yeah? How much were you gonna pay Jessica?”

 

“Twenty.” AB shrugs; bored with the whole thing now.

 

“What about the other guy?” Ken asks.

 

“The other guy?” AB isn’t following.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“We were gonna break ‘em all.”

 

“Break them all?” Ken is not following. Luke stops writing.

 

“Give them about ten,” AB says.

 

“Why so little for that guy?”

 

“‘Cause he didn’t know,” AB replies, shrugging and pulling at the legs of his pantsuit.

 

“He didn’t know anything?” Ken asks, not sure who AB is talking about.

 

AB continues, “He knew, but he didn’t know how much was involved.”

 

Ken realizes AB is talking about the fifth person at the kidnapping, “So, so, that other guy – you don’t know his name?”

 

“Unh-unh.”

 

“Jessica brought?” Ken asks again.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“And where does Jessica live?” Ken asks innocently.

 

AB shakes his head, “No-”

 

Ken waves off his protests, “How do you get a hold of her?”

 

AB frowns and says, “Been trying to but no one can get a hold of her. She’s gone. We’ve all been trying to get a hold of her back to back.”

 

“What do you think happened to her?” Ken doesn’t believe this at all.

 

AB looks around the room and shrugs. He says to no one, “Probably took off. Got all scared.”

 

“You think she’s still in San Antonio?”

 

AB shrugs, “She’s gone.”

 

“Like Mexico gone?”

 

AB nods, “She’s gone.”

 

Ken shakes his head and then asks, “What about the other guy?”

 

“I don’t know. Shit. I don’t even know where the fuck he’s at.”

 

For the next fifteen minutes, AB tells them about his history of drug abuse and, that on the day of the kidnapping, he was high on Xanax and other drugs. Luke writes constantly in his notebook, only adding a comment or question every so often. This is clearly Ken’s show. Ken, a tall man in his own right, relaxes in his chair, then leaning into the table toward AB like an old friend. Most of the time, AB responds in like manner clearly enjoying the agents’ interest and attention, stretching out every tantalizing detail for full effect, as well as, delaying the eventual return to his cell.

 

Ken changes the subject to firearms, “Who had the, uh, who had the handgun?”

 

“I did.”

 

Ken is surprised. His notes say that AB has not admitted to having a gun at any time. In fact, he’s deflected every question about it. “You did? Did you use it? Did you point it at the guy?”

 

AB nods that he had the gun, but when he’s asked the last question, he becomes alert and defensive, “Did I point it at the guy when?”

 

“When you were kidnapping him?”

 

AB relaxes again, “Nah, I didn’t even do the kidnapping. I was just sitting down.”

 

“Then, who did the kidnapping?”

 

“Them two.” AB has shut down again.

 

“Who?”

 

“Jessica and that other individual.”

 

“You just let ‘em do it?” Ken asks sarcastically.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Ken softens, “They made it a lot easier? They just went out and did it? (AB nods) They put him in the car? (AB nods) Your car?”

 

“No. His,” AB replies impatiently.

 

“Who’s? Bart’s?”

 

“No.”

 

Ken asks again, “The gray truck?”

 

AB as if he’s talking to a child, “No, the, the dude.”

 

“The old dude?”

 

“Yeah, his truck,” AB says and sits back in the chair, his arms crossed defensively.

 

“But, you had the gun with you?” Ken says as he looks at his notes.

 

“No, they had the gun. I had the gun, then they had it, then I got it back from them.”

 

“You let them borrow it?” Ken asks incredulous. AB nods. “Did that guy pull the gun on him?”

 

“I don’t know if he fully did or not.”

 

Ken asks, “Where’d you get the gun?”

 

“I got it from Jorge. Nine millimeter Taurus. Black.”

 

“What happened to the gun?” Ken prompts him.

 

AB looks at Ken searching his face, “They got it over there in San Antonio, didn’t they?”

 

Ken asks, “Who got it?”

 

AB is very surprised and pulls back warily, “They don’t got it in San Antonio or they didn’t get it?”

 

“Did you have it on you?” Ken asks without any hesitation.

 

AB can’t accept this news. “It was there! It was in the van!”

 

“It was in the van?” Ken asks honestly not sure what AB is upset about.

 

“When they busted them three!” AB nearly yells.

 

“Hmm, them three as in-”

 

“Bartolo, Samantha and, uh, fucking what’s-his-name?”

 

“Grimms?” Ken offers.

 

“No,” AB bellows, “Bartolo, Samantha and, uh, fucking Bobby Sharp.”

 

“And they had the gun in the van?” Ken presses AB.

 

“Yeah, they had it in the van. Bartolo had it in the van. Nine millimeter Ruger or a nine millimeter Taurus,” AB whines, then, “With the numbers shaved off.”

 

“So the nine millimeter was in the van when they were arrested?” Ken asks.

 

“Yeah, it should have been. It wasn’t with me.”

 

“How’d it go from you to the minivan?”

 

“They had it. Me and Bartolo switched up. He wanted the gun. He didn’t feel right holding the guy with nothing,” AB explains, “But that old man wasn’t hurt or nothing. I’ll tell you right now. I don’t know if y’all knew about it, but that man was treated with everything. That man had everything. He didn’t be hit, nothing like that.”

 

“You gave him food? You gave him water?” Ken asks supportively.

 

AB nods and leans toward Ken, “Food. Water. Bought a toothbrush. Everything. We let him go to the restroom. Took the hand wraps off of him. Did the whole thing. Wasn’t trying to-”

 

Ken cuts him off, “Who was with him at all times?”

 

“Him? Bartolo and me.”

 

“Just the three of you?” Ken asks, then, “Who came up with the idea? Why did you-”

 

“Jorge.”

 

“Jorge?” Ken looks up and AB nods.

 

“What’s gonna help me here, huh? To get with the Feds?”

 

“Well,” Ken soothes, “you’re doing really well, okay? I mean, we’re just trying to get the whole story because we’re just coming in new, right?”

 

AB shakes his head, leans back and crosses his arms again, “Yeah, but ain’t nobody got the thing, I mean, the full story.”

 

“What’s that?” Ken asks.

 

“They don’t even got the full story,” AB repeats.

 

Ken and Luke, at the same time, “That’s what we’re here for.”

 

AB is undaunted by their frustration, “Y’all are the Feds, right?” Ken and Luke both nod, “I been tricked left and right.”

 

Luke says, “Oh?”

 

AB smiles and shrugs, “I know. I know what you’re saying and everything. I know what you’re telling me, but you know, it’s kind of hard because I been tricked and back and forth, back and forth. I already know I’m lookin’ at a life sentence. Looking to between forty years and life sentence automatically. Just in general. State or not.”

 

Ken stops him, “Did I not tell you in the beginning that I’m not gonna guarantee you anything? If I was gonna trick you, Bro, I would have tricked you at the beginning. Do you think I’m tricking you?”

 

AB shakes his head, “No, but the only thing is, I just want to know more or less if you’ll be able to do something for me? ‘Cause that’s the only reason I’m here.”

 

Ken’s eyebrows rise as he looks from Luke to AB, “Well-”

 

“If we feel that you’re tellin’ us everything, we can do our best,” Luke jumps in, “We work with the US Attorney’s office, with the District Attorney’s office up here. Things can be worked out but that’s gonna be all up to, you know. Hell, apparently there’s still people out there that are missing that are involved in this. We don’t know where everybody is and not exactly what happened.”

 

AB looks at Ken and asks, “Y’all ain’t got that other dude, Jorge, yet? If you haven’t got him, that dude’s in Mexico by now.”

 

Ken and Luke look through their notes and shrug. “I don’t think so,” Ken finally says in disagreement, “We got from here to the border pretty tightened up, dude. What we need from you is this: if you gave them half the story, we need the whole story. I mean, ‘cause you know what? Your cooperation is gonna help you whether you go to the Federal system, too.”

 

AB rocks back in his seat, shaking his head, “I just want to go to the Federal system. That’s my main thing, just going to the Feds. I don’t care about these other things.”

 

“You gotta,” Ken stresses, “You’re gonna have to give us everything and let us decipher from that. Okay? Because, if you only give us half the story, how we gonna fill in the rest of the story?”

 

Luke adds, “And, the easiest way to take you to the Federal side, too, is if we had that gun.”

 

AB frowns, rubs his face like he’s puzzling it out, “I’m surprised they didn’t have that gun. They had to have the gun because when they pulled them over, I specifically told them to hold that gun and have that damn thing right there because if they didn’t, they threw it right in between the chase. They had it. They had a nine millimeter Taurus ‘cause that’s what we had pointed at him.”

 

Ken pauses the interview to explain to AB what they will need in the way of evidence and testimony from AB to make his felony charge go from State to Federal. In sharp contrast to the other suspects, AB “helps” the investigators by providing additional charges that could be brought against him in what he believes will facilitate that change of status.

 

“Okay, so listen, if you’re lookin’ at Federal charges, you’re lookin’ at, so far, you’re a convicted felon, okay?” Ken comments.

 

AB nods, “With a gun. That part’s automatic.”

 

“Yeah, and then you have, did you know that gun had an obliterated serial number like you said?”

 

“Yeah.” AB agrees and smiles.

 

“So with it, you are looking at Federal charges but you’re gonna have to fill in more because we’d like to get some more stuff, okay?” Ken urges AB.

 

“I gave you the one where I made the phone calls? I was the one that made the phone calls,” AB adds and watches them write it down in their notebooks.

 

Ken asks, “Phone calls as to, to the brother? Thomas? The ransom?”

 

AB nods, “The second one.”

 

“Which one?”

 

AB says, “The second set of phone calls.”

 

Ken asks again, “You were making the calls to the brother?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Ken makes a mental note that this admission means that AB was the one who made the death threats against the Roland family. What else is he responsible for?

 

Ken, his expression remaining matter-of-fact, asks AB, “Okay, what else?”

 

AB looks off, thinking, “They got the phone.”

 

Ken doesn’t want to go down this road. He wants some meat on this bone. With some irritation, he changes the subject, “They got the phone. Now, who came up with this master plan?”

 

AB never reacts at all. He looks at Ken and answers, “Miguel Trevino.”

 

Ken barely controls his surprise, “Miguel Trevino. This is the guy? The guy in Mexico?”

 

AB calmly nods, “He’s the head fuckin’ dude from the cartel. The head mother fucker.”

 

“He’s a Zeta?” Ken asks watching AB closely. Luke stops writing a moment and watches him as well.

 

“He’s a Zeta.”

 

“How does he know Paul Roland?” Ken asks. The mismatch of these two men is tantalizing.

 

AB shrugs, “He don’t know him. Jorge knows him.”

 

“How does Jorge know him?” Ken is leaning over the table slightly. Luke has stopped writing and is listening closely.

 

“Jorge knows him ‘cause he used to work for him. His brother.”

 

“Brother?” Ken asks trying to follow AB’s words, “Thomas? Who owns Phoenix Electric?”

 

“Phoenix Electric.” AB answers as he rearranges himself in the chair.

 

“So, why?” Ken doesn’t complete the question.

 

AB interrupts, “‘Cause he’s got money. Tom’s got money and they know his brother’s an easy target.” AB leans across the table to better see Ken’s notes, “What you got so far?”

 

Ken pulls the notebook back reflexively and then shows the notebook to AB, “I just got the names so far. We’re looking for who Vince is.”

 

AB laughs, “Oh, y’all can’t find Vince? I gave them the number.”

 

“You gave them his number?”

 

AB shrugs, “Yeah, but they got it up there in Laredo.”

 

Ken asks, “Where does Vince fit in?”

 

“Nothing. He was just running the cards. That’s all.” AB is starting to look bored. He eyes the clock and the door and moves from one side of his seat to the other.

 

Ken backtracks, “Okay. You got Miguel at the top.” He watches AB and AB nods. “Who’s the second man in charge?”

 

“Jorge.”

 

“Who’s after that?”

 

“Bart.”

 

“After that?”

 

“I guess me,” AB says softly.

 

“And after that?”

 

“Nobody.”

 

“So, tell me about Miguel’s organization,” Ken redirects, “Does he work out of Laredo? Nuevo Laredo?

 

AB nods, “Nuevo Laredo.”

 

“How many people does he have working for him?” Ken pushes.

 

“Shit! It’s too big. Numerous,” AB laughs, then seriously, “You got families. You got Mexican Mafia. You got all them that works for him because what he does is supports them with drugs.”

 

“He provides security, too?”

 

“Right, which I had for a while,” AB says ruefully.

 

“You did security for him?”

 

AB shakes his head, “No. Which I had.” AB chuckles and shrugs.

 

“He was protecting you, too?” Luke asks.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Jorge has Nextel Direct Connect to him?” Ken asks.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Ken looks at Luke, then asks, “Okay, how long has Jorge been working for him?”

 

“Shit!” AB blurts, “for years, years, years, years.”

 

It gets quiet for a moment. AB looks contemplative.

 

Ken reading his notes, asks, “So, you guys met a month prior to the kidnapping?”

 

“Yeah, but there was supposed to be another one but it didn’t go through.”

 

Ken is surprised, “Didn’t go through? Which kidnapping?”

 

AB sighs, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. There was supposed to be some other stuff going on. They wanted another dude but the other dude – they just said, fuck it, let’s go with the other dude. It’s easier. We’ll get this one.”

 

“Which guy was this?” Ken demands, “Do you remember the other guy you were supposed to kidnap?”

 

“Yeah, and Jorge worked for him at the time.”

 

Luke asks, “Why’d you decide to go with this one? ‘Cause it was easier?”

 

Nodding, AB replies, “He was an easier mark and shit.”

 

“How did you find out where this guy was living?”

 

“Jorge told us. He followed him and shit.”

 

“Were you there when Jorge was following this guy for a while?” Ken asks AB calmly.

 

“Not all the time. They showed me one or two times.”

 

“So, you knew exactly what time he was going to work and all that stuff?”

 

AB nods and says casually, “What time he left and what time he returned.”

 

Ken shakes his head at this incredible story, then leans back in his chair and looks AB in the eye, “This was all Jorge’s idea?” AB nods. “How did Miguel? Did Miguel go to Jorge and say, ‘Hey, listen dude, I need some money. This is what you got to do for me’ or what?”

 

There’s no reaction whatever from AB. Ken waits a few moments then tries another, “Or was it Jorge who came up with the idea ‘cause he owed money to Miguel?”

 

“Miguel,” is all AB says.

 

“What did Miguel promise you guys?”

 

“Money. Money and for us not to worry about nothing if we were locked up.”

 

The irony of this falsehood is not lost on anyone.

 

“How much money are we talking about?”

 

“One hundred thousand dollars,” AB answers a little sadly.

 

“One hundred thousand? What about the two fifty?” Ken asks.

 

“That’s going to him.”

 

“So, total, you guys were trying to get three fifty?” Ken adds.

 

AB corrects, “Half a mil.”

 

“And then Miguel is gonna get his two hundred and fifty thousand dollars?” AB nods and Ken continues, “So, how many times did you talk to Thomas? Which is the brother, right?”

 

“About five or six times.” AB is clearly not interested in this line of questioning.

 

“Did you call him Thomas or what did you call him by?”

 

“Nah, I just called. I just called and said ‘You need to get your butt in here.’ He’d be like, ‘You’re gonna kill me.’ I said, ‘Ain’t nobody trying to kill anybody. Just want to get the money and go on.’”

 

Ken nods as if this is reasonable, then pointing at AB asks, “Okay, how many times did you make the phone calls?”

 

“Shhh,” AB starts, “probably about ten times.”

 

Ken motions for him to go on, “What was the conversation like?”

 

“Just tell him he needs to come down to Laredo or we’re gonna go across the border.”

 

“Did you check on him when you were calling him?” Ken writes as he asks.

 

“No, I wasn’t there,” AB explains, “I was in Laredo already.”

 

Ken stops writing and looks up, “Okay, you were in Laredo, but you made phone calls. How did you know that he was coming down?”

 

AB shrugs, “He wasn’t even coming down to Laredo. He was still over there. I already knew what was going on. It was a set up.”

 

Ken drops his pen and leans back, “Where was the money supposed to come? All the way to Laredo?” AB nods. “Did you guys say five hundred thousand in denominations or what?”

 

AB smiles and shakes his head, “No, just five hundred thousand. Put it in a plastic bag.”

 

“Drop it off where?” Ken asks doubtfully.

 

AB is getting exasperated, as if Ken should know this already, “Soon as he gets off the highway, we let him know where exactly. Just take thirty-five all the way straight. And, he wasn’t there. He was still in San Antonio.”

 

“When did you notice he wasn’t-”

 

AB interrupts, “Oh, I already knew. I started askin’. I started playin’ games with him near the end. I already knew that they were gonna get busted.”

 

“You knew you were gonna get busted?”

 

“I knew they had got busted,” AB corrects him; “I got busted on my own will. I let my own self get busted.”

 

“Why’s that?” Ken asks, honestly wondering at such a statement.

 

AB sighs, “I was tired of letting other people fall for my shit. You know what I’m sayin’? That’s the fucked up part, ‘cause if I get State, I’m fucked, literally fucked, you know? You know about the cartel, dude.”

 

“Yeah, but why are you fucked up?” Luke asks.

 

“Because I’m telling it,” AB laughs.

 

“That’s not known yet,” Luke sympathizes.

 

“Yeah, but it’s gonna be known! Honestly, it’s gonna be known. You don’t think it’s gonna be known with these people here in Georgetown? Georgetown, dude? They will let it be known. I’m telling you, I’m fucked.”

 

Luke searches for something to say that will help AB, “Well, we’ll see how, how they, uh, whether they want to go Federal or what. It would help, like I say, if we could find that gun.”

 

“Fuck,” AB draws the word out dropping his head to his chest. Then, to Ken, “Can you call and find out?”

 

Ken nods, “We’re gonna call and check when we get done with you. Okay? Dude, right now, I got a question for you. About the kidnapping, I’m still having confusion of going through the whole thing. There’s a this and this there, but, there’s not a whole thing; putting the whole thing together. Jorge came up with the idea-”

 

“Miguel told him, ‘You know what you got to do. You know where to go. You know who you’ve worked for before, so pick whatever guys you got so you can go over there and pick the highest bidder so we can get this money and do it,’” AB continues, “So, Miguel told him, ‘All right, do it. You got my permission to go ahead and do it.’ So, I came down here, got a couple of people together to ransack this dude that he knows gots some money. The plan was, get this dude. Get him, make a phone call, all right? Tell him you need five hundred thousand dollars. They don’t get it then they’re going to fuck him up. Okay, it didn’t go through. So, everybody got fucked. So, the main thing was kinda the guy to get the money. That was it.’

 

“Did anyone draw up a thing and say ‘Here’s where you need to be’?” Ken asks nodding.

 

“No, no, nobody did any of that,” AB says, “They just said ‘Here’s the place. Here’s the garage. When he comes out, just go over there. He’s going to open up his back door first. When he opens the back door, you just-’”

 

“How did they know he’d open the back door first?” Ken urges.

 

“‘Cause he did. That’s what he does every morning.”

 

“This is info you gather from, from Jorge?” Ken asks.

 

“Right,” AB agrees, “and then we seen it two times we went out there. Two times, that’s what I told you. And that’s what he does. He goes straight from there, drives out, goes straight across from the tolls and goes straight to work.”

 

“Why bring so many people? I mean an old man like that,” Luke taunts him, “You and one other person could’ve handled it easily.”

 

“Right,” AB agrees, “but, I don’t know, that mother fucker moved quick!”

 

“Yeah?” Luke asks doubtfully.

 

“The apartments were open. An open area. You had people. You had to have people watch all over to make sure there was nobody else ‘cause they almost got caught up ‘cause the little girl saw ‘em.”

 

“A little girl saw you?” Luke looks at Ken, then AB.

 

“Yeah.” AB acts as if the information isn’t important.

 

Ken jumps in, “Did you see the little girl?”

 

“Yeah.” AB shrugs and changes position again.

 

“What was she doing?” Ken asks.

 

“Walking to school.”

 

Ken shakes his head, “So, where were you? In the truck?”

 

“No,” AB says, completely deadpan, “in the van.”

 

“Who else?” Ken prompts. AB shrugs and looks away. He stares at AB not letting him off the hook now.

 

“Bart,” AB says finally.

 

“Who else was lookout?”

 

“Me and Bart. Jorge was in the truck on the other side.”

 

“So why not you guys doing it?” Ken asks, not buying AB’s version, “It would’ve been so much easier and you would’ve kept more money.”

 

AB shrugs and pulls on his pants legs, “Just didn’t want to go through the bullshit.”

 

Ken laughs, “What bullshit? You’re going through it anyway.”

 

AB looks at Ken, opening his hands palms up, “I didn’t like it. I don’t like handling an old man anyway. See? I didn’t want to handle this my own self.”

 

Luke isn’t buying it either and says, “It does seem odd, though, that you’d let Jessica bring Grimms along. Someone that you don’t even really know.”

 

“But the thing is, we were just trying to get it done,” AB explains, looking from Luke to Ken, “Get it over with. Get ‘em out the way. Boom. Get ‘em some money and get them out the way. Know what I’m sayin’?”

 

Luke asks, “He was part of the planning, too? He met with y’all the month before and all?”

 

“No, no, no,” AB continues to distance himself from the physical perpetrators, “It was just an out of the blue thing. The last minute thing. Boom. We need somebody right there. I even called my home girl that morning, told her, ‘Hey, you gonna come down here or what?’”

 

“Home girl?” this from Ken.

 

“Samantha,” AB goes on, “I was all barred out and tripping on the XO’s man. I was flying that day.” AB smiles and laughs, “For real. I wasn’t even thinking that right. I tripped out when I seen them. I’m like, what the fuck?”

 

“Seen who?” Ken attempts to make AB clarify who he’s talking about; still trying to get a real name.

 

“When I seen them do that shit,” AB replies, “I was out there. It was a long day for me anyway.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Ken says impatiently, “but you guys been planning this for a long time.”

 

“Yeah, really not this one,” AB tells him, “There was another one. But this one, the one that really came out of the blue. Let’s get it done.”

 

“The other one you guys were planning,” Ken says finally understanding what AB is telling him. “you mean you guys were literally saying, your car’s gonna be here. Your car’s gonna be there?” AB nods and Ken goes on, “I mean, you planned the whole thing. What time? What time we supposed to put this guy into the car? Tell me. Come on.”

 

AB nods and tells him, “That’s just gonna incriminate me to get another attempted kidnapping.”

 

“You didn’t do it,” Ken tries.

 

AB shakes his head, smiling, “Umm, it was, it was pretty damn close. It was gonna be an attempted kidnapping also.”

 

“You did it?”

 

“Pretty close as to where he reported it to be something else and it wasn’t. It was really supposed to be the kidnapping but he ran away,” AB says chuckling and remembering.

 

“He ran away?” Ken asks.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“What did he report it as?” Ken’s eyes never leave AB’s face.

 

AB thinks a moment, then, “Home burglary.”

 

“What’s his name?” Ken asks louder now.

 

“That’s the one I was telling you earlier with the construction company that he worked for. There’s other people they were trying to get and everything but-”

 

Ken interrupts again, “What? Who’s coming up with all these ideas? Jorge?”

 

“Yeah, because he’s the one that works for him,” AB says as if this should be obvious. The men are quiet for a moment, absorbing this new information.

 

“So, Jorge’s trying to do everybody that pays him money?” Ken asks finally.

 

“That’s got money.”

 

“I hear about so many people getting kidnapped over in Mexico when I go over hunting’ or cross the border,” Luke adds, “but I’m not hearing of it happening so much on this side.”

 

AB looks from one to the other and says knowingly, “Know why? ‘Cause too many people are fucking scared to report it on this side.”

 

“Why?” Ken asks.

 

AB’s face changes and the agents see the gang member now as he snarls, “‘Cause they know. They know when they fuck with them people, the cartels, they’re dead. When they finally get ‘em, they let ‘em know that. You know what? You fuck up, I guarantee I’ll find out everything about you and then they give them all the information about their family.”

 

“Yeah, but okay,” Ken says evenly, “listen. I understand what you’re saying but, how do you scare the guy?”

 

“With a pistol to his fucking head!”

 

“Okay, perfect,” Ken continues calmly, yet never taking his eyes off AB, “So, when you guys did that to Paul, who let him know that ‘we know everything about you’?”

 

“Bart.”

 

“Bart?” Ken asks to be clear, “What did Bart say? Were you there?”

 

“He just told him that, hey, we already know about your brother, we know-”

 

“Brother as in Tom?” Ken interrupts.

 

“Yeah, Tom and on the phone it had his wife and it said “Mary” so we got it off the thing,” AB explains, the teacher now, “So, we said we know about that, too. We said, we know where Mary is. We’ve been following you for so long. So, if you fuck up or your brother fucks up, then we already know where they are. If anybody fucks up, they’re gonna go fuck off each part of your family.”

 

 

[]INTERVIEW – LANCE SELF

 

Matt and James welcome Lance warmly in the lobby of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office before leading him inside. They will interview Lance in James’s office rather than an interview room to make Lance more comfortable. Their initial impression of Lance is that he seems more like someone who’s been in law enforcement rather than someone from the private sector. Lance, thin and wiry, shakes their hands with a strong grip. His close-cut, military style haircut reveals a recently-healed but still very nasty scar on the right side of his head. James asks Lance to tell them about himself, his position with C. S. Electric and what happened to him recently. Matt tells Lance they’ll be recording everything as part of their case.

 

“Well, before I went to work for my brother, I was in training for the State Police in Utah,” Lance explains, “then Carl invited me to be a partner with him at CS. I thought being a Vice President at CS Electric sounded like a safer option.”

 

The men chuckle at the irony for a moment.

 

“What kind of work does CS Electric do?” asks James.

 

“Well, we’re the biggest multi-family contracting company in Texas right now. We have apartment projects, in various stages of construction, all over Texas.”

 

“What happened earlier this month?” Matt asks.

 

“On Thursday, February 7th, I was heading out to go to work about 7 AM. I went out to the garage from the house and opened the garage door from a switch by the door that connects the house and garage. I walked out of the garage to my truck and two men jumped me. One man was white, about six feet tall. The other one was Hispanic.”

 

“He a heavy-set guy?” Matt asks, “The white guy?”

 

“I’d say medium. He was medium but the other guy, he was heavy-set, probably 5 foot 8 inches.”

 

“Do you remember what they were wearing?” James now.

 

“Just one,” Lance says and his face tenses at the memory, “the one with the gun had a blue hoodie on. Blue hoodie armed with a black automatic pistol he held like this.”

 

Lance holds his right arm out, hand held sideways like he’s pointing a gun at someone.

 

“They forced me back into the garage,” he says looking at Matt, “and then the one with the gun says, “Comply and you won’t die”.”

 

“Did they close the garage door?” James adds.

 

“Well, there’s two doors, right?” Lance reminds them, “One of the guys hits the button and one door closes, but the little door doesn’t close and they don’t seem to notice. I’m sure as hell not gonna tell them!”

 

“Okay, so you’re all in the garage. What happens next?” James nods as he asks.

 

“They tell me to empty my pockets on the floor and hand over the truck keys and cell phone. I did what they asked. At this point, they see the gun safe I’ve got bolted to the garage floor. My uncle died recently and left me a bunch of guns from his collection. Some of them are real rare and I didn’t have anywhere to keep them so I just had the safe installed.”

 

James nods as he remembers the same information being relayed by Paul’s wife, Mary, on the day this all started for them.

 

“They told me to open the safe but I told them I couldn’t. It was so new and I didn’t know the combination by heart.” Lance explains, “I told them I had the combination in the house. They acted like they weren’t sure if they should forget the safe or not but then the white guy told the other guy to get the handcuffs. As that guy turned away, I hit the white guy’s arm to push the gun away. He managed to clock me good across the head as I went by him but I got out of the garage through the little door and into my backyard. There wasn’t anywhere to go from there so I ran back to the street. The grass was wet and I slipped and fell. I saw the guy with the gun come out of the garage. He was pointing the gun at me! I half stood, half crouched then ran down the street.”

 

“Did the guy come after you?” James asks.

 

“Did he shoot at you?” Matt adds.

 

“I saw the guy comin’ at me when I fell but then as I got up, he tripped over an ice chest that was there by the little garage. I ran into a neighbor’s back yard and watched for them to come after me. I didn’t see them, so, after a few minutes, I went to the front door and asked my neighbor to call 9-1-1.”

 

“Did they take anything?” James continues, “What else do you remember about them?”

 

“I know they went into the house. They took a video camera, an expensive one.” Lance pauses, thinking. “They wore bandanas over their faces. Something like that. The bottom half of their faces were covered.”

 

Matt nods then asks, “What can you tell us about Jorge Benavidez?”

 

“He’s subcontracted work for CS for several years. I’ve known him and his family a long time. His brother-in-law, Jesse, works for us as a supervisor now.”

 

“When was the last time you saw Jorge?” James asks.

 

“I guess it’s been nearly a month now. He finished a job the first part of February. We haven’t had anything since. It goes like that. We’ll keep him busy and then when we don’t have something, he’ll go work for another contractor. We use him for lots of things when we have jobs. Like, he also helped me wire my house.”

 

“Did he know about the guns in your gun safe?”

 

“Yeah,” Lance says thoughtfully, “yeah, he did and he helped us wire our warehouse which has housed as much as two million dollars’ worth of copper sometimes.”

 

 

Lance Self – 1st attempted kidnap victim

 

 

 

Paul

 

I feel a lot better this morning. We expect to hear from the apartment people about our apartment with a move-in day, so it’s time to get all the packing done. The California kids go home tomorrow morning. They’ve volunteered, again, to help as much as possible with packing. Penny needs to meet with people from her firm’s the local office so she took one of the rental cars.

 

Mary talked to me again about seeing someone, a psychologist, and I’m starting to think it’s a good idea. I’m still having nightmares and when I wake up, I don’t know where I am or if I’m safe for a while. Even though I know Mary had nothing to do with the kidnapping, there’s still something that won’t let me relax with her. I feel angry a lot and I feel guilty that I’m still blaming her a little. Maybe a doctor or someone who specializes in kidnapping can help me get this straight.

 

The Sheriff’s Office called and invited us to come in to talk to them about Victim Services. We have an appointment this afternoon. Penny will come with us and help us by taking notes and to remember the right questions to ask. We really want to know what’s going on and what will happen next. They’ve arrested four people but we haven’t heard anything about the fifth one, Jorge Benavidez. I want to give them the copies we made from the files on Saturday, too.

 

Lance called me to tell me he’s made a statement at the Sheriff’s Office about the attack on him at his house. Everyone’s convinced that our attacks are connected. Lance told me he still has trouble sleeping and that he’s not been able to stay overnight at his house since it happened. Otherwise, he thinks the psychologist that he’s been seeing is helping him.

 

“We’re moving out of our apartment, too,” I tell Lance, then add, “and we’ve got an appointment at the Sheriff’s office this afternoon. I’m supposed to give them another statement.”

 

“They seem real nice and determined to get everyone involved in both our cases,” Lance assures me.

 

“Well, I gave them a statement there in the hospital, but they think I might remember things better after a few days resting.”

 

After lunch, Penny, Mary and I go to the Sheriff’s Office and I am just not ready for the welcome we receive. Deputies from all over the building and other people come up to me and shake my hand! They say how glad they are to see me and so glad that I’m okay. They tell me, too, how they’d been here all through the days and nights working to find me. I don’t know what to say except, “thank you”.

 

We are escorted to Victim Services and talk to the lady who runs it. We find out there’s a program to help pay for some services. They don’t pay directly. We go and pay and then get reimbursed. Penny asks if they have counselors they could recommend but they don’t. We will need to find therapists who specialize in P.T.S.D. Isn’t that what soldiers get?

 

We are about to leave the lady’s office when several Deputies come into the room, so many that some have to stand in the doorway and her office is really big! There are some there who were there when I was rescued and they tell us what they remember.

 

Sergeant Huey tells us that he had been watching over Tom in those last hours along with a van full of SWAT officers. “When they told me that you’d been rescued, I relayed it to everyone else. I watched everyone jump out of the SWAT van to run over and tell Tom. When the SWAT team jumped out of that van, it must’ve come up a foot!”

 

Sheriff Wilson came in then and shook my hand, too. He talked to Penny and Mary and told them how glad he was that everything turned out all right. When we thanked him and the others, he said, “It was a miracle, a God thing, that Mr. Roland was unhurt and no one was killed.”

 

 

WILCO

 

While James and Matt are interviewing Lance Self, other detectives are dispatched to an area south of Austin with everything known about Jorge Benavidez.

 

It’s been frustrating that he’s eluded capture this long. His last known address was in South Austin but, after closer investigation, it came to light that this home actually belonged to one of his in-laws. Still, surveillance was set up in the hopes that he would return to that address. Then, the Crime Analysis Unit reported that one of the Nextel cell phones used during the kidnapping was registered to Benavidez. Monitoring efforts had shown that it had not been used since the three suspects were arrested in San Antonio. It did, however, still show a signal and the GPS on that signal led investigators to a location about three miles north of the south Austin location to an industrial business park near Burleson Road and Drossett just south of Ben White Boulevard.

 

Surveillance of the area was set up to capture Benavidez and/or any vehicles that had been connected to him. On Sunday, both surveillance teams reported that Benavidez had not been seen or any vehicle associated with him at either location.

 

Lance Self, another potential kidnap victim, advised that Benavidez drove a red Nissan older model truck with significant body damage. This was information already obtained by the department crime analyst. Mr. Self also told Detective Maugham that Benavidez was living with his mother-in-law in Kyle, Texas. An additional scrub of phone records showed an additional Nextel phone also registered to Benavidez and that showed use in Kyle on Cody Lane, just east of the interstate in a trailer park.

 

Contact is made via the US Marshall’s Office and a court order quickly obtained on the phone number for future pings to establish a better location. Williamson County detectives and US Marshalls’ Office deputies of the Fugitive Apprehension Team partner to stake out the area. Through intensive work by the Crime Analyst, the search has narrowed to a specific address on Cody Lane by means of the use of Benavidez’s wife’s maiden name and an associated person to Benavidez with the appropriate age to be her mother. Checking utilities for that address confirms the name of Benavidez’s mother-in-law. This is also confirmed to be within the block of the GPS coordinates supplied by the phone company.

 

Surveillance is established. Within a short time, a white Lincoln Navigator with temporary tags is spotted in the driveway. As detectives and deputies watch the property, Texas Rangers make their way from Georgetown to assist.

 

Soon, detectives spot a grey F-150 truck arrive and park outside the trailer. A male subject and female subject exit the vehicle and go into the house. This information is relayed to Detective Maugham, Ranger Lindemann and the Crime Analysis Unit in Georgetown.

 

The F-150 truck matches the description of the vehicle that the suspect, Abraham Weber, gave the detectives belonging to Benavidez and matches the video surveillance footage from Laredo the day the kidnapping was foiled by the arrest of the three suspects in San Antonio. In the Laredo footage, Abraham Weber is accompanied by a Hispanic male with long hair that drove a vehicle matching the truck they now see, a person identified by Abraham Weber as Jorge Benavidez.

 

Detectives are told that a new ping was received on the cell phone just prior to the Ford’s arrival and the phone shows coordinates that appear to be on the County Road just to the west of their location. It’s pinged again after the arrival of the Ford truck and gives coordinates indicating it’s in very close proximity to the residence on Cody Lane.

 

While the investigators feel fairly certain that the man they’ve just seen go into the trailer house is Jorge Benavidez, they do not have absolute positive identification. Additional surveillance will be maintained on the residence and the decision is made to ask Hayes County SWAT to be on standby for a vehicle assault once the grey truck leaves the residence and another ping can be established.

 

Surveillance of the property on Cody Lane in Kyle, Texas continues throughout the day with no one going in or out of the trailer house. At 4 PM, a small red car arrives with unknown occupants who get out and go into the trailer. After thirty minutes, Benavidez comes out of the trailer house and walks to the red car with the occupants. The red car soon leaves. “Eyes” on the situation can’t immediately tell if Jorge left in the red car or not.

 

A surveillance unit on a road near the drive to the house soon reports that the occupants acted suspiciously as they drove by. They stop the vehicle to see if Benavidez is in the car or not. He isn’t in the car. The occupants tell the officers that Benavidez is inside the residence.

 

As this is being cleared up, another unit reports that the grey Ford is leaving the residence. All units are called in to stop the vehicle and execute all warrants: a kidnapping warrant for Benavidez and a search warrant for the residence on Cody Lane.

 

The Ford is met on the drive connecting to Cody Lane by multiple police cars, county units, a SWAT van, state patrols and unmarked units and stopped without incident. Benavidez’s wife is driving and Jorge is a passenger. The truck is taken as evidence and Mrs. Benavidez is taken in to the Hays County Sheriff’s office for questioning and then later released. She tells the investigators that she and Jorge are having financial problems but denies knowing that he is in a gang. She does confirm that he’s been getting phone calls lately from someone that he owes money to.

 

The arrest and subsequent searches are performed by detectives from the Hays County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division, Williamson County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division and Special Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

 

A systematic search is conducted by officers at the Kyle residence resulting in the discovery and seizure of the following exhibits:

 

1.Assorted paper documents from the left bedroom.

2.Two empty Sprint-Nextel telephone boxes from a chest drawer in left bedroom.

3.A folder containing Electrician License applications in the name of Benavidez.

4.One (1) locked tan Sentry floor safe from the floor of the closet in the left bedroom.

5.One (1) high-point 9 mm rifle with an obliterated serial number from top shelf of hall closet.

6.Three (3) marijuana plants growing in containers on top of green tool box outside rear of residence.

7.One (1) Western Union wired money receipt.

8.Three (3) bottles of isopropyl alcohol in left bedroom on top of television stand.

9.A plastic bag of a green leafy substance suspected to be marijuana found on top of cabinets in the kitchen.

10.One (1) blue Rubbermaid plastic tub containing plastic wrap and approximately 19.2 grams of a substance suspected to be marijuana in a storage unit at the rear of the residence.

 

 

Mary

 

There’s so much to do! Thank God, the kids are here to help. I should be finishing up the packing so we can (I hope, I hope!) move into the apartment this next weekend, but I need to help Paul, too. That means taking a breath and not rushing around him which makes him really nervous. He gets mad really quick and I know it’s just because of the kidnapping. When I think about it, I’m surprised he isn’t hiding in the closet all the time. That’s where I’d be.

 

So, for today, the kids are doing packing while Paul and I get other things in order. Penny went downtown to meet with her Austin counterparts. The law firm she works for has offices all over the world so it’s nice that one of them is right here, too. Paul and I wish she could work for the office here so we’d be closer to her and her family. The kids keep getting older and we just see them whenever we can travel east or they come to Texas for a visit. It’s not enough and we miss them.

 

We go to the Williamson County Sheriff’s office and Paul is overwhelmed with the attention he’s getting from people. As we walk in, officers in uniform and plain clothes surround us. They shake his hand and tell us what their part in the rescue was. We can’t express the magnitude of our gratefulness but we try to let each person know how very thankful we are for what they did and the long hours they spent making sure Paul got home alive and safe.

 

We’re escorted to the office for Victim Services and introduced to a sweet woman named Deborah. She tells us about the services offered but tells us, too, that if we have insurance, we should use that first. Anything we pay for, we should get receipts and then download the application from the website and file a claim. It might take a while for any refunds, and they might only pay so much of some things, but it was there to help out.

 

Penny takes notes. I take notes. The suspects are being charged with Aggravated Kidnapping, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Aggravated Robbery all first-degree felonies. Bail has been set at $500,000 for each of them.

 

“Has anyone made bail?” Penny asks?

 

“No,” Deborah tells us.

 

“Will we be notified if anyone does make bail?” I ask.

 

“You’ll need to sign up on the Victim’s Information Network,” she tells us, “and I’ll get you signed up right now. That way, anytime anything happens with any of the suspects, you’ll know about it. You’ll get a call – it’s a computer-generated thing – if a prisoner is released, transferred, transported and for parole hearings. It will also alert you to court events.”

 

Deborah got us signed up for the four in custody and then one of the Sheriff’s Deputies, Sergeant Huey, arrives to tell us that they’ve just arrested Jorge Benavidez in Kyle. He’ll be transferred to their jail as soon as they can get him. Sergeant Huey seems like a very nice person and very excited that they’ve been successful. He says that the suspects will probably sit in the jail until the Grand Jury meets.

 

“By that time, we’ll have them so loaded up with charges, they’ll all plead out!” he laughs.

 

A crowd of Sheriff’s Deputies fill into the room with several having to stand at the doorway to see and hear everything. He tells us about how they kept all their communication going from Pflugerville to San Antonio and all through the night on their cell phones rather than the radio to keep the press away and in the event the suspects were scanning the radio chatter.

 

He tells about one of the suspects telling him that Paul had been really nice, a good guy and that he wanted Paul to know that what they did wasn’t personal. It was just business. A chill goes down my neck when I hear that. Just business? This is very much personal to us and for whatever time these people spend in prison, it’s going to be very personal for them, too.

 

“When will the Grand Jury meet?” Penny asks when everyone gets quiet.

 

“Sometime in the next ninety days,” Sergeant Huey says and then adds, “The district attorney’s office will get with your dad and Mary sometime soon to meet them and get their testimony.”

 

“How long until a trial?” Paul asks the question we all want the answer to.

 

“That depends,” Sergeant Huey explains, “on whether they plead out right after the Grand Jury or anytime between then and a jury trial if they ask for one. You’re probably looking at a year or year and a half, maybe two years, before everything’s put to bed.”

 

As that information settles heavily upon us, I remember the news reports about a little girl.

 

“On one of the news reports, they said a little girl saw everything that morning,” I look at Sergeant Hughey.

 

“Yeah, she saw everything. She said she thought they were beating up their grandfather and it made her sad and mad. She gave us the best descriptions and told us how many people were with Paul when he was taken.”

 

“I’d like to thank her,” I say firmly. “Is there any way for me to talk to her? I mean, if it’s all right with her family.”

 

Deborah promises to contact the family and see if a meeting can be arranged. She warns me, too, that her family might be afraid for her safety so not to get my hopes up too much.

 

We leave with information pamphlets, business cards and more well wishes. We leave exhausted. Calling the kids at the apartment, we decide to pick up Schlotsky sandwiches for dinner and enjoy our last night with the kids from California.

[] DAY EIGHT

March 4, 2008

 

 

+]

 

Jorge sits in the interview room still dressed in the street clothes he was arrested in the day before: yellow t-shirt and blue jeans. He will be thirty-six years old in about three weeks. He’s heavy set – one hundred eighty pounds on his five foot, four inch frame. His features are strongly Mexican and his accent is thick. Although he was born in the United States in Laredo, Texas, he was raised across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Jorge has jet black hair that is cut short around his face and above his ears with long hair from the crown of his head that hangs down to his belt. He has a nervous habit of pulling his hair into a ponytail, twisting it into a knot and then letting it fall to his waist. He does this constantly throughout the interview.

 

Det. James Maugham, Jorge Benavidez and TX Ranger Matt Lindemann

 

Detective James Maugham and Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann enter the room and settle into their now-familiar spots. James reads the Miranda Warning to Jorge and once he tells them that he understands everything, James begins the interview.

 

“How long you been in the States, Jorge?”

 

“In United States?”

 

“Mm-hmm,” nods James.

 

“Like twenty-something years,” Jorge answers nervously.

 

“You’re a US citizen? No problem with that, right?” James asks.

 

Jorge looks around defensively, crossing his arms, he replied, “Yes.”

 

“Where, where do you work, Jorge?” Matt asks and Jorge’s head jerks towards him.

 

“Right now, I work for CS, but he keep me, like, laid off ‘til when there’s another job start.”

 

“CS Electric?” Matt clarifies.

 

Jorge nods, “CS Electric.”

 

“How long since you worked for ‘em?” Matt continues.

 

“For CS?” Jorge asks. When Matt nods Jorge says, “Maybe like ten years already.”

 

“You’ve been workin’ for them for ten years?”

 

“Mm-hmm. But, sometimes it’s slow,” Jorge explains, “So, right now he keep me like, laid off for two, three weeks and then, ah, when he start another job, he call me back.”

 

James asks, “What do you do for a livin’?”

 

“Electrician.” Jorge looks around the room and at the two-way mirror.

 

“Electrician?” James repeats, “You got your license?”

 

“Yeah,” he says nodding to James, “I got my journeyman license.”

 

“How long do you guys take to get your license?” James asks, writing in his notebook at the same time.

 

“How long for take my license?” Jorge asks and his face reveals he’s wondering where the trap is in this question.

 

“Mm-hmm.” James barely looks up before going back to his writing.

 

“Might be like six years.” Jorge watches James write.

 

“Long time, huh?” this from Matt. Jorge looks at Matt and nods.

 

James looks up and directly at Jorge, “Did you get it through, ah, while you was workin’ for CS Electric, or did you work for somebody else?”

 

“No, I work for different companies. Work for CS. I work before for Phoenix. I work for Dallas Electric, Mark Electric, ah, W Electric. Like a bunch of companies,” Jorge tells them.

 

James and Matt ask Jorge about his crew and whether he uses the same people for every job? He explains that he has some regulars but that everyone works when there’s work so the men available for one job might not be for the next one if he’s gone without work for any time. Jorge explains that he works for several companies, moving from one to the other when work is available. He works for different supervisors at different times; some more than others.

 

“So, you’re pretty familiar with the Austin area then. You worked all over,” Matt restates.

 

“Yeah, because I worked in over here in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Corpus (Christi), Laredo.”

 

Matt asks, “Y’all do just apartment complexes mainly?”

 

“Yeah, do some apartments and houses.”

 

“Okay,” James interrupts him from going on, “so pretty much, you keep goin’ back to CS all the time?”

 

“Yes, because I work for them for bunch of years.”

 

Okay, you named off several others you worked for,” James says, getting to the elephant in the room. “You said you worked for Phoenix?”

 

Jorge innocently replies, “I work for Phoenix before like two years ago.”

 

“How long ago?” James asks, not believing.

 

Jorge looks down at his lap as if he’s trying to remember, “I think like two years ago.”

 

“And, how long did you work for them?” James asks.

 

“I mean, I work for this guy and then I been to the job and then come back again or when they lookin’ for me or somethin’ and, ah, maybe like – complete – complete maybe like a year, year and a half.”

 

“So, two years ago, you worked for them and,” James confirms to Jorge’s nod, “you worked for them about a year? Where were most of their jobs?”

 

Jorge squirms a little and pulls his hair into a ponytail then lets his hair drop before answering, “Ah, over here. I do work for these guys over here because he’s got a bunch of houses and apartments. A lot of work in San Antonio.”

 

“So, you worked for guys in San Antonio?” James asks blandly.

 

“Yes, San Antonio, yes.” Jorge looks from James to Matt then to the clock on the wall.

 

“Those guys treat you good?” Matt asks.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Which company treated you best out of all of ‘em?” Matt asks, smiling.

 

Jorge twitches in his seat, plays with his hair and finally answers, “I mean, ah, CS, ah, they treat me good.”

 

Matt asks, “That’s the best one? ‘Cause you always come back to them, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Jorge says firmly, “Yeah, because every time I have to for work or something and then he don’t have any, he try to put me over here or put me over there. And, ah, he told me right now, it’s slow. Wait one month or two weeks or when I call you.”

 

Matt nods understandingly, “They always call you when they have work though?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Good people?” Matt asks.

 

Jorge smiles. “Yeah,” he answers sincerely.

 

“Lance?” Matt asks watching Jorge closely.

 

Jorge nods, surprise lighting his face, “Lance Self.”

 

“So, they call you up,” James changes direction, “and then you make some phone calls to all your people?”

 

Jorge looks at James with relief, “Yeah, I call my peoples. If nothing to do and they wanna work.”

 

“But where, who’s , who do you got that works for you?”

 

Jorge answers, “Well, I got a bunch of Mexican guys.”

 

Jorge tells them he’s had as many as 35 men working for him when jobs were plentiful about two years ago. Nowadays, he doesn’t have enough work for more than five or six. He doesn’t give them any names, other than first names, and refuses to provide any contact information.

 

Matt asks, “What happens when you’re not working? You don’t get any money or how do you pay your bills?”

 

“Oh, well, I do some side jobs. Some side, side jobs for some, some person’s stores or whatever. Manual stuff to get money.”

 

“Do you pretty much work all the time, though?” James now.

 

“Yes, I mean, I work. I don’t have nothing to do like electrical,” Jorge explains, “I may cut the grass or whatever.”

 

Matt takes the volley, “Maintenance, whatever? Have to do somethin’?”

 

“Mm-hmm.” Jorge pulls his hair into a ponytail, knots it then lets it go. He’s beginning to sweat just a little.

 

James asks, “So, when was your last electrical job?”

 

“My last electrical job? Ah,” Jorge looks around, “well it was CS with Jesse.”

 

“And, when was the last time you got a paycheck from him?” Matt asks quickly.

 

“Mmm,” Jorge answers, his head swiveling toward Matt, “like three weeks, I think.”

 

“Three weeks?” James repeats. “So, somewhere like around the middle of February?”

 

“Mmm, maybe.” Jorge turns toward James now.

 

“First part of February?” James pushes to line up with his timeline. This will match what Lance told them earlier.

 

“Yeah, like the first week or something like that.”

 

“Yeah? So what have you been doin’ since then?” Jorge’s head snaps around to Matt again.

 

“Well, cleaning the yard, help my sister,” Jorge lists, “I help my cousin in Dallas and here and there.”

 

“What were you doin’ last week?” James asks pointedly.

 

Jorge looks at him innocently, “Last week?”

 

“Mm-hmm,” James says watching the perspiration increase on Jorge’s face as the man does the ponytail thing with his hair again. The investigators know Jorge is trying to come up with a story. Obviously, he didn’t have a cover story planned.

 

“Mmm, last week I went to Laredo,” Jorge begins, “take my form for the taxes and then come back.”

 

James asks, “You got some land down there?”

 

“No.”

 

“What,” James asks, “what taxes were you doin’?”

 

“Oh, no, no,” Jorge explains, “because my, my aunt, she takes all my taxes every year.”

 

“Oh,” James says understanding him now, “she does your income tax?”

 

“Yeah,” Jorge says nodding and relaxing slightly, “for my income tax.”

 

Matt asks, “You stay down there with them or you just-”

 

“No, I drove back,” Jorge answers quickly.

 

Matt looks at Jorge skeptically, “Drove down there and drove back?”

 

Jorge nods, “Drove back.”

 

“Same day?” Matt asks again.

 

Jorge does the ponytail and shifts around in his seat, “Yeah, same day.”

 

James asks, “You remember what day that was?”

 

Jorge looks away, “I think it was, um, Wednesday, I think.”

 

Jorge, completely relaxed for most of the prior questioning, seems cooperative but wary of both investigators, yet is lying easily, even matter-of-factly, about his activities for the past month.

 

“You still have other family down there?” Matt asks about Mexico now, “Your parents live in Laredo or brothers and sisters?”

 

“I’ve got my,” Jorge answers slowly, “I’ve got my parents living in Laredo, Mexico.”

 

“Over in Mexico?” Matt asks for clarification.

 

Many Mexicans drop the “Nuevo” from Nuevo Laredo and just refer to the sister city of Laredo, Texas as Laredo, Mexico. The two cities even share an annual celebration called Los Dos Laredos, which means ‘the two Laredos’. It can be confusing when interviewing people from Mexico and along the Texas border.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Jorge replies.

 

“Have you ever been in trouble before, Jorge?” Matt asks to see if he will be honest about his history.

 

Jorge is not relaxed now, “Mmm, before?”

 

Matt re-words his question, “You been arrested, arrested before?”

 

“Mmm, like, well, I mean like-” Jorge hedges for time.

 

“For anything?” Matt adds.

 

“Well, I get arrested one time. I mean,” Jorge mumbles, “but it’s not my fault. It’s, ah, my brother-in-law’s fault.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“In Sinton, Texas,” Jorge adds.

 

“Sinton?”

 

Jorge nods, “That happened maybe like ten years ago.”

 

“What for?” Matt asks as he writes “Sinton” on his notebook.

 

Jorge looks at Matt and then at James, “I mean because his, ah, he got fury with his mother-in-law and he broke the door. And then, ah, and then he put some charge to him. And, one time, when I came from Corpus. I was at a job site over there. When I came from Corpus, ah, I go to speeding. So, he stop me. So, I live in the same house. He, his. his name is the same name. His name Jorge.”

 

“So, they thought you were him?” Matt sums it up.

 

“Yes,” Jorge agrees, “So, they, they put me in jail with it for like three days. So everything, fix everything.”

 

Matt goes on encouragingly, “Family violence or something or what was it for?”

 

“Yeah, something like that. I mean, as soon as he told me, the officer told me, I say it’s my brother-in-law. It’s not me. So, well, they got me. And then, the, the second one,” Jorge continues, “not the first one, the second one, it’s in Laredo. Um, I got one guy, a illegal in my truck.”

 

James watches Jorge, writing occasionally. Matt keeps writing and nodding, “Mm-hmm.”

 

“So, they take me to court,” Jorge concludes, “That happened in, uh, think in 2002, I think.”

 

James asks, “So they put you, they arrested you for that? For transporting illegals?”

 

Jorge nods, “Yeah, then, ah, they give me five years’ probation.”

 

Matt asks, “Are you finished with that probation?”

 

“Yeah, I finished with probation.”

 

“Did they arrest you in Laredo or they arrest you in San Antonio?” James asks to verify the information he already has.

 

“No, they arrest me in Laredo.”

 

“And that’s the only two times you’ve been arrested?” Matt confirms.

 

“Yes,” Jorge says looking at the clock.

 

“So, what else did you do last week? Wednesday you went to Laredo,” James asks looking at his notes and then at Jorge, “What’d you do on Tuesday?”

 

Jorge is stressed now. He pulls his hair back into a ponytail, “Tuesday, ah, I don’t remember. Tuesday. Tuesday.” His hands fall into his lap and a river of hair falls down his back. “I think I stayed home with my wife and go see my father-in-law in the hospital.”

 

James looks up, “What about Monday?”

 

“Monday?” Jorge asks, buying time that isn’t there, “I think I do the same thing.”

 

“You got any enemies, Jorge?” Matt asks bluntly.

 

Jorge’s head snaps around to Matt, “Enemies? No.”

 

Matt continues, “Anybody’d that’d wanna see you get into trouble or do you just mainly have all friends?”

 

“Um, hmm, not that I know of,” Jorge answers slowly.

 

“You don’t know of anybody that’s mad at you for any reason?” Matt asks again, “Haven’t had any fights with anybody lately or nothin’ like, no disagreements over anything? Money? Anything like that?”

 

Jorge looks from one man to the other. He shakes his head ‘no’ and mumbles negatives until he hears the Matt mention money.

 

“Well, for money, I have a disagreement but have no problems, “ Jorge begins, “I mean, because some guys in, in, in San Antonio. I mean this, that happened some time ago and, ah, that guy worked for me now not for too long. But, I mean I let it go. I mean, I let it go because they were workin’ for Phoenix. And, ah, I got some problems with, with the foreman.”

 

“Mm-hmm,” Matt nods and motions for Jorge to go on.

 

“So, I, I, I decided to quit for the job because I mean, he not give us enough materials to finish my job and make the same money to pay all the guys. Because I have a lot of guys. So, I decide I talk to the guy. I said, ‘Hey, man, I can’t, I can’t pay the, the money because they not make me, uh, he not give me the same materials to finish and make the same money to pay you.’ Because everybody wanted one hundred dollars a day.” Jorge becomes more animated and his frustration shows, “I talked to the guy. So, I decide to just talk to the guy. I said, ‘Hey, man, I gotta – I want to quit because I don’t make the money to pay my guys.’ So he paid me, like maybe, like, two thousand dollars. So, the guy, he say, okay, he’s fine. And then, ah, ah, I find these guys, and I ask them for the money. Then you know what happened. I mean, I talked with you. You say it’s fine. When I got another job and then I can’t, ah, pay you. So, he said, ‘Well, I need my money.’ And I go, I said, ‘Well, you want the money, go talk to the company. I mean, he’s not paying me. You think that he’s paying me, then have him pay you. Go talk to the foreman and he’ll give you a little card.’ So, that’s the only problem I’ve had with these guys.”

 

“That was a long time ago?” Matt asks, knowing that this dialogue may be connected to the crime but is being used to steer them away from the truth of things.

 

“Yeah, that was,” Jorge answers thoughtfully, “happened maybe like six months ago. Six months ago.”

 

Matt stops writing and looks up, “Oh, really?”

 

“Six months ago,” Jorge nods, then adds, “But that’s it. But, not, not, I mean, like a fight or something.”

 

“Right, nothing like that,” Matt says. A moment passes as he continues making notes until finally, Matt looks at Jorge and asks, “Two thousand dollars is all that was?”

 

“Ma, maybe like, no,” Jorge stumbles over his words unsure now, “I know it was in like two thousand, so pay me, not pay me like two thousand because I don’t finish my job. So, I don’t finish. He not pay me. I, I understand that. And, so he’s happy with, with a different company. So, this guy, I know I owe this guy money. I work part of the money because I owed money to the other guys. So, I, this guy says, well, maybe they come back and say you don’t wanna pay me now. And, I said, talk to the company. I mean, find out yourself. And, and so, that’s it. That happened with another guy, too and, ah, with CS. Well, one time the guy goes straight with CS because I don’t pay him because he not finish the job because the company’s not, is not finished and can’t pay him.”

 

James nods, “Uh-huh.”

 

Jorge continues rambling, “Yes, and I go talk to Lance because Lance call me. He’s, hey, Jorge, I got this guy over here. He says he not pay you. Well, I mean, you not seeing any job, I can’t pay him because you not pay me, then I don’t finish.’ To this day, as soon as he finish, I turning in this paper.”

 

Matt sums it up for him, “So, those companies pay you and then you pay the workers?”

 

“Yeah, so, so that’s the only problem,” Jorge replies with relief. “I mean that happens, ah, a lot of times with diff- different, ah, subcontractors. They call up. They go, hey, maybe you not gonna pay me.”

 

“So, so when you had,” James starts, trying to tie in events to the timeline, “so six months ago Phoenix-”

 

“No, ah,” Jorge interrupts, “with Phoenix I workin’ like two years ago. That happened like two years ago.”

 

“But you just said six months ago,” James says, looking at his notes.

 

Jorge nods his head and quickly adds, “Yeah, six months ago, ah, ah, ah, I find this guy. And he, well, he find me in San Antonio and he ask me for the money.”

 

“From a job that happened two years ago?” Matt asks.

 

“Yes. Yes.”

 

“And who are these guys?” James asks, clearly not expecting a straight answer.

 

“That guy’s, ah, ah,”Jorge looks from James to Matt and back to James, “the name’s Bartolo.”

 

James and Matt know that Jorge has been playing a game with them by acting as if he has no idea why he’s been arrested. They’ve seen this play out many times in many other cases. The suspect thinks they can work around the situation and keep themselves off the hot seat. Maybe he’s trying to find out what they know. He could be hoping that he hasn’t been as deeply implicated as he knows he should be. He’s frightened and frightened criminals make mistakes, lose track of their lies and, with enough patience and perseverance on the part of James and Matt, will eventually tell them enough. Jorge’s mention of Bartolo is a major crack in his innocence act.

 

“Bartolo?” James asks innocently.

 

“Si, Bartolo,” Jorge replies, quickly adding, “I don’t know their last name.”

 

James and Matt try unsuccessfully to get more than first names but do find out that some sort of connection happened six months ago between Jorge and Bartolo, but Jorge’s reasons are weak and unbelievable.

 

“So, when was the last time you talked to him?” James asks again.

 

“And, ah, maybe like three or four weeks ago is when he called me again,” Jorge suddenly admits, “And they, they asked me what happened with the money.”

 

“Did he threaten you?” Matt asks, “I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t pay me?”

 

Jorge shakes his head, then pulls his hair back into a ponytail and drops it, “Ah, no. I mean, he’s, ah, I mean I, I workin’ with everybody. I mean, I, I don’t like fight. I don’t like nothing.”

 

“Friends with them?” Matt offers.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Okay,” James continues, “So, three or four weeks ago you talked to Bartolo. Where was this at?”

 

“He called me,” Jorge corrects him, “Hey, what’s goin’ on?”

 

“Oh, so you didn’t meet him. You just talked to him on,” Matt clarifies, “Nextel Direct Connect?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And, that’s the last time?” Matt asks Jorge looking him straight in the eye.

 

“Yes,” Jorge lies, repeating his ponytail ritual.

 

“Do you know where Bartolo is right now?” James asks.

 

“No, I don’t know,” Jorge replies and this seems sincere.

 

“Okay,” James says, taking a deep breath, “So back up to this last week. So, Monday and Tuesday you were with your wife.”

 

The investigators lead Jorge back through the entire week. Jorge maintains that other than going to Laredo to drop off his taxes and run across the border to see his mom, he’s been taking care of his three daughters and supporting his wife’s visits to see her ailing father in a south Austin hospital. James presses for more details regarding what Jorge did in Laredo and whether he had anybody with him? Jorge tells the investigators he now remembers picking up a friend who was broke down on the side of the road and taking him for some gas. He then remembers also helping someone else out who needed a ride to the store. He tells the investigators that he never stopped to put gas into his truck and that his truck will make the trip on three-fourths of a tank of gas and it only has one tank. A round trip from Austin to Laredo is approximately 390 miles without any side trips. For Jorge’s F-150 truck to make the trip there and back on one tank with the side trips he’s told them about would be impossible. Even so, Jorge holds to his account pretty well for the first hour of questioning.

 

“Okay. Okay, George or Jorge,” James changes gears, “here’s the deal. You’re not tellin’ me everything. You keep leavin’ little bits and pieces out there. Now, I got you in Laredo. Earlier you told me that you went straight through, that you dropped off the deal and you went into Mexico.”

 

Jorge watches James closely, “Mm-hmm.”

 

“Now, all of a sudden, I got you taking and helpin’ a guy out and getting’ him gas at a gas station,” James says pointedly, “And, now, I’ve got you takin’ a guy to Wal-Mart.”

 

Even though Jorge knows he’s been painted into a corner, he continues to try and block questions about his trip to Laredo. James asks him about taking someone to a motel and Jorge trips on his answers finally admitting that he went to one but didn’t stay and that he didn’t spend as much time there as James and Matt are making things out to seem.

 

“Then there sure is somebody that looks just like you runnin’ around out there somewhere,” Matt says casually.

 

Jorge crosses his arms over his chest and says defiantly, “Mm. Well, I mean you, you say you got me everything, ah what’s the deal? Why I’m here?”

 

“We want the truth,” Matt says.

 

“The truth for what?” Jorge asks, a tinge of anger in his voice.

 

“What you been doin’,” Matt says cool and calm.

 

“Um,” Jorge’s swagger is faltering a bit, “I have to have some times to go back like that.”

 

“Hard to remember?” Matt offers.

 

“Yes, I mean, so I,” Jorge grabs onto what sounds like a lifeline,“I don’t know.”

 

“We’re gonna help you with that,” James says with some impatience, “Okay?”

 

Jorge says, “Mm-hmm,” but it’s obvious that it’s anything but okay.

 

“We’re gonna help you remember a whole lot of stuff, “ James continues, “Because what we’re looking for here is the truth and all you can do is help yourself.”

 

“I mean, I wanna help myself because I think I’m here for three tickets in Austin,” Jorge lies innocently, “when I, he pull me over it’s like, shit! Like army!”

 

James nods, “Right.” Hearing about the takedown and how many agencies and units were involved, he can easily see why Jorge thought an army had come to get him!

 

“And I don’t know why,” Jorge whines.

 

Matt responds, “A lot of people have been talkin’ to us that know you and giving us information.”

 

“Okay,” Jorge says, “Well, then what’s the deal? I mean, why? Why I’m here?”

 

“Yeah, well, we’re,” James begins again, “that’s what we’re gettin’ to. But, we’re trying to set up some parameter here to see if you’re gonna lie to us. And, and, so far, you’re not doin’ just real good.”

 

James watches as Jorge does the ponytail routine again. “So, we need complete honesty from you. Just lay it out on the table as we go along in this situation.”

 

“Mm-hmm,” mumbles Jorge, frowning and fidgeting.

 

For the next ten minutes, James tries to get an honest account of Jorge’s movements to Laredo and back but doesn’t get anything new. Matt again asks if he has any enemies, enemies that would tell the police things about him to get him into trouble. Jorge denies this possibility over and over.

 

“Would they make up a story about all that we’re asking you about?” James asks finally.

 

“I don’t know. That’s why I, I’m surprised, because, I mean, I’m here for,” Jorge struggles, “I mean, I’m here for some reason. He told me that I take some guys.”

 

James asks, “Who told you that?”

 

“Over there in the,” Jorge searches for the right words, “where is Buda?”

 

“Buda?” James repeats.

 

“Yeah, when they catch me, they say, ‘Hey.’ I said, hey, everything is for two tickets only? They said, no, it’s for something else.” Jorge explains, “They told me why they didn’t take me to the jail over there. They say I take somebody.”

 

“Did you?” James demands.

 

“No.”

 

“You took nobody?” James asks again.

 

“I don’t know,” Jorge replies, “What, what, what I wanna find out, too. They tell me you got ah, ah, ah, five hundred thousand dollar bond or something. I don’t know why.”

 

Matt cuts him off coldly, “We got witness statements and statements from friends of yours that told us that you were involved in a kidnapping.”

 

“A friend of mine?” Jorge asks with a tinge of real surprise.

 

James nods and adds, “That’s what we’re trying to get at. Either they’re your friends or they’re your enemies and they’re trying to get you in trouble. ‘Cause obviously, what they’ve told us is a little more believable that what you’re sittin’ here telling us right now. Because you’re, as I question you, you come up with some of the truth and that’s the same thing that they’ve already told us.”

 

Jorge nods, looking at the table.

 

“So far, they’re shootin’ straight with us and I can’t help but believe ‘em,” James continues, “The only way it’s gonna work out different is if you can shed some light on what’s goin’ on here. That’s why I asked you about last week, to go all the way back to Monday and tell me what all you did on Monday and what did you do on Tuesday. So, so, you want to start over and tell me exactly what, what you were doing those days because we have a bunch of people-”

 

Jorge plays with his hair, doing the pony tail and twisting it, then letting it go. Matt and James never take their eyes off of him and he’s feeling their determination to get to the truth.

 

James goes on, “…that we’ve been talking to and they’re talking to us ‘cause they’re tryin’ to save their own butt and they’re puttin’ you out here in the limelight. They’re pointin’ the finger at you.”

 

Jorge becomes animated at that, “So they point my finger at me, and, and I don’t do shit!”

 

Matt pushes on, “They said everything was your idea. Your plans.”

 

“Oh, no,” Jorge moans.

 

Matt throws him the lifeline again, “You know, if that’s not the case, then we need to know who’s responsible if you’re not the ringleader.”

 

Jorge considers this, nodding, “Mm- hmm. Because I, I don’t know. He, he told, he told me about, about Paul, about Paul, ah, the Phoenix and I get in the car because what he told me yesterday, the officer over there.”

 

“Okay,” James asks, “What’d he tell you?”

 

“No, I mean,” Jorge backpedals, “he tell me I’m here because somebody take Paul.”

 

“Okay,” James says softly, “Do you know Paul?”

 

“Yeah, I know Paul.”

 

“You know him personally?” James presses the matter.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You work for him?” Matt questions Jorge.

 

Jorge looks up suddenly, “Huh?”

 

“Work for him?” Matt repeats.

 

“Yeah,” Jorge replies reluctantly, “he a good guy for me.”

 

“He ever screw you?” Matt asks.

 

Shaking his head, Jorge whispers, “No.”

 

Well into the second hour of questioning, the investigators give Jorge another chance to come clean before sawing off the branch he’s perched on. Although Jorge’s body language has expressed tension and stress up to this point, he has doggedly maintained his ignorance of the kidnapping. Matt and James lead Jorge through the morning of Tuesday, February 26, from the time he woke until that afternoon. Jorge tells them that he was up to feed his daughters breakfast and get them ready for school. According to his story, he took them to the bus stop and, when they were on their way to school, returned to his house. Shortly after that, he accompanied his wife and youngest daughter, who is not in school yet, to the hospital to visit his father-in-law.

 

“And then you decided to drive in to see her father?” James asks, taking notes.

 

“Mm-hmm.”

 

“Is somebody staying with him all the time?” James continues.

 

“Well, I mean, my wife and my, ah, mother-in-law with my sister-in-law and some of those people,” Jorge replies.

 

“Yeah, but somebody’s always there with him?” James asks again.

 

“Ah, well my daughter,” Jorge says as if they’d understand.

 

“Your daughter?”

 

“Yes, ‘cause I need to stay with my daughter outside,” Jorge explains, knowing his wife won’t say he wasn’t there, but the in-laws might, “I mean in, ah, living, I mean, waiting room.”

 

“Okay,” James says evenly, “Do you know that the hospital has cameras?”

 

Jorge pauses before saying, “Yeah, I know.”

 

“Yeah?” James smiles, “And if I told you you wasn’t on any of ‘em, why would that be?”

 

“Hmm.” Jorge frowns, his hands flying to his hair as he tries to think of something to explain this. The ponytail. The knot. The hair falling down his back again.

 

“I mean,” Matt says watching Jorge’s face, “it records everybody that comes in and out and you’re tellin’ us you’re at the hospital, but we don’t see you on the video.”

 

James jumps in, “I mean, we see your wife and we see your mother-in-law. We see your sister-in-law.”

 

“Mm-hmm.” Jorge is sweating. He grabs his hair and lets it go; grabs it and lets it go.

 

Matt adds, “Different times.”

 

“At different times,” James takes over, “but we never see you. Why would that be?”

 

Jorge moans and covers his face with his hands, “Hmm, oh, man.” He bends forward sort of rocking.

 

“We’re not here to screw you, Jorge,” Matt adds gently, “We’re just here to get to the truth and, like I told you, everybody else has given us their story. You’re one of the last ones we’ve picked up.”

 

Jorge, still bent over, his hands covering his face, just keeps moaning.

 

Matt continues, “Everybody’s given’ us their stories and it’s all pointin’ back at you. So, we’re here to hear your side of it. You know people get into binds. They need money. Sometimes shit happens. It may not be right, but it’s already happened. So, it’s time to get, to get it straight. And, you lyin’ is not gonna help you for any reason. It’s a very serious matter. We wouldn’t be here talkin’ to you if it wasn’t.”

 

Jorge moans, “Hmm. Oh, man.”

 

“Williamson County is not a good place to be in trouble either,” Matt reminds him, “It’s, they’re hard on crime here. Juries give out big sentences.”

 

Jorge’s moans are getting louder. He continues to rock into his lap.

 

“And I know if,” Matt adds hopefully, “if what you’re tellin’ me, man, you haven’t hardly been in any trouble.”

 

Jorge stops moaning and looks up at Matt hopefully, “No, man, because all the time I’m working.”

 

Matt nods, “Right. You’re tryin’ to take care of your family, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Jorge agrees, “Well, all the time.”

 

“But, this is a very serious matter,” Matt says, “years and years in the penitentiary.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I know.”

 

“Five to ninety-nine or life,” Matt says to underscore his words.

 

Jorge looks around, “Shit!”

 

“Yeah,” Matt continues, “So, if these other assholes back here, who you thought you were friends with, if they’re tellin’ us somethin’ that didn’t happen, let’s hear it, ‘cause we haven’t heard anything from you. We’ve just heard all their stories.”

 

“Mm-hmm,” Jorge considers.

 

“Bartolo,” Matt says and points upward, “he’s not very far from you right now.”

 

Jorge’s eyes follow his finger to the ceiling, “Very far?”

 

James adds, “He’s like one floor up.”

 

Jorge nervously chuckles, “One floor?”

 

James nods, “Mm-hmm.”

 

Matt adds, “And A.B.-”

 

“He’s one floor up across the hall,” James finishes.

 

Jorge looks trapped. He ponytails his hair and lets it drop, “Mm-hmm.”

 

Matt continues, “And, we’ve talked to a lot of people. What’s her name?”

 

“Samantha Casablanca?” James asks.

 

“Jessica ? What’s that other girl?” Matt adds, “I’ve got so many I’ve been talking to. It don’t matter. We’re here to hear you, brother.”

 

James agrees, “We wanna hear your side of the story. We’ve already heard their side.”

 

“And they’re all trying to make it out to sound like it’s your idea and you made all the plans. You’ve been doin’ this. You’ve been doin’ that for months and months,” Matt explains.

 

Jorge shakes his head weakly, “No.”

 

“If you’re in trouble with somebody and they’re threatenin’ to kill you, if you didn’t come up with some money, I can understand why, you know, some of this might a happened,” Matt offers, “If somebody’s threatened you or threatened to hurt your family or somethin’ if you didn’t pay off some money. If I were in your shoes, you know, I wouldn’t want nothin’ happening to my kids or my wife.”

 

Jorge puts his face in his hands, “Yeah, man. I know.”

 

“That’s why I’m saying there’s, there’s maybe a reason for this or somethin’, but we’d like to hear it. You’re a hard working guy, never been in too much trouble.”

 

Jorge moans, his head still in his hands, “Yeah, I know.”

 

“And, I’d like to have, be able to go to the DA’s office and say, look, we sit down with Jorge and we, we talked and, and, ah, he’s a good guy,” James says with compassion, “And, he laid it all out on the table for us. What can we do to help him out? That’s what I wanna be able to do.”

 

Jorge’s head comes up as he looks at James, “And then, how many years can you give me on somethin’?”

 

“Years? That’s up to the district attorney to decide,” Matt answers and Jorge looks over at him now, “All we can do is, is tell him, man, he cooperated with us, told us, laid out the whole thing. You know, here’s why he did it. He told us this is why he did it or whatever. You know, he didn’t lie. He, he told us the truth. I’ll be the first one. Detective Maugham will be the first one to go over there and, and talk to the district attorney or if it comes down to court, stand up in court and tell ‘em what you told us. You know, that you’ve cooperated with us and you helped clear this thing up and get it taken care of.”

 

James adds, “I can tell you, they, they look on somebody that’s willing to sit down and admit their mistakes. They take all that into account. And, and, at the same time, they also see if we have to sit here and-”

 

“Keep comin’ back and forth,” Matt finishes firmly.

 

“Paul got back – got to come back. He didn’t get hurt,” Matt tells him, “He’s tellin’ us those guys treated him okay, checked on him, made sure he wasn’t, you know, wasn’t gonna have a heart attack or this or that and all that’ll be taken into consideration, too.” Matt pauses and waits a moment, watching Jorge closely. “We don’t really think you wanted anything to happen to him or, or it might have.”

 

Jorge looks away shaking his head, “No.”

 

Matt adds, “You knew him. You worked for him. You know him. I don’t think you’d want to see anything bad happen to him. I mean y’all might have had little disagreements here or there about work or whatever, but that’s nothin’.”

 

Jorge nods, “Ah, that. Like I tell the officer yesterday, I tell you. I want, I mean, I don’t cross the border because I know if I cross the border, he’d kill me to do it.”

 

Matt and James both ask, “Miguel?”

 

Jorge nods, “Well, it’s Miguel’s people and, ah, I mean, right now, I’m scared because yesterday they were lookin’ for my family.”

 

“That’s the kind of stuff we need to hear, man,” Matt says as he makes notes. “We can help your family stay safe.”

 

Jorge is on the verge of tears, wiping his eyes and taking deep breaths, “I bring my family here but my father don’t wanna stay here, so he go back and yesterday, a man coming. He go, that guy show up.”

 

“What guy showed up?” asks James.

 

“Miguel,” Jorge says in a small voice.

 

“Miguel?” James looks at Jorge skeptically.

 

Matt voices James’s doubts, “Miguel’s in Texas?”

 

“No, it’s in Nuevo Laredo.”

 

“That’s where your mom and dad live?” Matt asks and when Jorge nods, “‘Cause this deal went bad?”

 

As Jorge gets more upset, his English becomes more broken and hard to understand, “Not because this deal go bad. I mean, you know over there they, the big, ah, what do you call them, ah, cartels?”

 

James nods, “Cartels?”

 

“He go, I want this much. If you not give me this much, I kill one of the family or whatever.” Jorge wipes his face with his shirt sleeve and pulls his hair back.

 

James asks, “That’s what happened?” He looks over at Matt. Matt stops writing and watches Jorge.

 

“Right now,” Jorge says, “that’s the situation.”

 

Jorge assures them that his parents are not involved with the kidnapping and gives the investigators his parents’ address and contact information. The interview has hit the three hour mark and Matt offers to get Jorge something to drink. Jorge requests a Coke and Matt leaves the room to get it for him.

 

“All right,” James starts, “so he went to your family and what did he demand?”

 

“I mean, he, he wants some money,” Jorge manages to get out, “I mean, them people, he kill already like four of my family.”

 

For the first time in the interview, Jorge seems truly sincere. Getting to this part of himself has opened a flood of emotion and he goes from terrified to sobbing to anger. For the first time, also, the investigators are beginning to think they’ve found the core motivation for the attempted kidnap of Lance Self and the kidnapping of Paul Roland.

 

“He’s already killed four of your family?” James pushes for more information, “Who has he killed?”

 

“My, ah, my, all cousins,” Jorge says through tears.

 

Matt returns with the Coke and Jorge thanks him.

 

Jorge gains some control and continues, “Like, three years ago, in 2005, he killed two of my cousins, ah, my nephew and my cousin together.”

 

“They got killed ” Matt asks, looking at what he’s written, “in 2005 together? Where at?”

 

“Yeah, together,” Jorge says sadly, “Right there in Laredo just, ah, Laredo, Mexico.”

 

“How’d they do it?” James asks, “Did they shoot ‘em out?”

 

Jorge nods, “They shooted, ah, my cousin, Mario Vega, received thirteen shots and, um, my nephew, eleven shots.”

 

James nods and continues, “Okay, and then you said in 2004-”

 

“2004 they kill,” Jorge says with fear filling his eyes, “one my, ah, cousins and he never find out.”

 

Matt and James look at each other, then James offers, “He’s missing?”

 

“Yeah, they never find out.” Jorge pulls his hair back in the ponytail and knots it. It holds for a few seconds and then falls to his waist again.

 

“He went missing and you never found him?” Matt confirms.

 

“Yes, nobody knows nothing. Only his daughters. They saw when he picked up. That’s it.”

 

James shakes his head, “So, the cartel’s bad news, huh?”

 

Jorge continues, “And then, ah, the same year, ah, I think it’s 2005 they kill another one – shot in the back of the head and burned up.”

 

“Mm-hmm,” James says and adds, “So, when did he come to your parents?”

 

“I think it’s yesterday he show up in the house,” Jorge says, “They call. My mom called my wife to tell me now they show up in the house. Yes. I mean this, this, I know these guys and, ah, they’re really dangerous. These guys. I mean, he told me like a month ago, man, if you don’t give me the money, I kill you. I just go okay, okay, okay.”

 

“So, a month ago and,” James leans closer, “he actually talked to you?”

 

Jorge looks James in the eye, “Yes.”

 

Jorge continues to tell them that Miguel’s calls and demands became more threatening as time went by and the amount he demanded went up, reaching $300,000.

 

“How’d he tell you,” James tries to word his questions carefully, “how’d he tell you how to get it? Did he tell you how to get it?”

 

Jorge shrugs, “I mean, ah, he say, hey, do what you wanna. I mean, it’s not real nice, right? I wanna see my, I want my money.”

 

“Why does he think that you owe him money?” James asks.

 

That’s the real question and Jorge dodges the answer. Jorge tells them his family is just a random target and that Miguel and the Los Zetas just pick people out to extort for no real reason. He never gives any reason for this repeat attack on his family but does provide a clue as to what escalated his problems to this side of the border.

 

“Because I, I mean, I talk to my mom and, ah, he told me I got the paper for the house.” Jorge stammers, “But he say, I’m not, I want the money. I want the money.”

 

“So, your mom and dad are willing to give him their house to protect themselves?” Matt clarifies.

 

“Yes,” Jorge says and wipes his eyes.

 

Matt asks, “He didn’t want it though?”

 

Jorge is now visibly trembling, “I mean, I talk to my wife one time and, ah, I tell maybe I, I wanna go over there and let him kill me or somethin’.”

 

“Just to get ‘em off your family?” Matt asks sadly, “See, somethin’ like that I can understand why, why you would have gotten yourself into what you did Tuesday.”

 

Jorge is in tears, “Yeah.”

 

“Man, I think anybody would understand that you’re scared to death,” Matt tells him, “Any reasonable person.”

 

Jorge is openly crying, “I mean, I was scared myself and my family.”

 

“I understand. It sounds like you ought to be.”

 

James brings everyone back, “You said that he called or went to your parents’ yesterday?”

 

Jorge nods, “Yesterday.”

 

“What did they, what did he say?”

 

“I mean he say, I told my mom, where, I mean, because, like I said, I throw my phone,” Jorge stumbles over his words, “He say, where Jorge? Why Jorge not talk to me no more?’ I mean, he, ah, find out.”

 

Matt nods and finishes for him, “So, he’s still calling your phone. You’re not answering it.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I no answer it,” Jorge agrees, “and, ah, ah, when I talk my, my sister, I mean everybody, I says I wanna go over there. I know where he’s living, but I know I would never come back.” Jorge looks down at the floor, tears rolling down the curves of his face, to his chin and spilling on his shirt.

 

Matt continues, ignoring the man’s tears, “So, when did you really last talk to him? Right before you threw your phone away or-?”

 

Jorge looks blankly at Matt, “Yes. Um…”

 

“…on Thursday?” Matt finishes his question.

 

“No, one day before,” Jorge mumbles, “Wednesday. I think Wednesday.”

 

James makes a note, then asks, “Is that why you were in Laredo?”

 

Jorge nods and says quietly, “Yes, it is.”

 

“Who was you down there in Laredo with?” James asks pointedly.

 

“Just another guy from Monterey,” Jorge shrugs, “and, ah, he call me, too.”

 

James pushes on, “Do you know what his name is?”

 

“I don’t know his name,” Jorge answers shaking his head.

 

James and Matt look at each other. They know he knows the names of the people he worked with on this kidnapping. It isn’t the type of crime that people would try to pull off without trusted buddies. Still, James also knows how to play the game and decides to try a different angle that’s been somewhat successful with the other suspects.

 

“If, if I showed you some photographs,” James asks Jorge calmly, “do you know? You think you can pick him out?”

 

Jorge squirms, “Ah, well, Miguel or…”

 

James shakes his head, “But the guy that was in Laredo. I know, I already know who the guy is. I got photographs and everything of him.” James starts to pull a photo of AB out of the stack of photos but stops when Jorge continues talking.

 

“Yeah, Miguel is, I know why he’s in jail before here.”

 

“In the states?” James asks, his hand holding the photo frozen in place.

 

“Yeah.”

 

James nods, remembering a report on Miguel Trevino that said he’d been arrested in Dallas County back in ’93, charged with avoiding police arrest after he’d failed to lose police in a car chase. He’d paid a fine and was released. Now, he was wanted by authorities in Texas and the federal government for everything from drug running, murder, extortion and robbery. More than that, he is third in line to run the most blood-thirsty and violent drug cartel in Mexico. How does this man target people like the Rolands?

 

“How come those people in Mexico don’t just shoot him? They scared of him?” Matt asks shaking his head, “It’s like if he comes to your house demanding money, why, why doesn’t somebody shoot him?”

 

Jorge, nodding and looking from one man to the other, “I mean, he keeps, he wants some money. Because he shoot and kill the family just lookin’ for another family.

 

“No,” Matt interrupts, “Why doesn’t somebody take Miguel out? Wouldn’t that stop the problem?”

 

“No,” Jorge replies sadly.

 

“Or, there’s somebody else?” Matt asks, “If Miguel dies, somebody else takes his place?”

 

“Yeah,” Jorge says as he puts his hair into a ponytail and shifts around in his seat, “I mean it go like that.”

 

“Keeps goin’?”

 

“You know it go like that,” Jorge agrees, “It’s a lot of people.”

 

Jorge realizes he’s been backed into a corner with no way out. He decides to be more forthcoming with the investigators. Maybe now, he hopes that the investigators will be able to help protect his parents from Miguel Trevino in Nuevo Laredo or that his acute fear of being killed by that man will lessen his guilt in everyone’s eyes. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

 

Matt asks, “How long have you known Miguel?”

 

“Miguel, man,” Jorge lies, “I know him like for a year, I think.”

 

“So, why would he have picked your family?” James asks, “Why did he pick your family particularly?”

 

“I don’t know. Because,” Jorge begins, playing with his hair again, “maybe he know I workin’ over here. Make some money and, ah, he wants the money and he knows give the money to start or I’ll kill your father, I’ll kill – I mean he don’t give a shit.” Fresh tears fall.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Matt says, not buying it.

 

Jorge looks at Matt and repeats himself a little stronger, “He don’t give a shit!”

 

“So, did he give you the idea of this ransom thing?” James asks, redirecting Jorge’s attention.

 

“No. He’s not, he’s not giving idea. I mean, I mean, I got a lot of problems,” Jorge answers, “I just had a problem to find out the money.”

 

Matt stops writing and looks up at Jorge, “Financial problems?”

 

“Yes,” Jorge explains and through new tears, “and, he asked me for money and, ah, I take the idea real quick.”

 

“So when you,” James continues, “when did you decide to, to put all this plan into action?”

 

“I mean, I mention to these guys,” Jorge says and wipes his face with the back of his hands, “and these guys so excited because they want the money, too, and all that stuff. So, I no want to, I mean, I said sometimes, ah, you know what, I don’t want to play no more or whatever and stuff. But, this guy keeps goin’, hey, what’s goin’ on? What’s goin’ on? Let’s do it. Let’s do it.”

 

Matt asks, “Bart?”

 

“Yeah, man, and like call me up three o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning, hey, what’s goin’ on? We’re here already.”

 

“What relationship is Bartolo to Miguel?”

 

“Um, these guys work for that guy, too,” Jorge answers and then looks like he’s said too much, “I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know how, how close he is to this guy. But I know, ah, Bartolo comes down. He have the truck, ah, the navigator, the navigation system and anyway, where you at or ‘where you live at? I don’t wanna tell nobody where I live because-”

 

“That’s probably smart,” Matt agrees.

 

Jorge nods enthusiastically, “Yes, and, ah, I don’t wanna tell nobody where I live because I know these guys will – they got more than me over there. I know this guy find out that I’m in jail and you got some people here? I mean I, I know he send somebody to kill me. I know how he work.”

 

Matt promises, “Well, we can keep you safe while you’re here in jail.”

 

“Because he’s got people everywhere,” Jorge adds.

 

Matt shifts in his chair, writes a few notes and then, “So about a month ago, Miguel started puttin’ more pressure on you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So you came up with this idea of, ah, taking Paul or who else?” Matt asks, his voice firmer.

 

“No.”

 

Matt pushes again, “Did you try somebody else?”

 

Jorge pulls his hair back, “No man. No, I don’t try somebody else. I mean, I mean whatever is coming in my head.”

 

James puts his pen down and looks at Jorge, “Y’all didn’t, y’all didn’t try Lance?”

 

Jorge looks away, “No.”

 

Matt catches Jorge’s eye, “Do you know who did? Do you know who tried to take Lance?”

 

“Well,” Jorge sighs with resignation, “let me tell the truth.”

 

“Man, today, today’s the day, Jorge,” Matt says irritated, “You need to get all this bullshit straightened out, man, ‘cause we get this straightened out with Paul and then later on we get more information and we found out about Lance. Then they’re gonna be-”

 

James jumps in, “See, we know. We already know Lance was took in his garage.”

 

Jorge looks from one man to the other, fear and shame washing across his face. He’s trapped and he knows he’s trapped.

 

James goes on, not letting Jorge get comfortable, “And we just, we need to know everything. ‘Cause we know pretty much everything. We just need to hear it coming from you. We, we understand why.”

 

“Like I like I told you earlier, man, there’s a reason things happen and,” Matt jumps in, “and now you’re tellin’ us that these guys are threatening your family. Well, hell, anybody would understand that you’re scared and you’re trying to get that straight.”

 

“I know these people on the other side, man,” Jorge sobs.

 

“Bad asses, huh?” Matt asks and after Jorge nods, “Tell us the deal about Paul.”

 

Jorge tells Matt and Jorge how he brought in Bartolo who then brought in the others to help with the promise of a big payday. As the day grew closer, according to Jorge, he tried to talk them out of doing the kidnappings but with pressure from Miguel and pressure from Bart, who wanted a cut of the money, he felt he had no way out of it.

 

James asks, “Did you know where Paul lived?”

 

“Paul?” Jorge asks, trying to figure a way out of being the connector to everything that happened.

 

“Mm-hmm,” James murmurs.

 

“Yeah, I know where Paul live.”

 

“How’d you know that?” James asks without inflection.

 

“How?” Jorge looks around as if a plausible excuse might grow up from the floor.

 

“Mm-hmm,” James says.

 

“Because that’s the, yeah, because I,” Jorge stammers, “I’m, when he’s workin’, I’m workin’ there, ah, on the day.”

 

“So, you followed him?” James urges Jorge to go on.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“To his house?” James clarifies.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Jorge mumbles and plays with his hair, pulling it up into the ponytail, then a knot, then letting it go. After a couple of seconds, the heavy black hair drops past his shoulders.

 

“And, so,” James pushes for more, “did you watch him?”

 

Jorge wriggles in his chair, shaking his head, “No, I, I don’t watch him. I mean, I tried to looking for more work and all this stuff. I was, um, telling this guy, I mean, so he want to do it and ah, he wanna do it and, ah, I mean, he know where he living. But, I never, I mean, watchin’ like every day little plan.”

 

James and Matt volley their questions and pull bits and pieces of information until they have a fairly good picture of what happened just before and during the kidnapping. Jorge and the others had watched Paul Roland enough to see that he stuck to routine and if they assembled in the parking lot of the apartment complex before 7 AM, when people were going to work and children were headed to the school buses at the front of the complex, no one was likely to pay any attention to them. Paul, a man in his seventies, would be easy to take. Jorge watched everyone from a distance, fearing that Paul would recognize him then followed in his own truck as Paul was taken to the spot where they put him into Bartolo’s van. AB got into Jorge’s truck then. He told James and Matt how they tried to follow Bart’s van into San Antonio but got separated in traffic and went on to the motel later after lunch.

 

“When you got to the hotel,” James asks, “did you stay there at the hotel?”

 

“No,” Jorge says adamantly, “I don’t stay no more.”

 

“How long were you there?”

 

“Maybe like ten minutes,” Jorge says, adding, “I left and then came back.”

 

“Did you actually go into the hotel?”

 

“No,” Jorge adds, “I mean, I go inside in the parking lot.”

 

James tries again, “I’m talking about going inside.”

 

Jorge shakes his head, “The parking lot. That’s it. Only be, well, because, ah, soon as I do, everything, because I mean, I know there’s something wrong.”

 

Matt encourages him, “You’re scared, right?”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Jorge starts and breaks down again, “I know its fuckin’ wrong, but I take it for my family and all this shit. I take it for my family.”

 

“So you make it over to the hotel right after lunch. Is that about right?” James asks.

 

“Yes.”

 

James looks at Jorge, impatience beginning to show, “What happened there?”

 

“Mm, nothing,” Jorge says, playing with his hair again, “I mean, I go over there to Bartolo because he need cigarettes and some other stuff.”

 

“And did all this happen in the parking lot?” James asks doubtfully.

 

“Yes, and then I left.”

 

“Who was watching Paul?” from Matt, watching Jorge’s reaction.

 

“Ah, I think it was a,” Jorge hedges, “another girl. Ah, I don’t, I never seen that girl.”

 

Matt interrupts him, “Do you know if they were giving him something to make him sleep so he wouldn’t run away?”

 

“No, I don’t know.”

 

Jorge contends that he doesn’t know whether Paul was drugged or not but that he didn’t give the order to do anything to him. He tells the officers that he left and returned the next day to bring more supplies to Bartolo.

 

“I went to the hotel because he call me,” Jorge explains, “He wants some, ah, cigarettes and food, and all that stuff and I go buy some food and, and, ah, bananas, ensurance, other stuff for Paul.”

 

James looks at Matt and Matt shrugs, “Okay. You got him some bananas and what?”

 

Jorge nods, “Ah, ah, ensurance. Drink ensurance.”

 

James understands, “Oh, oh, Ensure.”

 

Jorge nods, “Yeah, ensurance.”

 

“Ensure,” Matt says clearly.

 

“Yeah,” Jorge says missing the point completely.

 

Jorge tells them he hung out in the motel parking lot for about an hour and then went back to Austin. A couple of hours later, Jorge returned to the motel to pick up AB and the two went to Laredo. Matt asks Jorge whether he gave any instructions regarding how Paul was to be treated before he left for Laredo?

 

“I said, don’t hurt him. I said, don’t screaming. Don’t talk too bad to him’ because I know its Paul and, ah, sometimes Bartolo, ah,” Jorge tells them, his face showing fear and dislike of Bartolo.

 

James fills in the blanks, “And even though you wanted that money, you didn’t want him to be hurt.”

 

“Nah, I, I mean, I don’t wanna hurt him because I know this person and, ah, I know he’s a very nice guy with me,” Jorge answers matter-of-factly.

 

Jorge tells them about his time with AB in Laredo and that when they found out about the three being arrested in San Antonio, AB tried to get Jorge to go across the border to Mexico with him but, because Jorge knew he’d be killed in Mexico, he left AB at the motel and headed home.

 

“So, you kind of initiated the whole plan?” James confirms.

 

“I mean, I mentioned this guy,” Jorge tries to justify, “you know, this guy is, is the one who started.”

 

“So these guys kind of took it from there?” James asks.

 

Jorge nods and pulls his hair back, “Yes, and, ah, I mean, sometimes, ah, I talkin’ about another time and I’m, shit. I’m, I mean I don’t wanna do it because I know these people. So these guys start, hey, let’s go! Let’s do it. I go, oh, damn.” Jorge starts crying. They give him a moment to get himself back together and continue, “So, and then, ah, Miguel talk to Bartolo, what’s going on? He’s, hey, everything’s fine. Then Bartolo told me, hey, Miguel calling me. What’s going on? You ready?’ Man,” the last word in a long sigh expressing the weight and escalation of the expectations.

 

“So is,” James shifts around in his chair, “is Bartolo in tight with Miguel?”

 

Jorge doesn’t look up, just shakes his head, “Yes, and, ah, he goes, I’m telling, he told me, let’s go to the house. I don’t wanna take him to my house ‘cause I know the people; how they work. I mean, they pick you up, take you over there, kill you.”

 

James wants to be clear on this detail, “So, Bartolo is pretty close with Miguel? I mean he, he tells Miguel everything?”

 

“Yes, he, he tell everything.”

 

“Okay. Okay,” James moves on, “Was there a call in Laredo made across the border? Did you call Miguel?”

 

“Yes. I talk to Miguel.” Jorge admits, “I talk to Miguel because he go, hey, what’s going on? I go, no, everything’s fine, okay, okay and like that. Then from there I, I no, I don’t call there. I don’t answer.”

 

Jorge tells James that Bartolo and AB were the only ones who called Tom, that he was afraid Tom would recognize his voice. The officers again try to determine who and how many people watched the Rolands and Lance before and during their abduction events.

 

Matt asks, “So, as far as you goin’ out and lookin’ for somebody to kidnap, Paul’s the only one you watched or all their family?”

 

“No, no, not all their family,” Jorge says firmly, “only, only him.”

 

“What about Lance?” James asks quickly.

 

Jorge looks up surprised, “For Lance? Shit.”

 

“What happened in that deal?” James demands.

 

Jorge, stunned, puts his head in his hands and starts to cry, “Damn, man, I mean, like I say, these guys not deserve this shit. Man.”

 

“I don’t,” James says, “I’m not understanding.”

 

Jorge stammers through his tears, “I mean, Lance and Paul, they not deserve what I do.”

 

Matt says, “They’re not-”

 

Jorge interrupts and openly crying, blurts out, “And these guys are, yeah, they’re very nice. And Lance, he’s a very good friend. Yeah, that guy is like my brother.”

 

“He’d never screw you over?” Matt asks him, “He helped you get your journeyman’s license or Phoenix?”

 

“Both,” Jorge manages to get out before he begins crying again, his head in his hands.

 

Matt restates it all, “Yeah, tried to give you, give you a head start and help you out? So they didn’t deserve, neither of ‘em, deserved all that at all, huh?”

 

Jorge and Matt talk about his prospects and what the authorities will be able to to do to help him and his family as long as he provides the authorities with information that solves this case completely and help prevent other crimes like it.

 

“I mean, if I can help catch those other mother fuckers,” Jorge vows, “I don’t care. I mean, I don’t, I don’t care if I have to die, but I’m finished with those mother fuckers.”

 

Within days, Jorge directs his wife to retain an attorney for his defense.

 

 

Jorge Oracio Benavidez, Jr.

 

 

Paul

 

This morning, after lots of tears and goodbyes, Eric took all the California kids to the airport. Mary settled the bill for their room and then Mary, Penny and I went out to lunch. After, we ride with Penny to the Austin branch of her office downtown and meet some of the people she works with. The offices overlook some very pretty parts of Austin. We are warmly welcomed and people tell me that they prayed for me and are glad everything’s turned out okay. It’s overwhelming, again, to have complete strangers tell me they were a part of my nightmare but good that they are the part that saved me.

 

We go back to the hotel and Penny packs up her things to leave in the morning. Mary and I work in the living room. We’ve collected newspapers from the last couple of days and begin reading them to see if there are any more reports on my kidnapping. The Georgetown Sun, a weekly newspaper, has color photos of the three suspects from San Antonio. The story basically repeats what’s already been reported with no mention of the man in Laredo or Jorge. We know those two have been arrested and that all five are being held on half million dollar bonds! The San Marcos Daily Record does cover Jorge’s arrest:…a fourth suspect identified in last week’s kidnapping and ransom of a 74-year old Williamson County man recovered in San Antonio, was arrested outside his home…Monday by the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force. MySA.com gives nearly the same report on Jorge’s arrest. Mary’s keeping the articles in a file.

 

I am going back to work tomorrow. I need to get back into my routine and I think Mary does, too. We talked about it. Mary will wait until Monday, after the move. I’ll go in to the office tomorrow. I might not stay all day but it’s a start.

 

 

WILCO

 

Detectives execute a search warrant for the locked safe that was found with other evidence following the arrest of Jorge Benavidez. Sentry Group Customer Service provides them with the digital combination to the safe and upon opening the safe; the following items are discovered and seized:

 

1.One (1) Glock, Model 21, .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol with 10 rounds .45 Winchester Auto

2.Fobus holster

3.Three (3) Glock pistol magazines.

a.10 rounds .45 caliber Win 45 auto

b.12 rounds Federal .45 auto

c.12 rounds S & B .45 auto

4.One (1) .223 caliber magazine containing 20 rounds REM R-P .223.

5.Six (6) boxes of assorted ammunition.

a.Ranger brand Winchester .40 S&W bullets with 26 bullets

b.Full box, 20 count, Winchester .223 REM bullets

c.Full box, 20 count, UMC .223 bullets

d.Open box Winchester .45 auto bullets with 32 rounds

e.Open box Remington UMC .223 REM bullets with 10 of 20 bullets

f.Open box Winchester .223 REM bullets with 6 of 20 bullets

6.One (1) Motorola cell phone.

7.Assorted bank records and paperwork.

 

All items are submitted into evidence at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office along with fingerprint latents lifted from the magazines, several bullets, from the top rim and inside top of the safe door to be compared to all of the suspects’ prints. The Ford truck seized by officers during the arrest of Jorge Benavidez is processed, photographed and itemized. Fingerprint latents are lifted from various areas of the truck and submitted for comparison analysis.

 

Ammunition and guns are later turned over to the ATF agents. All other items are placed in the evidence room at Williamson County Sheriff’s Department in Georgetown for safekeeping.

 

 

Mary

 

Today was a hard day. I had to say goodbye to the boys and Angela, my head knowing they had to go back to their own lives, yet my heart not ready to let go. I feel like someone who’s been walking on two crutches when suddenly one of the crutches is taken away. Part of me is flailing in the wind trying to balance myself out. I remind myself that, with God’s help, I am more than able to get through whatever we have in front of us. Holding our kids here isn’t fair to them in any way.

 

Penny is going home tomorrow. There goes the other crutch! We had a great lunch and then got to meet her “Austin” office people. They were so nice and everyone told Paul how happy they were; that they’d prayed for us. Everywhere we go, people tell us that we were in their prayers and they have to give Paul a hug. It’s like they have to touch him to believe he’s real. On the flip side, though, there are other people who say things in sarcastic tones, “Really? You?”

 

My friends from Motorola have been super and a lot of them have volunteered to help us move into the apartment this weekend. Friends from my screenwriting group also volunteered. Walter and the kids are going to help us. I’m completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

 

Paul’s going back to work tomorrow after he sees Detective Maugham and gives his statement again. Tom has the truck now but is getting another vehicle for Paul to drive. I don’t think there’s any way Paul could drive that truck again. I wouldn’t want him to.

 

I need to go back to work, too. I called the office and told them I’d be there Monday and they seemed okay but anxious to get me back. They’ve been great, too. The president of the company has called and emailed me several times asking about Paul and how we’re doing.

 

I haven’t heard from my church, but it’s such a big church, they probably don’t even know what’s happened. I talked to one of the pastors the day we found out Paul had been kidnapped. Pastor Tim was busy and not available but this other minister talked to me a little and we prayed together over the phone. I’m glad that I learned, long ago, to put my faith in God and not in people. None of us can be everything to everyone and we fail each other, over and over, especially the ones who need us most sometimes.

 

Paul asked me to write everything down that he remembers from his abduction. We’ve done this several times now, but, I pull out my spiral notebook and begin again. “Tell me everything you remember, from the minute you got up that morning until you saw me,” I encourage him. I listen and write every word. He still remembers things so clearly and yet, we know a lot of these things didn’t happen. There wasn’t time for him to be taken down to the coast and back. There’s no rock crushing plant near where they found him. The lab reports have all come back as negative for drugs. Something or someone put these horrific ideas into Paul’s head. I make a note, ‘did they threaten him with these kinds of violent deaths and torture?’ He has said they told him they would tie him up, put him into a fifty gallon drum, pour gasoline all over him, set him on fire and laugh while he screamed!

 

Both Dr. Pham and the Ranger said it’s probably P.T.S.D. I don’t think, I know he’s suffering from that. I’m suffering from it, too, to a much lesser degree. But it’s not just that. They don’t see the terror in his eyes when he talks about it or when he doesn’t hear someone come up near him, especially from behind, and he nearly jumps out of his skin or when the only parking spot is next to a van that he gets pale and leaves. I see that. I see all of it.

 

[] DAY NINE

March 5, 2008

 

Paul

 

I went to the office today and everyone hugged me and told me how they’d also prayed for us all. It felt good to see everyone and sit down at my desk again. It sure has been a long trip getting here since last week! Tom and I talked a little and he told me he’s leasing a car for me to use instead of a truck. I’m glad for that. Mike got me caught up on all the jobs. I even got to talk to several customers who shared their well wishes, too. I can’t believe how many people cared about us and prayed for us!

 

Mike and I drove over to Georgetown and met with Ranger Lindemann and Detective Maugham to give formal statements of what happened. Mike was the one who realized I was missing first. They wanted his statement and his fingerprints. They took my fingerprints, too. Ranger Lindemann told us that it would separate our prints from the kidnappers’ prints. Even though I’d given a statement at the hospital, they think I’m mentally clearer now that I’ve had some rest. He’s probably right. I know I was messed up on a lot of facts then.

 

I tell them again how I saw the young couple over by the mail kiosk as I was getting things into my truck. How the guy came up behind me and said, are you Paul? When I said, yes, he pushed me into the back seat of the truck and pulled out a pistol. He told me he was a crack addict and would do anything for a hundred dollars. He told me to give him my wallet and truck keys. Then he punched me and pushed me into the floorboard. The girl got in the driver’s seat and he gave her the keys. She started driving. The guy made me empty my pockets and he took my wallet, keys and watch that Mary gave me for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. The guy put flex cuffs on my wrists.

 

I tried to remember everything that I was sure had happened and only said that I felt like I was given mind-altering drugs because of how real the visions or whatever they were that I had. They asked me if I tried to escape? I never had a chance. There was always a blindfold on and I was always watched. I thought that, at any moment, my head was going to be blown off. They have me sign the statement and thank me for coming in. While I was there, someone from the district attorney’s office calls and asks if Mary and I can come in to see them for about an hour tomorrow. They’re going to ask Tom and Liz to be there, too. The appointment is for early afternoon.

 

I work in the office for a couple of hours after getting back from the Sheriff’s office. It’s nice to get my mind into the details of the jobs and away from the last week. Still, I’m really tired after just a short time and decide to head home. As I leave the office, I see the Z-71 parked near the back of the lot. A cold shiver runs up my spine. I walk over to the truck and look around the outside for damage. I was sure that girl had hit something on her way out of the apartment complex, but I don’t see a dent anywhere. Tom unlocks it and I open the doors. I just look in because I don’t want to ever get inside that thing again. Tom tells me that for a while he thinks it would be best if I didn’t go anywhere alone. I don’t argue with that.

 

I hang around the office for a little while longer, but I’m really tired by mid-afternoon and head out. I get back to the hotel and Mary has the lease for the new apartment! I sign it so she can take it over to them and get the keys. We actually take possession tomorrow but will move in on Saturday. Everything is happening so fast.

 

It seems strange to be in the hotel room with just Mary. I’d gotten used to Penny being with us in this room. Now, all the kids have gone home. Now, Mary and I are alone. I don’t want to be, but I’m still nervous with her.

 

 

Paul back at work on Day 9.

 

 

[] INTERROGATION 3 – ABRAHAM “AB” WEBER

 

Abraham “AB” Weber meets with James and Matt in a follow-up to their interviews with all the other suspects. AB whines that he isn’t really feeling right; not sick, just not in a good mood, so they promise to make the interview short. They want to let him know that Jorge Benavidez has been captured, arrested and interviewed. They want to hear what he has to say now because the story Jorge told the investigators doesn’t completely stack up with AB’s story. AB re-states most of the same information he’s given them before but by the time the interview is over, he’s given some additional facts.

 

“Where’s Miguel?” James demands.

 

“Mexico,” AB answers while examining his fingernails. He chews off a hangnail with a bored expression.

 

“Does he ever come across the border?”

 

“Hell, no,” AB says and chuckles.

 

James asks, “Why?”

 

AB looks at James as if James is crazy to ask, “Because the Feds want him. Because the Feds want him over here. They’re like, they itch for that guy. It’s like an everyday fucking yearn that they can get a hold of that guy. He’s one of the head cartels there. That’s like fucking God! They, if they get a hold of him that’d be like – but they already know that. They get a hold of him, they’re gonna have to have fucking SWAT cars. They’re gonna have to have ATF, DEA. They’re gonna have to have everything surrounding him.”

 

“So, he’s the jackpot, huh?” Matt chimes in.

 

“Fuck, yeah!” AB says looking over at Matt and then looking up at the clock, “He’s one of them.”

 

James watches AB looking at the clock then looks at Matt from the corner of his eye before continuing, “He don’t live too far from Laredo does he?”

 

“Mm-mm,” AB mumbles, shaking his head.

 

“Gotta be within range of that tower anyway,” James adds.

 

AB looks around as if he’s just realizing who he’s talking to, “Uh, yeah. Where he’s hiding, yeah. But at the same time, I guarantee that where he’s at, they got at least fifty to one hundred people surrounding that area. You know what I’m sayin’? Well, you know more or less what I’m talkin’ about. Down there, they do that shit. And, I’m not, I know, it’s like, fuck it. You know what I’m sayin’? But the thing is, that they take very real, well, care of him.”

 

“Do you think Miguel’s gonna pay a visit to Jorge’s parents over it?” James asks.

 

AB goes back to examining his nails, “Yup.”

 

“Why would he do that?”

 

“Because he fucked up,” AB shrugs.

 

James shakes his head, “He fucked up?”

 

AB shrugs again, looks at Matt, “He didn’t fuck up. But what he had going, the crew he had going fucked up.”

 

James continues, “Yeah, but it wasn’t his crew.”

 

AB looks at James and smiles, “Well, yeah, all of us are his crew.”

 

“Who, uh, who decided to make the first phone call that morning?” James asks, changing the subject.

 

“What morning?” AB looks over at Matt.

 

“The morning of,” James pretends to refer to his notes, “the Wednesday morning at six forty-five in the morning.”

 

AB looks confused, “I thought he was kidnapped on Tuesday?”

 

James smiles now, “He was.”

 

Matt cuts in, “But, nobody called until Wednesday morning.”

 

AB looks from Matt to James, clearly surprised, “Wednesday?”

 

“Yup,” James says irritably.

 

AB shakes his head. He doesn’t believe him, “Are you sure it was Wednesday morning?”

 

James taps his pen on the table, “A hundred percent, brother.”

 

AB looks at Matt and Matt nods, “Oh.”

 

“You tried to get her (Samantha) to come to Austin but she wouldn’t, right?” Matt adds.

 

AB shakes his head, “They told me she was in the truck. She was never supposed to be in the van.” AB stares hard at James, challenging him.

 

James puts his pen down and shrugs, “Well, she was there.”

 

Matt adds, “Communication breakdown, I guess, man.”

 

AB is not getting this. Again, he looks from Matt to James, “She was in the van?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Matt adds, “That’s why all this time we’ve been asking you, because we can’t figure out how in the hell she wouldn’t have known what was going on. She’s in the van. We told you from day one, man, we’re not over here bullshitting you. We’re just trying to get it all straightened out.”

 

“I never knew she was in the van,” AB says getting more and more agitated, “She should have never been in the fucking van! That’s probably why they were arguing, if they were arguing.”

 

“Bart was saying one thing,” Matt offers an explanation, “She said, no, do as you’re told or whatever.”

 

AB begins a sort of rocking with the top half of his body, his hands clench and unclench, “Mmm, that dude isn’t gonna last.”

 

“What?” James asks watching AB’s sudden mood swing.

 

AB doesn’t look at James but at some spot beyond the room. His face grows darker and darker. His voice a snarl, “Bart. Not for doing that bullshit right there. I guarantee you that.”

 

“Doing what?” James asks, leaning back in his chair and eyeing Matt. Matt continues writing in his notebook but looks up when AB doesn’t answer right away.

 

“Whatever.” AB finally says, “Whatever for doing what he did right there. He should not have had her in that van. She wasn’t supposed to be in there.”

 

James keeps a straight face as he pushes a little harder, “He fucked up some more, huh?”

 

AB shakes his head and looks around, “Mm-hmm. He shouldn’t have done that. She wasn’t supposed to be in that. She was never supposed to know anything about that situation.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Because. she wasn’t,” AB says evenly, and then his voice gets louder, “That’s like family to me. But, for him to have her inside the fucking van? No! That’s bullshit! He should have never had her in that fucking van! She shouldn’t have never got in the fucking van. Her goddamn self should have known better.”

 

 

 

 

[] DAY TEN

March 6, 2008

 

 

Mary

 

I wake up exhausted. I didn’t realize how dependent I’ve become on having other people around. Having Penny on the pullout in the other room these past nights gave me a sense of security. Our room is the furthest from the front door so, all night long, I heard every sound, every footstep, every creak, shift, gurgle, car engine, dog bark and every breath. Paul was restless, too. He usually settles down if I can cuddle up and put my arms around him, but last night he pulled away every time I touched him. I know it’s just a process we have to go through. I know he’s struggling. I can’t help feeling hurt at his rejection.

 

We have a big day today. First, I’ll take our paperwork over to the apartment manager and get the keys. Then, I’m going to get an air mattress or something and some sheets and pillows to take over there. I’ll get some candles, plastic glasses and maybe even some champagne. We’ll pick up some takeout on our way back from Georgetown and start staying at the apartment tonight. Maybe if we’re out of the hotel and into our apartment, we’ll begin to feel like we’re getting our lives back.

 

We’re meeting Tom and Liz at the Williamson County District Attorney’s office this afternoon. I’ve got a legal pad with lots of questions written down that I want to ask. I want to know, step-by-step, everything that will happen from here out. Will they keep us updated on the investigation? If any of the suspects go to trial, what does that mean to us? There’s so much we don’t know.

 

Everything is great at the new apartment. The management team is very supportive and pleasant to work with. I open the door of our new apartment and everything is clean. The smell of fresh paint brings a smile to my face. This is what we need: a fresh, new start.

 

At the old apartment, the manager was friendly and accommodating. She asked about Paul and assured me that they’ll do whatever they can to make our move easy. I picked up some bedding, fresh clothes and a few dishes. I can’t get out of the old apartment fast enough. Everywhere I look brings back a memory that hurts from last week. Every room is dark and gloomy as if someone or something died here.

 

I step outside the old apartment and look around. I can’t help it. I try to imagine what happened from what Paul has told me and what the officers told me. I wonder, who is the little girl that saw him getting pushed into the truck? What building does she live in? Will we ever get to thank her?

 

From the old apartment, I head over to our insurance agent’s office, just a few blocks away. I’ve come to like the agents who run this office. They listen closely as I tell them about what happened. At the end, I ask if there’s any claim we can file. Right away, they tell me that a claim can be filed on our renter’s policy because the crime was committed on the rental property. Armed with a claim form, I leave there and go shopping for the items we need for tonight.

 

Wow! The afternoon in the DA’s office was nothing like I expected. The office is located on the second floor of the Justice Center, a large brick building near the jail and the Sherriff’s Office. A security station, manned by Sheriff’s deputies and similar to what they have at the airport, is the first thing we see. I lay my purse on the belt that tracks through an x-ray machine and walk through the metal detector. No problem. Paul empties his pockets of wallet, change and little Swiss Army pocket knife. A Sheriff’s Deputy stops Paul right there.

 

“You can’t take this in with you,” he says indicating the pocket knife. Paul and I look at each other not sure what to do. “You’ll have to take it back to your car,” the Deputy continues.

 

Paul takes the pocket knife and the other things from his pockets out of the bin and leaves the building. “I’ll be right back.” In a few minutes, he comes back and begins the process again. Thank goodness he didn’t bring his briefcase with his pistol

 

He steps into the “doorway” and buzzers go off startling everyone. As the Deputy on the access side motions Paul to step to the side so he can pass his detector wand over him, I laugh.

 

“That’s his knees,” I announce, “This happens at the airport, too.”

 

After a few passes with the wand, the Deputy agrees with me and we’re given the okay to go on. We reach an elevator. Paul seems a little shook up so I hit the “up” button. The doors open and the small elevator is about half full of young adults who look back at us with some attitude. I look at Paul. His face is drained of color. I look a little beyond the elevator and see the stairway door.

 

“Stairs?” I say, gently touching his arm.

 

“Yeah.”

 

We get to the DA’s office without any more surprises. A pleasant, middle-aged woman greets us and asks us to sit anywhere in their little lobby while she lets them know we’ve arrived. We sit down and I review my questions. Tom and Liz arrive just as a young man opens a door and invites us all in. We follow him through a maze of cubicle halls until we reach a small conference room with windows looking out toward the street below.

 

As we take seats around the conference table, Michael Jarrett and Jana McCown enter the room and introduce themselves. Michael wears a dark blue suit, starched white shirt and conservative tie. He’s young, maybe in his early to mid-thirties, clean cut and handsome. The direct gaze from his deep blue eyes is commanding but his smile is totally disarming. Jana is tall, thin and tan. Her long brown hair is thick and curls just slightly at her shoulders. Her eyes are the darkest brown and arresting in their warmth. Like Michael, her smile is genuine and puts everyone at ease. We like them immediately but more than that, we trust them.

 

After introductions, Jana explains that Michael will be “first chair” for the prosecution in any court trial and that he is lead on the district attorney investigation. She will act as “co-chair” and assist him. This is only slightly confusing because Jana is actually senior to Michael. Jana is the First Assistant District Attorney, second only to the District Attorney, John Bradley. Michael is an Assistant DA. She assures us, however, that she is equally involved and that Michael is more than qualified to represent our side in each case.

 

“Have any of them confessed yet?” I ask.

 

“We’re talking to them all,” Michael answers, “but none have pleaded to anything yet.”

 

“What kind of sentences could they get?” Paul asks.

 

“The charges against them have sentences up to ninety-nine years and life,” Michael explains. “Once we feel we have all the players that we are likely to arrest, we’ll put the case before the Grand Jury. They’ll return indictments that the suspects can then plead guilty or not guilty.”

 

“Are they being held together in the jail?” I ask.

 

“No,” Michael tells us, “right now, they are in general population but, in different areas of the jail. We monitor everything they do – every phone call, every visitor, and every piece of mail in or out.”

 

Tom asks, “Do they have lawyers yet?”

 

“Not yet, but they haven’t had a docket hearing yet,” Jana responds. “That will be when they ask the judge for court appointment if they don’t have a lawyer.”

 

“Who is the judge?” This from Liz.

 

“Judge Ken Anderson,” Michael tells us.

 

“If any go to trial, what can we expect?” I ask.

 

Michael explains that any or all of us can be called to testify as witnesses but, that Paul and Tom will definitely be testifying. As witnesses, we cannot sit in court during other testimony; we can only be in the courtroom when we’re called. He assures Paul and Tom that if any go to trial, he and Jana will help them prepare. He and Jana both believe that most of the suspects will accept plea deals but that we should expect at least one to go to trial.

 

“Have any of them said anything new? Do you think there’ll be more arrests?” Tom asks directly to Michael.

 

“They’re checking every lead,” Michael replies, “but you should check with Detective Maugham or Ranger Lindemann. We think several people have gone across the border and one or two were always there.”

 

We naturally pause when he says this. It’s the elephant in the room. Are we in danger? Are they still watching us? As if Jana can hear our thoughts she says, “We don’t know if anyone is still watching any of you. We don’t know what the threat level is. Just be alert. Try not to go anywhere by yourselves.”

 

They promise to keep us updated and give everyone their business cards. We walk downstairs with Tom and Liz with no one speaking until we’re outside. We agree that we’ve got a long road ahead. We talk about our move in two days. They talk about getting a security company to put in more alarms at their house.

 

Tom announces that he’s arranged for us all to have private lessons for concealed handgun license training in two weeks at their home. We thank him and say our goodbyes. Although my head tells me this training is necessary, I feel a little sick to my stomach that I’m going to learn how to shoot a gun – learn how to shoot to kill.

 

 

Michael Jarrett and Jana McCown

 

 

[]MARCH 2008 – MAY 2008

 

Paul

 

We camped out at our new apartment with our coffee pot, mattress pad and a few clothes the last couple of nights. On moving day, I picked up the 24 ft. rental truck and backed it up to the garage door at our old apartment. Mary laid out hot tacos, coffee and rolls for everyone. I look up and people begin to come in: work friends, family and church family to help. I am amazed how quickly it went out. We made two trips and got nearly all of our things.

 

Mary and I spend the next couple of weeks getting settled in. It’s a nice apartment which was just upgraded and completely redone. We got some electronic buzzers for the doors and I’ve also got a 9 mm. automatic pistol within easy reach at all times. We talked about what we’d do if someone came into the apartment. I would grab the pistol and move toward the bedroom door. Mary would roll onto the floor and grab her cell phone and dial 9-1-1.

 

One night, shortly after we moved into the apartment, we’d turned out the lights to go to sleep. BEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEP! The front door buzzers suddenly scream an awful racket; the loudest screeching noise you’d ever want to hear. I roll out of bed on my side, grab the pistol and head for the bedroom door to see what’s going on. Mary rolls out of bed on her side, grabs her phone and crawls away toward the master bathroom to dial for help. I creep into the living room, staying low so if there is someone there with a gun, I hope he can’t see me crawling along the floor. Light from the kitchen illuminates everything between me and the front door. I see the door is closed. I inch closer, all the way to the door, pistol locked and loaded.

 

“It’s okay!” I yell back at Mary, “it’s okay!”

 

I pull the device off the doorframe and the buzzing stops. As I turned to go back to the bedroom, there’s Mary on all fours at the bedroom door, her cell phone in hand.

 

“What made it go off?” she asked.

 

“One side didn’t stick right so it started slipping and the contacts bumped,” I laughed, “its fixed now.” It took us a little while to go back to sleep.

 

Speaking of guns, Tom arranged for the family members to get private concealed handgun license (C. H. L.) classes. We took the class the following Saturday after we moved. It was a lot of fun, but not surprisingly, Mary shot the best target score by far. She said she thought of the kidnappers when she pulled the trigger. She was mad! Shortly after that we got our CHL and I carry a 9 mm. in my briefcase. Mary has a 380.

 

People say Mary and I should seek professional help after the ordeal we’ve been through. We agreed and sought out the best doctor we could find. Mary thought it might be better if we saw different therapists because of what I had thought about her. She said she thought we would be more open. We found two therapists in the same office building so it made it simple for Mary to see one and I would see the other then we would have some joint sessions later on.

 

This all seemed a good idea but, as it turned out, there are very few kidnappings in the U.S. like mine – maybe four or five a year. So these guys don’t have the least idea what we are talking about or how they might be able to help. We went to a couple of sessions each and then set up one together. Both of us were still hoping that it would help. By the time we were done and riding down the elevator to leave, I told Mary I wasn’t going back again.

 

“I got the idea they were taking notes to write a paper on the subject.” I said.

 

“I felt like we were the unpaid entertainment for the evening,” Mary wisecracked, “Like we were their own private Law and Order episode!”

 

We decide to help ourselves through this. Mary and I are “friends” besides being married and we can talk for hours. It doesn’t matter if one of us needs to talk in the middle of the day or late at night, we stop what we’re doing and talk things through.

 

We met Lance for dinner one night and what started as a short catch up turned into a group therapy meeting. By the time we were done, we realized that we could support each other more than anyone else could. He’s been attacked by these people, too. If he hadn’t gotten away, they’d have held him for ransom and he might not have been as lucky as me. We ended the evening by planning to meet again and invited Lance’s mom to join us. She’s been the main support for Lance because he’s not married.

 

Work is different. As an example, when I show up to walk buildings on the jobs, people scatter. I enter one end of a building and the Mexican subcontractors go out the other end. They look at me but don’t talk to me unless I specifically ask one of them something. There’s no “good morning” or chatter even among themselves. These guys all know each other. Half of them are related and many are from the same area of Mexico. I can’t help wondering that even if they didn’t personally do anything, did they know something was happening?

 

Soon after we moved into our new apartment, Mary got a phone call from one of the subcontractors that had worked for Phoenix a year or so ago. His wife had done some house cleaning for us when we had our house in Lakeway. Mary said he’d sounded truly concerned about me and expressed how sorry he was that all this happened. He asked if he could come over to see me but Mary asked him to wait a week or two before he came over. She didn’t give him our address but told him to call her and they’d set something up. He promised to call every day to see how I was doing. Before they hung up, Mary asked him if he knew Jorge Benavidez and the others involved. He said he did know them. We haven’t heard from him since.

 

Sometimes I just sit and think about this thing. I was told by one of the officers after my rescue that there were 28 squad cars in a three block area and that was just at the arrest area! There were people protecting family, looking for bad guys, protecting Tom, tracking equipment on phones, undercover officers, others were tracking credit card use, pilots, office personnel, k-9 units, stakeout teams and more. People kept the Williamson County Sherriff’s office open all night assisting the officers who were on this case. Food was brought in by volunteers. They did not go home until I was rescued. THANK YOU IS NOT ENOUGH!

 

We managed to get that first week and month behind us even with people telling us we needed to be resting or taking a vacation. They don’t realize we feel safer at work with our friends and the undercover police than anywhere else. We’ve met with Lance and his mom a couple of times now. It’s always great to see them. It’s always a help. We all seem to move forward a little more from our “support group” dinners. This is something we will never completely get over, but we do get stronger.

 

Mary can sense when something has happened on the job or at work. She’s much more observant than she used to be. She’s more careful about herself, too. Sometimes Mary sees what she thinks is a van or pickup following her way too long. She’ll call me. The first time or so, she would be nearly hysterical when she called. Now, she uses the methods they taught us when we took our CHL class. Still, sometimes things happen that cause one of us to panic. We “talk each other off the ledge” repeatedly.

 

The police haven’t found my watch or laptops. The money the kidnappers took is long gone. I got claim forms from the Attorney General of Texas Office and sent those in. A letter back from them said they are reviewing it and “beginning to collect and review information to decide what, if any, award” I might receive. My claim forms to Allstate have been sent in and the girl that works in the office sent me an email and asked me to send in proof of what the items would cost if I bought them today. I’m checking out eBay and Craig’s List to see if anyone is selling these kinds of things. I thought it was replacement, but she said “no”. All the credit cards have been replaced, but the fraud people at the banks have lots of paperwork for us before we’re not charged with the stuff the kidnappers bought.

 

By the time I get through with all this paperwork and email, I’m shaking so hard that I can’t write my name. Mary is helping as much as she can and keeping a spreadsheet of what was lost and the claims we’ve filed.

 

 

Mary

 

Living in fear is exhausting. I think my “alert” level has come down to near normal and then, wham! Some random event happens and I hear blood pulsing in my ears, my face flushes and my vision sort of tunnels. It’s awful. Paul’s must be worse. Oh, for the days when I could be blissfully ignorant of everything around me! Ranger Lindemann calls to check on us every week or so and I ask him if we’re still in danger? He never says yes or no, just that we need to “remain vigilant and aware of our surroundings.”

 

I know they’re still looking for people because the last time he called he asked me to ask Paul if the kidnappers ever mentioned ‘Miguel’ or if he ever heard them talk to someone named ‘Miguel’? Paul said he didn’t remember the name. We don’t know what that means except that we can’t let our guards down.

 

Paul carries his pistol everywhere he goes. Although I passed the class and can get my license, I’ve put it off. I know I need to get it, but I’m still not sold on it. If Paul had a gun when they abducted him, it wouldn’t have done him any good. They came up from behind and shoved a gun in his face before he knew what was going on.

 

The best thing from the course that might have helped then is that we’ve stopped routines. Paul changes his route to work or the jobs constantly. I go a different way to work and home and everywhere else. I look around when I’m out of the apartment and have my keys in hand before I exit any building. Not only can I get into my car faster and safer, but the keys are a handy weapon if someone does attack me.

 

I had to leave my job in Lakeway. Paul is so nervous about me driving so far away and we still have the Hummer so I’m not exactly inconspicuous in traffic or parking lots. The kidnappers told him that they knew my car and knew where I worked. Sometimes I have to stay late to get closing packages ready for the agents or to finish reports that need to be turned in to the main office. Sometimes, I’m still working until eight or nine o’clock at night and this is a terrible stress on Paul. I really love my work here and the people, too, but I love Paul much more. I’ll just have to find something else.

 

I try to see my friends at Motorola for lunch every couple of weeks. Being there is like going home for me and all this nightmare disappears for a while. I wish they had an open position for me but rumors are floating that layoffs might happen again. They’ve been so amazing and supportive to Paul and me anyway. Not only did several of them help us move, but they even presented us with a beautiful card and a special day for two at Lake Austin Spa. What a wonderful experience!

 

Between looking for a job and following up on insurance claims, I’m gathering as much information as I can on kidnapping and the Mexican drug cartels. We know now that this kind of crime happens all the time in Mexico. They kidnap a family member from a family business, usually the number two person and extort money from the family and company. The victims don’t have to be involved with the gangs or drugs or anything. In Mexico, the victims rarely call the police because the police are usually being paid by the cartels to let them do what they do. Article after article tell grisly tales of what happens to people who fight back or talk.

 

I’ve decided to become as expert as possible on what is going on in Mexico and Texas in regards to gangs and the drug cartels. State and Federal White Papers are all over the internet. Governor Perry has backed a State plan called “Operation Linebacker,” a plan by Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition to reduce violent crime along the border. Congress published a comprehensive study about Mexico’s Drug Cartels and the US GAO released a report that basically said the US helps Mexico counter narcotics efforts but it’s ineffective. Even the Christian Science Monitor published a scathing article about the thriving kidnapping trade in Mexico.

 

Although members of kidnap gangs are being arrested south of the border, the writer warned, “…dozens of more dangerous groups are still operating, and it’s usually low-level worker bees, not kidnap masterminds, who get caught.” The more I read, the more I realize what a serious situation we’re in.

 

Kidnappers for the Mexican drug cartels are usually taught techniques used for prisoners in war zones. There’s a reason for this. Many of the cartel kidnappers came from Mexican Special Forces units trained by US Special Forces to fight the drug cartels!

 

One of the techniques that Mexican kidnappers do to make their hostages lose track of time is by blocking the light from a room so a person will think it’s night and fall asleep, then opening the blinds to light up the room and wake the hostage. They torment the hostage a while and do the whole routine again. Many times again. This could be why Paul thought he’d been gone for a week or more.

 

Cross border kidnappings are happening all along the Texas and other border states. One report quoted the FBI as saying that US citizens who are kidnapped are more likely to be taken across the border and killed. A spokesman from the FBI in San Antonio said there were 27 unsolved kidnapping cases of Americans in Mexico. A chill runs down my spine just thinking about how Tom almost went to Laredo in those last moments and how Paul was likely on his way to Mexico when they rescued him.

 

The worst of the Mexican drug cartels seems to be the Gulf Cartel and their para-military arm of sadistic monsters known as Los Zetas. Articles on Los Zetas read like something from my worst nightmares. Article after article describes, in gruesome detail, the types of torture and killings this group is responsible for. Beheadings, mutilations and torture once considered punishment for rival gang members, has become the norm for hostages that don’t pay off. Two former Los Zetas members, who chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told a Weslaco TV reporter, “They are the worst gang these days. They don’t have a heart for anyone. Zetas are an armed group. They pick up any people. They kill them. They kidnap them. They rob their houses. They find a way to make people disappear.”

 

One of the former Zetas members had been trained in the Mexican Military; the other one by U.S. Special Forces to protect his country. “The Zetas offered me a lot of money,” he said. “While in the military they don’t pay much. With that, I decided to work for them.”

 

The two told the reporter that victims are dismembered piece by piece. Some are tortured then placed into a large barrel bound by any means possible (ropes, duct tape, tires). Diesel fuel, poured over the victim, fills the barrel. They set the fuel on fire which eventually kills the victim. Another favorite torture is to place the victim into an enclosure with a live lion. If they don’t get them out, the lion eats the person and no one ever finds the body. The interview ended with a warning for American law enforcement. “They are here and more are coming.”

 

 

Paul

 

I still can’t put some of the things they tell me didn’t happen out of my mind. We watched a show about how some soldiers who can’t get past their experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan are sometimes helped by going back over to where they were and walking where they got messed up. Mary thinks that might help me, too, so we went to San Antonio and Kyle and looked at the places where they took me out of my truck and kept me. We stayed in our hotel room on the River Walk all night after that. I told Mary everything I could remember and she wrote it all down.

 

On the way back home, we stopped in Kyle where they found my truck. Walter and Sandra had been here when the detectives were looking for me and Walter sent me a map with the specific location in an email before Mary and I left on this trip. I stood on the spot where the truck was parked. Nothing really came back to me. All I can see in my mind is ground and the bottom edge of the van. I get a chill even though it’s over ninety degrees when we stop there.

 

Mary is printing reports on everything she finds related to our case. She doesn’t tell me everything, but when she finds something that supports what I told the officers, she shows me that. We hardly leave the apartment except when necessary. We’ve been to Tom’s house a couple of times and Mary sees some her friends for lunch when I’m at work. We are locked in when the sun goes down. I thought I’d feel safe in this apartment complex but when I go outside, I see strangers. If I see strangers with hoodies, I start to shake.

 

Mary signed us up for a subscription to an online news report – Stratfor.com. She learned about it from her job at Motorola. The man who started it is former U.S. Intelligence and they report on everything from all over the world. We read the reports about Mexico mostly. Mexico was the subject of their recent “Terrorism Intelligence Report”. Although the report was mainly about companies and government groups using counterintelligence and security details, the message was the same as what we are being told over and over. Don’t get into routines. Look around when you’re in public so anyone watching knows you’re ready for them. Be prepared and don’t dilly-dally getting into a vehicle. Get in and get locked.

 

 

Mary

 

We get a call from Deborah at Victims Services that the mother of little girl who witnessed Paul’s abduction has agreed to meet with us and I’m given a phone number to call and talk to her. My excitement at getting to talk to them is probably equal to the excitement of someone getting a private audience with the President or the Pope. I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. These special people were probably more important to the authorities believing that Paul was a victim of foul play, not having a senior moment, than anything before Tom received the ransom call.

 

I call Jessica Robbins and, first thing, thank her for helping to save Paul and for having such a brave daughter! She tells me how happy she is that things have turned out so well and tells me a little bit about her daughter, Lola, eight years old and an aspiring artist. We set up a meeting for the following Sunday and Paul and I find ourselves again at “the scene of the crime” but this time, it’s the scene of a celebration.

 

Jessica meets us at the door with Lola and a little boy, about three. The children are as beautiful as their mom. It’s easy to tell that this single mother is raising respectful and confident children. Lola sees Paul and her eyes widen; a big smile fills her face. We all embrace and we give Lola our small tokens of appreciation – a Willow Tree “Courage” angel and assorted art supplies. There really is no adequate way to thank her at all.

 

We stay a while, getting to know them and hearing Lola’s eye witness account. She tells us she saw a man and a woman punch and push Paul into his truck. “It just made me so mad that they would treat their grandfather so badly!”

 

We tell her that she helped save Paul by speaking up. Lola smiles and tells me, “I saw the girl on the news.”

 

“You did?” I ask and see Jessica nodding.

 

“Yes!” Lola proudly repeats, “When I saw her, I told my mom, it’s her! The same girl and she’s still wearing the same clothes!”

 

 

WILCO

 

On May 27, 2008, Williamson County Assistant District Attorney, Michael Jarrett and First Assistant District Attorney, Jana McCown present compelling evidence to the Grand Jury for Case #C08-02-7430, against Bartolo Dominguez, Jr, Bobby Earl Sharp, III, Samantha Ann Casablanca, Abraham Weber and Jorge Oracio Benavidez, Jr. Investigation notes are presented by Detective James Maugham and D.P.S. Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann.

 

The Grand Jurors returned three (3) count indictments for each: State Felony Aggravated Kidnapping, Aggravated Robbery and Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity. All five could receive 99 years to life in prison if convicted.

 

 

Detective James Maugham

 

Texas Ranger Matt Lindemann

 

 

[] PART THREEJUSTICE AND WHAT CAME AFTER

 

[] JUNE 2008 – DECEMBER 2008

 

Mary

 

Soon after the Grand Jury brought back the indictments, docket hearings were scheduled for each of the five suspects so that Williamson County Judge Ken Anderson could be updated on their case progress. The Victims’ Information Network alerts me on my cell phone every time any one of them has a hearing scheduled. I also call the “VINE” 800-number to check on any status updates.

 

The first hearings after the Grand Jury indicted the five were called “pre-trial docket hearings.” I had no idea what these hearings were like having never seen a real criminal case before. My knowledge of criminal court was what I’d seen on television and in the movies. This is nothing like the movies or television. Docket hearings are best described as organized chaos.

 

My first attendance for one of these is for Jorge Benavidez. It’s set for 1 PM on a Wednesday afternoon. Eric gets the afternoon off to go with me. We meet in the parking lot outside the Williamson County Justice Center and, after clearing security, head to the District 277 courtroom on the first floor.

 

Beautiful wood paneling cover the walls from the thick plush carpeting to the ceiling. A shiny wood railing, “the bar”, separates the judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys and defendants from the rest of us. The seating is like church pews, curved wood benches with upholstered pads. We take a seat on the “pew” on the prosecution side. On the other side of the bar is the Judge’s bench and two long tables. The witness box is separated from the Judge’s bench to the left. There are two “boxed” areas below and to the right of where the judge sits that I assume are for the Court Reporter and the Court Clerk or Bailiff.

 

I’m surprised at the chatter. Attorneys sit with people in the audience area talking amongst themselves. I don’t know who I’m looking for or what to expect so I begin taking notes and writing questions. Are the people sitting on this side talking to lawyers the family of defendants? Sometimes it’s family and sometimes it’s the defendant. Defendants who make bail come to these hearings and sit on this side. If they are in jail, they come in from another area, one at a time and stand with their lawyer and however many Sheriff’s Deputies are needed in front of the judge.

 

I note that it looks like there are two Hispanic lawyers, two African American lawyers and seven Caucasian lawyers. I overhear, but don’t understand, a heavyset Hispanic man talking to his lawyer. After a moment, I know that he’s not one of ours because I hear the word ‘probation’. Neither Michael nor Jana is here yet. I look at the clock above the Judge’s bench. It reads 1:19.

 

The room begins to fill. The Court Reporter enters and sets up her machine in an area below the Judge’s bench. A lawyer I hadn’t seen before walks over to her. They exchange greetings and he takes a clipboard from the railing to the right of her and writes something on it. After a couple more lawyers do this, I realize they are signing in.

 

Eric and I watch as more people come in and take seats. No one seems to take much notice of us. We wonder if any of these people are Jorge’s family or friends or worse. At 1:24, a Sheriff’s Deputy comes up to the bar from a door to the left of the Judge’s bench. I just catch a glimpse of white from beyond it. The prisoners come into court from here.

 

There’s no tension in the room except for what’s inside me. I look around and people are laughing and chatting. It feels like I’ve been here for hours. I look at the clock. It’s 1:26. I’m relieved when the Bailiff walks to the center of the aisle with the clip board and addresses everyone on this side of the bar.

 

“No shorts. No gum. Tuck in your shirts before you get up here. If you aren’t represented by an attorney, come see me now so I can tell you where you are on the docket.” He looks around. A couple of people come up to him and they confer over the clipboard.

 

So much for 1:00PM in court. Its 1:30 now and we have no idea when Jorge will appear and although I’ve seen newspaper pictures of him, I really don’t know what he looks like. My pulse pounds in my ears and head. I tell myself to breathe. I’m so tense! At some point today, the monster that brought all this down on us will be in this room and show his face.

 

One of the tables begins to fill with defense attorneys. Jana walks down the center aisle with another woman and they put their things on the table to the left in front of us. She doesn’t see me right away. Her attention is immediately taken by a defense attorney holding a folder.

 

I’ve heard that Jorge has hired an attorney and that the attorney is Hispanic. We’ve been wondering if the cartel is paying for it or how he’s affording an attorney. Bartolo has a court-appointed lawyer. The others haven’t lawyered up yet. I’m wondering if either of the two lawyers I saw earlier are his lawyer when a woman rolls a cart with boxes of files to the “business” side of the room near the prosecution table. I look at the clock. It’s 1:40.

 

Judge Anderson comes in from a door to the right of his bench. Everyone stands as the Bailiff calls the room to order then tells us to sit down. Case 1. Case 2. It’s all very fast and I have a hard time hearing what’s being said. This is my first encounter with Judge Anderson. He’s about sixty years old. He seems tough but kind. He’s soft-spoken.

 

Case 3 is an old man in a wheelchair. He’s brought in from the prisoner door. He’s taken back. Case 4. Erik and I jump as the name Jorge is called, but it’s someone else. Case 5 is a Vietnamese man who requests a translator. They set a tentative trial date. Case 6 – the lawyer is talking about a dismissal, whether to dismiss? Case 7 and Case 8 are represented by the same Hispanic lawyer though neither case is ours.

 

This is all happening while lawyers are conferring with Jana or the other woman depending on which one of them is standing before the Judge on a case. They never sit down. People are everywhere, talking and ignoring whatever is going on in front of the judge. I only hear bits and pieces of what’s being said by and to the judge because we are sitting on the front row.

 

Case 9 is an African American woman. Case 10 is a man charged with DUI who is asking the Judge for permission to propose marriage to a young lady who’s appearing in another courtroom in this building right now! Case 11 is a high school kid. He requests a plea deal and gets it. Case 12 is another kid. It’s depressing! Case 13 goes into custody (jail).

 

There aren’t many attorneys left, just a woman and a young man. It’s 2:20. Case 14 is the Jorge from earlier. I’m not sure why. Case 15 is someone who didn’t play well on community supervision. Case 16 – ANOTHER Jorge. Case 17 – another woman. The courtroom is getting quieter and quieter. I look around and there are just a few people, like us, waiting and watching. I look over at Jana and she and the other woman are looking at us. She smiles. I wonder if this is the first time she’s seen us here?

 

Case 18 – another Hispanic man. Case 19- a Caucasian. Case 20 – this one has lost his original attorney and is with a new one. They get their case postponed. Case 21 – another kid. Case 22 – an older Caucasian man. Case 23 – in and out. Case 24 – Hispanic man. Case 25- another Caucasian woman. Case 26 – A Hispanic man. He pleads guilty and gets 8 years.

 

It is now 2:55. We are the only people in the gallery. Case 27 – BINGO! The door on the left of the Judge’s bench opens and Jorge Benavidez is escorted out in shackles to stand before Judge Anderson. His attorney, a young Hispanic man, joins him to stand before the bench. Jorge’s long black hair hangs in a ponytail down his back, reaching past his ample waistline.

 

Judge Anderson tells Jorge’s attorney that he wants this case to set the date for trial since the defendant has indicated that he does not want a plea bargain. Pre-trial is set for October 29 with jury trial set for December 1. Erik and I look at each other.

 

December 1 is my birthday.

 

 

Paul

 

I’ve come back to work but nothing is the same. With no “all clear” from the authorities, Tom doesn’t want me to go anywhere by myself. Tom or Mike go to every meeting, every jobsite and lunch. I only travel by myself between work and home. It’s all for my protection but it’s driving me crazy. I think it’s driving them crazy, too.

 

When I’m home, I’m trying to straighten out all my accounts. Most of the credit card companies have just sent forms to be filled out and then removed the charges that the kidnappers made. One credit card company, however, a company who charged us a hefty fee for “credit protection” before this even happened, won’t remove the charges from the card and demands that I pay the bill. I call customer support over and over and they assure me ‘it’s all taken care of’ and then another billing cycle goes by and the company calls me to pay up again. My credit rating has dropped over 100 points!

 

We don’t go see friends now. We want to and we sometimes make plans to, but then we worry that if someone is watching us that we might be putting other people at risk as well. We have a pile of articles on Mexico and drug cartels. Birthday parties and nightclubs have been shot up with dozens killed so these maniacs can ‘hit’ one or two people that are attending! I didn’t know how bad it was in Mexico. We’ll probably never go back now and we always loved our vacations there.

 

What’s happened to me has brought a positive thing, though. It’s bringing the Roland family a little closer now. We’ve been spending more time with Tom, Liz and their family. It makes Mary really happy to spend time with Liz and the kids. Tom and I may never be best friends, but he’s my brother and I love him. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished and to be a part of his life.

 

 

Mary

 

I continue to look for articles and information every day. I search everything for any mention of a person named “Miguel” but, so far, all I’ve found is a reference to a town called Miguel Allende. It’s a hot spot for cartel activity but it’s not a person. Even so, what I do find isn’t helping me sleep. Almost every day there’s something new in the newspapers or online from ‘more Mexicans seeking asylum from violence’ and stories about large groups of immigrants spending their life’s savings to get here only to be held in cramped mobile homes in squalor while their guides extort money from their families in Mexico and Central America. One of those stories has pictures of the kidnappers that were arrested. Some always get away, of course. Four young people scowl at the camera; three men and one woman. There’s always a woman or two with these groups. I’m not obsessed. I’m educating myself.

 

I’m working as a contractor at Motorola now, filling in for my friend, Amber, while she recovers from brain surgery. Everyone in the facility, especially me, is elated that it went well and she’ll be back to work by the end of August or first of September. It’s been wonderful to be back here working with friends. It’s also the only break I get from the nonstop stress of dealing with PTSD panic attacks (mine or Paul’s), preparing for the next phase of trials and research.

 

While I’m at work, I keep our home life and my research to myself as much as I can. Everyone wanted to know details at first but, as soon as you say that Paul was just a convenient target for these people, that one of the defendants had worked for Paul’s brother and owed a drug cartel money, their eyes glaze over and they’re bored. They don’t connect the dots. I would venture to say that there are many other cartel connections moving among average Americans, especially in the border states, than the media or government would like to admit to publicly.

 

Researching this menace has opened my eyes. If you tell someone that organized crime is on the upswing, what do you suppose they’ll think of first? “The Godfather”? Tony Soprano? Russian mobsters? Very, very few will think about Mexican drug cartels even though that threat is at our borders and infiltrating every major city in our country. Mexican drug cartels only bring to most people’s mind the turf wars in Juarez and Nuevo Laredo; gang wars shooting it out in the streets. It’s that and so much more.

 

Recent articles show that cartel violence is spilling over into the U.S. in places like Phoenix and Atlanta. Cartels have set up operations in places as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, Boston and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They recruit local gang members to do the dirty work. Local gang members take the heat if they’re arrested and don’t cause political leaders to debate or do more than build fences. Also, local gangs are made up of young people with parents, lovers, children and friends not connected with their criminal activities. If a gang member gets into trouble with the law, the cartel promises to “take care” of their family while they sit in prison. If a gang member cheats the cartel, the cartel systematically collects the debt by any violent means it sees fit, even to killing members of the defaulter’s family until it is paid.

 

Their favorite types of torture killings include slow dismemberment by inches, live burial, burning victims alive in gasoline, home invasions that end with the execution of everyone they find, feeding victims to wild animals and other victims being gutted alive. Sometimes these horrors are made public but many times they are not. With this threat against the innocent family of a low-level criminal, even a normally law abiding father, brother or uncle may find themselves looking through contact lists – customers, neighbors and everywhere else in their world to save the lives of the people they love. This includes looking at you or your family.

 

The more I read, the more I want all these trials done. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. We haven’t heard anything new on our case so, on Wednesday, July 16, I email the WILCO liaison, Mr. Watson:

 

“Mr. Watson,

 

I’m writing to ask for some updates on our case. Specifically, if a court date has been set for any of the defendants? Will Paul and I need to plan on any pre-trial meetings with the DA?

 

Thank you for any information you can provide.

 

Best regards, Mary and Paul Roland”

 

Five days later I receive a reply:

 

“I’ll have to get with the prosecutor, Michael Jarrett on that today and get back to you.”

 

Later that day, a copied conversation with the DA is in my inbox:

 

Mr. Watson to Michael Jarrett: “Any news (or updates) on our kidnapping case?”

 

Michael Jarrett to Mr. Watson:

 

“No new settings. We are continuing to investigate. Cases set for announcement in September. Trial likely next year.”

 

Mr. Watson repeats what Mr. Jarrett wrote and then tells me there will be pre-trial or ‘docket hearings’ between now and then. I’m free to go to these but don’t need to, he reassures me. He doesn’t know I’ve already been to one and I plan to go to every single one of them if at all possible.

 

We’ve been spending more time with Tom and Liz and their family. We haven’t seen much of our own kids, though. We have a new granddaughter, Paula, but we tend to stay away from them and our friends for fear of bringing trouble to them. Erik is convinced that people have been watching his house and have even tried to break in. He’s got the Round Rock police on alert to come immediately if they ever dial 9-1-1. It’s hard to have anyone over to our apartment because there’s really not enough room for all of us here. For now, we go to work and go home and that’s it.

 

We definitely don’t go anywhere after dark or where there are large groups of people making loud noises. Paul can’t help that loud, sudden noises scare him out of his skin and I don’t want to see the faces of people being impatient with him. I feel myself getting mad every time we get that look that says, “What? You’re not over it yet?” If people aren’t being impatient with the speed to our healing progress, the flip side is treating our situation as if it’s contagious or that, somehow, we’ve brought this on ourselves. We do our best to not speak about any of it unless we’re asked a direct question because, inevitably, somebody in the group will roll their eyes in that way people do. We don’t even talk to Tom and Liz about it anymore because they act as though we should just move on and forget about it, too.

 

 

Paul

 

Mary is still working at Motorola as a contractor. They made a place for her working for some of the directors and she’s happier than I’ve seen her since before my kidnapping. We met Penny and her family for a few days in Corpus Christi at the end of summer. I think we ate all the shrimp they had in town! It was a nice visit and being away from home helped me relax with everyone.

 

The credit card mess is cleared up as much as its going to be. The company never took the derogatory off my report so I sent a letter challenging it. They, at least, don’t show it as past due anymore. Insurance is another thing, though. Our “renter’s insurance” covered nothing but a few dollars because it seems we have to have riders on each item to have them covered. I wish they’d have said that right away instead of asking me to provide proof of value and what it would cost to buy the exact same watch, laptops, etc. It was no better for us with the Victim Assistance. If we were on government support or Medicaid, those providers could give us all the stuff we need. Because we have health insurance which pays for some things we can’t get original bills which the State requires.

 

I told Tom how frustrated we were with all of this and what we’d figured as the total of the loss, thinking he’d file a claim on his business insurance to help us recoup some of it. He handed me a check a few weeks later. It wasn’t what I expected or wanted him to do, but he insisted. I finally did accept it, thinking it came from an insurance settlement or something. I later found out, he’d pulled the funds from his own money. I think it was his way of helping both of us heal.

 

Mary and I started getting notices on the phone that the defendants are scheduled for hearings again. Mary has gone to every one of them so far. Sometimes she goes alone and sometimes Eric or Liz meets her there.

 

On October 8, there was one for Jorge in the morning and one for Abraham Weber in the afternoon. Jorge is supposed to have a jury trial in January now. He asked the judge to let him wear street clothes and have the restraints removed during the trial. The judge told him okay, but, he’ll need to wear a long-sleeved shirt because they would not take off the black device they have on his arm. Those black arm things are security measures for inmates that are considered very dangerous. If the inmate gets out of line or tries to attack someone, the guards can flip a switch and it acts like a Taser. The inmate is immediately under control.

 

Mary told me that Abraham Weber is a big guy with his head nearly shaved. He has some sort of gang signs etched into what hair is left. He has one of the black arm things, too. Mr. Jarrett told her that Weber is prone to violent behavior and that no one trusts him. The judge, it seems, wants all of them to plead out or go to trial as soon as possible and has set all five for pre-trial in November and jury trial in January. Looks to be a busy new year.

 

 

Mary

 

As the year closes out, I’m so thankful that we’ve made it this far. I’m even hopeful that I might realize my hope to go back to work, permanently, for Motorola. The directors that I’ve been working for are the best bosses I’ve had in a long time and supporting them and their staff is fun and challenging. Diana, the other administrative assistant that I work with, and I are getting to know each other and now that Amber is back, we’re like the Three Musketeers! I absolutely love coming in here every morning.

 

Paul and I are moving out of the apartment when our lease is up next year. Instead of making him feel safe, living in an apartment complex just keeps him in a state of panic all the time. Both of us, really. We had an incident one morning a few weeks ago which shows so clearly that this is not the place for us at all.

 

It was early morning, still kind of dark, when Paul and I walked out into the parking lot to get into our cars to head out to work. Paul’s car was parked in the lot two rows behind where I park the Hummer outside our garage door. The front of his car faced the rear of my car so he had clear sight of me inside the Hummer. Apartments are above the garages with a staircase leading to the right side of my car. I gave Paul a kiss and wish him a great day then walk to the Hummer and get inside. It’s habit now that I lock the car the minute I close my door. I start the engine and get my purse and lunch situated in the seat next me.

 

Two people, wearing hoodies, rush down from the stairs beside my car. A man moves to my window, motioning for me to roll it down. I look over at the other person, a young woman. My heart pounds inside my ears. I shake my head “no” but he continues to motion frantically for me to roll down the window. I look into the rear view mirror and see Paul’s silhouette inside his car. He has a loaded pistol in his briefcase!

 

“Oh, God,” I pray in my mind, “don’t let Paul shoot these people!”

 

I touch the window control just a little to allow about a half inch opening and keep my eye on the man. It’s imperative that I find out what these people want before someone gets hurt.

 

“Can you take us to the store?” he asks as if his life depends on it.

 

“What?” I say, thinking I must have heard wrong and thinking that even if they want to go to the hospital, this is definitely the wrong vehicle for them to jump into with Paul back there armed to the teeth.

 

“We need to go to the store and we don’t know where one is.” he explains, “We just moved in last night and we have nothing.”

 

“I can’t explain why, but, I can’t take you,” I apologize to the man while I keep an eye on his companion.

 

He looks disappointed but continues, “Can you give us directions? Is there a store near enough to walk?”

 

I’m wondering how they plan to get around Austin. Austin’s a great place, but the public transportation here is next to non-existent. Luckily, an H.E.B. grocery store is fairly close by and I give him the best directions I can.

 

As I pull out of the parking slot and drive out of the complex, I call Paul on his cell phone. “Are you okay?” I ask.

 

“Yeah,” he says like he’s out of breath, “another minute or another step closer to you and that guy would’ve gotten shot!”

 

I tell him all about the conversation and realize that had that happened a couple of months ago, it likely wouldn’t have had a happy ending. So, we have moved forward a little in the last ten months. But, we can’t stay in this high level of alert all the time if we’re ever going to completely heal. 2009 has to be a better year for us.

 

 

[] JANUARY 2009 – APRIL 2009

 

Mary

 

Paul and I are getting along for the most part and it’s due in large part because I’ve quit looking for the “old Paul” and am concentrating on learning “new Paul’s” signals and what our relationship is now. There’s no way to expect him to go back to everything as if the kidnapping didn’t happen. Victims of violent crime are no different than victims of terrorist acts from everything I read. These kinds of events change people.

 

I watch Paul struggle to be what he thinks everyone’s definition of “normal” is supposed to be. When he’s had a particularly hard day, he comes home cross. He reads everything I do or say as an accusation, even the simplest question. It’s not easy to bite my tongue. There are times when my fuse is too short and we have fights. We never had fights before. We’ve always been able to talk to each other even when we fiercely disagreed. At least, when we have these fights, we always make up. Eventually, we talk things through and realize that we’re reacting to all the stress of having our lives turned upside down and living with an unknown but constant threat.

 

There are times at night, when I’m lying close to him in bed and he’s asleep, that I put my arm around him and breathe him in just wishing I could get to that hurt inside him and make it go away. I know I can’t do that but I vow and re-vow to be here for him every day and, with God’s help, to help him – help us both through this.

 

We get a call from Mr. Watson in early January that Abraham Weber will be the first defendant to go to trial and would we be able to come to the DA’s office for a pre-trial conference on the 14th? I tell Mr. Watson that we will be there and an appointment is scheduled for that afternoon. Paul and I are both excited and terrified. We’re excited that things are moving forward. We are terrified because we now know so much more about the drug cartels and this is the man who was in Laredo who screamed death threats against us all.

 

We go to the DA’s office with so many questions, very few which relate to this trial but all relating to the case.

 

How long will a trial last? (A week, most likely.)

 

Who, from the family, will be called to testify? (Paul and Tom for sure, maybe me, maybe Eric.)

 

Have they found anyone else? (No.)

 

Do they know who it was that grabbed Paul outside our apartment? (They have an idea but aren’t sure).

 

Are we still in danger? (They can’t say for sure but think we are okay.)

 

On Saturday, January 17, The Round Rock Leader, a twice-weekly newspaper, announced the trial with the headline, ‘San Antonio Five’ trial set to start February 1. Great. Now, they have a catchy gang name. The article, on page one, is a rehash of last year’s press stretched to one long column beside the five booking photos (in color!) of the defendants and continues on page 3.

 

We try not to think about too much of anything as we concentrate on where we’re going to move when the lease is up. We’ve already turned in our sixty-day notice to the apartment managers. My friend, Kim, is taking me to look at some houses in Round Rock. Paul likes one small subdivision with well-kept homes near Brushy Creek. If we find one that we both like, we’ll start the process to move. Maybe living in a house will help us begin to feel something close to normal again even though we learned, right after the holiday break, that Motorola is trying to sell off parts of the business again. A hiring freeze is in effect now and they won’t even be able to extend my contract. My last day is at the end of the month. I’m so sad and scared for the future – for our future.

 

 

Paul

 

February comes and goes. There were no trials. All of the defendants are now represented by court-appointed attorneys. We understand from the DA’s office that Jorge Benavidez is on his third lawyer now. As we wait to hear updates, Assistant DAs Michael Jarett and Jana McCown stay busy working with all those lawyers.

 

Abraham Weber’s trial was reset for early March. On March 2, 2009, he quietly accepted a plea deal. For his guilty plea, the court agreed to sentence Weber to 40 years for Aggravated Kidnapping, 40 years for Organizing in Criminal Activity with an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon to run concurrently, with credit for time served since his arrest on February 28, 2008. The deal for Weber was the limitation to two 40-year concurrent sentences, as opposed to a probable life sentence on all three, and that the court decided to “12.45” count three of the indictment, Aggravated Robbery, a term referring to the Texas Penal Code 12.45. Basically, everyone knew he was guilty and he wasn’t saying he wasn’t, but that charge was set aside to complete the more important parts of the case. One down, four to go.

 

We don’t know how to feel about this. It was all done and filed away without so much as our being aware of it. We met Lance and his mom for dinner and discussed everything. We agreed that we’re glad he’s going to prison for a long time. He won’t even be eligible for parole until February 27, 2028, or two-thirds of the way through his sentence. I’ll be almost 94 years old!

 

Michael Jarrett explained to us that this plea deal won’t be final until after certain events have happened. Abraham Weber has to give testimony against Jorge Benavidez and Bobby Sharp if they go to jury trial. He will still get the deal if they also accept plea agreements. If there’s a trial and he suddenly refuses to testify, all bets are off. I have a hard time remembering what part he played in all this. Mary tells me that he was in Laredo, trying to get Tom and me across the border and made the death threats when their plan went south.

 

The second week in March, our son, Sam, came to live with us while he works toward setting up his own visual effects business in Texas. He’s lived in Los Angeles for the better part of twenty years, has been highly successful but is weary of Hollywood. He also knows that we’re going to face some very difficult times and could use some extra emotional support.

 

On March 13, 2009, we learn that Jorge Benavidez decided against a court trial and accepted a plea agreement. Like Weber, he is sentenced on the first two counts (Aggravated Kidnapping and Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity) and receives two 50-year, concurrent sentences with credit for time served. Again, the State agreed to “12.45” the aggravated robbery.

 

Jana called Mary the afternoon the plea agreement was being signed off on and invited us to attend Jorge’s sentencing hearing. Lance is invited as well. We can invite anyone we want there. We are invited to make a statement directly to Jorge about how this has impacted our lives. It won’t change what’s been decided, but it gives us a chance to have our voices heard. Mary is going to say something to him for us.

 

 

Mary

 

Anger is a consuming fire that, once out of control, can destroy everything in its path. As I carefully apply foundation and concealer, touch-blend-blend, my mind plays out a myriad of painful, vengeful scenarios for the guest of honor I’m getting all pretty for. Eyeliner: swipe. His throat is slit from ear to ear. Mascara brush: he’s skinned alive. Lipstick red: a .45 hole in his chest. Makeup complete, I look around the bathroom and absently move one thing and another. I cannot kill him, so, I must be content with killing time.

 

If the people who know me, especially the ones who know me best, knew what I was thinking they would never believe it. Ask anyone to describe Mary Roland. They’ll tell you that I’m quiet or sweet, calm, patient, kind, gentle, even loving. Vicious? Never. Cruel? Never. Murderous? Absolutely not. But those words describe me at this moment and it’s all that I can do to keep this anger in check.

 

Looking into the closet before I head downstairs to meet Sam, my oldest son, I pause at a cotton shirt of Paul’s and inhale his scent deep into my lungs. Tears well up in my eyes so I quickly move out of the bedroom and head downstairs, concentrating all my efforts to smile by the time I’m at the bottom landing.

 

Sam studies my face for some assurance that I’m “holding up”. Do I need anything? Would I like him to drive? Sam has been my rock and support through this never-ending nightmare, yet, no mother wants to burden her child, even a grown one, with weight like this. Better he think everything is getting back to normal and that we can all move on. The truth is I can never move on. I can only keep moving.

 

I let Sam help me with my coat and I grab the car keys. A pang of guilt briefly pulses through me because I know he’d always rather drive than be driven by me, but he seems to accept my pulling rank today. I know that for now the only way to stay in control of the anger is to stay in control – period.

 

Traffic is light this morning on Interstate 35 heading north from Austin, Texas to Georgetown, Texas and it seems like only a few minutes until we’re slowing down to exit for the main drag that will take us to our destination. The closer we get, the more my stomach rolls into knots. I feel sweat beading on my upper lip and force myself to take a deep breath.

 

We park in a small lot. I pull the keys from the ignition, my hand shaking so badly that I drop them twice before managing to get them into my purse. As we walk through the parking lot, I realize that my eyes are darting back and forth – around the parking lot, across the street, every face we pass until we push through the broad double doors of the Watsonon County Justice Center.

 

Today I will face the man, Jorge Benavidez, who destroyed our lives.

 

We gather – Paul, Sam, Eric, Tom, Liz, Lance. his mom and me – before the hearing in Michael and Jana’s conference room. They tell us what will happen. We will go in and take our seats and they will sit at the prosecution table. The Court Reporter will come in and get set up at her desk but won’t record what we say in our statements.

 

Jorge will be led in by officers from the jail and his attorney might enter with him or already be at the defense table. The court clerk will come in and sit at the docket desk. The Bailiff will announce the judge and Judge Ken Anderson will enter the courtroom and take his place.

 

The judge will invite persons with an impact statement to address the defendant before sentencing. When we’re finished, the Judge will pronounce sentencing and then everything to do with Jorge is done. The soonest he is eligible for parole is in March 2033. Most likely, none of us will ever see him again. At this moment, that fact gives me no relief.

 

We take the elevator down to the first floor and walk quietly into the courtroom. For everyone but Liz, Eric and me, this is a new place. We walk all the way to the first row behind the “bar” single file and whisper as if we’re in church. The outer door opens and we look back to see who else is coming? I wonder if Jorge’s family will be here? Supposedly, he did this to save his family. Will they be here to stand by him?

 

I’m surprised to see Detective Maugham and Ranger Matt Lindemann walking toward us. They smile and shake our hands as they take seats in the row behind us.

 

I wonder if Detective Maugham is thinking about that first day, the night really, and the last time I saw him? When he needed something with Paul’s scent so the search dogs might find him? When we didn’t know if Paul was alive or dead and I looked at him and said, “Please bring my husband home” and entrusted him to do just that. I wonder if he’s thinking that because I am. I twist around, meeting his eyes and try to smile silent thanks to him.

 

Everyone is talking in twos or threes. I take the statement I’ve prepared from my purse and read it again for the hundredth time.

 

I look across the room and see two Hispanic women sitting together. One is crying. Just then, Jana comes over to tell me that I will speak first and then Lance will make his statement. I ask her if she knows who the two women are on the other side of the gallery. She says she doesn’t know, but later I find out that one of them might be Jorge’s sister. Seeing them there, crying, I realize that we are not the only victims here.

 

A lawyer walks into the room and down the aisle. He slips through the gate in the bar and takes a seat on a chair at the defense table. As he opens his briefcase and pulls out paper, file folders and pens, Jorge Benavidez is brought into the room from one of the side doors behind the judge’s bench by two guards from the jail. I see Jorge look around the room. His blank expression never changes until he sees Lance. At that moment, Jorge’s tough demeanor falls away and now we see a man deeply, deeply ashamed.

 

Moments later, we are told to rise and the Honorable Judge Ken Anderson of the 277th District calls the courtroom to order. After some discussions between the Judge and all the lawyers, Michael tells the Judge that I will present the first victim statement.

 

I begin to tremble from head to foot. All that murderous anger I felt earlier has been replaced with heartbreak. With all my might, I try to hold back tears, but they just pour down my face anyway as I half say, half read:

 

“50 years is not enough for the terror you’ve caused Paul, our family and others. You chose Paul to be abducted at gunpoint, assaulted and held against his will. You chose to steal his personal possessions: money, credit cards, watch, glasses and more.”

 

I look up at Jorge for a moment. His eyes are downcast. He’s not looking at me. Is he even listening? I take a breath and try to speak louder and clearer but my voice is straining under the stress.

 

“You were willing to murder him – a man who had never done you any harm. A man who, for 50 years, has helped countless young men like you better their lives through encouragement, training and support. You were willing to murder him if your extortion plan failed to resolve a problem of your own making; a problem that had nothing to do with Paul or our family in any way.”

 

I’m trembling even worse now. Somehow, I’ve connected to a slice of that anger again. I look at Jorge. He’s still not looking at me but I know he hears me and that gives me strength.

 

“You chose to terrorize our family with demands for money you had no right to and placed the unfair burden of Paul’s life onto my brother-in-law’s shoulders – a burden that squarely rested on your own. Then, when you knew your plan was unsuccessful, you chose to continue terrorizing our family with threats against us all. This disrupted all our lives as we sought protection, interfering with school for the youngest, jobs and personal security for others. For a while, you took away our human right to liberty. You chose to further ruin the lives of your accomplices. While they are responsible for their own actions and chose to join you in this, what happens to them, because of this, is also your fault. Paul and our family will heal, but the scars will never go away. We are all permanently changed. If it were not for the grace of God, the incredible and perfect efforts of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Rangers, D.P.S. and countless others, I am certain you would have chosen to kill my husband and, quite possibly, my brother-in-law.”

 

I look at Jorge. He turns away. I take a deep breath and go on; my eyes never leaving his face. “They saved your life that night, too. Otherwise, I believe you’d be here now looking at lethal injection for your sentence and not 50 years. 50 years is not enough for all you’ve done. 50 years is an act of mercy. I pray that God will use this time to change your heart and that you allow Him to use the rest of your life to stop this from happening to others.”

 

 

Paul

 

Jorge’s sentencing hearing was more emotional on all of us than anyone thought it would be. After Mary spoke, Lance got a crack at him. Lance asked if he could stand inside near the table where the DAs were sitting and they said yes. So Lance got up close and laid it out. How he’d been his friend for years, had Jorge and his family over to dinner, trusted him, gave him work whenever he could and helped him get work with other contractors when he didn’t have any. By the time Lance was through, Jorge was crying like a baby. I didn’t feel sorry for him one bit. I just wanted to get out of there and never look at him again.

 

I was real proud of Mary and Lance. I couldn’t have said anything in front of everyone. When it was over, Jana took Mary up to her office and gave her some time before she had to talk to anyone else. Lance and his mother said goodbye to everyone and left. Tom asked Ranger Lindemann, Detective Maugham, Jana and Michael and us to have lunch with him and Liz and everyone accepted. While we were at lunch, we learned that authorities had offered witness protection to Jorge’s parents and that, for now, they’re safe.

 

Mary, Sam and I talk about the questions we have about the case. Right now, Sam is the only one of the kids that we can talk freely to about the case. Even Eric will change the subject if I start to talk about the case too much. Penny doesn’t want to talk about it at all. She wants to be kept updated – all the kids do – but more than that and she shuts down. I don’t blame her. I don’t blame any of them, really. I wish we didn’t have to think about it all the time.

 

One night while we were making dinner, I talked about the dreams or whatever they were that I had. I can still remember them in detail. No one seems to know why or where they came from.

 

“They could’ve given you something,” Sam said.

 

“What?” Mary asked, more frustrated than ever, “They did several tox screens and all of them came up negative.”

 

“For what they screen for, sure, but they don’t screen for everything.” Sam looked at us with sort of a smile. “Salvia’s a plant that’s commonly used in Mexico for its hallucinogenic effects and isn’t screened for on any test. It’s legal.”

 

We never heard of it.

 

“When I lived in LA, there were shops that sold it in bulk.”

 

Mary looked it up and found out that he was right. She found out that even though it’s not illegal in Texas, several other states have made it a crime to sell or distribute it. She also read that how people are feeling determines what kind of experience they’ll have. If they’re happy, it’s all good visions. If they’re upset or scared, they’ll get the worst nightmares of their lives. We’re going to tell Michael and Jana about this the next time we talk to them.

 

We moved into a house in Round Rock at the end of our lease and it’s been really good for us. Eric and his family, as well as, Sandra and her family have been over a lot and we cook out when the weather is nice. Mary got some water balloons and water pistols, enough for everyone and we have battles in the back yard and front yard! It’s the best medicine possible. I look around at my family, my kids and my grandkids, and know that I am so blessed and fortunate in every way.

 

Salvia Divinorum Extract Ad

 

 

Mary

 

There have been docket hearings and dates set for pre-trials on the remaining three suspects. I’ve learned not to get too excited about a jury trial because, at the last minute, the last two suspects decided to take the deal that was offered instead. They’ve been told over and over that juries in Williamson County are tough and like to hand out long sentences when they determine that someone is guilty.

 

While we wait to hear something firm, I’ve been applying for jobs. A couple of contract jobs were offered that I would’ve liked but fell through because I need to be available for court and I don’t know when for sure. Recruiters aren’t willing to send me out with a caveat like that.

 

We get a call from the district attorney’s office in early May that Bartolo Dominguez, Jr. has refused all plea deals and a jury trial is set for the week of May 18 with jury selection to kick things off. I ask if we’re allowed to go to the jury selection or, voir dire, as they refer to the process. I’m told there are no rules forbidding it, but our presence could give the defense an excuse to claim we manipulated the jury later. We decide not to go.

 

It’s Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the first day of jury trial. I take a seat with family and friends near the front (my usual place) and thank them for coming. I ask them to be my eyes and ears if I have to stay outside. I won’t know until a few minutes before it starts if I’ll be allowed to sit in on all the proceedings because of a slim chance that I’m called as a State’s witness.

 

I see Michael Jarrett and Jana McCown conferring at the table on the left side near the empty jury box. Michael is dressed in a black suit, black tie and white shirt. His black shoes are shined to high gloss. He smiles confidently at everyone from the Bailiff to our group and even to the defense attorney. They shake hands and talk a moment.

 

Duke Hildreth, in his early 40’s is wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and a dark blue patterned tie. He appears “defensive” in every way, ready for a fight. Jana is dressed head-to-toe in black: jacket and turtleneck over ankle-length black skirt with black stockings and flats. Her shoulder-length hair is loose with a slight wave on the ends. She exudes an air of calm control. The effect is stunning.

 

Judge Anderson arrives. We all stand, then sit and the attorneys begin making motions to suppress this and not allow that during the trial. I gather that they’re setting some ground rules up front. The defense attorney seems a little more than concerned that Michael might out-lawyer him. Finally, Michael comes to the issue of me.

 

MR. JARRETT: And the last thing we have, Judge, is the victim Paul Roland’s wife, Mary Roland, is present in the courtroom.

 

Judge Anderson looks up and out into the room. I feel my face flush. I don’t have to stand; the bright red of my cheeks is a beacon! I raise my hand just in case.

 

MR. JARRETT: She’s asked to be allowed to observe the trial. I don’t anticipate calling her as a witness in our case in chief. She’s potentially a punishment witness and is on the witness list for that specific purpose. We’d ask that she be allowed to be in the courtroom.

 

Judge Anderson asks about my specific knowledge of the crime; whether I witnessed it or anything. Michael explains that I didn’t know that Paul was missing until several hours later. Then Judge Anderson asks Mr. Hildreth if he has any objections.

 

MR. HILDRETH: I have no objection to that. I would object to her being called as a witness to bolster or rehabilitate any impeachment evidence of her husband, and if the State plans on calling her for that purpose, then I’d ask she be excused for her husband’s testimony.

 

MR. JARRETT: We don’t anticipate calling her as a rebuttal witness for any improper character evidence that’s offered.

 

THE COURT: Well, absent some extremely interesting fact situation which I can’t fathom at the moment, you’re not going to be allowed to if I let her stay in.

 

MR. JARRETT: I agree.

 

THE COURT: All right.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Judge, I think there is some extreme stuff here, so I just want the Court to know there’s something pretty extreme as far as Mr. Roland and what he told police.

 

MR. JARRETT: Can we approach Your Honor?

 

The two attorneys meet at the Judge’s bench. I’m not sure what’s going on here but I’m holding my breath. They talk a few moments where none of us can hear what they’re saying but when they break, Michael walks back to the bar and leans over to tell me that I can stay for everything but Paul’s testimony and Paul’s testimony is first.

 

The defendant is brought in by two Sheriff’s deputies and told to sit down beside Mr. Hildreth. Bartolo Dominguez wears a cream-colored dress shirt with a two-toned gray tie. The long sleeves of his shirt cover the black Taser band I’ve seen at the docket hearings. He looks around the room with what can only be described as utter contempt.

 

I look from one table to the other and am struck by the tableau. Judge Anderson sits in his black robe at the bench. The prosecution attorneys are in black. The defendant’s attorney is in a dark suit. Bartolo Dominguez stands out in stark contrast to everyone around him.

 

I look across the room from where I’m sitting with Sam, Eric, Lance’s mom, Lance and Liz to see who might be there for Bartolo. I pick out three people. An older Hispanic couple and a woman sit together looking anxious. I guess that the couple are his parents and my heart goes out to them. A portable oxygen unit sits beside his mother. Oxygen tubes discreetly wind from the unit to her nose. Sitting in this courtroom can’t be good for her.

 

Judge Anderson asks that everyone who is supposed to be a witness in any portion of this trial to stand. I stand with several others. He swears us in and then tells us all to take a seat outside.

 

 

[] TRIAL OF BARTOLO DOMINGUEZ, JR.

 

The trial of Bartolo Dominguez, Jr. begins Wednesday morning, May 20, 2009. There are more witnesses for the State waiting in the hallway outside than in the courtroom. A few family and friends of the victim, the parents of the defendant and a few reporters are present to do articles about the proceedings.

 

The jury consists of seven men and five women of various ages. The State’s list of one hundred twenty-five potential witnesses read like a Who’s Who of law enforcement: FBI, US Marshall’s Service, ATF, Texas D.P.S., Texas Rangers, Williamson County Sheriff’s Department, San Antonio P.D., Hays County Sheriff’s Office, Austin P.D., and Laredo P.D. Each person listed in the order of their involvement in the case.

 

The indictment is read to the jury and the defendant pleads “not guilty.” Assistant District Attorney, Michael Jarrett, gives the opening statement for the prosecution:

 

MR. JARRETT: May it please the Court, Counsel, ladies and gentlemen, what you’re about to hear about for the next few days is something that you probably only think happens on television, in the movies, and “24” like the judge just mentioned. You’ll hear, and the facts will show that on February 26, 2008, this man, Bartolo Dominguez, Jr., along with his co-conspirators, had a plan, and they were going to kidnap a man named Paul Roland.

 

You see, Paul lived in Round Rock in the southernmost part of Williamson County with his wife, Mary. Paul was a 73-year old man at the time. He worked with his brother Tom Roland at Tom’s company called Phoenix Electric. They worked primarily in business wiring and construction projects.

 

And, at 7:00 in the morning as Paul was on his way to work, he had coffee in one hand, like many of us do on the way out of the door, his briefcase in the other hand. But unlike a normal morning when he got to his pickup truck, he was greeted by two people with hoods on over their head who forced him into the back seat of his own pickup truck.

 

From there, he tried – He said, “I’ll give you whatever I have. I don’t care.” They said, “Are you Paul?” He said, “Yes, I am.” From there, he was driven in his own pickup truck somewhere south of Austin to a rural area of Buda where he was transferred from his own pickup truck to another vehicle. While this is going on, Paul is blindfolded, his hands were bound behind his back with flex-cuffs, and he was threatened.

 

You see, a gun was put in his face. He was transferred to another vehicle. All along, and Paul will tell you, “When they got me in the back of my truck, my hearing aids fell out. They came out some way.” So Paul doesn’t remember, couldn’t hear everything that was going on, but he knows he was transferred to another vehicle. From that point, Paul was taken down 35 and at some point later that day was taken to a hotel room in a remote part of San Antonio in a hotel room call the Safari Inn, not the kind of place that anyone would want to go on vacation to.

 

The defense attorney stands, dramatically waving one hand in a “stop” motion and shaking his head. Bartolo barely moves, not reacting to anything.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Objection, Your Honor; that’s argument.

 

THE COURT: All right. Objection sustained.

 

MR. JARRETT: The evidence will show, folks, that Paul was taken to a place called the Safari Inn. You can make your own judgments. When Paul got there, he was forced by his abductors into this room. He was only allowed to eat when they told him to eat. He wasn’t allowed to talk to his family, his friends. The evidence will show that Paul was bound while he was in this room. He was blindfolded. Paul is going to tell you that this time in this hotel room seemed like an eternity. You’ll learn that all the while that this is going on, at first, no one even misses Paul. You see, he had an appointment to be in Houston for a business meeting that day. So, they expected him to get there, and his appointment wasn’t until after lunch.

 

Michael relays the events as they unfolded: how the authorities found Paul’s truck; painting pictures of desperation and urgency.

 

MR. JARRETT: The missing person investigation turns into a serious situation when Paul’s truck is discovered in Buda with Paul nowhere to be found. You see, they’d dumped the truck. When they got out there – Williamson County police officers, as well as, Texas Rangers, as well as, county police in the area. They searched the truck. Paul was nowhere to be found. At this point, a meeting is held up here in Georgetown between the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Texas Rangers, the FBI gets involved, the Marshal Service, because now we’ve got something that really doesn’t add up. All the resources of all the departments in the area are utilized for this manhunt. D.P.S. helicopters go up. They start looking for Paul out in the field near Buda. Williamson County calls in a prison unit dog search squad. They do everything they can do to look for Paul, and they don’t find him. Technology experts are brought in to track where Paul’s cell phone was last used. They search that area. Still unable to find Paul. …the next day, Paul’s brother Tom gets a phone call from an unknown person, and that phone call says, “We’ve got your brother. Bring $500,000 to us and we’ll give him back. If you don’t, he’s going to die.”

 

The courtroom is quiet, still, as if no one is breathing. Every eye, with the exception of the two sitting at the defense table, is on Michael Jarrett. Bartolo is looking down and almost appears asleep. His counsel writes furiously on one of the many yellow legal pads in front of him.

 

MR. JARRETT: As I said, they utilized technology and resources available to local law enforcement, as well as, technology and resources utilized by federal agencies, the FBI, U. S. Marshal Service, ATF, and they were able to track down by some of these phone calls that continue to come in, “Hey, where are you? Do you have the money? If you don’t bring the money, you’re not going to get your brother back.” Well, fortunately, technology allows us to track those phones. They were able to track these phone calls to a hotel room in San Antonio and in conjunction with the San Antonio Police Department, the SWAT team, the Rangers, the FBI, the Marshals; they were able to pinpoint a location. There was an undercover police officer in this hotel parking lot watching the room they believed this man was hiding in; this man was being held in.

 

Michael points toward the defendant when he mentions him and every eye shifts, looking at Bartolo. Bartolo looks up, defiantly. Michael then points out into the gallery toward Paul Roland. The jury looks over some sympathetically, some just curious their first real glimpse of the victim now. Bartolo’s gaze returns to his lap.

 

MR. JARRETT: All the while, they actually got this money ready in case that there was counter-surveillance being done by this group of kidnappers. In case somebody was watching them from Georgetown all the way down to San Antonio, a team was on the way and in San Antonio preparing to do an exchange to try to get this man back. The money was in a bag. A D.P.S. agent was actually laying in the back of Tom Roland’s truck prepared to protect Mr. Roland if he had to when they staged at a mall in San Antonio with several undercover cars, several different agencies. They were prepared for anything, and you’ll hear about that.

 

Michael pauses, looking around the courtroom and then makes eye contact with each member of the jury. The jury looks from Michael to the defense table and back again, to Michael.

 

MICHAEL JARRETT: Folks, I told you Mr. Roland was 73 years old. I told you that he’d lost his hearing aid when he was first abducted. I don’t expect Mr. Roland is going to take the witness stand this morning and say, “That’s the guy that did it.” I don’t expect that’s going to happen. What I do expect you’ll hear is that the evidence is going to be so overwhelming that it will point to this man, Bartolo Dominguez, as one of the co-conspirators in this horrible kidnapping. Folks, you will hear that when that truck was left off in Buda, a crime scene team went in there and tested everything that they could. And guess whose palm print they found on the interior of that truck that had no business being there?

 

Michael slowly turns and every eye follows his arm as it slowly rises and his finger points directly at Bartolo who looks back at him in scorn.

 

MICHAEL JARRETT (louder now): This man, Bartolo Dominguez. I told you that Mr. Roland was later recovered at the Safari Inn in San Antonio. Here’s how it happened, folks. The evidence is going to show that as surveillance teams were watching this room with the Marshals and the FBI, they said we think that’s where the last phone call came from. While that was getting watched, three people came out of that room and got into a minivan, Bartolo Dominguez’s minivan. The driver of that minivan, the evidence will show, was Bartolo Dominguez. You’ll learn that Bartolo Dominguez was in the van, when the police stopped him, when Paul Roland was rescued from his captors. You’ll learn that as this conspiracy, I guess you could say, carried on and this investigation continued. They were later able to apprehend one of the other co-conspirators in Laredo, Texas, a man named Abraham Weber. They were also able to apprehend another man named Jorge Benavidez two days later in the Austin area. When Bartolo Dominguez was arrested, he was in the van with Mr. Roland along with one of the other co-conspirators, Samantha Casablanca. They were also arrested with the man that brought Samantha to that hotel room, Bobby Earl Sharp.

 

Michael pauses again to let all the information settle on the jury. There’s not a sound in the room as everyone waits to hear what he’ll say next. He shrugs slightly and continues:

 

MICHAEL JARRETT: There may be other people out there, folks. You may draw that conclusion later on. But the evidence is going to be conclusive at the end of this case that Bartolo Dominguez is not just a silent party to this offense because guess who checked into the rooms, folks? Guess who showed their ID when they checked into the room? Guess who you will see on a surveillance video camera at the Safari Inn checking into that hotel room? Bartolo Dominguez. Signed his own name, checked into the Safari Inn and that’s where they held Paul Roland for nearly two days before he was rescued. Folks, this is a clear-cut case. The evidence is mountainous. And, at the conclusion of this trial, the State will ask you to find Bartolo Dominguez, Jr. guilty on both counts of aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping for the hell he put Paul Roland through.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Objection; that’s argument, Your Honor.

 

THE COURT: Objection sustained.

 

MR. JARRETT: Thank you.

 

The room is completely quiet as Michael sits down at the prosecutors’ table beside Jana. The jurors look alternately at Bartolo, Judge Anderson and between Michael and Jana. Some write notes. Bartolo now has a yellow legal pad on the table in front of him and he appears to be smirking as he writes.

 

THE COURT: Do you care to make an opening statement?

 

MR. HILDRETH: Yes, sir.

 

Mr. Hildreth stands and walks across the room to stand directly in front of the jurors. He smiles, taking a moment to look directly at each person. As he talks, he paces in front of the jury, pausing only to take a breath. He looks somber and somewhat defeated.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Good morning and welcome back. What I’m going to ask you to do is just listen to the case. Okay? Listen to the evidence presented. I know you’ve heard a lot and you’re probably sitting there in awe and shock. What we’re asking you to do though is please listen to the evidence presented by the State. Okay? What the evidence is going to show is Jorge Benavidez, also known as George, worked for Paul Roland’s brother at Phoenix Electric. That’s where all this begins.

 

The evidence is going to show that he was laid off. The evidence is going to show that he was disgruntled. The evidence is going to show this is what ties everybody to the Roland family. The evidence is going to show that Jorge Benavidez knows a man named Abraham Weber known as AB. The evidence is going to show that Abraham Weber was involved in this. Abraham Weber is the person that Paul Roland described when he was abducted as the man in charge. You are also going to hear about my client and Samantha Casablanca, Bobby Sharp and Bartolo Dominguez and their involvement in this.

 

What the evidence is going to show is that Bartolo Dominguez borrowed his mother’s van because he didn’t have any wheels. He was directed to come to Austin. He participated and his mother’s van was used to transport Paul Roland down to San Antonio. The van was used at that motel by both Abraham Weber and Bartolo Dominguez.

 

The evidence is going to show that the communication going on between Mr. Roland’s family is primarily being directed by these two, Abraham Weber and Jorge Benavidez. As the State implied, Abraham Weber was arrested down in Laredo.

 

The evidence will also show that Abraham Weber went down to Laredo with Jorge Benavidez. What the evidence will show is that my client, who borrowed his mother’s van and used his own name to check into this motel, stayed with Mr. Roland at the motel.

 

What you’re going to hear about is that Samantha Casablanca, who is arrested in my client’s mother’s van, was involved early in this because Abraham Weber gave her Mr. Roland’s credit cards after they abducted him. Bobby Sharp shows up at the motel on about the third day bringing Samantha Casablanca.

 

What the evidence will show is these two were leaving, Bartolo Dominguez watching Mr. Roland, at the direction of Jorge Benavidez and Abraham Weber.

 

What the evidence is also going to show is that Paul Roland was put through a terrible ordeal, and nobody’s going to deny that.

 

But, what the evidence will show is, he was never physically harmed by anybody. The evidence will also show that he did sustain an injury, but he will admit to you – he’s admitted to police – that that was self-inflicted when he fell off the bed in the motel room.

 

What the evidence will also show is, well, that he was, I expect, to be delusional during this. You’re going to hear some pretty remarkable things about what he told police about what went on when he was abducted and what the police will testify to could not have happened. I don’t know whether the State is going to try to say that these folks drugged Mr. Roland for him to imagine some of these things, but what the evidence will show is they ran toxicology tests on him and he had no drugs in his system at all.

 

So, all I can expect the evidence to show is that during this time, he lost sense of reality and became delusional. Now, what he testifies to, I’m not sure what is the truth and what’s not. I’m not going to look forward to cross-examining him, but I have to. He has some incredible, fanciful ideas of what took place while he was abducted, but the only injury that he sustained was to his head and he’ll tell you that that happened when he fell of the bed.

 

What the evidence will also show is that at the end, when these three are captured – because Jorge Benavidez and Abraham Weber are not around – Bobby Sharp leaves the motel in a stolen truck and speeds away. He actually tries to outrun police and wrecks, and that’s the only way, that’s how the police finally catch him. What you’ll hear is that Bartolo Dominguez drives away with Samantha in the van, as well as, Mr. Roland and that he pulls over and stops, not immediately, but eventually. There’s no high-speed chase and that he pulls over.

 

At the end, what I’m going to ask you to do is listen to the evidence, decide whether a deadly weapon was actually used. If you believe it was used, fine. I’m not sure based on the evidence you’ll hear whether you can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a deadly weapon was used. I just ask that you listen to the evidence before you make a decision in the case. Thank you.

 

Mr. Hildreth takes his seat beside Bartolo Dominguez who nods slightly. Some members of the jury look confused and some stare openly at Bartolo.

 

THE COURT: Are you ready to call your first witness?

 

MR. JARRETT: State calls Paul Roland.

 

 

Paul

 

I’m not nervous as I sit outside the court room with Mary and several officers who are waiting to testify. I’ve been a witness before, not in a criminal case, but civil cases. The District Attorneys haven’t told me what to expect, really, and I can’t identify anyone so it should be a quick couple of questions.

“Paul Roland?” I hear from the doorway and look to see a deputy standing there. I look at Mary. She smiles and stands, squeezing my hand.

 

“I love you,” she says and I say it back. I follow the deputy into the courtroom and walk down the aisle to the little gate in the wood fence that divides the audience from what’s going on in front of the judge.

 

Judge Anderson reminds me that I was sworn in with the other witnesses earlier and that I am still under oath. I agree and take a seat in the witness box. I look out into the audience and see our sons, Eric and Sam, watching me. They both smile in a way that makes me feel that they’re supporting me. I see Liz and Lance and Lance’s mom. When their eyes meet mine, they smile, too.

 

I look over at the defendant. I’ve seen his picture in the news but this is the first time I’ve really seen his face. This is the Mexican-with-the-gun! I only know that because I’ve been told he was driving the van when I was rescued. He isn’t looking at me. He’s just frowning and looking down.

 

Mr. Jarrett walks up to a spot in front of me and asks me to spell my name, give my address and tell a little about the job I do; what Phoenix Electric does. He asks how long I’ve worked there, if I’m married, what my wife’s name is and how many children we have. With the basic information done, the real questions begin.

 

MR. JARRETT: Mr. Roland, let’s talk about February 26, 2008. Do you recall that date?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes, I do.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you have some plans or were you supposed to go to a meeting later that afternoon?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes. I was going to a business meeting in Houston.

 

MR. JARRETT: How did you start your day?

 

PAUL ROLAND: I was leaving, getting ready to leave. It was a little before 7:00. I went out to the garage. I kept a couple of my briefcases in the garage and opened the garage door and clicked the clicker on my truck and unlocked it and I headed out to the truck, put one briefcase in and went back. And I noticed a couple of people out by the mail kiosk-

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. I’m going to stop you right there. Let me ask you. This apartment complex, the Rolling Oak Apartments, would you think that’s a pretty safe apartment complex?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Well, they claim to have security and it’s supposed to be a safe complex, yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: Is it in fact – is there a gate that’s –

 

PAUL ROLAND: A security gate, yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. And you said that you see two people. Did you recognize those people as you came out to the truck that morning?

 

PAUL ROLAND: No, I did not.

 

MR. JARRETT: How would you describe their age or were they male, female?

 

PAUL ROLAND: It was – appeared to be a male and a female, younger people. I took them to be high school kids with hooded tops on headed towards the school buses and I just glanced at them and went on to put my stuff in the truck.

 

MR. JARRETT: You said that you thought that they might be high school kids. Are there children that live in that same apartment complex?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes, there are.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. All the way from younger children to high school kids?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Right.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. What happens next?

 

PAUL ROLAND: When I turned to put that last briefcase in my truck, this person ran up and pushed me into the – or attempted to push me into the truck. I whirled around and struggled with him and asked him what was going on and or what he wanted and he struggled with me and he pulled a pistol and stuck it in my face and said he wanted my money and the truck and the keys to the truck, my money and my watch.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did he ask you who you were or indicate that he knew who you were?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes, he did. He asked me if I was Paul.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you think that was odd?

 

PAUL ROLAND: I thought it was very odd.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you know these kids at all?

 

PAUL ROLAND: No, I didn’t.

 

MR. JARRETT: And how would you say they put you into the truck? Was it pleasant?

 

MR. HILDRETH: Objection. Leading, Your Honor.

 

THE COURT: Objection’s overruled. Continue.

 

MR. JARRETT: How would you describe the way they put you in the truck?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Well, they threw me in the truck basically. They hit me with the pistol right then.

 

MR. JARRETT: Now, you talked about a pistol. Would you describe that as a firearm?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you believe that to be a real gun? Was there any question in your mind that that was a real gun?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Well, he, when he stuck it in my face, he said, “You fool, don’t you see this is a Desert Eagle pistol?”

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. It wasn’t a BB gun or a cap gun?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Right.

 

MR. JARRETT: How did that make you feel, Paul?

 

PAUL ROLAND: It scared me very much.

 

MR. JARRETT: What happened next?

 

PAUL ROLAND: They pushed me. They had me pushed down by then into the truck and having me get my money and my wallet out and cleaning my pockets out. When I took my glasses off, I got my hearing aids. I dropped them in the seat of the truck, cleaned all my stuff out and gave it to them. Took my watch off. They pushed me down in the seat and they put a baggy tie around my hands.

 

MR. JARRETT: Now, by “baggy tie,” you mean one of those zip ties?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Zip tie, yeah.

 

MR. JARRETT: The kind of thing, if you worked in a shop, you’d put around wires to hold it tight?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Right, one of those white plastic ties.

 

MR. JARRETT: Are they easily removable?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Not when it’s on you.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. What are you thinking while this is going on?

 

PAUL ROLAND: I can’t believe this is happening. I keep asking them what they want, why not just let me go and take – they’ve got everything. They have the keys. They got my money. They’ve got everything I’ve got. Just let me out.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you fight with these folks or were you willing to give them everything you had?

 

PAUL ROLAND: I had already given them everything I had. I was “just let me go and take it.”

 

MR. JARRETT: Did they respond to that at all?

 

PAUL ROLAND: No. They didn’t respond to that.

 

Remembering how those people were and what was done to me brings back all the fear again. Sitting up here in front of everyone was not easy. It was somewhat of a relief when Mr. Jarrett brought pictures of the inside of the truck and asked me to describe where I was and what kind of truck it was. After I confirmed each picture, the pictures were given to the defense to look at. I guess they were okay because the defense attorney didn’t object to any of them.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. I think where we are in the story; you said the girl had pulled out of the apartment complex, you think she might have hit something on the way out. You said the man was cursing at her. What was he cursing at her about?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Because she couldn’t get the truck going. She was getting it started and then killing it when she was trying to get it in reverse and she finally got it moving and got it out of the parking complex and then they only drove a few blocks and pulled over to the side of the road and there was another vehicle pulled up, stopped, and there were, I believe, three men or possibly three men and a woman got out of that vehicle and replaced the two who had abducted me to begin with.

 

MR. JARRETT: So three new people get in your truck?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Got in the truck and drove off.

 

MR. JARRETT: At this point, you said your glasses had come off. Are your eyes covered, or can you see these people?

 

PAUL ROLAND: They had put a, put a bandana on me earlier.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. The first two had put a bandana on you?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes, they had.

 

MR. JARRETT: So at that point, you’ve lost your hearing aids, you don’t have your glasses on, and your eyes are covered?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Right. Looking, the bandana around your eyes, you could see down straight if your eyes tried to, looking straight down, you could see down below.

 

MR. JARRETT: So, is it fair to say your senses were not perfect at this point?

 

PAUL ROLAND: They were not.

 

I’m not sure where he’s going with this and it’s making me nervous. Is he on my side or not? He continues to have me tell what happened in the truck – them trying to sell my watch and truck on the phone as we traveled and then the switch from the truck to the van. Every time I describe what I remember, he reminds me that I was blindfolded and without my hearing aids. The thing that no one seems to understand is how my hearing loss works. I hear clearly at certain ranges; at the high and low end of the spectrum. Most people, my wife especially, talk in the mid-level range and I have a problem with that. These guys were all jacked up. They were talking at the high range.

 

MR. JARRETT: What’s the next thing you remember about the drive in the minivan?

 

PAUL ROLAND: The next thing I remembered was they had stopped in front of a motel, a little, I assume that it was a little motel/hotel, and they were getting me out of the van and walking me into a unit and told me to watch my step, that there was a little, a curb there and it had a little wooden handicap approach to it.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. So –

 

PAUL ROLAND: And went in, and the room had two beds in it and they carried me to the back bed and laid me down on that and –

 

MR. JARRETT: Let me ask you, Mr. Roland, do you have any medical conditions that require you to take medication?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes. I have high blood pressure and I have the tremors. I take several medications but nothing that’s critical.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you have your medication with you that day?

 

PAUL ROLAND: No.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did they allow you to get your medication?

 

PAUL ROLAND: No.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you indicate to the abductors that that was a concern of yours?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes. I told them I needed my medication.

 

MR. JARRETT: You know your medical condition better than anyone. Would you say that this incident caused your blood pressure to spike?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: You said they moved you into a motel-type room?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: With two beds?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: What’s the next thing you remember about that?

 

PAUL ROLAND: They gave me something to eat and then more water. And I slept a lot. It seemed that I slept an awful lot. And they talked on the cell phone continually on Nextel back and forth.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay and you say Nextel. How do you know it was Nextel?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Well, the click-click type phone.

 

MR. JARRETT: Kind of chirp noise?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yeah, they were talking to their buddies in Spanish.

 

We spend the next several minutes talking about Tom’s business and how we hire outside work crews; subcontractors to get the projects done.

 

MR. JARRETT: Let me ask you, do you know a man by the name of Jorge Benavidez?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: How did you initially know Jorge Benavidez?

 

PAUL ROLAND: We had hired him several years ago to work for us on, to do some contract work on a project in San Antone.

 

MR. JARRETT: And did he, in fact, work for you?

 

PAUL ROLAND: About eight or nine months, I guess.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. So he worked for you for quite some time?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: Did you or your brother continue to have a good working relationship with Mr. Benavidez?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Not particularly. We finally let him go.

 

MR. JARRETT: What happened?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Failure to show up.

 

MR. JARRETT: Things like that? Is your industry kind of, you kind of have a revolving door of different crews that come in and work? Is that right?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Pretty much.

 

MR. JARRETT: So that wasn’t unusual in any way?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yeah.

 

MR. JARRETT: Let me ask you; is your brother’s business successful?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes, it is.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. Would you describe it as a multi-million dollar business?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: And were some of the workers aware, I guess, by the size of the projects that you worked on that this is a successful company?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Objection, Your Honor. What other people know is beyond this man’s. It calls for speculation.

 

MR. JARRETT: I’ll rephrase, Your Honor.

 

THE COURT: All right.

 

MR. JARRETT: Mr. Roland, would it be apparent to workers that this is a successful business?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Yes.

 

MR. JARRETT: Do you recall giving a statement to Matthew Lindemann of the Texas Rangers shortly after your abduction? Do you recall giving a statement?

 

I’m startled by this question. I had no idea he was going to talk about this. I feel like I’m on trial. There were so many things I thought had happened when I gave that statement, things I know didn’t happen. I know that now.

 

PAUL ROLAND: Sure.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. I’m going to show you a copy of that statement and ask if you recognize that.

 

PAUL ROLAND: Okay.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. And you had an opportunity to review this before testifying today?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Okay.

 

MR. JARRETT: Are you a little bit nervous?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Sure.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. I’m going to ask you to review. Okay. You told us about coming into the place with the wooden handicap ramp. I’m going to ask you to review the next few sentences after that.

 

PAUL ROLAND: Okay.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. Mr. Roland, earlier, I asked you if you recall if these people ever told you why you were abducted and you said you don’t remember. After reading your statement, is your memory refreshed?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Well, they, yes, you’re right. They, they said there was a debt.

 

MR. JARRETT: A debt?

 

PAUL ROLAND: And they were, had said that someone owed them for drugs.

 

MR. JARRETT: Now, are you and Tom involved in drugs in any way?

 

PAUL ROLAND: Not in any way.

 

MR. HILDRETH: Objection; calls for speculation on the part of his brother.

 

THE COURT: Overruled.

 

MR. JARRETT: Okay. Did they tell you who the debt was to or who owed the debt?

 

PAUL ROLAND: This was just a broad statement they used, but they used Tom’s name.

 

After clarifying that I was never told explicitly that Tom owed or I owed any money to these people, Mr. Jarrett asks me when I was restrained or not restrained. I tried to explain that the only time my restraints were off was when I was allowed to go to the bathroom. When I was given food, they had the flex cuff in front.