I SAT WITH my partner, Dallas Stone, in the conference room of my FBI field office in Portland, Oregon. The third part of our team, Jaxon Quinn, arrived a few minutes later and sat beside Dallas.
“What do we know?” Jaxon asked.
“Nothing yet,” I responded.
“Thanks for coming in,” Matt Quinn, assistant director, and Jaxon’s brother, said as he walked into the room and grabbed the remote, clicking an image onto the screen. “Here you have Vasily Bekhterev, cousin to Boris Bekhterev.”
Boris was head of the Russian mob sect that covered the Pacific Northwest, but there’d been chatter that Boris was going to be passing responsibilities off to Vasily.
“Our source says he will be at the Pink Fox in Gresham at ten tonight.”
“We can’t just arrest the guy for being at a strip club, Matt,” Jaxon pointed out.
“We’re not going to arrest him,” Matt countered. “Vasily bought in on the poker game in the back. Alana will be workin’ the room, and she’ll get you into the game, Jax. The rest of you will be backup. Jax is the only agent these guys haven’t seen, so he takes lead. Tonight, is information gathering only. I want to know how many guards he travels with, who else is at that table, and what his relationship is to them. Find out whatever you can without revealing yourself. That’s it. Stay safe.”
Matt walked out, and I rose to my feet. “Jax, they’ll search you when you go in, so no weapons, and we’ll have no way to maintain contact. You and Alana will be on your own for the entirety of the game. If there’s any trouble, Alana will have to get to us. Jax, you’ve got the Mercedes, we’ll follow.”
“Fuck, yeah,” Jaxon said. The field office had a couple of unique and expensive cars at our disposal and tonight Jaxon would be using the Mercedes SL-Class Roadster.
“Suit up and meet at the cars in ten,” I said.
The men nodded and headed to the weapons room.
* * *
Two days later, I rushed into a dilapidated house in downtown Gresham and glanced at Dallas, pointing to the left. Dallas nodded and moved soundlessly the opposite direction from me, gun aimed in front of him, close to his body, his Kevlar vest his only protection from gunfire. Jaxon and two other SWAT agents had already preceded us and disappeared into one of the rooms at the back of the house.
More agents waited outside and would move in, but not until the signal was given, and with kids possibly in the mix, I didn’t want to take any chances. I forced aside my disgust at the vandalized walls and floors, discarded needles, and rotting food strewn around the rooms. How anyone could live like this, I had no idea.
Several 9-1-1 calls had come in complaining of screaming and gun shots, and the address given was this known meth house. It had been confiscated two years ago in a drug bust, and squatters had taken advantage of the abandoned building.
Normally, local police would have dealt with it, but when the call came in that neighbors had seen kids being pulled inside, the FBI was dispatched.
“Clear,” I called, once I was sure no one was in the room.
“Got three!” Dallas called. “Call a bus.”
“Dispatch, we need a bus to 23 South First. SWAT move in,” I said into my radio, and then headed to the back of the house. Pushing the door open further, I scowled. A young woman, bloodied and bruised, sat on a filthy mattress in the corner, her arms wrapped protectively around a boy of about ten and a girl, maybe six.
“Don’t come any closer,” she snapped as Dallas approached. She held the kids tighter, even though her purpled arm hung at an awkward angle.
Dallas stalled and glanced at me for direction.
I smiled at her. “We’re not here to hurt you.”
The woman stood, hand slapping against the wall as she seemed to lose her balance. “I said, don’t come any closer.”
“Can you tell me your name?” I asked, waving Dallas back.
I saw her waiver and then caught her as she passed out. Lifting her gently in my arms, we moved quickly. Dallas lifted the girl, Jaxon grabbed the boy, who tried to fight but was no match for the large man.
“I’m not gonna hurt you, buddy,” Jaxon promised. “What’s your name?”
“Jay,” he whispered.
“Hi, Jay. I’m Jax. Do you like cars?”
Jay nodded, although he still looked leery of Jaxon.
The little girl cried quietly, but looped her arms around Dallas’s neck and laid her head on his shoulder. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“That’s such a pretty name.” Dallas stroked her hair. “I’m Dallas and that’s Brock. Is that your mom?”
Cammie shook her head. “No. She’s my friend. She was helping us.” Cammie started to sob. “She…was…making the men…stay away. They hurt her.”
“Okay, baby. Shhh,” Dallas crooned, holding her close. “What’s your friend’s name?”
“Bailey,” she whispered.
I stared down at Bailey. She’d been beaten severely, one eye already closed and the other rapidly swelling to resemble the first. I thought her hair might be blonde, but with all the dirt and blood, I couldn’t be sure. A sense of protectiveness washed over me as I held her close and followed my partner back out the front door.
The ambulance pulled up within minutes, and I laid Bailey on the gurney inside. “Her name’s Bailey,” I said. “That’s all we know at this point.”
“Thanks, Brock,” Helen Miller, my friend and the paramedic in charge, said. “We’ll take it from here.”
I started to leave, but paused, reluctant to leave the young woman. She’d been so strong and had clearly taken quite a beating to protect two kids who weren’t even her own. Why? I wanted to know more and make sure she was okay. But there was no time for that, so I forced myself to step away, giving Dallas and Jaxon room to hand over the kids. I turned and headed back into the house now that it had been cleared.
Back in the bedroom, I flipped over the mattress, searched the closet, and found nothing.
“Here’s Bailey’s purse,” Dallas said, as he joined me. “It’s got a license, school ID, phone with missing SIM card, and a couple of credit cards. There’s a medical insurance card, too. That’s it.” He handed me the black leather purse and I located her wallet.
I opened it and slid the ID from the window slot. “Bailey Harper,” I read out loud.
She was in fact blonde, twenty-one, a student at Washington State University, and lived in Vancouver. How she ended up in Gresham would have to be ascertained later.
Bailey’s license photo was model worthy. I ran a finger gently over the picture, admiring her beauty.
I glanced up to find Dallas smirking at me.
“Sorry, what?” I said.
“Jaxon’s heading back to headquarters. Do you want me with you, or him?”
“Me,” I said. “We need to head to the hospital and ask Bailey a few questions. We also need to find out who those kids are.”
Dallas nodded and left the room. I followed, confident the criminal investigators would collect the right evidence and maybe get more answers.