Chapter 51 -The Wrong Chase

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At this point, every waking hour in Frank’s life was consumed with the search for his mother and son, along with his constant maneuvers to avoid Lester Cummings. He felt like a man standing in the street, watching his house burn down. The possessions of a lifetime can be destroyed very quickly. In such a situation, a man can only pay attention to what’s worth risking his life over: his mother, his son, and his own survival.

The day after the truck robberies, Frank was settling into a room in his fourth motel in as many days, hearing all about the hijackings on Sugarland’s latest exclusive roadside report, when he got a call from his ex-wife in Florida.

“I’m coming out there.”

“That’s what you said before.”

“I can’t take this anxiety. It’s killing me. How do I know that our son isn’t dead already?”

“He’s in the news again today. Witnesses saw him alive this morning.” Frank didn’t want to divulge any more details, and fortunately she didn’t ask.

“That’s supposed to make me feel better? Even if he is alive, what kind of future can he hope for once they catch him? I’ve heard about these kids. Once he goes into the juvenile system, his life will be over! Your mother put him up to this. She kidnapped him and brainwashed him. She was always a bad influence, always an unstable woman. Before this is over, I’m going to get the best lawyer money can buy and make the case that Johnny was forced into all this by that insane mother of yours.”

“You don’t know exactly what’s happened, any more than I do. You’ve already made up your mind to blame my mom for everything. Don’t you even care about the truth?”

“That last thing I need to hear, Frank Valentine, is you lecturing me on the truth. When did you ever care about the truth?”

“I care about it now,” Frank said, seeing a familiar set of headlights pull into the parking lot outside his motel room. There was no time for another round of bickering. “Hopefully, something will break,” he finished, “and we’ll see Johnny again in the next couple days.”

Frank recognized the car he’d seen parked outside Millie’s house on Friday night. When the two husky men climbed out and walked toward his room, he had no time to escape. He was too worn down to think of how to dodge each new danger that came his way. They stood in his doorway, their thick bodies leaning against the flimsy motel walls.

“Can you show me some identification, please?” Frank asked, his voice cool and professional. “Are you federal agents? Or with the county sheriff, perhaps?”

“I’m Andrew Riggs,” the white man said. He pointed to his partner. “That’s Ernie Perez. We ain’t government. We’re private and we don’t have to show you nothing.”

“Well, if you’re not law enforcement, I think this parking lot is for motel guests only.”

Riggs grabbed Frank’s collar and pulled him inside the motel room, Riggs following behind him.

“Don’t get smart with me. I’ve done enough checking on you to know you’re a loser. You’re Stella Valentine’s son. I don’t think she’s acting on her own. I think it’s a family operation. Now, I don’t know what kind of sick type puts his mother and son out there doing armed robberies, but I have no doubt that’s what’s going on.”

“The police already took me in. They questioned me many times. If they think I am part of anything illegal, they’ll let me know.”

“Just because you can dupe them doesn’t mean we’re fooled,” Perez said, grabbing Frank by the throat. Frank bristled as he saw the look of pure hate in the man’s eyes. “You think I’m going to let your family get away with this?” Perez asked, pointing to the scar on his forehead where Silvia Torrez had hit him with the wine bottle.

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