Two weeks later, I was back in the deserted warehouse. I had finally gotten the sling off. It was good to work again, and my mind was as actively working as my hands.
Robert wandered in from his adjoining office. “Hi, Rosanna . . . what are you doing?”
I looked up from a piece of paper covered with my scribbled writing. My brow was creased, and I was chewing my lip as I struggled to think. “I’m trying to work on this assignment, but I can’t figure it out!” I threw my pencil down in frustration.
“Don’t you have any leads on Braxton’s whereabouts?”
“Well, I thought I did, but I checked them out.” I sighed and turned to face Robert. “There was nothing. All I know is the men that robbed the Washington Bank were definitely his men.”
Robert tried to cheer me up. “Wasn’t watching Chris crawl around funny?” Chris was tall, tough, and arrogant. At 6’2”, he had almost as much trouble fitting in small places as Robert. It had indeed been funny to see him scooting around on his stomach. But I was so frustrated, I couldn’t laugh.
Robert could see I was upset, so he quieted, and simply held my hand, gently rubbing my tense fingers. “Rosanna, I’m sure something will come up.”
“But what if it doesn’t?” I pulled my hand away. “You know I’ve been working on this case for months. Leader will think I’m slipping.”
“No, he won’t. He knows what a good agent you are, and he also knows that Braxton is tricky.”
“I know, but-”
Suddenly Will Parker, the communications officer, rushed in. He was a younger fellow, and every spy in Liberty was used to his peculiar entrances.
“Rosanna, Barbara Till is on the field right now, and she sent this,” he said excitedly, handing me a sheet of paper as he pushed a lock of his unruly tawny hair out of his eyes. I scanned it and, seeing Robert’s attempt to read it over my shoulder without me noticing, handed it to him.
He read it aloud: “Rosanna, I found a clue near the alley where you were ambushed. I have to continue on, but the clue is there and untouched. Barbara.”
Robert studied the note and then looked at me. “I think you’d better go. Barbara’s not one to get excited easily, but she’s really excited now. It must be something important.”
“That’s what I was thinking. I’d better go,” I said.
I was walking out the door when Robert caught up to me. “Wait a minute! What do you think you’re doing?”
I stared at him. “Um . . . I’m going to look for clues. What does it look like I’m doing?”
He shook his head. “Not without me you’re not,” he said firmly.
I opened to my mouth to protest and saw a stubborn look flit over his face and land there. So, I smiled instead. “Come on, then. Time’s wasting.”
Fifteen minutes later we parked near the alley. We had decided to walk the last two blocks to prevent unwanted attention, so we got out of the car.
Entering the dim alleyway, I began to scan the walls, ground, and boxes littering the alley. “Hmm . . . I don’t really see anything . . . Wait! Robert, what’s that?” I pointed to a scrap of paper three feet to Robert’s left as I spoke. He picked it up and handed it to me.
I struggled to read the scribbled writing on the muddy, water-stained paper. “Robert, what do you make of this? Here,” I handed him the paper and let him read the confusing letters, now blurred by water and dirt.
1486 GTYJI WGQY
He returned the scrap to me and I began searching the alley again. “Well? What do you think?” I asked, dropping to my knees to search behind some old, collapsing cardboard boxes.
“I don’t know. I . . .”
Robert broke off his sentence.
After a few seconds of silence, I wondered what he was doing. “What’d you say?” I asked. When he didn’t answer, I turned to look at him, question in my royal blue eyes. “Robert?”
He was gone!
“Robert!” I called his name loudly several times, but there was no answer.
I walked to the end of the alley and looked in the direction of the car. I didn’t see him. I checked around the corner at the other end of the alley. He wasn’t there.
Then I saw it. Robert’s gun was lying in the dirt not far from where he had been standing.
A sickening feeling came over me as I reached for it. Robert never let his gun out of his sight when he was doing field work.
“Something terrible must have happened!” I whispered frantically.
I searched the alley twice, looking for signs of a struggle, which I had not been looking for in the minutes before. I found them. Someone had grabbed Robert and dragged him around the corner. I followed the tracks and found a white handkerchief. I picked it up to examine it.
“It looks ordinary enough,” I said aloud. I examined the kerchief and found it to be perfectly ordinary. There was no writing, strange marks, or rips on it. Carefully I sniffed it.
After I recovered from the coughing fit that came over me, I gasped, “Chloroform! That’s how they got him out of here so quietly.” The strong drug had been liberally poured over the white cotton of the handkerchief. If the slightest whiff of it had set me coughing, what could it have done to poor Robert?
I sat back on my heels, and looked around for more clues. There were none.
I grabbed my cell phone. Without a doubt, Robert had been kidnapped. With shaking hands I dialed Leader’s number. He answered quickly.
“Leader, it’s Rosanna.”
“Rosanna,” he asked with surprise in his voice, “is everything all right?”
I took a deep breath and tried to answer calmly. “No. I have every reason to believe that Robert has been kidnapped!” By the end of my statement, even I could hear the panic in my voice. So much for being calm and cool, I thought.
On the other hand, Leader sounded a lot like how I was feeling. “What- what did you say?”
All I said was, “Yes. He came with me to check on a lead and now he’s gone! I found tracks around a corner that showed that he had been dragged there, and there was a handkerchief on the ground. It was covered with chloroform.”
“Ouch. That doesn’t sound too good.”
“It didn’t look too good, either.”
I gave Leader all of the facts, and told him the story from the beginning, including every detail. I, as every other good spy, knew that the smallest detail could be of great importance.
Leader seemed convinced. “I’ll be right over. I’ll bring a few of the boys with me. Go to your car and stay there until we arrive. We don’t need you kidnapped as well. Where are you?”
I gave him the directions and hung up. Now I could only wait. Fear crept over me again.
Who would want to kidnap Robert?