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Chapter 39

THERE WAS AN unimpeded view of the empty wheelchair from the window of Columbia s Department of Public Safety. Standing at the window, staring at the chair, Jesse Acevedo, the Campus Security chief, seemed incapable of doing anything except shaking his head.

Thats going to be the cover of the Post, he said, more to himself than to anyone else. I mean, thats my job, right? A handicapped student gets snatched on campus? Oh, Im sorry, the handicapped son of one of the worlds most powerful men. My daughter goes here. Once Im out, no more staff scholarship. What the hell am I going to do?

I felt bad for the guy. I knew full well the kind of bullshit blame hed be getting. But I didnt have the time to sympathize.

Tell us about the tunnels again, I said.

Shit, Im sorry, he said, coming back to his desk. When his phone rang, he lifted the receiver and clicked it back in its cradle. When it rang again, he unclipped the phone cord from the back of it.

The tunnels, he said after a deep breath. Right. The tunnels connect some of the campus buildings. Lewisohn, the one next to where we found the empty chair, has tunnels that go to Havemeyer, Math, and the Miller Theater. Theres another, older one that actually goes under Broadway to one of the Barnard College buildings on the other side of Broadway.

Reid Hall. I know, I said.

Wed already found that the basement door in that building had been propped open. John Cleary and his CSU team were there now, going over every square inch of the basement with an evidence vacuum and Q-tips. The killer must have gotten in and taken the kid out through there.

Who else knows about the tunnels? Emily said.

Students, maintenance, faculty, he said. We blocked off some of them, but the kids still use them as shortcuts sometimes. Like hotels, every campus has its ghost stories, and the tunnels figure in a lot of the urban legends that get told around here.

I kept thinking about the kidnappers cultured, educated voice. He most definitely could have been an Ivy League academic.

One more question, I said. Has a teacher ever been caught down there?

I dont know, Acevedo said. Ill look into it and let you know. Or at least Ill leave a note for my replacement.

Im actually starting to respect this nut, Emily said as we headed down the stairs. Ive never seen someone so prolific. This guy is a gold-medal-winning kidnapper.

Emily ducked into the cafeteria on the ground floor of the building and came back with two coffees. This morning, she was wearing a form-fitting French Blue blouse and navy skirt. Her hair was still wet. I liked that she wore hardly any makeup. The way she did a cute earlobe-tugging thing when she was thinking, and especially the spark that flashed in her blue eyes when she was fired up.

Now what? Emily said. Head over to Hastings s dorm? The library where he was last seen?

Nah, I said. We better head to the family. Im expecting a call from our friend.

Chapter 38 | Worst Case | Chapter 40