THE WIND AND my heart rate both picked up as Hastings finally exited his car on Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. I tracked the harried-looking father through the stark cement courtyard with a pair of high-power Nikon binoculars.
“Be advised,” crackled the voice of a member of one of the surveillance teams over the radio. “Male black in a brown leather jacket is approaching from the south.”
Agent Parker and I scurried over to the southeast corner of the roof. Directly below our vantage point, a young, bald black man wearing sunglasses was moving through the southern parking lot, making a beeline for Hastings.
He called out as Hastings was entering the courtyard’s amphitheater. I turned up the other radio, which was tuned to Hastings ’s body mic.
“Over here,” the man was saying.
Hastings stopped. He stood, breathing loudly, both hands now clutching the suitcase as the man approached.
“Where is Danny?” he said. “Where’s my son?”
Ignoring him, the man took an already opened cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to Hastings.
Even without the binoculars, I probably could have detected the happiness that flashed across the father’s face a second later.
“Oh, Danny!” he said, beginning to cry. “It’s you! My God, I thought you were dead. Are you all right? Are you in pain?”
I felt a short jolt of relief as I exchanged a surprised look with Emily. Our abductor had slaughtered his first two victims pretty much outright. The fact that Dan Hastings still seemed to be alive was a very welcome sudden change of MO.
“I’m going to get you back now, Danny,” the mogul said. “I’m going to do what they say. You’re going to make it back home to me. I-”
The mogul’s joyful expression fled as suddenly as it had appeared. The kidnapper must have gotten on the line. It was extremely frustrating not being able to hear both sides of the conversation.
“Yes, of course I have the money,” Hastings said. “But you won’t get one penny until my son is released.”
We watched helplessly as Hastings listened to something the kidnapper was saying.
“Look where? At the phone?” Hastings finally said.
The mogul lifted the phone off his ear and looked at its screen.
What was happening now? Was he being shown a picture? A live video feed?
“Does anyone have a view of the phone? What’s he looking at?” I called into the surveillance radio.
“It’s someone in a wheelchair maybe,” one of the HRT snipers cut in. “I can barely make it out.”
“Okay, okay, good,” Hastings said finally. He pushed the money at the man with the phone.
Whatever Hastings had seen had obviously convinced him that they were releasing his son. I wasn’t there yet.
“Take it now. It’s all there. It’s yours,” Hastings said. “I’ve done what you said. Now let Danny go.”