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Caught

Chapter 19

   



FRANK TREMONT AND MICKEY WALKER followed Stanton down the corridor. "Hester Crimstein is an amoral shark with scruples that would shame a street hooker," Walker said to him.
"You know all that incompetency stuff was just to throw us off our game."
"Uh-huh."
"You've been all over this case. You've done more than anyone could."
"Right."
"So have the FBI and the big-time profilers and your entire office. Nobody could have foreseen this."
"Mickey?"
"Yeah."
"If I need to get stroked," Frank said, "I'll find someone a lot hotter and more feminine than you, okay?"
"Yeah, okay."
Stanton led them to a corner room in the basement where the tech guys hung out. Haley McWaid's iPhone was plugged into a computer. Stanton pointed at the screen. "This is basically her cell phone blown up for you to see on this bigger monitor."
"Okay," Frank Tremont said. "So what's up?"
"I found something in an app."
"A what?"
"An app. A phone application."
Tremont hoisted up his pants by the belt. "Pretend I'm an old fossil who still can't program his Betamax."
Stanton pressed a button. The screen turned black with small icons neatly aligned in three rows. "These are apps for the iPhone. See, she had iCal, which is where Haley kept her appointments, like lacrosse games and homework, on a calendar; Tetris-that's a game, and so is Moto Chaser; Safari is her Web browser; iTunes so she could download songs. Haley loves music. There's this other music app program called Shazam. It-"
"I think we get the gist," Walker said.
"Right, sorry."
Frank stared at Haley's iPhone. What song, he wondered, had she listened to last? Did she like faster rock or heartbreaking ballads? Typical old fart, Frank had made fun of these devices, kids texting and e-mailing and walking around with earbuds, but in a sense, the device was a life. Her friends would be listed in her address book, her school schedule in the calendar, her favorite songs in some playlist, photos that made her smile-like the one taken with Mickey Mouse-in her photo file.
Hester Crimstein's accusation was there. True, Dan Mercer had no history of violence or rape, seemed to be into girls younger than this, and really, the fact that his ex-wife lived in the same large town was hardly a big warning sign. But Crimstein's words about incompetence hammered him, and in them, Frank feared that he heard the echo of a truth.
He should have seen it.
"Anyway," Stanton said, "I don't mean to go into too much detail, but this is a little weird. Haley downloaded a bunch of songs like every teenager, but none since her disappearance. Same with surfing the Web. I mean, you know every place she visited on her iPhone because you got the server to show you. So what I saw in the browser won't surprise you much. She had done some searches on University of Virginia-I guess she was bummed that she didn't get in, right?"
"Right."
"So there was also a search for some girl named Lynn Jalowski, who's from West Orange, a lacrosse player who got into UVA, so I guess maybe she was looking up a rival."
"We know all this," Frank said.
"Right, the server-so you also know about the instant messages, the texts, stuff like that, though I have to say, Haley did a lot less of it than most of her friends. But see, there's a separate app we didn't really know about for Google Earth. You probably know what that is."
"Humor me," Frank said.
"Watch this. It's basically a built-in GPS feature."
Stanton picked up Haley's iPhone and tapped a picture of the earth. The giant globe spun and then the satellite camera zoomed down, the planet growing bigger-first the United States, then the East Coast, then down to New Jersey-until it stopped about a hundred yards above the building where they now stood. It read: "50 W Market Street, Newark, NJ."
Frank's jaw dropped. "Will this tell you everyplace this iPhone went?"
"I wish," Stanton said. "No. You have to turn the feature on. Haley didn't. But you can look up any address or place and see a satellite photo of it on the map. Anyway, I'm having some experts figure out exactly why, but I guess Google Earth is self-contained so you never saw her searches on the server. The history also can't tell when a search was made, just that it was and where."
"And Haley looked up places?"
"Only two since she downloaded the app."
"Well?"
"One was her own home. My guess is, when she first downloaded it, she turned it on and it showed where she was. So that really doesn't count."
"And the other?"
Stanton clicked and the giant Google Earth globe spun again. They watched it zoom in on New Jersey again. It stopped in a wooded area with one building in the middle.
"Ringwood State Park," Stanton announced. "It's about forty miles away from here. The heart of the Ramapo Mountains. That building is the Skylands Manor in the middle of the park. It's surrounded by at least five thousand acres of woods."
There was a second, maybe two, of silence. Frank could feel his heart beating in his chest. He looked at Walker. No words were exchanged. They knew. When something like this lands in your lap, you just know. The park was pretty big. Frank remembered a few years ago when some survivalist had hidden in the surrounding woods for more than a month. You could build a small lodging, hide it under trees and bush, lock someone up there.
Or, of course, you could bury someone where they'd never be found.
Tremont was the first to check the time. Midnight. Hours more of darkness. Panic set in. He quickly called Jenna Wheeler. If she didn't answer, he'd drive his car through her front door to get the answer.
"Hello?"
"Dan liked to hike, didn't he?"
"Right."
"Any favorite spots?"
"I know he used to like the trail in Watchung."
"How about Ringwood State Park?"
Silence.
"Jenna?"
A moment passed before she spoke.
"Yeah," she said, her voice faraway. "I mean, years ago, when we were married, we used to take the Cupsaw Brook Loop up there all the time."
"Get dressed. I'll have a car pick you up." Frank Tremont hung up and turned to Walker and Stanton. "Helicopters, dogs, bulldozers, lights, shovels, rescue squads, park rangers, every available man, local volunteers. Let's get moving."
Walker and Stanton both nodded.
Frank Tremont flipped open his phone again. He took a deep breath, felt the punch from Hester Crimstein's earlier words, and then he dialed Ted and Marcia McWaid.
AT FIVE AM, Wendy was jarred awake by the phone. She had only fallen asleep two hours earlier. She had stayed up and surfed and started to put things together. Nothing on Kelvin Tilfer. Was he the exception that proved the rule? She didn't know yet. But the more she surfed the other four-the further she dug into their histories-the stranger the Princeton suitemate scandals became.
Wendy reached blindly for the phone and croaked out a hello.
Vic skipped the niceties. "Do you know Ringwood State Park?"
"No."
"It's in Ringwood."
"You must have been an insightful reporter, Vic."
"Get up there."
"Why?"
"That's where cops are looking for that girl's body."
She sat up. "Haley McWaid's?"
"Yep. They think Mercer dumped her in the woods."
"What pointed them in that direction?"
"My source said something about Google Earth on her iPhone. I'll get a camera crew to meet you."
"Vic?"
"What?"
Wendy put her hand through her hair, tried to quiet her racing mind. "I don't know if I have the stomach for this one."
"Boo-friggin'-hoo. Get moving."
He hung up. Wendy got out of bed, showered, and dressed. She had her TV makeup case always at the ready, which was pretty sick when you thought about where she was headed. Welcome to the world of television news. As Vic had so poetically put it, boo-friggin'-hoo.
She walked past Charlie's room. It was a wreck, yesterday's shirt and shorts balled up on the floor. When you lose a husband, you learn not to waste time on stuff like that. She looked past it, at her sleeping son, and thought about Marcia McWaid. Marcia had woken up like this, looked into her child's room like this, and found the bed empty. Now, three months later, Marcia McWaid was waiting for word as law enforcement officers scoured a state park for her missing daughter.
That was what people like Ariana Nasbro didn't quite get. The fragility of it all. The ripples one horror can unleash. How any carelessness can plummet you down that pit of despair. How it can all be irreparable.
Yet again, Wendy said the silent prayer of every parent: Don't let anything harm him. Please just keep him safe.
Then she got into her car and drove to the state park where the police were searching for the girl who hadn't been in that bed in the morning.