Darkest Fear Page 26

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, at some time she must see people she doesn’t know—otherwise she’d never meet anybody new. And if we follow my logic, how did you ever get to see her for the first time? She was willing to see you before she knew you, right?”

“I’m hanging up now, Mr. Bolitar.”

“Tell her I know about Dennis.”

“I just—”

“Tell her if she doesn’t agree to see me, I’ll go to the press.”

Silence. “Hold.” A click and then the Muzak came back on. Time passed. So, mercifully, did “Time Passages,” replaced by the Alan Parsons Project’s “Time.” Myron nearly slipped into a coma.

Battle-ax returned. “Mr. Bolitar?”

“Yes?”

“Ms. Lex will give you five minutes of her time. I have an opening on the fifteenth of next month.”

“No good,” Myron said. “It has to be today.”

“Ms. Lex is a very busy woman.”

“Today,” Myron said.

“That simply will not be possible.”

“At eleven. If I’m not let in, I go immediately to the press.”

“You’re being terribly rude, Mr. Bolitar.”

“To the press,” Myron repeated. “Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Will you be there?”

“What possible difference could that make?”

“All this sexual tension is driving me batty. Maybe afterward we could get together for a nice cool latte.”

He heard the phone go click and smiled. The charm, he thought. It’s baaaaack.

Esperanza buzzed in. “Topless tennis, anyone?”

“What?”

“I got Suzze T on line one.”

He hit a button. “Hey, Suzze.”

“Hey, Myron, what’s shaking?”

“I got an offer for you to refuse.”

“You mean you’re going to hit on me?”

The charm suffers a setback. “Where are you going to be this afternoon?”

“Same place as now,” she said. “The Morning Mosh. You know it?”

“No.”

She gave him the address, and Myron agreed to meet her there in a few hours. He hung up the phone and leaned back.

“ ‘Sow the seeds,’ ” he said out loud.

He stared at the wall. An hour to kill before he headed over to the Lex Building on Fifth Avenue. He could sit here and think about life and maybe contemplate his navel. No, too much of that already. He swiveled his seat to the computer, double-clicked the proper icon, connected to the Net. He tried Yahoo first and typed sow the seeds into the search field. Only one hit: a Web site for the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners. They went by the acronym SLUG. Tough guys probably. A gang. Probably wore green bandannas and engaged in drive-by waterings.

He tried Alta Vista’s search engine next, but they listed 2,501 Web pages. It was kinda like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Yahoo’s search was toooo small. Alta Vista’s was toooo big. They didn’t have LEXIS-NEXIS at the office, but Myron tried a less powerful media engine. He typed in the same three words and pressed the return key, and bammo.

http://vwvw.nyherald.com/archives/9800322

Myron hit the link and the article came up:

New York Herald

THE MIND OF TERROR—YOUR DARKEST FEAR

by Stan Gibbs

Whoa, hold the phone. Myron knew the name. Stan Gibbs had been a big-time newspaper columnist, the kind of guy who regularly pontificated (read: pimped) on the cable news talk shows, though he’d been less annoying than most, which is like saying syphilis is less annoying than gonorrhea. But that had all been before the scandal gutted him like Ted Nugent over a fallen moose. Myron read:

The phone call comes out of the blue.

“What is your darkest fear?” the voice whispers. “Close your eyes now and picture it. Can you see it? Do you have it yet? The very worst agony you can imagine?”

After a long pause, I say, “Yes.”

“Good. Now imagine something worse, something far, far worse …”

Myron took a deep breath. He remembered the series of articles. Stan Gibbs had broken a story about a bizarre kidnapper. He’d told the heart-wrenching tale of three abductions that the police had supposedly wanted to keep quiet, out of, Stan Gibbs claimed, embarrassment. No names were mentioned. He had spoken with the families under the condition of anonymity. And, the coup de grâce, the kidnapper had granted Gibbs access:

I ask the kidnapper why he does it. Is it for the ransom?

“I never pick up the ransom money,” he says. “I usually leave explosives at the spot and burn it. But sometimes money helps me sow the seeds. That is what I’m trying to do. Sow the seeds.”

Myron felt his blood stop.

“You all think you’re safe,” he continues, “in your technological cocoon. But you’re not. Technology has made us expect easy answers and happy endings. But with me, there is no answer and there is no end.”

He has kidnapped at least four people: the father of two young children, age 41; a female college student, age 20; and a young couple, newlyweds ages 28 and 27. All were abducted while in the New York City area.

“The idea,” he says, “is to keep the terror going. Let it grow, not with gore or obvious bloodletting, but with your own imagination. Technology is trying to destroy our ability to imagine. But when someone you love is taken away, your mind can conjure up horrors darker than any machine—than anything even I can do. Some minds won’t go that far. Some minds stop and put up a barrier. My job is to push them through that barrier.”

I ask him how he does that.

“Sow the seeds,” he repeats. “You sow the seeds over time.”

He explains that sowing the seeds means giving hope and taking it away over a sustained period of time. His first call to the victim’s family is naturally devastating, but merely the beginning of a long and torturous ordeal.

He begins the call, he claims, with a normal hello and asks the family member to please hold. After a pause, the family member hears their loved one give a blood-curdling shriek. “Just one,” he says, “and it’s very short. I cut them off in mid-scream.

“This is the last they’ll ever hear from their loved one,” he continues. “Imagine how that scream echoes.”

But for the victim’s family, it does not end there. He demands a ransom that he has no intention of claiming. He calls after midnight and asks the family to imagine their darkest fear. He convinces them that this time, he will really let their loved one go, but he is only extending hope to those who no longer have it, rekindling their agony.

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