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26

AT FOUR-TWENTY A.M., elements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the command of Field Agent Leonard Bradford, assisted by elements of the Warren County Sheriffs Department under the command of Sheriff Larch K. Dooley, and elements of the New Jersey State Police under the command of Sergeant Ambrose Rust, broke in the front door of the deserted farmhouse known as the Pootey place, Hezakiah Township, Lot 19, Block 47, and shouted, Hands up!

And found the place empty.

Agent Bradford, entering with the second wave, announced, Theyre in here someplace! Tear it apart.

They tore it apart. State troopers, sheriffs deputies, and Federal agents reported to Bradford in streams, and all of the reports were discouraging. There was no one in the building. A second-floor room, furnished for a child and locked from the outside, was empty. Air mattresses, blankets, food, folding chairs, and other indicators indicated that the fugitives actually had been in this buildingthus confirming the eyewitness report of Agent Wilson, who had peeked in and seen them all watching televisionbut they sure werent here now.

Nor, unfortunately, was there any way for them to have left. Every door and every window in the place was solidly boarded up, with the single exception of the front door, which had been under constant surveillance since late yesterday afternoon. There were no tunnels in the basement, no secret passages, no hidden rooms. They were not here, and it was not possible for them to have left.

And what made it worse, the radio trucks claimed they were still here. The three trucks were out roaming the world, triangulating and triangulating and triangulating, and every damn time the three lines crossed at the exact same spot on the map. This spot.

The gang wasnt here. The child wasnt here. The suitcase wasnt here. But the gang and the child could not have left, and the radio trucks insisted the suitcase was here.

By dawns early light, Agent Bradford stood on the sagging front porch and watched his demoralized men wandering around that field out there, looking for clues. Sergeant Ambrose Rust of the New Jersey State Police came out of the house, after one last head-scratching inspection, and said, Well, Mr. Bradford, what do we do now?

I dont know about you, Sergeant, Agent Bradford said, but Im going to start looking for somebody to pin this on.


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