Good advice, I thought, as Alicia kept talking. Roy had been sliced down within two hours of telling Emil never to have anything to do with the story of Victor or his family again. I myself could be sliced down if I continued writing A Secret Grave, which was all about Victor and his struggles as a healer who’d developed a fountain of youth type drug from remedies he’d found in an old family book. A book that had disappeared along with Victor and that everyone wanted. In that moment I knew for sure I had to quit.
Still clutching my hand, Alicia was telling me about Emil’s rendezvous with the kidnappers. Her eyes were so wide I could see she was reliving the whole thing. Emil had been instructed to go to a certain rest stop on I-35. This was after two phone calls, the first in which he told the kidnappers he’d received file rom1bk3 from Roy and would be happy to hand it over, and the second, a few hours later, in which he was told where to go and how to conduct himself. He was to be on his own, no cops if he ever wanted to see his little girl again. That was the biggest stipulation. He was to wear a red shirt and carry the envelope containing the thumb drive openly in his right hand. He was to deposit the envelope in the last stall of the left row of toilets in the men’s room. He was to leave immediately, no conversation with anyone, and go straight home. He would receive another call from the kidnappers soon after, when the information on the file had been verified. If everything was in order, he’d be told how and where to find Cecily Rose.
That was where they were now: waiting for that final, providential phone call. Emil had delivered the envelope containing the thumb drive the day before. He had not been alone, as stipulated by the kidnappers. Four FBI guys in unmarked cars had followed him. Scared out of his wits and feeling extremely vulnerable in his bright red shirt, he had entered the men’s room, his mouth so dry he could barely swallow. He told himself this would be over quickly and everything would go as planned, but he worried about the FBI guys who were somewhere behind him, that even though they looked inconspicuous in jeans and Dallas Cowboy hats, the kidnappers would spot them, ending his chances of ever seeing Cecily Rose again. The thought made him sick. He forced himself to move his legs and focus. The men’s room was just ahead.