“Sinclair,” Clisty spoke into her cell. “What?” she gasped. “Okay. We’re on our way.”
Jake touched his phone screen. “Okay. Call SWAT,” he said and turned to Clisty. “Sorry Babe. Gotta run.”
“Me too.” She folded her napkin. “That was the station, Becca. A news crew will meet us at 606 North—“
“Gramercy,” Jake finished.
“Yes, how did—?”
“What’s happening?” Becca pulled on her coat.
Clisty looked at Pooky who sat at the serving counter. She nodded to Sharon. “Can Pooky stay here and wait for her mother?” She gave the child a hug.
“Did you say, Gramercy?” the eight-year-old asked.
“We were at a man’s house on Gramercy,” she said with wide eyes. “Is Mama there?”
“What man?” Jake asked.
“The man who brought us here.”
“What did he look like, Honey?” he asked.
“He was tall and had a rough face.” She sipped her drink. “He had on a dark blue sweatshirt.”
Clisty looked from Jake to Becca. Fear stabbed her as she remembered the suspect in the bank robbery. Although missing for eighteen years, Faith could be that woman. “I want you to stay here, Pooky. Have you had supper?”
The eight-year-old looked up, “Sure. My cocoa.”
“What else?” Clisty asked.
“Nothing,” she whispered.
“Okay, Sweetheart. Miss Sharon can give you something hot.”
“How about some creamy macaroni and cheese from the lunch special?” Sharon asked.
“That would be great,” Clisty said. “I’ll pay you later.” She started for the door. “Oh, and keep her away from the news channel.” She raised her eyebrows in emphasis.
Pooky hopped down from the stool and took Clisty’s hand. “Let me come with you. Mama’s there. I know she is.”
“You need to stay and help Miss Sharon. I’ll bet she has some jobs for you.”
“Sure,” Sharon drew out slowly. “You could wipe off the tables and I’ll turn on the cartoon channel.”
“That would be great,” Clisty said as she hurried out the door. Outside, they started back to her parents’ home for their cars.
“We need to hurry,” Jake urged.
“Wait for me,” Becca called out from behind. “Where are we going? It’ll be a remote broadcast. I’ll need to prepare.”
“There’s a standoff between a gunman and police over on North Gramercy,” Clisty explained. “There’s a female hostage. As information comes in, they’ll feed it to us on location.”
They slipped on the late season ice as they grabbed their car door handles and hopped in. “Follow me,” Jake called out his car window as he made a U-turn in the middle of the street. “I’ll lead the way with full lights and siren. Stay close behind me.”
“Be careful,” Clisty cautioned.
“You too, Babe.”
As Jake reached out and placed the flashing lights on the roof, Clisty pulled her car in behind his and revved the engine. They flew past Sutton Place, Riverside and two other cross-streets until they came to Gramercy, about a half mile from the Coffee Emporium.
She slammed her foot on the brake and stopped in the middle of the street at the barricade. Clisty jumped out and reached for the microphone. Flattened early crocuses, bitten by the late snow and trampled by the television crew, were under her feet. She trembled, fearing the same outcome, but tried to stay professional.
With the ear piece placed in her ear, she stepped in front of the lens. “We’re here in the middle of the six-hundred block of North Gramercy. All residences in the area—stay inside. I repeat—stay inside. If you are traveling, take Randolph Highway rather than North Gramercy and avoid this area. We have just arrived on the scene. We’ve been told that an armed gunman is holding a woman hostage.” She motioned to a man who stood at the edge of the cordoned area. “Sir, tell us your name and what you saw?”
The middle-aged man cleared his throat. “I ... ah,” the man’s voice was shaky. “The name’s Phil. I saw a rumpled man in a dark blue hoody pull a young woman out of an old truck and force her to walk into that house there at 606. I know I saw a hand-gun.”
Clisty repositioned the mic. “Do you know if the man has been living in the house for very long?”
“The house had been for rent. I saw him last week a couple of times,” he answered, his gaze still fixed on the house.
Clisty could feel panic grip her. Her palms felt sweaty inside her gloves and her stomach rolled and fell. “Did you see a young girl?”
“Right ... now that you ask, I do remember seeing a child when they first showed up. Not after that. Come to think of it, hardly the woman either, until late this afternoon.”
“So, you saw the woman when they first arrived and then today?”
“I stopped over there about 4 pm with a pie my misses had made to greet them to the neighborhood and the woman answered the door. I said, ‘Hello Mrs. ...’ I thought she might fill in the last name, but she shook her head. She said he had only given them a ride to Fort Wayne. She started to say more but the man came up behind her. He started screaming at her. She slipped me an envelope before he slammed the door closed. She pointed to your name and TV station written on the outside.”
“You brought it?” Clisty asked.
She heard an interruption behind her. “There, that’s it.” She turned as Pooky fell into her arms and held on tightly. “My Mama’s in there,” the girl sobbed.
“I am so sorry,” Sharon gasped breathlessly. “She got away from me.”
Still on camera, Clisty clung to the girl, in spite of Becca’s direction to release her. “I’m holding a child I believe to be the hostage’s daughter.” She looked directly into the light. “She is safe with me.” Her thoughts raced but she tried to stay calm. She hoped that those inside had a TV on. “Now, I’m talking to the man in the house.” She smiled at Pooky. “The woman means nothing to you. You just gave her a ride home. I’m sure Faith is very grateful for your kindness. You can let her go now.”
Jake stepped in front of the camera. “If you’re watching, the bank teller is alive. Don’t make things worse for yourself. Release the woman and we can help you make things right.”
Clisty tried not to think of the danger Faith was in. She willed herself to sound calm. “Please, let her go. All little girls need their mother.” She looked anxiously at the house but there was no movement. Suddenly, a car slid to a stop near the barricade. Faith’s parents jumped out.
Clisty’s eyes filled with tears as the Sterlings approached their granddaughter for the first time. “Ralph and Roma Sterling,” she whispered, “this is Pooky. I believe she’s your granddaughter.”
They wrapped their arms around the child and sobbed. Silence fell like a warm presence as police and television crew looked on. The new grandmother looked at the house and whispered, “Please. Give her back.”
The front door opened slowly but no lights were on. Darkness was everywhere. “Hold your fire. She’s coming out,” Jake shouted with a calm and steady voice.
With shaking hands held high, Faith Sterling slowly emerged, with a dark figure close behind, his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t shoot,” she shouted. “He wants to surrender.”
A police woman took a few steps forward and stopped. Clisty whispered into the microphone. “She seems to be attempting a safe transfer.”
“Let the woman step away from you,” Jake announced into a bullhorn. “Lay down on the ground with your hands behind your head.”
The next events happened so fast, Clisty couldn’t breathe. The man fell onto the cold, wet ground. Officers wrapped his wrists in handcuffs. Her dear friend, Faith, ran forward and embraced all those who had waited eighteen years for her to come home. She sobbed as she grabbed Pooky and fell into her parents’ arms.
Clisty whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and praise as she wiped tears from her face. Rebecca and all those around were visibly unable to fight back their own emotions.
Faith reached out to Clisty and cried in her arms. “I knew you’d find me if I could get here.”
Clisty looked into the camera but, no matter how hard she tried, words would not come. Finally, she whispered, “My friend Faith was kidnapped eighteen years ago. Finally ... praise God, she has come home.” She hugged her and beamed. “This has been news of a true miracle in Fort Wayne ... to be seen at eleven.”