“Nigel, can we take a minute and see if the clues add up to anything? I keep revisiting your idea that the manner he’s dropped them has meaning and it’s teasing my brain; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it matters. I know it, I feel it. There’s a connection here somewhere!”
“Ok.” Sighing, June continued, “Notebook, footprint, unknown man.”
“The notebook outlines the fun and sights they were seeing and is standard for Roland typical of him. The additions in the margins are unusual and have significance because they aren’t in his handwriting. The boot print belongs to Roland (although no one else would realize the significance and lets us know we’re on the right track. It also tells me that whoever they’re with has limited knowledge of Roland.”
Nigel pulled out a map for June and said, “Well damn, I didn’t notice that before.”
“What?” June was mystified.
“Look toward the middle at the top of the map.”
“Yeah, facing the same direction as the cut out in the boot print.”
“You think it might be significant?”
“That section is riddled with caves and years ago, a barrage of panhandlers came through hoping to find treasure,” pointing at the map he continued, “there are dozens of abandoned sites they used to camp out in.”
“It would make for a great hideout,” June conceded.
“While we’re being straight here,” June paused momentarily, “how good are you at negotiation?” She paused again before adding, “Do you think we’ll have a chance to negotiate, get them out safely?”
Nigel looked directly into June’s eyes. He knew she needed the truth. “I’m a damn good negotiator but ultimately it depends on the captor’s agenda and whether the motive involves money or revenge.”
“While paid thugs may not be willing to risk incarceration injury or death on someone else’s behalf, the ring leader(s) might be a different story.”
June sighed heavily, “From the beginning, I’ve felt antsy about this whole thing and an accident or injury didn’t cut it for me because I know one of them would have gone for help.”
When she paused, Nigel waited her out before asking, “And?”
“I can’t shake the feeling Jackson is the intended target and it doesn’t lessen my fears for Roland since that makes him dispensable.”
“The items I firmly believe Roland is leaving as clues suggest that whoever currently has them, doesn’t know them well. If nothing else, it could be used as proof of life.” Nigel wasn’t pulling any punches.
“It’s a huge area and the likelihood we’de find any of the clues left behind is staggering,” June admitted, “but knowing Roland, he’d do it anyway.”
“They have to know a search party would be involved sooner or later. I would guess that’s why that miscreant made an appearance, I’m just not sure whether it was a warning bravado or a threat.”