Mystery & Crime

THE EXCHANGE

By

This book will launch on Feb 8, 2021. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Dylan Thomas is a former Maine State Police officer who obtained a private investigator license to support himself while attending law school at the University of Maine in Portland. He receives a phone call from his sister, Caitlin, telling him that her youngest daughter, Sandra, has gone missing.

Caitlin's husband, Oreille Dufore, is the wealthy heir to a large Maine logging and land development corporation. Dylan's relationship with his brother-in-law has been strained at best. However, in times of crisis Dylan knows that a family must stick together.

Dylan's investigation reveals that an itinerant handyman, Felicien Paradis, and his girlfriend, Claudette Beaupre, have taken the child with the intention of selling her in an adoption for money scheme.

Dylan follows the abductors from northern Maine through central Maine and ultimately to Boston. In Boston he gets assistance from Boston Police Detective Shawna O'Reilly where they learn of an organization called The Child Exchange. The Exchange specializes in obtaining young children for an exclusive and wealthy clientele who are rich enough to circumvent the legal adoption process. As time runs out, Dylan and Shawna turn up the heat on disreputable lawyers and some of Boston's hardest criminals.

Adoption today has become a business that sells children as commodities with a disregard for children’s human rights and with the moral indignity of selling children to meet the need of some adults to parent and others merely to make money. ~ Kenneth J. Herrmann, Jr., Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, SUNY

 

It is illegal in every state for an adoption that requires exorbitant amounts of money be paid upfront to go forward, specifically if the money must be paid either directly to the birth mother or to a third party or agency acting as a go-between. Any requests for large sums of money in this manner is an excellent sign that the adoption is a scam or other type of illegal activity. This illegal adoption itself will probably not be legally recognized even if it is completed. ~ family-law.freeadvice.com/family-law/adoption_law/illegal_adoption.htm



 

Saturday: Day One

When Dylan Thomas walked onto his deck at four in the morning the thermometer read thirty below zero and steam spiraled from the hot coffee in his mug. The moon had not set and rested on the horizon as it awaited the rising sun. The wind blew snow across the icy surface of the lake and sent an involuntary chill through him. He finished off his coffee and said, “It’s going to be nice day to stay in the ice fishing shack.” His telephone rang breaking his reverie. The phone rang again and he thought, Nothing good comes from a phone call at four a.m. He returned to the warmth of his cabin, picked up the telephone, and said, “this is Dylan.”

He was surprised to hear his sister Caitlin say, “Dylan I…we need your help.”

Thomas immediately knew that whatever his sister needed was serious—serious enough for Caitlin to call him at this hour. If there was anything his baby sister was not, it was an early riser, nor was she compulsive enough to call about something not requiring immediate action. “Calm down, Caitlin what is wrong?”

“Sandy is missing and the police think we have done something to her. They’ve taken Aurel (she pronounced her husband’s name Or-ell in the French way) and won’t tell me where. You have to help us.”

“Sandy…little Sandra?” Dylan almost dropped his phone. “Your daughter has gone missing?”

“Yes. She disappeared from her bedroom two days ago.”

“And you didn’t call me then!”

When there was no response from Caitlin other than the sound of her soft sobs, Dylan took a deep breath. The last thing Caitlin needed at that moment was for him to point out any mistakes she had made. When his momentary anger subsided, he asked, “Have they given any indication why they think you and Aurel have done something?”

“They haven’t actually said anything. But the way they are talking and acting scares me. Should we tell them we want to call a lawyer?”

“Caitlin, you have, I’m your lawyer.”

Her relief was obvious when she said, “So you will come?”

“Are you at home?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll be there in less than an hour.”

“That soon, aren’t you at home in Gray?”

“No, I’m at my camp on Cross Lake. I came up for a few days of ice fishing. I know you’re upset, but listen to me carefully. Do not go anywhere with the police until I get there and more importantly don’t say anything to them until I get there,”

“I know, say nothing to them. But what if they ask me questions?”

“You tell them that under advice of your lawyer, you won’t answer any questions until he arrives.”

“All right.”

“I’m on my way…”

When she said, “Please hurry,” Dylan thought she sounded like a frightened child.

“Caitlin, I won’t get there if you keep me on the phone.”

__________________

It took Dylan fifteen minutes to close up the cabin and get on the road. He maneuvered his F-150 Lariat 4X4 along the icy surface of the private unpaved road that circumvented the north shore of the lake, connecting his cottage to State Route 161. It took all of his concentration to keep his wheels aligned with the frozen ruts created by the sparse traffic that used the unpaved country lane. Several times he almost lost control, barely avoiding jumping the road, plowing through the towering snowbank that lined the road, and crashing into the dense woods beyond.

His headlights cut through the predawn blackness. It had been a long, cold winter, not like there was any other type in Maine’s northernmost county, he thought, and it wasn’t even half over yet. It was early February and even though the calendar said spring was six weeks away, residents of Aroostook County knew there would be at least ten more weeks of cold weather before they would see leaves on the deciduous trees. Whoever it was that described the climate of Maine’s northernmost county as nine months of winter and three months to get ready for it had nailed it. He saw the red stop sign in his high beams and started slowing as he approached the intersection with route 161. He eased the nose of his truck onto the paved road in order to see beyond the eight foot high snowbank that the Maine Department of Transportation plows had created. He saw the glow of headlights to his left and backed up so that his truck was out of the road.

An eighteen wheeler, with logs piled high, raced by creating a mini-blizzard in its wake. Dylan shook his head. This section of Route 161 was famous for two things, black ice and moose in the middle of the road; the truck was doing at least seventy-five in a fifty mile-an-hour speed zone. Had Dylan not taken the action he had, he would be splattered all over the road. The wreckage would be so extensive that rather than try and determine truck from him, they would bury him in the wreckage in lieu of a coffin. He put his truck in gear and repeated his approach to the pavement. Seeing no sign of traffic, Dylan entered the road and turned left, in the direction of Fort Kent.

__________________

Caitlin and her husband, Aurel Dufore, lived in a house overlooking Eagle Lake, what always impressed Dylan was how palatial it was. He believed that in the fall when the foliage was at peak color it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth. He turned off the highway and followed the twisting narrow lane that led up the side of the bluff before giving way to a large plowed area abutting the western face of the building. There were three cars in the yard; a white 2017 Lincoln MKC, a pale blue Ford Interceptor, which was easily identified as a state police patrol vehicle by the emblem on its doors, and a flashy, highly polished, burgundy Mustang that needed no signage or light bar for him to know it was an unmarked state police cruiser—the government license plate did that for him. They sure as hell didn’t have anything like that when I was on the state police, he thought.

As Dylan entered the parking area, a motion activated light turned on cutting through the primordial darkness. He parked alongside the Mustang and stepped out of the warmth of his F-150 into the frigid air. His boots made crunching sounds as he walked across the packed snow and ice to the front of the house and pressed the doorbell.

The door opened and Caitlin stood in the threshold, her appearance so disheveled that it surprised him. His sister was meticulous when it came to her appearance; not so much as a single hair was ever out of place. However that was not the case this time. He immediately knew that she was upset because her auburn hair was in disarray; her clothes looked as if she’d slept in them, and her eyes were red from crying. Caitlin was five feet nine inches tall but still had to stand on tip-toes when she kissed her six feet three inches tall older brother on the cheek. She smiled at him and stepped back, allowing him to enter into the living room. The room was immense; Dylan never ceased being amazed by its dimensions, which he believed to be a minimum of forty feet by fifty feet. To the left a fire burned in a granite fireplace that took up half of the wall. The room was furnished with expensive mahogany furniture and the floors were an expensive hardwood imported from South America—Caitlin had once told him that it was called bocate.

Dylan wiped his feet on the mat that was centered in the tile square in front of the door and debated whether or not he should remove his boots. Caitlin must have sensed his uneasiness and said, “Don’t worry, Dylan. People have been walking everywhere for two days.”

Dylan hugged his sister and said, “Have they been interviewing you?”

“Right after I called you they tried, but once I told them that my lawyer was on his way, they stopped.”

Dylan scanned the room. “Where are little Aurie and Gloria?”

“Since we discovered Sandy was missing, they’ve kept themselves occupied in their rooms. Thus far we’ve been successful at keeping them out of this.”

“The police haven’t interviewed them?”

“They’ve talked to them, but not in any detail…I suppose it’s just a matter of time before they do though.”

“When they get around to them do not leave those kids alone. One of us—preferably me has to be present.”

Caitlin nodded.

“Don’t be surprised if the cops don’t try to keep you and Aurel away so you can’t influence what they say. Speaking of Aurel, have they told you where they took him?”

“No, they haven’t said anything, but it wasn’t the state police who took him.”

“Who took him?”

“It was a county deputy sheriff. Do you think they’re arresting him?”

“No...at least not yet. Most likely they want to separate you to see if your stories match. They must have taken him to the county jail in Houlton.”

Two men stood in the far corner of the room and when they heard Dylan and Caitlin speaking they had looked their way. The taller of the two was in plain clothes, but there was no need for him to wear a uniform; his very demeanor and bearing was like a neon sign flashing cop. He was over six feet tall, about six-three, his hair was buzz-cut so close to his scalp it was impossible to tell its color, and he wore an expensive suit and shoes. The plainclothes cop crossed the room, showed his credentials, and held his hand out. “I’m Detective Jean-Paul Thibodeau, Maine State Police—and you are?”

“Dylan Thomas, I’m Mr. and Mrs. Dufore’s attorney.”

“Do you have something that verifies that?” Thibodeau scrutinized Dylan’s appearance and apparently found him to be out of tune with he believed a lawyer should look like. The cop was about the same height as Dylan, whose dark brown hair looked as if it had been electrified with static and stood up pointing in every direction; in his haste to get to his sister, Dylan had not even taken time to comb it. The stubble of three days without shaving covered his face and his hazel-colored eyes were red from lack of sleep. His clothing was not what people usually associated with a lawyer either, he had on an old brown leather coat, red and black plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans with ragged cuffs, and a well-worn pair of L. L. Bean hunting boots. Dylan took out his wallet and showed Thibodeau his Maine driver’s license and his American Bar Association membership card.

“What are you charging my clients with?” Dylan asked.

“At this time we aren’t charging Mr. and Mrs. Dufore with anything. However we are considering them to be persons of interest in the disappearance of Sandra Dufore.”

“Where is Mr. Dufore now?”

“He’s being transported to the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office for questioning.”

“Would you be so kind as to contact the sheriff and request that they refrain from doing anything until I get there?”

Thibodeau shrugged. “I could do that.”

Dylan waited for the cop to say something more, when he realized nothing was forthcoming he said, “Would you do it now, please?”

Thibodeau took a cell phone from the inside pocket of his suit coat, turned his back to Dylan and Caitlin, and in short time was speaking with someone in the Aroostook County Sheriff’s office, or so Dylan assumed. After several seconds he turned back to Dylan and said, “Done.” A quizzical look came over his face and he added, “Are you the same Dylan Thomas who was a state police detective?”

“Yes, after I left the force I went to law school.”

“So you went from solving crime to helping the bad guys?”

“Not quite. I went from solving crime to ensuring that everyone—even the bad guys—gets a fair trial. I’m also a private investigator and licensed to perform investigations in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.”

“A lawyer who is also a P. I.? Now that’s one strange combination.”

“Well I have to pay the bills. If one job is slow the other will take up the slack. Now, if you are not charging Mr. Dufore with a crime, why is he being transported and not questioned here?”

Thibodeau refrained from answering.

About the author

Vaughn C. Hardacker is the author of six thriller and mystery novels. His mystery novels SNIPER, THE FISHERMAN, and WENDIGO have been finalists in prestigious literary awards. He is a well-known member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. view profile

Published on September 04, 2020

Published by Encircle Publications

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Mystery & Crime