~ 37 ~
The Final Interlude
Once they found the suspect, sitting against a tree seemingly in a trance as he stared at a hole in the ground, Pagano and his team went to work quickly. The suspect didn’t put up a fight at all as he was told to put his hands over his head. He kept staring and saying “It was a miracle. He saved my life. He came back from the dead and saved my life.”
That’s when attention went to that hole where they found Nick Carter alive, but barely.
The ambulance carrying Richardson and Dorough had already left for the hospital so they carried Carter into the clearing and waited for a medevac to come and get him.
“He can wait.” Pagano had said glancing over at Tim, disgusted as he watched one of his team do simple first aide on Muntkey while he waited for another ambulance to arrive.
“Why don’t you head back to the hospital with Carter.” Robert said to Captain Blake who nodded in agreement just as the chopper landed on the ground. “I’m going to talk to our friend Mr. Muntkey for a bit.”
Blake nodded and walked over to where the paramedics were working on Nick trying to stabilize him for the short trip to the hospital.
“I’ve never seen a real helicopter…” Tim said as Agent Pagano stood next to him. He was staring at the helicopter as if he was a five year old, “Think I can ride in there with him?”
“Mr. Muntkey, do you understand what is going to happen to you now?”
Tim nodded but never took his eyes off of the helicopter. “You understand the rights that were read to you a few moments ago?”
“I would like to ask you a few questions now, Mr. Muntkey while things are still fresh in your mind. May I do that or would you rather wait for a lawyer to be present?”
“I don’t have a lawyer.”
“The state will provide one for you. We can wait, if you’d like.” He waited a few minutes, before asking again, “Do you want to wait for a lawyer?”
“No…” he said staring as the paramedics worked on Nick, “is he going to be okay?”
Pagano looked over at Nick who had a lot of people tending to him. He didn’t look okay at all. In fact it looked as though they were doing chest compressions on him and trying to stick a tube down his throat.
“I don’t know.”
“I liked him. We could have been great friends.”
“Then why did you hurt him?”
“I didn’t do that to him, he hurt himself in a car accident. I saved his life and his friend’s lives. They are the ones that hurt me. I was a hero, just like a fireman.”
“How did he end up in that hole, Mr. Muntkey?”
“I was going to kill myself and he told me not to. That must mean he loved me, right?” The look on his face was desperation and for some reason it chilled the seasoned detective to the bone.
“Did he say that before or after you placed him in that hole?”
Tim took a few deep breaths and then looked at Pagano. “Yesterday was my birthday.” He said before once again turning his attention back to Nick just as they managed to load him into the chopper.
Blake gave Pagano a ‘thumbs up’ as they lifted off the ground.
“I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to fly.” Tim said as they both watched the chopper take off.
When they arrived at the hospital, Captain Blake ran behind the gurney carrying Nick as a whole team of doctors were waiting up on the roof for him. The paramedics were barking things at the doctors very reminiscent of his favorite show of all time, ER. He only wished he knew what it all meant.
“Do any of you know how Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough are?”
One of the nurses turned his way, “They are still being worked on.” She said.
He nodded as the elevator doors opened and they began to run down the hall. He was told that he could go no further but they would keep him updated. That’s when he decided to go down to the families and let them know everyone had been found.
When he walked into Brian and AJ’s room, the casual conversation just halted and the three people in there stared at him.
“Good morning, Captain”
He nodded at Brian and just cut to the chase, “We found them all.”
A huge gasp and sighs of relief went through the room and a couple of tears were shed. “How are they?” Brian finally asked. “Can we see them?”
“They are all being looked at right now.”
“What about Tim?” AJ asked, sounding alarmed as he held onto his wife’s hand for support.
“Thank God!” Rochelle exclaimed. “Do the others know?”
“I was hoping they’d be in here with you.”
“I think they went back to the hotel to rest and freshen up a bit with Leighanne.” Rochelle said, “Would you like me to call them?”
He thought about telling her no but decided that maybe they would like to hear the news coming from a friend. “If you’d like, tell them we’ll send a squad car to pick them up.”
She smiled, jumped off the bed and left the room, “Will do!”
“Captain, Blake…” He turned towards Brian who didn’t look all that relieved or happy. “How are they, really?”
He grabbed a chair and moved it in between both beds, “Honestly, it’s hard to say but I can tell you that Howie seems to be okay, besides being a little shaken up. He helped us find your other two friends.”
“Thank God. We had no idea at all how he was doing.”
Pat nodded and smiled, “He was quite the hero. He managed to escape and run for help. He then led us back to the place where your other friends were being held.”
“Way to go, D!” AJ said with pride.
“What about Kevin and Nick? Kevin’s ankle was pretty bad.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely broken. He had a gash on his head, but I’m sure the doctors will fill us in when they are done looking him over.”
He really didn’t want to talk about this one. Up until this moment, it seemed like they were all getting the fairy tale ending they were hoping for. “He’s not in good shape, but he’s in good hands. I’m sure as soon as someone knows something…”
Brian and AJ looked at each other, “How bad?”
“I really can’t say because I’m not a medical expert.”
“How about as an observer then?” AJ asked.
“They worked on him for a long time before they could load him into the chopper. He wasn’t breathing on his own. I rode with him, held his hand for the ride.”
Brian sat back against his pillows stone faced, and nodded, “I’m glad you were there for him. He doesn’t like to be alone.” The mood in the room went from joyous to somber pretty quickly. He felt bad for that.
“I am going to head down and try to find out a little more on your friends.”
“Please tell them we love them.” Brian said still looking very sad.
“So, we’re safe now, right? Tim can’t get to us or the others anymore?”
Pat looked over at AJ and nodded. He could tell it would be a long time before the tattooed pop star felt safe, a long time and probably a lot of therapy sessions.
“He’s not going to harm you anymore.”
The words didn’t seem to ease AJ’s mind but he smiled at the police officer anyway.
Agent Pagano and Tim entered the emergency room surrounded by FBI agents and shielded as best as they could from the news cameras. They brought him down the hall and into a small private room as they worked on fixing him up.
“Please stay with me, I’m scared!!” He had pleaded to Robert on the verge of tears.
“You’ll be fine.” He said as he left the room.
“NO!!” He cried, “I’M SCARED!!”
Pagano was met in the hallway by Pat, “He’s not right in the head, that one, huh?”
“Yeah, he’s nuts.” He paused and shook his head, “How are the others?”
“I just got an update on Richardson. He’s in surgery. They’re putting pins in his ankle. Dorough is down in X-ray but they’ll be bringing him back up shortly. Carter is in rough shape.”
“Think he’ll make it?”
Pat wished he could be more optimistic but remembering the chopper ride and how they had almost lost him twice, he shook his head, “I don’t know…”
“They all know and are waiting to hear news on Mr. Carter and the rest.”
He nodded, “And the press?”
“I think they got word that a suspect is in custody but not sure too much more is known. We probably want to make a statement soon.”
“Once we know more we’ll say something.”
Tim was heard screaming and crying like a big baby in the background. “What about him? What are we charging him with?”
“Right now, two counts of kidnapping…but after hearing from my guys at the campground, I have a feeling that list is going to grow.”
After stopping in to spend some time with the wives and fiancé of the men who had just been found, Agent Pagano made his way into the room in which Howie Dorough was staying. He was wearing a sling and had a bandage on his head just over his eye. Brian was in there with him with the aid of a wheelchair. AJ wasn’t quite ready to leave his bed yet, but they were at least right down the hall from one another.
“How are you feeling?”
Howie nodded, “I’m okay. Could be worse I guess. Any word on Nick and Kevin?”
“Kevin is out of surgery and is doing well. I just talked to his wife. There’s no word on Nick just yet.” He gestured to a chair in the room, “May I sit and ask you a few questions?”
“You mentioned you were at that campsite?”
Howie nodded, “The first time I escaped, I hid there.”
“Did Tim say anything specific about that site?”
“Just that it existed, why?”
“My team uncovered quite a few bones there.”
“Dead bodies?” Brian asked, horrified.
“Too soon to tell.”
“Jesus…” Howie whispered. Brian grabbed Howie’s hand as he continued, “Is that where you found Nicky and Tim?”
“No, they hadn’t quite made it there but we feel like that was supposed to be the final destination.” He decided to omit the fact that they found Nick in a shallow grave and instead went with his next question. “You also said you thought his parents were dead. Why?”
“He kept talking to them as if they were right there with him.”
Robert nodded, not really surprised by that answer. He wanted to ask more but seeing the look on Howie’s face he decided he’d just come back later.
“Thanks for the information.”
“If I had gotten out sooner Nick might be…”
“You did the best you could, Mr. Dorough.”
“Yeah, Howie this isn’t your fault. Nick will be fine.” His friend tried to reassure even though he didn’t sound very convinced himself.
When Agent Pagano got to the room they had taken over as their makeshift headquarters, Captain Blake was already there waiting for him, sipping some coffee and rubbing at his temples.
“Long day huh?” Robert asked as he sat down. He felt like he hadn’t sat down in hours.
“The longest, I’m not used to this much action.” Pat confessed.
“They are still uncovering bones at that campsite plus they found some more bodies buried out behind the actual house.” Pagano said as he grabbed his second doughnut of the morning.
“Serial killer, you think? Those boys were pretty lucky.”
“At least four out of five of them were.”
“If Carter dies, will he be charged with murder?”
Pagano shook his head, “I don’t know if they could make that stick, but we sure as hell will try!” He stood up, “Okay, well I’m going back down to Muntkey and see if I can get him to tell me anything about those bodies in his backyard before he gets himself lawyered up.”
“Best of luck!”
“Captain Blake, You did a great job tonight!”
“Same to you, Special Agent Pagano.”
They nodded at each other as Robert went back down to Tim’s room.
Pagano walked in to find a sedate Tim Muntkey, handcuffed to his bed and just staring ahead. When he saw the agent walk into the room he looked almost excited. “I was wondering when you’d come back.” He said.
He pulled up a chair and sat beside him, “Are you up to answering more questions?”
Tim nodded, “Can I get out of here soon? I don’t like hospitals. They make me nervous. They stuck me with a needle.”
“Once you get the all clear from your doctor, we’ll get you out of here.”
“Good, because I still have some birthday cake at home.”
“I’m afraid you’re not going home, Mr. Muntkey.”
Tim let out a big sigh and slowly nodded, “I thought you might say that. Tell Howie I’m not mad at him. I guess I understand why he told on me.”
“We found some bones in back of your house…”
“How is Nick? When will I be able to see him?”
At that moment, Robert realized that Tim would never see the inside of a jail cell but instead he’d probably be spending the rest of his life in a mental institution.
Tim seemed to check out at that moment. Looking up at the ceiling and smiling wide. Robert got goose bumps just watching him. Seeming so detached from reality before looking him in the eyes and saying, “I never really liked my father very much. He wasn’t a nice man. He killed lots of people before I finally killed him and you know what? I’d do it again…now if you don’t mind agent, I think I will wait for that lawyer before I say anything else. My mother think’s that a wise decision.”
Agent Pagano nodded and sat back in his chair, “You’re mom is probably right, Tim.”
Tim nodded and started whistling while Robert stood up and left the room.