Episode III: Part VII - The Case of the Missing Virus
Handing the iPhone back to Morelli, the forensic lab specialist informed the lead FBI agent the cell phone was unlocked. “Here you go,” he said. “The data appears to be intact, including the GPS app.”
“Thanks,” Morelli mumbled out loud, looking at the screen on Delia’s phone. “This is exactly what I was looking for.” He tapped and reviewed the GPS app knowing it was linked to Matt’s tracking button, then glanced at agent Anderson. “Make arrangements for a helicopter.”
“I'm on it,” Anderson replied.
Locked in the chamber with his two unconscious minions, Matt watched through the viewing window as Mitchell took a seat on the edge of a cot. The rogue scientist looked around the room, a befuddled expression etched all over his face.
Matt turned in Delia’s direction and chuckled. “You should see the look on Mitchell’s kisser — a kodak moment for sure.”
Delia smirked. “He can’t believe he’s locked-up in his own jail.”
“Let’s go upstairs and figure out where we are.”
“Should we confirm the vials are in those freezers?” Delia asked.
“Too risky,” Matt replied. “Better let the people at Virolabs do that wearing the appropriate bio-level suits. If there’s any breakage or spillage — and we open those ….
“Yeah, I get it,” Delia chided.
“Still no answer,” Morelli yelled out loud into his headset, turning his head and glancing at Anderson in the chopper’s backseat, the roar of the helicopter’s engine near deafening. Shaking his head in frustration, he returned his personal cell phone to the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He glanced again at Delia’s iPhone secured inside a cell phone holder mounted on the helo’s dashboard. “If Matt and Delia have been abducted as I suspect, the perpetrators have either destroyed or discarded his cell phone.”
“Agents Ross and Davidson are tailing us now,” Anderson said, leaning forward and tapping Morelli on the shoulder. “They’re following the helo’s GPS. I just received their text.”
“Tell them to adjust their radio frequency to the chopper’s transceiver. We’ll keep following Delia’s GPS.”
“About fifteen minutes,” the pilot shouted.
“There’s nothing in Mitchell’s desk with an address on it,” Delia muttered in an irritated tone, rifling through Mitchell’s desk drawers. “But here’s a key fob with two keys attached.”
“It might belong to the vehicle we were brought here in,” he speculated. “Let’s check outside.”
Exiting the same door they were forcibly brought through earlier, a late model four-door sedan sat parked in front of a semi-circular driveway. The raised brick stairway led to a wrap around cedar porch enveloping the entire dwelling. The porch offered a panoramic view of the immediate area. The large two-story estate was isolated. Sporadic tufts of trees, and on-again off-again grasses and shrubs as far as the eye could see topped the brown earthen crust, a surface that looked as hard as stone and somehow even less inviting.
“It’s a Cadillac CT6,” Matt pointed out, pressing the FOB button and hearing the doors unlock.
“I don’t care if it’s a depression-era tractor with three square wheels,” Delia declared. “C’mon Matt, this house-of-horrors is creeping me out out,” she pleaded.
Matt chuckled. “Alright, let’s go.” Driving on the same one-way dirt road away from the home, Delia recalled their time of arrival to Mitchell’s dungeon was approximately an hour following their abduction.
“An hour’s drive would be about 40 - 60 miles considering route, speed, traffic conditions, etc.,” Matt speculated. “Unless they were driving in circles, we crossed several county lines, so we’ll stop at the first convenience or other retail store we come across and contact Morelli.”
“Fine with me,” Delia replied. “Make it a convenience store, I’m starving.”
“That’s where the GPS is leading us,” the pilot observed, pointing a finger at an isolated dwelling approximately two miles ahead.
Morelli noticed a clump of trees approximately 100 yards in front of the building. “Set us down behind those trees,” he told the pilot.
Rotors spinning and gun’s drawn, Morelli and his partner exited the chopper and approached the front door of the isolated dwelling. Standing on either side of the doorway, Morelli banged hard on the center panel. “This is the FBI — open up.” No response. He pounded the door again with the side of his closed fist. “FBI,” he yelled a second time. “Answer the door.” Again, no reaction or reply. He grabbed the doorknob and gave it a turn. To his surprise, it was unlocked. Rendering a gentle push, Morelli and his colleague stared cautiously at the partially exposed inside of the main floor of the dwelling. Stepping inside, they spent the first several minutes moving from room-to-room.
“This floor is clear, Frank. There’s no upstairs, but the room beyond that doorway appears to be an office.” Following his colleague into the large room, Morelli and Anderson walked up to a desk on the opposite side.
Catching something out of the corner of his eye, Morelli reached down and picked-up a small, coin-shaped white object sitting on the edge of the desk. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he growled, rendering a fiery stare at the tracking button.
“What is it Frank?” Anderson asked.
“This is what we’ve been chasing,” he said, showing it to Anderson and holding it next to Delia’s cell phone. Morelli tapped the GPS app on Delia’s iPhone, shutting it down.
“They were obviously brought here,” Anderson implied.
“This place is too large not to have another floor. Let’s look for a basement access,” Morelli suggested.
“Bingo," Anderson yelled, noticing what appeared to be a concealed panel. “There’s a stairway leading to a room below the main floor.”
Sliding the panel open, they tiptoed their way down the dimly lit blue fluorescent stairway, semi-automatic pistols at the ready. Stepping onto the basement floor, Morelli signaled his partner to check the area to his right while he turned left and walked in the opposite direction. Satisfied there was no one in the area he checked, Anderson turned around and returned in the direction of his partner. “Clear on this side,” he whispered.
Standing in front of the sealed chamber and craning his neck away from the viewing window and toward Anderson, Morelli piped, “you’re not going to believe this.”
“Alright, time to call Morelli,” Matt informed Delia, borrowing the convenience store manager’s cell phone and stepping outside.
“Morelli here,” he answered, the unfamiliar number appearing on his cell phone’s LCD screen.
“Frank — it’s Matt.”
“Matt — where the devil are you?” he hollered. “Is Delia with you?”
“We’re okay,” Matt reassured Morelli. "Let me guess — you’re at an undisclosed dwelling in a remote area that Delia and I escaped from about thirty minutes ago; you tracked Delia’s GPS button I purposely left just before we fled in their vehicle. By the way, you’ll find Mitchell and his two henchmen locked-up in their own test chamber down in the basement, along with the two vials he stole from Virolabs."
“You’re damn lucky I found Delia’s iPhone in a purse in her desk at your office,” Morelli retorted.
“A moot issue Frank. We escaped."
“Don’t be a smart-ass, Duggan. I’m talking about had you not escaped,” he fired back.
Matt pursed his lips and nodded. Morelli was right. It was sheer luck they were able to turn the table on Mitchell and his two thugs and flee.
“You and Delia need to get back here,” Morelli demanded.
"That's your crime scene now, Frank. We’re on our way to Virolabs to make arrangements for a Bio-4 hazard team to remove the vials that are locked-up in cryo-freezers underneath the lab stairwell. That’s where they are. Delia and I can lead them directly there.”
“Correction -- that’s where they were,” Morelli retorted.
Matt paused. “What are you talking about? I almost broke Mitchell’s arm getting him to tell me where those vials are located. You don’t believe me? Ask him.”
“Can’t do that," Morelli grumbled. "Mitchell and his two cohorts — they’re dead.”
Click to read Episode III Part VIII "MATT DUGGAN - DETECTIVE SERIES"