What is the secret lurking in the ruins of a lonely ghost town in the mountains of British Columbia? Solving this mystery is only one of the challenges facing Tom Austen after he arrives in B.C. with this sidekick, Dietmar Oban, and learns that a young girl has disappeared without a trace. Then a boy is kidnapped, and electrifying events quickly carry Tom to a breathtaking climax deep underground in Cody Caves, where it is forever night . . .
"Set in the mountainous interior of British Columbia, The Kootenay Kidnapper is about streetproofing . . . Wilson weaves an important, current theme into a believable mystery."
The Ottawa Citizen
WHERE IS TIPPI ALLEN?
Below these words was a picture of Tippi's smiling face. Her eyes were large and brown, and she held a doll as she looked innocently from the poster. She was just eight years old, and had been missing for a week.
Tom Austen shook his head, feeling sad for Tippi. Local people had talked about nothing else since she had disappeared, just when Tom arrived on holiday in Nelson, a small city in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia.
A boy of ten stopped at the poster. "I know Tippi," he said to Tom, who was sitting on a bench inside Nelson's Chahko-Mika Mall. "She goes to Hume School with me."
"Are all the kids upset?"
"School's out for the summer, but we got called back for a special meeting in the gym. The principal told us how to protect ourselves against kidnappers. We're not supposed to talk to strangers."
Tom smiled. "Aren't I a stranger?"
"That's different! You're just a kid. Anyway, I can look after myself. Tippi made a mistake, taking the shortcut to the mall along the railway tracks, but I'm not that dumb."
Shoppers passed in the mall, some talking to their children, others looking in the store windows. Did one of them secretly know the truth about Tippi?
"What's your name?" Tom asked the boy.
"Listen, Chuck, do you..."
Tom's question was interrupted by the approach of a man who seemed highly excited. Wearing a security guard uniform and peaked cap, he was snapping the fingers of both hands as he stopped at the bench.
"Either of you know Tippi Allen?"
"Sure," Chuck replied.
"Listen, son, we've just had a tremendous break in the case. There's every chance that Tippi is going to be found alive, but we need your help."
"That's wonderful! What can I do?"
"Just come with me."
Chuck jumped up from the bench, but Tom grabbed his arm. "Hold it," he said, then looked at the man. "Shouldn't you show Chuck some identification?"
The man's fingers stopped snapping, and suddenly Tom was frightened. There was no way to see the man's eyes, because they were hidden behind sunglasses, but he sensed intense hostility. "What's your name?"
"Uh, I'm... Tom Austen."
"Do you know Tippi, Tom?"
"No, but . . ."
"Then you shouldn't get involved." The man started walking away with Chuck, then stopped. Taking out his wallet, he flipped it open. A gold badge flashed. “Here's my ID, Tom, since you don't trust me."
Tom blushed, and he cursed himself for being one of those redheads whose faces reveal their secret thoughts. Feeling stupid, he dropped his eyes to the carpet and studied the design, trying to believe he'd just seen genuine ID, and Chuck was really on his way to save Tippi. From the nearby Wizard's Castle came the blipping of video games and the laughter of teenagers, enjoying their Friday night at the mall. Why wasn't he?
Tom wandered in to watch a game of Phantom II, but his heart thumped painfully when he thought about Chuck. If something happened to him, it would be Tom's fault. Turning, he forced a path through the shoppers and ran toward the exit door and out into the black night.
A warm summer wind came off the nearby lake, blowing gently on Tom's face. Mercury-vapour lights hissed from high above the parking lot, shining on rows of cars and pickup trucks. Where was Chuck? Tom took a few steps in one direction, stopped, and looked around helplessly. A sick panic wrenched his stomach.
Tom hurried toward a row of taxis, hoping one of the drivers had seen Chuck leaving with the security guard. But then he got a break. For a brief moment a cigarette lighter flared inside a parked car, and Tom recognized the peaked cap and sunglasses of the security guard.
Sunglasses at night? As he approached the car, Tom's pulse was beating so strongly that he could feel each stroke. "Excuse me," he said, knocking on the window. "May I speak to Chuck?”
The man rolled down the glass. "You again?"
Tom looked at Chuck. "I think you should get out of this car."
Ignoring Tom, the boy stared straight ahead. Then, with a shaking hand, he slowly raised a bottle of pop to his lips. Some of the dark liquid spilled down his chin as he swallowed.
"Chuck, please! Get out of this car."
The driver smiled, his white teeth gleaming in the dark. "Get outta here, Tom!" He reached for the gearshift, and the car rolled smoothly away.
Tom scribbled down the car's licence number, and the name of a car rental company he'd seen on the bumper, then he ran toward a taxi.
"Ma'am!" he shouted to the driver, a middle-aged woman who was reading the Nelson Daily News. "You've got to help me. A kid's in a lot of trouble."
"What's the problem?"
"That car," Tom said, pointing at a pair of red tail-lights leaving a distant exit. "Please, just follow it, and I'll explain."
"Are you paying for this trip?"
"Sure, if you want." Tom grabbed the nearest door handle, and tumbled into the back seat. "Don't lose them!"
Gunning the motor, the woman laughed. "What is this, the Late Show? I've always dreamed Paul Newman would jump into my cab and shout follow that car! but this is ridiculous."
Despite her amusement, the driver sensed Tom's urgency and they drove quickly out of the parking lot. Tom leaned forward, trying to spot the security guard's car as they approached an intersection.
"There it is! Turning left at those traffic lights."
Just after the taxi banged over some railway tracks, the traffic lights changed and the driver was forced to stop. "Bad luck," she said. "But you can tell me what's happening while we wait for the green."
As quickly as possible, Tom explained his suspicions. "I'm sure he's not a real security guard. He just used that fake badge and uniform as a disguise so Chuck would trust him. There were probably drugs in that drink he gave Chuck. He was totally zombied. The light's green!"
With a scream of rubber, the taxi leapt away from the corner. "I have my doubts," the driver said, her hands tight on the wheel, "but I'm not taking any chances. Not after poor Tippi."
"Did you know her?"
"Tippi and my son played on the same soccer team."
"There's the car! What should we do?"
"Leave it to me." Pulling up close, the woman flashed the taxi's high beams. The security guard looked in his rear-view mirror, then gestured with his hand. Again the taxi lights flashed, and the driver leaned on the horn. "Pull over, buddy, or I'll get mean."
The security guard twisted his wheel, and the car turned into a side street. After travelling a short distance, it stopped. The taxi stopped too, keeping well away. "We'll watch from here for a minute, in case he takes off."
The security guard stepped calmly out of his car. He adjusted his peaked cap, then stood waiting, smoking a cigarette.
"Let's talk to him," the woman said, getting out. She walked forward fearlessly, but Tom's mouth was dry, and his eyes flicked over the security guard, looking for signs of a hidden weapon.
"Is there a problem?" the man asked, smiling.
"I hope not," she replied. "This young man thinks you've abducted a boy against his will."
The security guard's laugh was low and rich. He seemed totally relaxed, and the blush crept back across Tom's face. What if he'd made a terrible mistake?
"Look," he said desperately, "can we talk to Chuck, just for a minute?"
"Certainly!" The man waved a hand toward his car. "Go right ahead."
The woman frowned at Tom, and he swallowed unhappily. It looked as though he had blundered. But, when they reached the car, Chuck was lying on the front seat, unable to speak. His eyes had the dull gleam of marbles, and the sweat on his face was cold to Tom's touch.
"You were right," the driver exclaimed. "This boy's in a bad way."
Straightening up, she looked for the security guard. For a moment he couldn't be seen, then Tom pointed toward the taxi's headlights. The security guard came out of the dazzling light, and approached them.
"All I wanna do," he said in his deep voice, "is get that boy to the hospital."
"What I want," the woman said angrily, "is to find out what's happening. Why's that boy so sick?"
The man held up his hand. "The hospital first, the talk after. Okay? Follow me in your taxi."
She nodded, and ran back to her car. Feeling totally confused, and very worried about Chuck, Tom hurried to the passenger door and got inside. But the car was dead. The ignition wires, slashed and useless, dangled from under the dashboard; the radio microphone had also been cut away.
Horrified, Tom looked down the street. In the distance, the red tail-lights of the security guard's car disappeared into the night.
What Happens To Chuck After He Disappears Into The Night With The Security Guard? And What About Tippy?
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Back to the list of Eric's books Back to Eric's Home Page THE KOOTENAY KIDNAPPER.Copyright 2012 by Eric Hamilton WilsonAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced inany manner whatsoever without prior written permission except in thecase of brief quotations embodied in reviews.