Colton, Sandy, and Mildred had spent all of Sunday and most of Monday at O’Hare International Airport, nestled inside Parking Lot C along with hundreds of other vehicles. To Colton, it was a place they would be invisible until he could make three significant decisions.
While Sandy and Mildred stayed in the back, sitting or lying on separate couches, visiting the tiny bathroom, or trying to prepare edible food from the groceries they’d grabbed from Mildred’s pantry and refrigerator, Colton sat in the drivers seat and contemplated.
The first decision wasn’t so much whether to rid themselves of Mildred, he’d already committed to that, but where to dispose of her body. The second issue was her money, more particularly, the $700 plus thousand dollars sitting inside three banks. And, the third was who would be the next person he and Sandy would confront concerning Millie’s whereabouts.
With the aid of a near-extinct item—AKA Rand McNally Road Atlas that Colton had purchased at an Elk Grove Shell station—he’d located Schiller Woods, a deeply-forested area just a few miles to southeast of the Airport.
It was early Monday afternoon when Colton decided they should return to Rolling Meadows and have Mildred, along with Sandy, politely rob three banks, all with the once-in-a-lifetime cover of the one who owned the money.
After successfully cashing out one CD from First American Bank, Colton abruptly changed his mind. The dumb-ass Sandy wouldn’t see a tiger if it was right in front of him; Mildred could write out a damn note and hand it to the banker and Sandy would miss it.
The moment Mildred and Sandy returned to the van, Colton drove away, never to attempt such a foolhardy venture again. The money simply wasn’t worth the risk. Even if they were successful and cashed in the entire lot of CDs, and hide the money so no one could ever find it, what did that get them if he and Sandy were locked away for life in prison? Colton, silently screamed to himself, “how in hell could I have been so dumb?” His thoughts continued: all banks have security cameras. First American Bank now had not only Mildred and Sandy, together, inside the bank, but her Sprinter van in the parking lot, with possibly a closeup of his face nervously watching the front door. Well, at least the return to Rolling Meadows hadn’t been a total bust, he thankfully had remembered to drop by Phone Mart and pickup his and Sandy’s new cell phones, paying the balance with some of Mildred’s cash.
After returning to Parking Lot C, Sandy and Mildred had whipped up a double-batch of Hamburger Helper. Both men had gorged themselves while Mildred had only nibbled, likely pondering her fate.
Monday night was one of the longest Colton ever experienced. The van was too small for three to sleep comfortably. Although the couch along the rear doors transformed into a double there was no way he was going to lay that close to Sandy. At 9:00 PM, Colton reclined in the driver’s side captain’s chair, while Sandy and Mildred stretched out on the two couches.
There was no way Colton could sleep, especially with so much to contemplate. Unknown to Sandy, with the aid of his new, untraceable cell phone, he’d decided the three of them would arrive at Schiller Woods before dawn and park at a picnic area Google Maps labeled, ‘Grove 5.’ He had little doubt that they’d have the place to themselves. From there, Colton, with Sandy’s assistance, would secure Mildred’s hands and stuff a sock in her mouth. Sandy would stay inside the van while Colton led her north into the woods several hundred feet. There, he would take Mildred’s life with one massive blow with a rock, hoping and intending she’d die instantly. He had no plan to bury or otherwise hide her body. Nature would take care of that, with everything from dogs, cats, rodents, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, and birds devouring her corpse and scattering her bones throughout the thick forest.
That venture was a long seven hours away. Now, unable to sleep, Colton pondered who would be the best person to intimidate and convince that he or she should share Millie and Molly’s current location. Top of the list was Matt Canna. Colton knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was involved and knew the answer to Colton’s question. But, Matt was a stout guy, both mentally and physically. It might take some time to break him, and that meant a possibly worse scenario than the one with Mildred. And, this ignored the risk of confronting and abducting the six-foot two, two-hundred pound former athlete. Colton gave the Matt option a solid 8 out of a possible 10 for risk.
That left Alisha Maynard as Colton’s second possibility. Again, he had little doubt Molly’s best friend would know most everything, especially since they’d been sharing secrets since Kindergarten. Colton knew from two years of living with Millie and Molly, that the two six-graders were as intimate with their words as two romantic adults.
On the plus side of this option, Alisha would be a push-over as far as strength needed for an abduction, but there was a downside. She’s a twelve-year old child and would be better protected than Matt; she’d rarely be without adult supervision. Colton knew they’d have to get creative to develop a plan to kidnap her without being seen.
Colton reclined the captain’s chair as far as it would go and closed his eyes, wishing he hadn’t eaten an extra helping of Hamburger Helper. But, that wasn’t what was making him nauseous, it was the idiocy of committing murder and kidnapping in order to avoid a lifetime of prison for murder and kidnapping, not to mention the arson. Finally, surprisingly, Colton dosed and fell into a deep sleep, just to be awakened several hours later by Sandy nudging his shoulder. As planned, the two had agreed to swap places during the middle of the night.
However, Mildred’s every half-hour trip to the bathroom, and the slowly emerging smell of strong pee, prompted Colton to get up, go outside, and take a long walk around Parking Lot C. Four AM could not come quick enough.
When he returned to the van, Sandy was again on the rear couch, laying on his back, snoring like Hunter, a bulldog Colton had when he was a kid. Mildred was between trips to the bathroom, staring sadly at him as she inched her way back to the other couch.
Colton reconfigured the driver’s side captain’s chair and activated his new cell. It was 2:30 AM and he was wide awake. He inclined his seat and searched for the Spyware APP for the camera he’d hidden inside Molly’s black lama. He knew the battery was long dead but the prior recordings were safely stored in the cloud. The last recording of the two young girls still troubled him. Who were they? What in hell had become of Molly’s stuffed animals?
The APP was simple. As long as the camera had power—whether from a wall plug or its tiny battery, the motion-activated recordings were captured. If there was an available, non-password protected WiFi, the APP uploaded the recordings to a secure server.
Colton clicked on “Prior Recordings” and activated the most recent one. After turning up the volume and listening to the two curly-headed girls he guessed were five or six years old, to his surprise he was able to zoom in touching the screen with his thumb and forefinger and slowly spreading them apart. Earlier, he’d seen the white board on the wall in the background and that’s where he’d seen “Ray’s Garage.” This had prompted his search which ultimately had been a complete waste of time, an abrupt dead end, finding hundreds of Ray’s Garages throughout the country.
Now, with the APP’s new feature, he could make out what was clearly a row of crayon sketches taped side-by-side along the bottom of the board. None of the seven or eight interested Colton; they were all rudimentary drawings of sunsets, farm animals, pets including a dog, a cat, and a turtle, and, one each, of ‘Mom,’ and ‘Dad.’
What caught Colton’s attention was a flyer next to ‘Rufus’ the dog in the lower right corner of the white board. It was professionally done, at least compared to the girls’ sketches, in black and gold that announced an end-of-day school program last Friday where the Kindergarten students read their letters to Santa. At the bottom of the flyer, next to what had to be the school systems mascot, a yellow jacket, was printed in large letters: Fort Meigs Elementary School. The wording included a street address, along with the city, a place called Perrysburg, Ohio. “Bingo,” Colton said so loud that it disturbed the rhythm of Sandy’s snoring.
It took Colton less than a minute to type his Google query: “Ray’s Garage in Perrysburg, Ohio.” The first result read, “Auto Repair | Ray’s Service Center & Towing in Perrysburg, OH.” He clicked the link and after ignoring several customer reviews at the top of the page, read the following aloud, but softly: “Welcome to Ray’s Service Center & Towing, your car service in Perrysburg, OH!”
Colton smiled, although still confused. He asked himself, why would the black lama be here? His answer came quickly. The only logical explanation, given this place worked on dysfunctional vehicles, is that Millie’s Sentra had broken down. After locating Perrysburg on Google Maps, Colton announced to everyone within ear shot, “Shit, I bet the two escapees broke down on I-94 and had old Ray come get them with his tow truck.”
Nothing seemed to awaken the two snoring zombies as Colton continued to dissect what he’d discovered, At 4:00 AM he still hadn’t figured out why the black lama camera had captured the scene inside Ray’s office.
Stepping outside the van, all Colton could think was that he’d just experienced a miracle. It might have come from God but he doubted it. One thing was for sure, his and Sandy’s luck had just changed. For the better.
“Get up.” He said, opening the sliding side door. “We’ve got a full day ahead of us.”
It took fifteen-minutes to drive to Schiller Woods and Grove 5. Neither man had seen a single vehicle since passing the Dunkin coffee shop at the North River Road intersection, but what worried Colton the most was his stupidity—he’d failed to plan for the two I-90 toll booths, with both likely having cameras.
He eased the van off the cemented, circular drive and into the thick woods, just enough to be hidden. Mildred, still laying on her couch, was humming what had to be a gospel song. From his mother, Sandy knew it to be “Victory in Jesus.” He looked at Colton and shook his head sideways, making one final attempt to dissuade his best friend from taking yet another life.
It didn’t work. “Wake up mama, let’s take a little walk.” The lumberjack icon said as he exited the van.
By the time Colton reached the sliding door, Mildred was sitting up and buttoning her coat. She stuffed both hands in pockets as he motioned her to follow.
They slowly marched fifteen minutes due north with Mildred in the lead listening to her killer. Instead of his words, “right,” “left,” along the way her mind leaped eighty years past to her father plowing his mule with occasional “gee” and “haw” commands to guide old Sally alongside the rows of corn.
“Okay, stop here.” Colton said after they crossed a narrow stream of snow-melt alongside an outcropping of rocks ten feet ahead.
“Whoa,” thought Mildred. She listened for “come up” or a cluck for get going but heard only a sigh from her killer. Turning just enough to see Colton out of the corner of her eye, she saw he was staring at his cell phone.
Mildred squeezed her right hand around the handle of the only boning knife she carried in the van. Neither Sandy nor Colton had thought she might have a weapon, much less have the guts to use it. She withdrew her hand clutching the knife and fell to the ground resting on her knees, leaning forward with only her left hand visible. “Ooooh, she screamed.” Her plan, her hope, was that Colton would either kill her instantly with a rock or limb, or he’d try to make her stand. He might even kneel beside her and ask what was wrong. The latter, she doubted, but he might grab an arm and start pulling her upward. If she didn’t die from a hard blow to the head, she might get her chance.
“What the fuck?” Colton turned back toward the little creek. Mildred caught his movement in the corner of her eye. He found a rock bigger than his hand and walked toward her.
As luck or fate would have it, Colton’s first strike missed Mildred’s head and landed between her neck and shoulder. Miraculously, she spun on her knees to her left and brought her right arm and hand upwards as hard as she could. The blade penetrated his left thigh, just above the knee on the inner side.
Fortunately for Colton, the knife missed his femoral artery by an inch.
“You fucking bitch.” The second blow struck the left side of Mildred’s head, just above the ear. With a groan she slumped sideways onto the snow-soaked ground. Colton watched for what seem like several minutes before she took her last breath.
He quickly unbuckled his pants and slid them down to his knees to look at the wound. There wasn’t much blood. Thankfully, it was a flesh wound, above the thigh bone. Regardless, Colton used a bandanna to make a tourniquet.
Before returning to the van, he eyed the scene and saw the knife half submerged in mud lying beside Mildred’s body. Apparently, after the scuffle and during his wound inspection, he’d stepped on the six-inch blade.
After searching the dead woman’s pockets, Colton returned to the van and a sad-faced Sandy who’s voice trembled as he asked, “is she gone?”
Colton nodded, opened the driver’s side door, and tucked the knife underneath the seat fully intending to toss it out the window somewhere in between Chicago and Perrysburg. “Come on.” He hollered at Sandy who was slouching toward the van.