A Maiden's Grave

Free A Maiden's Grave by Jeffery Deaver

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Authors: Jeffery Deaver
Tags: thriller
return to the killing room, Melanie remained where she was, gazing out the window at the row of police cars, the crouching forms of the policemen, and the scruffy grass bending in the wind.
    Potter gazed at the slaughterhouse through the bulletproof window in the truck.
    They'd have to talk soon. Already Lou Handy was looming too large in his mind. There were two dangers inherent in negotiating. First, making the hostage taker bigger than life before you begin and therefore starting out on the defensive – what Potter was beginning to feel now. (The other – his own Stockholming – would come later. He'd deal with it then. And he knew he would have to.)
    "Throw phone ready?"
    "Just about." Tobe was programming numbers into a scanner on the console. "Should I put an omni in it?"
    Throw phones were lightweight, rugged cellular phones containing a duplicate transmitting circuit that sent to the command post any conversations on the phone and a readout of the numbers called. Usually the HTs spoke only to the negotiators but sometimes they called accomplices or friends. These conversations sometimes helped the threat management team in bargaining or getting a tactical advantage.
    Occasionally a tiny omnidirectional microphone was hidden in the phone. It'd pick up conversations even when the phone wasn't being used by the HTs. It was every negotiator's dream to know exactly what was said inside a barricade. But if the microphone was found, it might mean reprisals and would certainly damage the negotiator's credibility – his only real asset at this stage of the situation.
    "Henry?" Potter asked. "Your opinion. Could he find it?"
    Henry LeBow tapped computer keys and called up Handy's rapidly growing file. He scrolled through it. "Never went to college, got A's in science and math in high school. Wait, here we go… Studied electronics in the service for a while. He didn't last long in the army. He knifed his sergeant. That's neither here nor there… No, I'd say don't put the mike in. He could spot it. He excelled in engineering."
    Potter sighed. "Leave it out, Tobe."
    "Hurts."
    "Does."
    The phone buzzed and Potter took the call. Special Agent Angie Scapello had arrived in Wichita and was being choppered directly to the Laurent Clerc School in Hebron. She and the Hebron PD officer who'd be acting as interpreter would be arriving in a half-hour.
    He relayed this information to LeBow, who typed it in. The intelligence officer added, "I'll have CAD schematics of the interior in ten minutes." LeBow had sent a field agent to dig up architectural or engineering drawings of the slaughterhouse. These would be transmitted to the command post and printed out through computer-assisted drafting software.
    Potter said to Budd, "Charlie, I'm thinking we've got to consolidate them. The hostages. The takers're going to want power in there but I don't want to do that. I want to get them a single electric lantern. Battery powered. Weak. So they'll all have to be in the same room."
    "Why?"
    LeBow spoke. "Keep the takers and the hostages together. Let Handy talk to them, get to know them."
    "I don't know, sir," the captain said. "Those girls're deaf. That's gonna be a spooky place. If they're in a room that's lit with just one lantern, they'll… well, the way my daughter'd say, they'll freak."
    "We can't be worried much about their feelings," Potter said absently, watching LeBow transcribe notes into his electronic tablet of stone.
    "I don't really agree with you there, sir," Budd said.
    Silence.
    Tobe was assembling the cellular phone, while he simultaneously gazed at six TV stations on a single monitor, the screen split miraculously by Derek Elb. All the local news was about the incident. CBS was doing a special report, as was CNN. Sprayed-haired beauties, men and women, held microphones like ice cream cones and spoke into them fervently. Potter noticed that Tobe'd taken to the control panel of the command van as if he'd designed it himself, and

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