Titus drove off into the evening and soon left Fredericksburg in his rear-view mirror. Everything had worked out in the end. Bronowski would pay for the murder, Elsa was dead, and he’d slipped away with nothing laid at his feet.
Now, all he had to do was make it to Gulfport.
Their raid finished, the detectives returned to the precinct and waited for the forensic team to finish. Lilly sat at the desk when I walked in. She wrinkled up her nose at him and gave him a sympathetic smile.
“I heard on the radio,” she said as I walked up. “He’s gone.”
“Yeah. The house was empty. There’s nothing to do but hope that he left something in his rush to get out of Dodge.”
“I’ve been thinking on that point. Where would he go?”
“I don’t know, Lilly.”
“Well, he couldn’t stay here. After the horrible murder of Bradley Freeman, he’d need to leave town. Furthermore, he’d need to avoid attention.”
“Yeah. He couldn’t stay here, but he wouldn’t be able to travel by traditional means neither. He would need an untraditional method of travel to escape for long.”
“How do you think he’d go about it?”
“I don’t know, but it’d need to be something local.”
“Well, let’s go through it together, but first, let’s get coffee.”
Manson and Rankin stood by the coffee pot and turned when they walked up.
“Well, what now?”
“Well Manson, we think he’s looking for another way out of town,” Lilly said while pouring a cup of coffee. “But he’d avoid traditional methods of travel.”
“So, he’d need something like a passenger ship?”
“It’d need to be local.”
“What about hot air balloons? That’s about as untraditional as it gets,” Rankin suggested.
“It’s something to consider,” I said. “It’d be foolish to ignore anything at this point.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee and wandered back to my desk. Frustration had set in, and we were no closer to finding Jackson Titus. I picked up my phone and called the harbor authority.
“Good afternoon, this is Harbormaster Timothy Welles VI. How can I assist you?”
“Hi. Detective Thermopolis Konan with the 117th. Could you tell me how many outgoing passenger ships leave within the next three days?”
“Son, I don’t have time to do your job for you. Come on down here if you want. You got a badge you can get in and check it out.”
“This is concerning an escaped murderer, so if you don’t mind, get your head of your butt old man and answer my questions.”
“I didn’t mean nothing by it, son.”
“I don’t have time for your apology. Give me the list of ships leaving starting tonight and their destinations.”
“Three leave tonight,” the harbormaster said, suddenly overcome with a sense of professionalism, “The Bone Raider leaves at 2200 and is headed to Trinidad. The Vindicative departs at 2230 headed for Alaska, and The Silent Song is leaving at midnight for Havana.”
“Thank you. We have a former police officer who’s probably going to try to board one of these tonight. He may flash a badge, right now we don’t know what he might do.”
“We have security here, do you want us to-“
“No. Do not tangle with him if he shows up. The name you should recognize is Jackson Titus. If he shows, contact your local police and have them deal with it. Two officers from our team are on their way there now.”
Manson and Rankin had left early in the morning for Gulfport, on the off-hand chance that they might recognize Jackson Titus from afar.
Both Konan and Lilly doubted Titus would leave via ship, but no other lines of inquiry seemed to offer more suitable options of escape.
So, to Gulfport the two detectives went.