Nevada Highway Patrol Helicopter
Above Southwest Las Vegas
Kidnapping, Day 4, 12:43 p.m.
Tommy Montalvo surfaced a day later when he called Hannah Smith at home and the phone company had dutifully reported Mr. Montalvo’s mobile number to the authorities. While they were not able to triangulate his position on this call, which was as short as it had been unpleasant, they now had his number and would know instantly every time he used his mobile.
Special Agent Sam Rider was notified within minutes of Tommy Montalvo’s phone call, and while he liked this development, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do with this clue except continue to wait.
It wasn’t a long wait. Later that afternoon Tommy Montalvo called another woman. This time investigators were treated to a nice long chat, and his position had been triangulated to Nevada Highway 160, which ran from Las Vegas west over the Spring Mountains and down to the town of Pahrump.
Sam Rider was in his office when his two-way started squawking.
“Rider, Champion.” Champion was Special Agent Harold Champion who was holding down triangulation duties. Law enforcement agencies had triangulation equipment that was unavailable to the general public.
“Go ahead Champ,” Sam said.
“Our boy’s talking; he’s heading west on 160, still on this side of the mountains.”
Ten minutes later Special Agent Sam Rider and a pilot were flying in a Nevada Highway Patrol helicopter towards Nevada Highway 160.
The problem with triangulation was that, while it had the capability to give an accurate position of where a mobile was being used, it could not give the make and model of the car the caller was calling from. Montalvo was on the phone for a while, but hung up while the helicopter was en route.
That wasn’t catastrophic, though. Champion had the last known position of the car and from past known positions had been able to calculate the mobile was being used from a vehicle that was traveling a steady 68 miles per hour, three miles per hour over the speed the state of Nevada had mandated as the maximum to be used on Nevada Highway 160, but not fast enough to draw the attention of any Nevada Highway Patrol agents who might be in the area.
With an accurate last known position and a steady rate of speed, both Special Agent Harold Champion and the pilot could reckon an estimated position. When the helicopter arrived at the reckoned position Sam Rider looked down and saw several cars to choose from.
“Crap, there are four cars down there.”
“How fast did he say he was going?” the pilot asked.
“The one out front’s doing 85-90,” the NHP pilot said. “He’s out. The last one’s way slow, no more than 60. We’ve narrowed it down to the middle two. They’re both between 65 and 70.”
“Seriously?” Sam asked, impressed.
“Don’t take my word for it,” the pilot said, switching on the helo’s radar. Speeds for all four cars popped up. The pilot’s guesses, very educated guesses based on years of estimating vehicular speed, were spot on.
“We’ll keep an eye on ‘em. Those two won’t be going the same speed forever.”
“If our guy is involved in taking Larry, there’s no reason for him to speed. He does not want to get pulled over.”
“No,” Sam Rider agreed. “We don’t want that either. Any police contact might make them do something we don’t want. Right now them not knowing what we know is to our advantage.”
“Do we know this guy’s involved?”
Sam Rider shook his head.
“No.” Sam explained the circumstances that led him to suspect he might be but he admitted he didn’t know for sure.
“It’s not too bad a start, actually,” the pilot said, nodding slightly.
The two cars, still within a few car lengths of each other, started the climb up the mountain. Some distance opened up between them, but the pilot was able to keep both of them in view.
On the other side of the mountain, about a half-hour outside of Pahrump, Harold Champion came on the horn again.
“Rider, Champion, our boy’s live again. Stand by for posit.” Posit was short for position.
“10-4. Actually, give it to the pilot. He knows more about these things than I do.”
Harold Champion could be heard laughing. In a minute he rattled off the latitude and longitude of Tommy Montalvo car; evidently he was involved in a long conversation again.
“That’s him,” the pilot said, pointing to the blue car they had been following for a while. “The blue Camaro down below. No doubt.”
“Can you sweep down and drive your skids through his back window so we could lift him up and take him back to headquarters? That would rule.”
The pilot laughed, and told Sam Rider that was only in the movies.
Tommy Montalvo drove to Terrible’s Casino in Pahrump, where he exited his car and entered the casino.
“Crap,” Rider said.
“Go ahead, Sam”
“Champ, call Terrible’s Casino in Pahrump right now. Get the director of security. Tell him who you are and what we are working on. Drop Hoover’s name if you have to.”
A couple of minutes later the helo’s radio squawked again.
“Got him Sam. His name’s Nipper. Dave Nipper.”
“Tell Mr. Nipper there is a male, Cauc, dark complexion 5-9, 170, brown, brown, 32 years old, short hair, friendly face, in his fine establishment. Possibly there to meet someone. Tell him we are highly desirous of locating and surveilling him.”
A couple of minutes passed.
“Sam, they’re on it.”
“Also tell him there’s a blue Camaro in his north parking lot, near the sign. The Bureau would be obliged if he could swing one of his officers around to get me a license plate number and see if Larry’s tied up in the back seat.”
“Got that too.”
It took a few minutes. Sam Rider had an urge to say “Radio check” or “Standing by” to let Champ know he was still there, but he didn’t. Champ was a good cop; when Champ had something Champ would report.
“Sam they got him; he just sat down to lunch with someone. White male, dark complexion, tall, thin, looks like a mean SOB according to Nipper.”
“How much fuel we got?”
“In two hours and fifteen minutes we plunge to the ground and die,” the NHP pilot said.
“Can you put me down?”
The pilot surveyed the area around the casino. Pahrump was a dusty town of about 40,000 with rather loose zoning laws. There was a lot of empty space providing plenty of places for an experienced helicopter pilot to land.
“Yeah, I could put you down,” the pilot said. He pointed to an area behind the casino.
“Champ, have you impressed upon our colleague the importance of our mission?”
The sound of Champ laughing came over the radio.
“Good. Ask him if he can provide ground transportation to an area about a half-mile north of his building.”
Almost immediately Champ was back.
“Affirmative Sam. He said there’s a plot just off a dirt road a little northwest of the property that would be great.”
The pilot glanced off to his left and almost immediately gave a thumbs-up sign.
“We’re on our way,” Sam Rider said.
Office of the Chief of Security
Kidnapping Day 4, 1:35 p.m.
Special Agent Sam Rider sat in Dave Nipper’s small office and, on a small bank of closed-circuit monitors, watched Tommy Montalvo and friend enjoy a leisurely lunch in a corner of the coffee shop. Nipper’s staff had worked quickly and it had taken less than 10 minutes from landing for Sam Rider to get to Dave Nipper’s office.
“It looks like they’re having the special,” Sam said.
“We put out a great prime rib here,” Nipper said, waving a hand as if he were displaying a prime rib. “Salad, potato and all the trimmings for just $4.99. You can’t beat it.”
Sam Rider laughed. The two had gotten on instantly. While Nipper had no prior law enforcement experience, he knew the security job rather well.
“You recognize either of these two?”
Nipper shook his head.
Sam shrugged and pulled his phone out of a pocket because it was buzzing. It was Special Agent in Charge Tom Grant.
“I’m up to date up until you landed,” Grant said so Sam Rider would know he didn’t have to waste time bringing him up to date.
“I’m in the security chief’s office. Tommy Montalvo is having lunch with a comrade in the coffee shop as we speak. Can we get another one of these birds?”
Special Agent in Charge Tom Grant sighed.
“Sure. I live to coordinate your air travel.”
“Okay, you tell the world you’re not doing everything to get Larry back.:
“I’ll find one,” he said after a couple of seconds.
“Okay. We’re going to need to follow two people. My instinct is to follow the new guy. Hold on, chief.”
A security guard had walked in and handed Nipper a slip of paper with a license plate number written on it. Nipper handed it to Rider.
“Chief, gotta go. More later,” Sam said hanging up and pulling his two-way.
“Champ, I got Montalvo’s license info.”
Sam read it to him; he didn’t need to tell Champ to find out what he could about it and get back to him.
“C’mon, let’s go take a look at the car,” Sam said to Nipper.
“Really?” Nipper asked as if Sam had suggested they go up to Tommy Montalvo’s table and introduce themselves.
“Sure. They’re going to be there awhile. Just make sure your boy tells us when our guy is through eating.”
Nipper gave the necessary orders to ensure that would happen.
The car was locked and a visual search of the vehicle did not yield anything, much less Larry tied up in the back seat; the interior was spotless.
“Maybe we could just hide in the trunk?” Rider said.
Nipper laughed; the pair headed back in, avoiding the coffee shop because evil arch-criminals can spot the fuzz a mile off. When they got back to Nipper’s office they could see Tommy Montalvo and friend lingering over coffee.
“They are still there?” Special Agent Sam Rider asked no one in particular, feigning exasperation. “Hell, Larry’ll die of old age before long.”
“Do you know they’re involved?” Nipper asked.
Sam Rider shook his head.
“No. We don’t know anything except Montalvo worked security at Caesars Palace, was assigned to the parking garage Larry was taken from and didn’t show up for work the next day.”
“Nice circumstantial suspicion.”
“It really killed his chance to make supervisor,” Sam Rider said.
“It’d be surprising if he wasn’t involved.”
Sam nodded agreement.
“We’ll see. Hey, look, they’re leaving. Finally.”
“We can cover both of them,” Nipper said as they both walked out of the coffee shop.
“Do so. Please.”
Nipper got on his radio and gave the necessary orders, and, within seconds, both Montalvo and X were on adjoining screens.
“They’re heading for different exits,” Nipper said.
“Can we cover the new guy in the parking lot?”
“Do so. Please.”
Nipper nodded as Sam Rider got up out of his chair.
“Is your shuttle to the heliport still running?”
“It’ll be at the same place,” Nipper said.
“God bless you my son,” Sam Rider said. “Go in peace, serve Mr. Hoover!”
Special Agent Sam Rider opened Nipper’s office door and thanked him as he fled through it.
Sam was back in the air in five minutes. Nipper had radioed that X was driving a navy blue Jeep Cherokee and could even report he had headed west out of the parking lot.
Both Tommy Montalvo’s blue Camaro and X’s Jeep Cherokee were easy enough to spot from the air. Montalvo had turned east and appeared to be heading back to Vegas. X had turned west and appeared to be heading out of town in the other direction. There was not a whole lot out there once you got outside of town.
Sam Rider got on the radio.
“Champ. Go ahead Sam.”
“I’m in the air again. Tommy Montalvo and his blue Camaro turned east on 160 and appears to be heading back to Vegas. His friend is heading in the opposite direction, also out of town. We’re on him.”
“Got it Sam. Chief laid on another chopper, this one stolen from the Air Force. They’ll find Montalvo.”