9. *Behind the scenes*

9. *Behind the scenes*

A Chapter by Lynaelee

~Abuse warning. Explicit words (some, not much)~ POV change, backtracking, new information. DOES NOT EXPAND ON ANNETTE'S STORY

He watched in horror from his position behind the screen. He felt responsible for her pain. His girlfriend came and sat on his lap. "What's wrong, my love?" She asked kissing his neck and rubbing her hands through his hair. He just pointed at his monitor. "Oh. Them. Don't worry. The bigger guy in the middle is leaving. They're giving him the amnesia drug. Unfortunately -or fortunately depending on how you look at it- she's the only one that will see any punishment." 

"That's the problem, Jess. You know how much it pains me to watch, but it bugs me even more to watch her. Why? What do they want from her?" He asked quietly before kissing her cheek. "I'm happy to see you, love," he whispered. Jess smiled broadly and pecked his lips before responding. 

"I'm always happy to see you too. Try as I might, Daddy still thinks he needs his experiments. You were the only one I've successfully saved. You're free to roam about as long as you keep working for him. You've vastly improved our security systems. I'm ready to get out of here, but I can't leave you behind. This life isn't for me. Do you think I want our child to grow up here?" Jess earnestly asked in a soft voice as she made his hand rub her abdomen; she had just started to show. "My voice isn't very loud. Even being the daughter of the boss, I have no authority. See she's strong; she keeps getting up." 

"She always has been," came his calm and steady response. He took a deep breath and looked around the room. Then he tilted Jess back so that she was cradled in his arms across his lap. "I'll help us escape, but I can't leave her behind either. We'll find a safe place to raise the baby," he reassured her quietly, tickling her ear as he spoke. He rubbed her belly tenderly and laughed merrily with Jess so as not to alarm the other tech guy. "If it comes down to it, baby, I'm getting you out of here. But I'm not leaving without her."

"I know. We will all get out," Jess promised. 

"And then I'll date you properly," the technician teased. 

"I look forward to it," Jess giggled as she sat upright, but remained in his lap. She leaned in close and in a nearly inaudible voice, spoke directly into his ear, "my brother doesn't like this lifestyle anymore either. We have his help too. The pill that Lionel is going to give that boy was engineered by my brother. It'll knock him out with minimal memory loss. He'll forget things still, but it won't be the 24 hours the mob squad thinks it is. This batch of prisoners may be our tickets out. Trust me, baby, she won't stay either; we'll all get out. The mob squad will be taken out soon enough. Now smile sheepishly like I just told you how naughty we'll be in bed later." 

"Have I ever told you how much I love you, Jessica Aubrey Nelson?" He asked as he kissed her nose. She giggled and pointed at the screen. Lionel released the kid from his binds while the girl on the floor said something. Curious, he turned on the speaker and listened with his headphones to her spiel about football tryouts. Ronald, or as he preferred, Ronnie slammed his leg into her chest and the thud had him turning off the speaker again. He shuddered from his position behind the monitor as the girl was picked up by around her neck; she was turning purple but still fought to keep breathing. "Make it stop," he begged. Jess kissed his temple.

"It's almost done, love," she whispered. He sighed; it offered little comfort. That girl shouldn't be here at all. Finally bound free, the kid in the middle chair stood, looked at the battered girl gasping for air, said something, pounded his chest, and took the pill from Lionel's hand. Within seconds, he hit the ground. Ronnie violently pushed the girl across the room, and the two of them watched the screen in horror as her head bounced off the wall. This was his cue. Jess kissed him once again, stood up behind him, and began rubbing his shoulders. Using a few keystrokes, he opened the three doors on the metal wall and the single door in the mirror. Lionel and Ronnie grabbed the unconscious boy and walked out. Per his orders, the tech hit a few more keystrokes and closed the door behind them. He watched his monitor again and prayed that the three of them in that room would just follow directions; he didn't want to see any more pain dished out. The girl looked at the other two, nodded, and stumbled into the open door beside her and immediately collapsed. He grievously closed her door behind her. "She's safe in that room. Only someone here at the computer can let anyone in or out. She's safe," Jess reasoned, but even she was uncertain; that was a nasty blow to the head. Lionel and Ronnie had haphazardly set the boy down in another chair in the exceptionally large hallway, and came into the control room. Lionel glared at him and took the headphones out of his ear and held it up to his own ear. 

"Why aren't your speakers on, boy?" Lionel barked, staring him down. "Jessica, darling, I don't know why you hang out with the peasants. You could do so much better. Just imagine if you will how gre-" 

"-leave her alone," the smaller tech snapped, defending his girlfriend and interrupting that piece of scum from saying anything else. "She didn't choose you. Get over it." As if to prove a point, Jess kissed him deeply, then scowled at Lionel as she walked out of the room. A message appeared on his screen in code from the second tech. The first tech deciphered it quickly. 

"He's already mad, why anger him more? Watch it."

He looked over at the other tech and scowled as he thought, "why do you care?" He met Lionel's eye again. "Jess is off limits. You can't touch her for as long as I'm alive. I know damn well you can't kill me off either," he stated firmly as he faced his computer again and put a blank expression on his face. 

"I'll break you yet, boy. Something tells me that making those prisoners scream just might be my ticket. There's only one way out of this: death," Lionel threatened as he paced angrily behind him. "You'll f*****g take your life, or the life of your child. She won't stay with you. Now why aren't your speakers on?" He asked again slapping him upside the head. Lionel got close to his ear and whispered almost inaudibly, "tell me, Noah. How f*****g bad is it? Are you afraid to hear your sister get hurt? Hmm?" Noah blinked back tears but kept his eyes on the screen as he turned on the speaker for the main room and the room his sister was in. Lionel slapped the back side of Noah's head again when he didn't get a response. Lionel stood up and paced as Noah unplugged his headphones and looked at his sister; she was already sleeping. Noah bit his bottom lip, a trait he shared with his sister when he got nervous. "Guess she won't be saying anything any time soon. Too bad." Turning towards Ronnie, Lionel fumed, "how the f**k could you only make her cry out once!? Are you losing your touch?" Ronnie slunk back against the wall. 

Noah smirked and thought, "that's my sister. 'Nettie was always good about keeping quiet; they won't get any ammo from her. If only I took lessons from her more. You gotta wake up, sis. Come on."

Turning Noah's chair around and looking him in the eyes, Lionel's eyes thinned and he asked, "was the speaker off the whole time?" Noah nodded. To anyone but his sister, Noah was always successful in telling little white lies. He would never say anything to get her in trouble and would say what he could for her protection; not knowing what or how she was threatened at this time was for the best. "Tell me about the numbers 60 and 33. Make sure you dumb it down so that oof over there understands," Lionel demanded as he gestured back towards Ronnie. Noah let out a small sigh of relief but made sure to keep it away from the maniac in front of him. He could help protect his sister since he did overhear this portion; he would take her lead. 

"You're breath stinks!" Noah chastised, wrinkling his nose and scowling at the man.

"Numbers. What do they mean?" Lionel huffed angrily, making sure to breathe directly into Noah's face.

"In what area? Speech? TV? Sports?" Noah threw out. Lionel didn't flinch. "Let's see. Channel 60 is just static. I think channel 33 is ABC; I love that channel. It's full of stupid and funny things." Lionel slapped him.

"In regards to them. We both know they're all from your hometown," he hissed as he pointed to the computer monitor. Noah looked out the corner of his eye towards the monitor before looking Lionel squarely again. Lionel terrified him, but under no circumstances was he going to let him know the truth behind those numbers.

"You said 33 and uh, what 16?" Noah asked trying to see if he would be corrected. Lionel slapped him again. "OW! Okay! Sorry. 33 and what? 60?" Noah confirmed. 

"Big number first," Lionel spat as he narrowed his eyes and gave him a curt nod. Noah cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. 

"Well, I'm not 100% sure. You have three athletes and a bookworm. So a 60% or a 33% would be low averages since the bookworm would make them all skyrocket; she's a straight A student. All the teachers talked about her; I think I overheard them bragging that the lowest grade she ever got was a 98%. She's never failed anything so the smaller number doesn't make sense at all, not even in an average between the four of them. Because even if the others passed with a D-, the bookworm would average their grades out to a C- at the worst, that's over 70%. So uh, that can't be it," Noah threw out as Lionel huffed. "Let's see, then there's sports stats. The brunette female only does basketball and the sixty is a good average to shoot for, but it's probably free throw percentage, the smaller number might be what she actually makes from the key to the three-point arch depending on her position. I never really watched them play, so I don't know for sure; kinda hard to watch when you're playing too. The men, well they both play sports year round. Adam -the athlete you're imprisoning- does track in the spring and wrestling in the winter. Ryan -obviously the other guy- was phenomenal on the court in basketball and had a mean golf swing. I don't know the stats for those exactly, but the only one they play together is football. In regards to that, this time of year is preseason football practice. In our hometown, 33 is the number of football players on the varsity team. If all the guys in 9th-12th grade try out, there could be about 130-150 people trying out. Usually there's about half that do. So out of all that try out, 33 are the big dogs, the rest make it unto the JV. No one has been cut that I'm aware of. Um, I'm not sure how many people are in their class exactly. Perhaps it's a headcount," Noah explained, bouncing his knee nervously as he held Lionel's gaze. Lionel slapped him and paced the room again, leaving Noah time to think and breathe. He gave the truth, but not the truth Lionel was looking for. Noah partially lied though too. The varsity roster was for 35 players, not 33; 6033 was the last four digits of his parent's phone number. Everyone in town had the same prefix, so somehow, that boy must have asked her for it. Noah didn't catch it; he was too focused on his sister. He admired her quick thinking and delivery method. Lionel looked disappointed. 

"B***h told the truth. D****t. Well good thing, captain Ryan loves football so much! He'll forever have a reminder of his football stats, then again, I didn't carve him too deep. F**k. Zap those two. Ugh," he snarled, pointing at the screen and kicking Noah's leg. Adam and Lauren were completely free of their bonds, locking lips, and embracing. Lauren seemed to tremble and shake, Adam was doing what he could to try and calm her down. 

"I could have taken care of that if you weren't so hell bound to interrogate me for something I have no control over," Noah mumbled under his breath and tensed waiting for the slap or hit that was bound to come to the back of his head. Instead, Lionel slammed the handle of his knife into Noah's side. He grunted but didn't move otherwise.

"Now, boy," Lionel snarled as he put his knife away in his pocket. Noah sighed, faced his computer, and activated the electronic current under half of floor in that main holding cell. He set it to 8% power, he zapped them. It was enough to tickle their bare feet but not hurt them; they jumped apart and fell to ground. Lionel leaned over Noah's shoulder, pounded on the keyboard to turn on the microphone, and barked into it, "I said move to your rooms or you would have problems." They both stood up and made their way through the open doors, Lauren took the one on the left, leaving Adam to take the one on the right, well technically, the center. Noah closed the doors behind them. Now all they had to do was make their way through the hallway, through another doorway -which Noah closed behind them- to the 8x8 foot room, that tapered into a two foot across nook. Near the nook was a door they could open and close to a small bathroom that held a toilet, toilet paper, a shower head attached to the wall, a soap dispenser that was full of hair and body soap, and a small hand towel. The room itself consisted of a twin bed with bedding, two changes of generic clothing, a sink, a fountain, deck of cards, a tray with a full meal, and an empty glass. As they stepped into the room, the first thing that met their eyes was the mirrored wall in the nook. The further away from it they were, the more it looked like a mirror. The closer they got, they would be able to tell it was a two way mirror protected by plexiglass. Lauren gasped and Adam slunk to the floor when they noticed what was on the other side: Annette currently motionless.

"Annette, no! I thought you were okay! Get up," both exclaimed in some form, laced in guilt. Noah pursed his lips and sympathized with them.

"Turn on their intercoms, boy," Lionel instructed with a slap against his head. Noah did. Speaking into the microphone, Lionel spoke again, "welcome to this wonderful place we'll call the ark. I'll be your captain. I hope you enjoy your accommodations. You will have limited light usage, but don't worry, that mirror should filter in plenty of light for you. Food will be delivered through a small hole in the wall. Please leave all garbage on your tray. We'll take care of it when we swap it out. I recommend you keep that cup. Get lots of rest. I'll see you soon." He turned off the intercoms as Ronnie snickered. Whirling on his heel, Lionel sneered, "what are you laughing at, you damn f*****g fool? You failed!" 

"Nothing," Ronnie's deep voice jabbed. "You tell her to call you Ark and them that they're living in one. Do you feel like you'll get them to board two by two?" Noah suppressed a grin. The other tech turned his back as he too was hiding a chuckle. 

"It's a good thing you're useful, Ronald," Lionel fumed. Ronnie grinned and departed. Turning his attention back to Noah, Lionel directed, "kill their lights in half an hour, but not her's; for the duration of their stay, that is exactly how the rooms are to be from here on out. We'll be back after a while, I don't know why the boss wants to spare that boy and let him go home. I am so glad those dumb teens can't call my bluffs; I have no idea how those damn pills are supposed to work exactly but I do know they work very well. I expect these speakers to stay on. No interference. No talking to them. When we come back is when you can rest. You will be monitoring this screen. I want every moan, sigh, cry, and word transcribed in this notebook. While we are in the room with her, Tyler there will use that ankle bracelet of yours if you turn the sound off, try to leave, or interfere. Understood?" Noah numbly nodded. Tyler looked apologetically at him then stared at his own screens again. Lionel left the control room in a haste, collected Ryan and set off with Ronnie. Once again Noah looked at the screen with his sister on it again. Shortly after, Tyler retired for the night too. Noah only felt partially bad for not knowing his name until tonight, but then again, their paths hardly crossed. With so many technical aspects going on in all the rooms, Tyler's computer skills were needed too. Tyler was instructed to set up the rooms. He had to physically remove all items from Annette's room: luxury and comfort items were not allowed for her. Tyler also had to program the walls to specific dimensions; there was the possibility of at least two more rooms behind that metal wall. He was also responsible for making sure the prisoners ate. Noah's job was run the power and water and help with the remodeling if needed. He sighed and looked at Tyler's empty chair before looking back at his monitor, rewinding the feed to hear what Ryan told his sister and anything else she might have said. 

"Ryan was right, 'Nettie. You gotta fight and live," Noah whispered as he came back to the live feeds, downsized Adam and Lauren's screens so they were no bigger than a half dollar coin on the bottom of the screen, and blew up the monitor with his sister's feed. He turned on the intercom to his bedroom that he shared with Jess. "Hey, love, he's gone. I can't leave," he murmured into the microphone, unable to keep his voice from cracking. Jessica came back in the room about two minutes later. He looked up at her and wrapped her up in his arms. "I love you. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, darling. Thank you. Are you afraid she has a concussion?" She asked. Noah nodded, tears threatening to spill over. Jess kissed his cheeks and untangled herself from his arms. "Me too. Let me help," she offered pulling over Tyler's rolling chair. "I'm so sorry, babe. I know you were ordered not to interfere, but I can. Besides, I have an inky feeling Lionel wants her to wake up again," she said with a sad smile; Noah pursed his lips. "Trigger some alarm or something to wake her up, and I'll question her. We have about three hours to check on her, but monitor the camera in the van just in case. My brother is going to try and slip her some high dose, non-side effect, pain killers. He likes you, you know. You're family, which means she is too." 

"I've never met him, Jess. Are you sure he likes me? What about your dad? Isn't he going be upset with you helping?" Noah asked in concern as he did what she asked. 

"Don't be silly, love! My job is medical, and that includes making sure people aren't hurt too badly. Although I can't physically go see her, I can do an electronic check. Hopefully she'll open her one eye enough for me to see if it's dilated. We're going to have play with the lights too. Turn them off and on again when I say." Annette stirred and rolled to her side. Noah turned off the alarm. "Turn on her intercom please. You can feed her responses into the other rooms. Let her friends know she's okay, but you'll have to mute it when I talk or distort my voice. And zoom into her face. Thank you," Jess ordered. Noah nodded, played with the camera settings, and turned on Annette's intercom so she could hear Jess speak. Then he added a voice filter to the microphone; Jess would now sound like a 50 year old Asian woman with thick accent. "Ooh! I can have some fun with that," Jess giggled.

"I want them hear the questions and her answers; otherwise they may never shut up. Take care of my sister, Jess," Noah begged. Jess nodded and Noah fed the sound feed into Adam and Lauren's rooms. Finally, he turned on the microphone and looked back at his girlfriend.

She nodded and spoke into it, "You! Hey, girlie. No concussions allowed. I need you to open your eyes. Tell me your name." 

"Sarah. Annette. Gibson," Annette gasped out, squinting her right eye; the left Noah couldn't tell if she was using or not. "Everyone calls me Annette." Noah nodded, confirming her answer. 

"Thank you. When is your birthday?" Jess asked. 

"April, 1989," Annette slurred as her eyes closed again. Again Noah nodded. 

"Don't close your eyes yet. You need to answer more questions," Jess instructed as she grabbed Noah's hand. He flicked the lights off. "How are you feeling?" Annette's eye reluctantly opened, Noah flicked the lights on again. 

"Angels. Bright lights, sweet voices. I'm at peace." Jess raised an eyebrow at Noah. This didn't sound good. Noah shrugged; his sister was still speaking coherently. "I'm sore but fine. Thank you," Annette recited as though she'd rehearsed it several times before. Noah grinned and squeezed Jess's hand. Annette had much worse encounters with their dad; she was okay. Jess gave him a reassuring smile. 

"Where are you?"

"Floor. It's comfy. I'll sleep here," Annette replied wearily.

"Thank you, Annette. You can go back to sleep," Jess replied. In the corner of his screen, Adam and Lauren let out a sigh of relief as they settled into their own beds. Noah turned off the intercom systems and Adam and Lauren's lights as Jess looked at him and continued, "she's definitely got a concussion, but I can't tell how bad since she only can open the one eye. However, she answered all the questions, just the middle part confused me." Noah wrapped Jess into arms as he pulled her into his lap and kissed her passionately. Breaking away from the kiss, Jess looked him in the eye and promised, "I'll watch her all night." Noah began to protest. "The baby's fine and I'm not tired right now, besides you'll be kicked out soon. Or forced to watch her scream. Either way, it's not going to be good for you. I'll sleep lots tomorrow. We still have five months to go and I'm not on bed rest. Let me care for her. I won't be able to question her when Lionel comes back. But we can every 45 minutes until then. Her eye dilated fine, just a little slow. She'll be okay, but I'll go get the coffee anyways - for you," she finished as she kissed him back. Noah smiled and wished he could better care for the women in his life as his love walked away and on the screen, his sister dozed. 


Three and a half hours after Linda had called the police, they finally came for statements and to view the tape. Annette's dad happened to be one of the officers that responded. Pat noticed that when Patrolman Bradley Gibson saw the video of his daughter being abducted that he could care less. In fact, he seemed happy for a second before he acted like the concerned parent; only Pat noticed. Josh was glued to the screen again, Linda was crying silently, and Joe remained downstairs getting drunk. The other trooper had concern etched all over his face as he furiously took notes. They turned off the feed after that. Pat was grateful Linda didn't show him getting into Annette's car. He was also grateful that her keys didn't show up in the playback either. "Don't you have a conflict of interest?" Pat questioned Trooper Gibson. 

"If anything, I have the biggest reason to find them. Now where are her car keys and other belongings? I'll arrange to take her car home and her money will be safer with us," he responded. Pat resisted the urge to roll his eyes and scoff; no good parent who just lost their child would be more concerned with belongings than the personal welfare of their child. Luckily, Trooper Gibson missed Pat's sarcastic body language since he was looking down at the monitor where the screen showed Annette climbing into the van with a gun pointed at her head; rewound and froze as requested.

"Unfortunately, we didn't find any of her stuff," Pat responded before Linda could open her mouth. She shot him a questioning look. Pat just shrugged noncommittally. He'd answer her later. Right now, he didn't feel like he could trust Trooper Gibson. 

"That's alright, I have a spare at home," Trooper Gibson said.

"What do we do now?" Linda voiced softly.

"There's not much we can do. There's not a clear picture of the faces or license plate. We can issue BOLO but we'll get a lot of calls. Common vehicle. Probably fake plates. We're at a standpoint. In 24 hours, we can issue a missing person's. Until then, we'll hope for a lead," Trooper Gibson remarked. His partner paused his note taking and seemed surprised at what was just said. "Keep us posted," he ordered over his shoulder as he went back downstairs. 

"We'll do what we can. I'm sure he's just not thinking logically because it's his daughter. I caught a partial of the license plate; it's a start. Call me if you think of anything else," the other trooper said as he handed over his business card. Pat took it and nodded as the officer left. Then he walked to the end of the office and looked out the doorway, making sure that they weren't lingering. Once he could confirm that, he began to pace the small room. Linda continued to stare. 

"What the hell, man? Why wouldn't you give him her stuff?" Josh asked as he nudged Pat's side. 

"He grinned when he saw her get in. I can't trust him. His partner, Trooper Sanchez, seems to be helpful though," Pat explained as he studied the card in his hand and sat down again. 

"Don't you think you have a conflict of interest and aren't seeing things clearly?" Linda countered, causing Pat's eyes to shoot up and meet her gaze. "I've seen the way you look at her, and the fact that you cried for an hour after her disappearance speaks volumes. You care for her, more than me or this place. Maybe even more than your mom in her final moments. I've watched you date girls years ago, you never looked at them the way you look at Annette. We're going to find her, but right now, we have to let the authorities do their job. You're gut has never steered you wrong, but your heart is definitely causing some interferences now." 

"What do you mean you can't trust him?" Josh added. Pat sighed. 

"I don't think my heart's getting in the way of my judgement; I truly feel like Trooper Gibson is a threat. I don't think he was thinking any different than he usually does. I genuinely believe he just doesn't care," he replied. Both Linda and Josh gave him a skeptical look. "Okay, fine. Name one person who smiles when their child gets abducted? Or name one cop who isn't taking notes on an abduction case? His notebook was practically blank and he pretended to scribble in it. I think he wrote down the names of the other kids, but as soon as Annette was escorted into the van, he put his notebook away. There was a lot of white on that page and he never turned the page. His partner had two full pages filled out," Pat explained. Linda and Josh now wore expressions of pure shock and terror. Pat shook his head and met Josh's eye. "I can't name one parent that would react the way he did. Not to mention, if he was truly a good cop, more questions would have been asked. Statements from Joe, Bertie, Kevin, Vanessa, and Max all would have been necessary as well too; he barely took our statements. Here's another thing, I think Annette has been hiding something about her home life, or more particularly him. Josh, what has she told you of her dad?"

"That he's a cop. That's it," Josh replied after thinking about it. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he looked up at the ceiling.

"Okay, tell me how many times she's served the cops in uniform that come in for lunch?" 

"Now that I think about it, not once; she was always too busy with another order and had us switch if it was her turn to take the table. You're right. There's too many pieces missing, too many red flags. A year and a half she's been here and she knows that my dad's a drunk fisherman in Alaska, loves a good casserole, has taken me on some of the best ski slopes, and can make the grumpiest person smile with his jokes. She knows that my mom feels overworked, recently moved back to Detroit, is good with a welder, and always cries on the phone when I talk to her. I'm sure Annette knows more, but she never spilled anything about her home life; not really." Pat nodded and looked back at Linda with a raised eyebrow.

"You know I talk to her often; she always changes the subject when her home life is brought up. Based on what I just witnessed, I think I have a good understanding as to why she was so guarded," he uttered.

"Okay. You're right. Those are some major flags. If you're correct, it also explains why she didn't want to leave earlier when we confronted her. Leave her keys in the car, we'll hold onto her apron and tips. Go home. Clear your head. I'll try and get things moving here. Please, go rest. Both of you. Thanks for sticking around. Pat, don't do anything reckless. Josh, stay by your phone. I'm counting on you to watch over this one," Linda instructed as she pat their cheeks tenderly. Both men leaned over and kissed her cheek. She embraced them and headed down the stairs. "She's part of this restaurant family. We gotta find her," Linda mumbled before her voice faded away.

"Linda's right; Annette's quiet and everything, but she's part of this family and a great asset to our team. We'll do whatever we can to find her, which unfortunately isn't much. I can stay over if you'd like?" Josh offered. Pat shook his head and pulled out Annette's keys. "It's not your fault. She didn't have much of a choice; there was gun pointed at her head. Call me if you need anything," Josh ordered. 

"You know I will. Thanks. I'll be okay. I'm staying put. There's not much I can do; I know that," Pat mumbled over his shoulder as he too took off down the stairs, each syllable was growing closer to a whisper; he couldn't even convince himself -let alone his best friend- that he wouldn't do anything to find her. He made sure the cops were completely gone from the premises, put her keys in her center console in the car, and locked the door again. He kept her sweatshirt and loaded up in his truck to go home. After much pacing and lack of ideas, he dressed in workout clothes and began to run. It was 9:30pm, and he felt utterly useless; she had been gone over seven hours and little was being done to find her. He continued to run until his lungs burned. Then he found a decent sized gravel pit and punched it until his hands felt raw. Then he sprinted as hard as he could for as long as he could. When he felt like his leg had turned to rubber, he leaned against a tree, tilted his head back, and screamed. By the time he felt like he had gotten rid of most of his anger and frustration, his voice was coarse and he felt like he was finally tiring out, it was close to 2am. Pat made his way back home, taking the long route, not the most direct. The restaurant had been closed for four hours by now and was quiet and dark as he approached. Huffing and puffing, he began to slow down as be came around the back. Walking from the back door towards the parking lot, with his arms above his head and taking slow deliberate breaths, he heard a car pulling up which caused him to freeze. Annette's car was gone and there was only one other vehicle in the whole parking lot; it belonged to the missing teenagers. Pat hugged the wall as he tried not to be seen. A white van pulled into the lot and Pat took out his phone, turning on the camera, and covering his screen with his hand so the light wouldn't give him away. He snapped a picture of the van from all angles while shielding himself with the corner of the building. The van stopped fifteen feet away, next to the solitary vehicle in the parking lot. Two men stepped out and thanks to the street lights, Pat got a clear view of them. His heart stopped in his chest when he saw who the driver was. He hugged the wall and bit his fist, wishing he clocked the b*****d as he was banning him from the premises. Part of him wanted to run out there and hit them both, but he thought back to the gun they used earlier. They would shoot him without a second thought. So he stayed put, trusting his gut. He peeked around the corner again and watched as they unloaded a single body and hurled it into the car. "Annette?" Pat voiced softly under his breath, trying to remain positive.

"Leave all three cell phones with him," a voice commanded. Him. Not her. This wasn't Annette. Pat's heart sank and his mouth went dry. "Oh and snap a picture. Then make a video with a paper in front of his face to prove he's still breathing. We'll show them a little cooperation on our end. Then that b***h is going to," the man trailed off off as he got back behind the wheel of the van. The other man kept his head in the car for a minute, a light flashed twice, and then he got back in the van. Pat watched the van pull away and get on the interstate heading west before he took off towards the car. He opened the back door and looked at the passenger, a lean but muscular figure was crumpled there. The captain, Pat recalled, and the one who had lust in his eyes while Annette was serving them. He checked his pulse and breathing pattern.

"Good. You're alive," Pat murmured as he shook his shoulder and then patted his cheek. "Come on. Wake up. Guess it's good that one of you is back. It's no 4/4, but it's a start. Wake up!" After no response, Pat put his hands above his head and paced back and forth in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do or who to call. He sighed, headed back to the car, and searched for the kid's keys. He decided to take him back to his place for the night. As he drove away, he thought about calling Linda but given the hour figured best to wait until morning. So he sent her a text instead, "more evidence. Call me when you're ready to start." Pat was strong, but this guy was bigger than him and dead weight. With some difficulty, Pat managed to bring in his company and settle him on the couch, setting a glass of water and two aspirin within his guest's reach. Pat then took a shower, drank some water, and drifted into an uneasy sleep in the seat across from him. About two hours later, Pat was startled awake. He flicked on the lamp beside him and looked at the young man on the couch who was starting to sit up. "Who are you?" Pat asked sternly. 

"Ryan Chesterston," he croaked. "First things first, man. Bathroom, food, and something to drink. Ah! Water." He chugged the glass of water in front of him and popped the aspirin in his mouth. "What the f**k happened? Don't answer that yet. Bathroom?" 

"Second door on the right, down the hallway," Pat explained while he got up and warmed him up some beef barley soup: the only thing edible in his kitchen. It was leftovers from work from Thursday night. It didn't take much time to reheat in the microwave. Pat brought the warmed up soup into the living room, took the empty glass back into the kitchen, and filled it up again. He settled back in his armchair, opened his phone, began recording, and waited for his company after setting the water down next to the soup. When Ryan came back from down the hall, he hungrily attacked the bowl of soup and downed the glass of water. Pat waited impatiently, and glared at Ryan. Why was he released? Where was Annette? When Ryan was satisfied, he eyed Pat suspiciously. "Hospitable not hostile, Miller. That's the best way to get answers, " he thought as he looked over the panic stricken kid in front of him. "How are you feeling, Ryan?" Pat asked wearily, not wanting to start a fight like the other questions would have done.

"Sorry about that, man. Thanks for the grub, it was delicious. My head hurts and everything is fuzzy. I can't remember where I've been. Who are you? You look familiar, and where am I?" 

"Pat Miller. I help out at the Silver Dollar Restaurant. You're safe," Pat replied. 

"Pat? Pat it dry and bandage it. Hmm. That was recently said, right? Where? Did I dream it?" Ryan pondered, then exclaimed, "Oh yeah! You were clearing tables at lunch today. That was today, right?" Pat nodded. "So where am I and how'd I get here?" 

"My home. I took you here after two guys brought you back after abducting you and three others. I saw you at lunch yesterday, but I can understand how you would think it's still the same day. You were taken around 2pm yesterday, and brought back a little more than 12 hours later. Care to fill in the rest? Did they bring anyone else back? Are they planning on it? What happened? Where are they?" Pat quizzed in rapid succession as he leaned forward and braced his elbows on his knees. 

"F**k! Seriously? Sorry, man. I don't know. I don't know where I was or who was with me. Breathing hurts and my wrist too!" Ryan apologetically replied as he lifted his shirt and noticed the bruise on the right side of his chest. He took off the bandage on his wrist and noticed the blood. "What the hell, man! What happened?! 60-33. No idea what that is or why it's carved in my wrist." 

"May I look?" Pat asked. Ryan nodded and Pat sat up to inspect the injuries and his face grew ashen. "That's a broken rib, easily. Hard to breathe and painful, but if we wrap it you can breathe easier. You should ice it too, about 15 minutes every 3-6 hours. The cuts are shallow. You should have minimal scarring or none at all. Can I patch you up?" He asked. Ryan nodded held his head with his hands. Pat nodded and stood up so he could retrieve his medical kit from the bathroom. He leaned over the sink and pressed on the sides. "What the hell is happening to you right now, doll? Please tell me you don't need to be bandaged up like him! You're so small. Please tell me you aren't marred in any way. Or that you will be. I don't know what that man was saying, but I hope he wasn't talking about you. You're the furthest thing from a b***h. Come back. Stay alive," Pat whispered as he looked at his reflection. He splashed some cold water on his face and took a calming breath. Then he opened the mirror and grabbed his medical supplies and headed back out to the front room. Ryan was still in the same position as before. Pat sighed. "Ribs first. Shirt off. Arms out," he ordered. Ryan nodded, obeyed, and let Pat wrap him up. Ryan cried out in pain as Pat secured the ace bandage in place. "You'll be tender for a while, but you'll be fine. Was anyone else hurt?" Pat asked as he cleaned Ryan's wrist and wrapped it in gauze.

"Anyone else? S**t. I can't think. You said three others were with me?" Ryan confirmed. Pat nodded as he moved back to the armchair.

"Walk me through your day yesterday, Friday, August fourth," Pat ordered.

"Let's see. Uh. Well there was football practice at nine, like there was every day this week. It was the last of the two-a-days; the second practice was supposed to start at four. After the morning practice, uh. Oh! Right! The guys and I were hanging out. Two girls came over. I think, no that sounds right. We were playing truth or dare, putting money down. Then we decided to follow up on one as we got lun- no! Such a stupid bet. Dan bet Adam had to kiss a girl he never talked to, even in passing. Annie was the - Annette! Oh my God! They beat her! Left her on the floor. She never complained, or made a sound. What did I do?!" Ryan's color drained from his face as he sat back into the couch. Pat felt weak and he fell back into his chair speechless. "Think, Ryan. What happened next?" Ryan chided himself. "You said there was others? Who else was with us?" 

"Prissy, stuck up brunette. And a tall, muscular built guy, blonde hair. Linebacker, perhaps?" Pat whispered. Was Annette dead? She didn't fight back? Why would she just allow it? "Why do you call her Annie?" Pat asked trying to keep the conversation going. He wanted to scoff at the name, but he had to know if she had someone special in her life; someone that gave her a pet name.

"Lauren. Yeah, she's a b***h. And Adam, he plays both offense and defense, one of the few that do. Linebacker and tight end. He'll take a break after special teams for a few plays then get right back in the game. Good guess. Umm. Right. So Annie. Well I seemed to have misheard, or partially heard, her when she first was introduced to our class five years ago. So even though we never talked, I always called her that; she must have corrected me a thousand times, but it guaranteed she would talk to me: granted it was always 'it's Annette' but I knew she was paying attention to me. We're in two different leagues, but Ryan and Annie, Annie and Ryan, had a nice ring to it. Somehow I would convince her that it's a good name combo. Annette. That name is just so long and formal like. But Annie is anything but that. She's cool, calm, collected, casual, and so f*****g hot. She always stood out but never said yes to going out with anyone. This past summer I've been wondering how it would be for that to be a reality; see how wild she is in the bedroom, if you know what I mean. After all, she hasn't had alone time with me; I'm irresistible," Ryan insisted with a wink and Pat clinched his fist. If that was his thoughts on Annette, it came as no surprise to Pat that she always corrected the punk. Ryan sighed and looked down. Pat relaxed his hand and took a calming breath as well. "She's too pure and kind though. She shouldn't tarnish herself with the likes of me, so I never tried. Unfortunately the girls I'm expected to have are more like Lauren or Marie. Popular. Mean. Superficial. I'm tired of girls like that," Ryan explained morosely. "Stupid bet. We shouldn't have come," he mumbled as he met Pat's eye. Ryan's eyes grew. "She said she would take a bullet for me-us. Oh God! Did I kill her?" Pat inhaled sharply and tried to convince both of them.

"Calm down. They obviously drugged you. I can take you to a hospital for a blood test," Pat reasoned. Ryan looked like he was ready to hyperventilate. "Okay, or not. Annette is tough; she's gotta be. Selfless people like that have a specific trait. If she offered to take the bullet you know she's got a plan." Mentally he added, "at least I hope you do, doll. Please don't be so willing to die for someone who clearly doesn't have the same respect for you."

"I'd rather not go to the hospital and get tested; I'd fail not just because of whatever is in my system now which would disqualify me from playing any sports this year. It's not much or illegal, it's just the principal has rules against it. Oh! Yes! She met my eye. She was breathing. She wasn't dead," Ryan mumbled, trying to remember completely; however he was having a hard time believing it. 

"You said she was breathing. That's good news. You're welcome to stay here for the night. The couch is comfy, but there's also a spare bed, last door on the left. I would appreciate it if you helped save them, but you're free to leave whenever you want. Your car is outside, with three cell phones. Your keys are here on the coffee table. I'll help you call their families tomorrow if you'd like. We have to talk to the cops though; I have some more details to share too," Pat stated, refusing to look the kid in the eye, but looked around his head instead; he suddenly hated everything about this kid and wanted to thump him hard. Ryan numbly nodded and rubbed his wrist trying to remember what those numbers meant as he lay down on the couch again. Pat stopped the recording on his phone, turned off the light, headed to his bed, and fought with his mind as he stared at the ceiling. Annette Gibson was the purest and kindest person he had ever come into contact with. It was wrong for anyone, but especially her own classmate to look, think, or talk about her like that. She deserved somebody who cared about her and only wanted the best for her. She had never expressed interest in him, but surely he was better than the punk on his couch. Pat didn't want Annette for her body like Ryan did, nor was he hoping to score. He just wanted to watch her bloom like the brilliant flower she was. He groaned and rolled over in bed. "Too many people, doll. Too many violent people in this goddamn world who want to f*****g hurt you. And too many cowards like myself who do nothing about it. At least you never let that slow you down. What was it you said? Time to make nice," Pat whispered as he repeated what she said about that table. "If you ever needed proof, Miller, she gave it then. She's not interested in the punk on your couch. What did she do when you kissed her head? She leaned into you more." That thought made him smile and he whispered into the quiet room, "stay strong, doll, if only just for you. We'll find you. I don't know how, doll, but we'll find you. West. And I have the plate number and pictures of your kidnappers. Fake or not, Trooper Sanchez will be able to run those and hopefully get a lead. It's a start. You just have to keep breathing, Annette. Laying on the floor; that's not good. Hang in there, doll. Find a way to stand up. Come home." 

© 2017 Lynaelee

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Added on November 4, 2016
Last Updated on August 4, 2017

If only



Sometimes I feel like I need an outlet to express myself. I have never been good with verbal communication, but I have always found an out in writing. I hurt. I bleed. I make mistakes. I cry. Yes,.. more..

If only If only

A Book by Lynaelee

1. *Prologue* 1. *Prologue*

A Chapter by Lynaelee