Authors: Sara Schoen
The team, including Audrey and Damien, had been moved from the airstrip to the Boulder County Justice Center, home of the Boulder Sheriff's office. I watched as the team got out first before letting Audrey and Damien out of the car. It was for their protection, if this man was after Audrey, then we had to protect her. Although, if this man hated having help brought in then I was curious on how he would handle us giving protection to the person he wanted. If he had started dropping bodies in retaliation to the help, I was scared to see what he would do to get to Audrey.
As we walked into the police station, I tried to get a good look around. Ever since I was little I was cautious of local law enforcement officers after so many of them in my hometown were found to be working with Steve Bennett in order to keep their own families safe. People in my town were angered by their actions but few understood how ruthless Steve Bennett was. These officers knew, they had somehow found him and were given a choice, life or death? They made their choice, and I'm sure a few officers were killed because they refused to help him.
Their job was to prevent others from finding him, and in exchange he would pay them, and ensure their wives and daughters never became one of his victims. All they had to do was agree to keep the girls he was with in the chase and look the other way. By doing that, the officers rationalized that it was one girl—if she left then another would just be taken. What's wrong with one girl compared to the dozens it could be?
Everything. Everything was wrong with that. I knew why the officers did what they did, it was a natural human instinct to protect loved ones, but I couldn't rationalize their choice.
Those officers should have stopped him, and they knew it, but passing up the choice could have meant death for them and their families. If it had been my dad, he would have said no, but then he would have died, and Steve would have come after me anyway. At that point, it wouldn't be as a friend for Anna, but as a replacement. I shivered that thought away as I followed Callum toward the office the officers had set up for us, but as I got closer he shut the doors behind his team and turned to face me.
"Stay out here," he ordered.
"You warned them, you brief them. I don't want them getting in the way, like you have so far." He swiped his fingers through his hair with a heavy sigh as his phone started to ring.
"Excuse me?" I asked, insulted by his words. "You called me in on this, how can you say that I'm getting in the way?"
"I don't have time for this right now, Jessi. I have to take this phone call," he said as he lifted the phone to his ear and walked away from me.
I felt an anger boiling inside of me as I replayed his words in my mind. He had done nothing but insult me and berate me for my choices since I'd gotten here. He asked me to come, he seemed so nice before, demanding, but polite. He wanted my help, correction, he wanted Anna's help. I was sure that was the only reason I was even here; a last choice. This time I wasn't going to stand by while he insulted me I took a few steps toward him I was going to rip that phone out of his hand and give him a piece of my mind when Audrey grabbed a hold on my arm.
"It's not worth it," she stated. She had probably figured out what I was about to do without any problems. I was one of those people that you could read easily just by looking at my facial expressions. No matter how hard I tried, my true thoughts would be put on display for everyone to see. Audrey had once asked how a dressed looked on her, I knew she loved it, but it looked awful on her. Let's just say she didn't get the dress.
"I didn't think you joined the FBI for kidnapping cases," Audrey stated as she lead me to a table away from Callum and his team.
"I didn't, but of course that's what I get labeled with a lot. They call it an expertise, but really it's just inside knowledge that isn't really useful since I was so young. That's why I go to you guys a lot, you were older and remember a lot more than I do. I wish I was more help, but they know more than I ever will."
"Looks like Callum gives you a hard time," Audrey said as she gestured toward the dark haired man who was busy talking into the phone.
"Only all the time," I sighed. "Everything I say around him is wrong because he won't share information with me. I don't know why they asked me in on this. I wasn't even their first choice, Anna said no, which is understandable because she has been through enough, but she would answer any questions they had. You said no, because you wanted to finish school without that over your head, I was a last resort."
"I'm sure you're better than a last option. Just relax and it will all come to you. Trust me," Audrey said with a smile. She had told me that while she was with Steve her mind connected the dots from everything about the case she had heard growing up. She learned from the girls that went before her and, according to her, it helped her escape.
"And what if it doesn't? What if I never remember and I just make a fool out of myself during the investigation? I don't know this man, I barely knew Steve Bennett and I almost got your mother killed because I was there."
"But you didn't, Jessi. You were a child, and there was no way that you could know what was going on," Audrey pointed out. "Jessi, there's no need to worry. You've worked for years to get here and make a difference, maybe you're meant to do this. Yes, Anna and I were asked before you, but it's exactly what you said, you were too young to register what was happening. If you think about it and take some time to yourself I'm sure it will come to you."
"He's just going to keep it up, I can't just keep acting like I'm okay with how he treats me," I said as I watched him stalk off around the corner toward the restrooms.
"He's just stressed, Jessi. Wouldn't you be with girls going missing?"
"I was worried when we thought it was you, but he just yelled at me for calling you and Damien. I didn't know what else I could do. The video went down, there wasn't a positive identification on the person taken, and I had to know if you were okay or not. There was nothing else I could do," I cried. My hands were in my hair, starting to pull at the small threads of blonde color.
"Now you know how he feels," Audrey said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it, Jessi. How you felt when it could have been me? That worry, the angst, and the fear. All of those emotions you had when you thought it could have been me, you also felt for the girl that was actually taken. Yes you were relieved it wasn't me, but you also felt it for the other girl right?" I nodded my head as an answer and waited for her to continue. "He's been feeling that since the first girl was taken. Kidnappings of young kids gets everyone like that, and he's been dealing with this for a while now. We have no idea how long these girls have been missing, when they were taken or anything from what I heard the team talking about in the car ride. They are focused on this case, and only this because of the severity of it."
"That doesn't give him the right to treat me like this."
"It's not about you, Jessi. It's about how he feels about this. They know nothing about this guy, and you have made some rash choices. You're thinking of yourself instead of those around you and while I thank you for worrying about me, it could have caused more problems by telling me. You need to start thinking about the team, and not just yourself. I understand that you don't trust them because you don't know them or you feel like you have to watch out for just yourself, but now you're on a team and you have to start acting like it."
I felt my insides clench as Audrey talked about how I was thinking only of myself. Callum had said the same thing to me, and I hadn't believed it because I thought he was just trying to get a reaction out of me. Now, hearing it come from Audrey I knew that I was really too focused on myself and not enough on the team. I had been rushing through trying to solve the case to prove myself, but I hadn't been a part of the team. I didn't have the information that his team did, because I wasn't acting like a part of the team. I had started to, but we had yet to share information. It was time I started acting like a part of Callum’s team.
"Thanks, Audrey," I said offering a small smile as Damien slid into the seat next to his girlfriend. I saw him roll his eyes as he sat down. "What's wrong?"
"Your friend is a jerk, I said hi to him as he walked past me and he shoved past me mumbling about how irritating something was. I asked if he was okay and he told me to get lost, or better yet, go back to jail," Damien grimaced as he thought about his time in jail. He had to serve time for kidnapping Audrey, even when the family dropped the charges, but there was no way he was ever going back. Luckily for him, he got out with two years and had no horrible injuries to tell us about.
"That's Callum for you," I said with a smile as I glanced over to see him yelling at his team. For a few moments I was glad not to be a part of his team yet, it didn't look like they were having a pleasant discussion. My thoughts were verified when Callum turned to look at me with a glare, anger visible in his eyes, as he waved me over. I sighed heavily, "my slave-driver calls."
I walked over to Callum with a slow, patient walk that clearly annoyed him as he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him. I could see the anger in his eyes and feel it in his touch. He glared down at me as he shuffled me into the room with his team, and judging from the deep displeasure in his eyes, it wasn't by choice. He had been on the phone for over fifteen minutes and now he wanted to talk to all of us together—must have been important, or he just didn't want to repeat himself.
"That phone call was from the Director Cassidy," Callum said before Abby interrupted him.
"What did she want? We have barely started the investigation here, she can't expect us to know something already."
"Well, if you let me finish then you would know what the phone call as about," Callum retorted, clearly annoyed. "She wanted to take the time to remind me that we are here because the police of this department asked us to be here, and are only here to work on this case only," Callum stated as he glanced over at me to make sure I understood.
I lifted an eyebrow at him, unsure of why he needed me to understand. I watched as his eyes flicked to Damien and Audrey, I didn't look at them though. I could see the answer in his eyes, he didn't want me focused on them, my family or anything else. He wanted me focused on the case and nothing else, little did he know that it wouldn't be a problem
There were very few things that distracted me, but they never got in the way of the case. Although, a case had never involved my family and friends before. A case never got someone I knew targeted. A case was never so personal, and now it was possible for me to be sidetracked. I had to keep Anna and Audrey out of this because it wasn't fair for them to relive the horror again, this time it was my turn.
"We will need to stay focused to solve this quickly. We should focus on the last girl taken before Audrey Thompson was mistakenly taken. That girl should give us a clue to what he currently looks for and maybe close in on his type." Callum looked at me again, as if to tell me that I should focus away from Audrey.
It would be hard to stay away from her, she was the closest thing I had to a sister. I knew her the best, I would know stuff they didn't and be better help. It would at least make up for the fact that I hadn't been able to help much with the kidnapping aspect of this case yet.
"Remember that there is a girl's life on the line along with at least twelve others, if not more, fates are uncertain at the moment."
At his words I glanced over to Audrey and Damien. They were wrapped in each other arms in a way that sent a pang of jealousy through my body. They had found each other in a sick twist of fate, just as Anna had found Garrett, by being a part of the Steve Bennett kidnappings. They each found their partner through the horrific and terrible experience without really trying, but I hadn't been able to find anyone after trying for years. The ones I had found that seemed to be good guys couldn't get past the fact that I had been a part of the notorious kidnapping spree. No one wanted to date a girl that had been broken, they didn't want the baggage, but I wish someone would just take the time to get to know me.
I didn't have the baggage they thought I had, I healed, I had moved past the kidnappings like Anna and Audrey had. They were able to function normally, and few people even talked to them about it, but with me it was on everyone's mind. I couldn't escape it; no matter where I turned someone was asking me about it. What it had been like, what Steve had been like and how it affected my family; it was never ending. There wasn't a person out there that didn't know what I had been through, but each and every one of them were fascinated by it.
I glanced up to Callum, he had been one of the men that knew about the kidnappings and he had wasted no time bringing them up. He had seen me struggle with the choice to come here, and I was sure that he thought I had baggage, but his blue eyes gave nothing away; even when he glanced over to me during his speech. It was almost as if I wasn't there.
I sighed heavily as I looked at Damien and Audrey. It was only a matter of time before Damien proposed to her and they could be together like Anna and Garrett, while I would be single, waiting for that one man that didn't ask me about Steve Bennett or the kidnappings. I just wanted one person to not focus on them; it was something so far in my past that I barely remembered, but it seemed impossible to have a relationship while working for the FBI. We worked at all hours and rarely got home at a usual time, it would be hard, but it would be worth it in my opinion.
"Clearly my speech wasn't taken to heart or even being listened to," I heard Callum say, snapping me out of my mental reverie. "How about you try a little harder to listen and participate, then I might actually consider you to be a part of this team. You weren't asked to be a consultant so you could daydream, I need you to focus and figure out where this man is going before he even knows, or is that not possible for you?"
I was about to tell him where he could put his attitude instead of getting angry with me, but I remembered what Audrey said. I didn't know anything about Callum, I didn't know why he chose me to pick on or why he was so angry, and there was nothing I could do about it. I took a deep breath and offered him a soft smile.
"I can do it, no worries." As the words left my mouth, Callum rolled his eyes and scoffed at my answer. He then started to bark out orders for his team to do after he talked to the officers in the station. He smiled at me as he walked out of the room, before I saw his eyes darken a second later as he rolled his eyes at me again.
I guess I still wasn't in his good graces, so much for teamwork.