Authors: Jaycee Ford
“Someone else,” Devon curtly replied. “I have work to do here.”
I sat in front of the screen and Devon clicked play. Maria Santos huddled a blue blanket close to her as she walked behind a seated Keith Mackey, and then ran out the door. He stood up and stared at the door as it closed behind him. The feed paused and he remained still. The shot switched: Maria running down a vacant hallway, pushing her way out of a secure door. The door slammed shut. The camera’s view switched to outside: A dark car parked right outside the emergency exit. She jumped in just before the car sped off. I paused the feed and backed it up until the car was in the frame. It sped off again. I backed it up again and paused.
This confirmed what we already knew. I slowly turned my head back to Parker.
“Secure Sigmon Road,” I ordered over my shoulder. “Stay out of sight.”
Parker nodded and left. Devon followed. I stared at the car on the screen a little longer, rewound the feed and paused it on the part where Maria Santos was exiting Angie’s room, just as the door was about to close. A sliver of Angie’s face was visible through the open door. I balled up my hands into fists and rested my head between them. I stared at her face. My shoulders slumped with the weight of it all. I needed to make this right. I couldn’t see any possible way she’d still love me after this and I couldn’t blame her, but I had to make this right. I had to get her son back. There would be no exchange. I’d die before I let that happen.
My moment of remorse had to be put aside. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The memory of her in my arms just a few nights ago flooded my thoughts. I had shown her how much I loved her in every sense of the word. The uncertainty of our future surrounded us, but in that moment, our togetherness was impenetrable. This memory would keep me going. Baby Simon would keep me going.
I exhaled and opened my eyes. I had a job to do. I pushed myself away from the computer screen and exited the room. The hallway and lobby of the police station was filled with more personnel. I walked into the middle of the lobby, observing everyone willing to put their lives on hold to help find Simon. “Conference room. Five minutes,” I hollered.
The room quieted briefly while I headed to the supply room. I opened the door and clicked on the lights. The fluorescent beams flickered overhead, illuminating rows of grey, steel shelves. I moved around to the back of the room to where we kept spools of maps contained inside long narrow boxes labeled by area. I scanned through the S’s until I found the map labeled Sigmon Farm. I slid it out of its box and carried the rolled up map out of the supply room.
The lobby crowd started to thin out as everyone headed toward the conference room. I hurried, cutting people off in my attempt to enter the room before the masses. The table had already filled up; more officers lined the surrounding wall. Parker stood in front. I unrolled the map. Parker took one end and helped me pin it to a large bulletin board that hadn’t been used for anything except the FBI’s most wanted fliers. Once the map was pinned up so all could see, Parker stepped aside. I stood alone before my colleagues. I slowly turned around. The room quieted, every eye in the department rested upon me.
“To give you a rundown,” I started. “Angela Butler’s newborn baby was kidnapped last night. This is connected to the drug ring on Sigmon Road.” I took a deep breath to attempt the separation of my love and my career; an impossible task. “Before returning to Olde Town, she was engaged to Simon Donaldson, a CIA agent posing as Simon O’Reilly. They lived together in Atlanta. He was the inside man investigating a drug ring led by Mateo Vargas. Mateo Vargas is the uncle of Miguel Santos, the man we arrested a few months ago for running the meth lab at Sigmon Farm. Miguel Santos was extradited to Mexico after his arrest because his uncle, Mateo Vargas, just happens to be the drug lord of Mexico. We believe both men are in the area, most likely holed up at Sigmon Farm.
“Simon Donaldson was shot and killed by two unidentified men. Angie …” I shook my head and rephrased. “Angela Butler witnessed the murder and fled to Alaska, pregnant with Simon Donaldson’s son. In Alaska, she started to believe she was being followed. She ended up back here in Olde Town, literally on my doorstep. I hid her while we began to gather evidence about who was hunting her down. Long story short, those people are the same people living up on Sigmon Road.”
I stopped to take a breath. I really was too close to this case, but Parker was right, I was the next in line. I glanced over at him and he gave me an encouraging nod.
“What many of you don’t know is that she and I began a relationship. I know many of you are thinking I might be too close to this case, but I assure you that my head is in the game.” I balled my fists and willed myself to be strong. I could not show fear. I thought back to the moment I got my tattoo, after I’d lost Tabitha to my best friend. I didn’t think anything could be worse than losing the woman you loved to your best friend. How wrong I was. The words on my arm held new meaning. We would overcome this.
“He is my son. We don’t share the same blood, but he’s mine all the same. I need your help to find him. The sheriff is out of touch, suffering from the flu. I don’t expect him to show up, so it’s on us.”
Movement blurred in the corner of my eye. I turned my head. Familiar eyes stared back at me, encased in a face similar to mine and my brother’s, just wrinkled twenty-five years. His stocky build leaned against the doorframe. A cowboy hat rested on top of his head. His boots firmly planted on the ground. The weight on my shoulders alleviated as he gave me a fatherly nod. I now had the confidence I needed to do this. I turned back to face the group.
“Here’s what we’re going to do. Four officers will be stationed at the McCloud Farm at all times. My family will be there as well as Angela. It’s secluded enough to be able to watch who comes and who goes, but it’s not in the upper foothills like my house. The note my brother found on his doorstep demands an exchange. They want Angela for the baby. They want her alive, more than likely to get information out of her; however, she doesn’t know anything. Simon Donaldson was a damn good CIA agent. She only ever knew him as an Irish immigrant turned strip club owner in Atlanta. She believed he was a drug dealer until only a day ago.” I turned toward the map. “We are going to continue our watch shifts. We go in four, not two. We surround the farm at all times. This is just to observe. No heroics. We can’t risk them harming a child. I wouldn’t put anything past them. These men are out for their own gain. Abernathy is going to go over the positions with you all. We reconvene every twelve hours at 8:00.”
I darted out of the room, past my father, and into the room where Angie’s face remained paused on the computer screen. I sat down in the chair. My father entered, shutting the door behind him. I rested my elbows on the desk and buried my chin in my hands as I took the quiet moment to stare at her face. It was the only thing keeping me going; her and thought of our future together as a family. I peeked over at my father, standing silently near the door.
“You could just ambush,” he said, breaking the silence between us.
I shook my head. “Would you have done that if it were me or Paul?”
He hooked his thumbs in the loops of his belt and hung his head slightly. “This is why you’d make a good sheriff. You think of all the possible consequences instead of just reacting. That’s what made you a good quarterback and that’s what makes you a good cop.” He took a step forward and sat in the chair beside me. “Trust your instincts here. Guess their next move.”
“Dad, I have no idea what they’re going to do.”
“Do you think they’d kill the baby?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. I don’t know, but I’m afraid of the outcome.”
“They know you’re gunning for them. If they need to exchange the baby for Angie, do you think they’d keep him in the one place y’all know they’re at?”
I stared at him in confusion.
“Caleb, the baby’s not at the farm. You can raid the farm.”
“But we should wait until things settle … Until we know for sure.”
He nodded. “Get a good twenty-four to forty-eight hours into it. Let’s learn their routine.”
I exhaled and hung my head. “Where’s mom?”
“She’s at the hospital with Angie and her mom.”
“She’s fine, son. Out of it, but awake. They’re going to send her home tonight.”
I stood up as soon as I heard she was going to be discharged.
“Son.” My father stood up, blocking me. “Don’t you think you need to talk to her before you hide her out at Tom McCloud’s farm? I don’t think she’s going to appreciate that too much.”
“I don’t have many other options.”
“I know and I agree, but I think you need to talk to her and be with her when she becomes surrounded by people she thought were her enemies for years.”
My chest clenched. I rubbed my hand down my face.
“Just breathe. Everyone has their assignments. She needs you.”
“But what about—”
“I’ll orchestrate things here with Parker. You come in at 6:00. We’ve got this. Go.”
I left on his order, grabbing my jacket on the way out. I caught Parker’s eye and he nodded as I headed out into the cold. The flurries had stopped from earlier. One less thing I had to worry about. I threw on the sirens as soon as I got in my car. Being a few days before Christmas, the streets were dark and eerily quiet. The world had stopped while we held our breath. I felt like I hadn’t breathed since this morning. She was my breath. I was just a shell of a man without her. I knew that her walls would be up around me and I was prepared for that. I would break them down the way she broke down mine.
I pulled up in front of the main entrance. As soon as I hopped out of the car, I found Angie being wheeled out by a tech. Our mothers walked on either side of her with two officers following close behind. I waited as the tech pushed her to a stop in front of me. Her face had paled since the last time I’d seen her, her eyes puffy and red.
“Caleb, why don’t you take her and we’ll follow,” Mrs. Butler said.
I reached out my hand to Angie. I knew she needed more help than just a hand, but I needed her permission to help her. She looked up at me with sad, grey eyes. Her lip quivered. I stretched out my fingers wide, begging her with my eyes to take my hand.
“Come on, baby.”
She reached out for my hand in acceptance. I scooped down to help her to her feet. Her full weight was on me. I was her support, and it felt good to play the role. She wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her face in my neck.
“I’m so sorry.”
She shook her head in the crook of my neck and looked up at me. Her fingers trailed down my cheek as she whispered, “I have faith in you.”
I rested my forehead against hers and coddled her face between my cold hands, not caring about the little audience behind us.
“Please tell me we’re okay. I can’t lose you too.”
“I’m here. I promise we’re okay.” She covered my hand with hers.
I gently kissed her lips and brushed my thumbs across her cheeks.
“Let’s get into the car. We have a lot to talk about.”
She was going to hate where I was taking her, but if she didn’t hate me already, she’d get over this.