The Message Chapter 14
Author’s Note: Thank you to all of you who have been taking time to offer feedback on the story to this point. And especially for your patience! I know my posting has been infrequent for the last few parts. The characters are products of my imagination and the story includes a growing relationship between two women.
By J.A. Breeze
Courtney couldn’t count the number of times she had been sick throughout the evening and night. Time and again she pushed herself up from the bed and struggled to make it to the small bathroom she found off the side of the room. She knew she had been drugged and her movements were sluggish. She was overcome by waves of nausea each time she made it to her feet. Her head was pounding and even the dim light from the single lamp across the room hurt her eyes. She had lost all concept of time and her watch was missing. Earlier she had broken into a cold sweat as she had practically crawled around the room hoping to find her bag. But all she found was a single bed, a stand with the lamp and the door that led to the bathroom beyond. There was no window and a single door provided the only way into or out of the room.
“Please, God. Help me. I’m so sick,” she moaned as once again she pushed herself up to sit on the side of the bed. She rested for a moment hoping the nausea and dizziness would pass. Her mouth and lips were dry and she craved a sip of water. Slowly she pushed to her feet and stood on wobbly legs. She shuffled more than walked toward the bathroom. Once within its confines she grabbed hold of the sides of the pedestal sink and turned on the water. Scooping handfuls she doused her face again and again, the cool water soothing to her aching head. She cupped her hands and bent to sip wetting her parched lips and mouth. Again and again she drank, satisfying her thirst. But her stomach rolled and the cool water that had been so soothing just an instant before made a return trip, spewing into the sink.
“Oh, God. I’m so sick. Please, God. Someone get me out of here. Please,” Courtney moaned as she placed her head on the ceramic bowl of the sink. The longer she stood, the weaker her legs felt and she feared her knees would give way. She held on to the sink and moved to the commode that was within reach. Maintaining the steadying hold, she unfastened and lowered her pants and panties. Unable to hold her balance any longer she collapsed onto the commode. The only light in the bathroom was a nightlight plugged into an electrical outlet. It didn’t provide enough light for her to clearly see the room. But it gave off enough illumination that she could take care of her immediate needs. She noticed a corner shower and for just a moment considered using it, thinking a shower might help clear her head, but she didn’t want her captors to return and find her there.
Just as she was about to leave the room, she noticed a package of plastic cups placed on the lid of the commode tank. She took one from the package. Rinsed it with water and then filled the cup to take back to the bedroom with her. Slowly and on unsteady legs she made her way back to the bed. Exhausted by her effort, she sat down heavily, waiting for her racing heart to slow its pace. She heard a noise at the door and her body jerked in response. Tense and afraid, she froze in place, fearing what may await her when the door opened. “Please, God. Don’t leave me,” she prayed. As the door opened the light from beyond blinded her and she could just make out the silhouette of a man as he entered the room and began to move toward her.
“Ah. So I see you’re awake,” the man spoke in a gruff voice as he moved toward the bed.
Courtney reflexively moved back on the bed, cowering as the man drew closer. When he got within her range of vision and her eyes had adjusted somewhat to the brighter light, she noticed he carried a tray. He placed it beside of her on the bed. “Don’t worry, kid. I’m not going to hurt you. Eat some of this and rest. This will be over before you know it. If everyone does what they’re told, you will be back with your family very soon.”
Instead of being comforted by the man’s words, Courtney was terrified. She had never been so alone, had never wanted to see her mother more in her life. Although she fought it, a broken sob escaped just as the man reached the door and turned to look back at her. “Please, will you take me back to my mother. She’ll make sure you get anything you want. I promise you.” The girl sobbed and repeated one word over again and again even as the man closed the door and she heard the lock click into place, keeping her captive. “Please … please …” she cried. Collapsing on the bed she curled onto her side, drawing her knees up to her chest. “Mama, I need you. Please, God. Help me.” Sobs shook her body as she continued to pray and plead for her freedom but if anyone heard her cries they did not come to her rescue.
Michael sprinted to the door of the house he had shared with his wife and children until just days before. Once inside the entry, he called out for his wife. “Jennifer, where are you?” Instead of his wife, a tall, attractive, dark-haired woman stepped into the foyer in response to his call. She walked toward him.
“Mr. Gibson, I’m terribly sorry that we’re meeting under these circumstances. I’m Casey Jarnigan with the DA’s office. A … your … a … Jennifer is in the kitchen talking with some agents from the TBI,” Casey stammered, unable to bring herself to refer to Jennifer as his wife. “I’m sure they will want to speak with you as well.”
Before she had finished speaking, Michael had already pushed by her and was rushing toward the kitchen. Casey arrived in the doorway in time to see him pull Jennifer into his arms and hold her as they sought comfort within each other’s arms. Jennifer pulled back first but didn’t totally withdraw from his embrace. “Why would someone want to take Courtney? I can’t understand it.”
“Jennifer, I can’t believe this has happened. They are sure it was Courtney?” Rather than speaking, Jennifer nodded her head “yes” and her eyes welled once again with tears. Michael pulled her back into his arms as tears streamed down his face and their tears mixed on their joined cheeks. He was too heartbroken to speak. Silence settled over the room as the others frozen in place as they watched they watched the grief-stricken parents cling to each other.
Casey turned her head and looked out the window. It hurt too much, even under the circumstances, to see Jennifer in her husband’s arms. Casey had been fighting an ongoing battle to maintain a professional distance from Jennifer. All she wanted to do was wrap her up in a hug and tell her everything would be okay.
The silence was broken when Michael pulled away from his wife and cleared his throat. He rubbed his hands over his eyes and face to wipe away the tears and turned to look at the strangers sitting at his kitchen table. Two men and a woman were seated at there. And at least a half dozen others went back into motion milling about the area setting up some equipment. “Can you tell me more about what’s going on?” he asked. “All I know is that someone has … a … has taken my daughter,” he stammered.
Casey watched him closely. She noted how difficult it was for him to say his daughter had been taken. He reached to take a photo of Courtney from the table but it was all he could do to pick it up because his hands were shaking so badly. He stood looking at the smiling face of his beautiful daughter and once again what little composure he had been able to muster crumpled. Tears streamed down his face. He began to tremble. “Please, you have got to find her,” he said in a broken voice as his eyes connected with the man seated at the table.
“Here, Mr. Gibson, we’ll try to answer your questions and then maybe you can help us with some of ours and help us find your daughter,” Sam Hardin said as he stood to pull out a chair for the younger man. Michael sank into the chair beside his wife, who had also taken a seat, propped his elbows on the table and buried his head in his hands, raking his fingers through his hair.
“Will someone please just explain to me what’s going on? Please?”
The toughened investigator spared a moment of compassion for the obviously heartbroken and terrified man before he began the interview that was a routine part of his job. Although he was assigned to the special taskforce, Winston had asked that he, Matt and Casey be involved in the search for the Gibsons’ daughter because of the possible tie-in to the conspiracy. At first he had wanted to refuse. He had worked case after case involving missing children during his years with the TBI. When a non-family member was the abductor, it usually didn’t end well and a man, even a hardened old cop like Sam, could only tell so many parents that some psycho whack job had molested, raped and killed their little boy or girl.
Winston had told Casey that Sam was one of the best when it came to investigating missing children and as she watched him go to work with the Gibsons her respect for the rumpled old investigator grew by leaps and bounds.
“Mr. Gibson, Mrs. Gibson. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that we need as much information as we can gather as quickly as we can. Right now you can rest assured that an all out effort is being made to find your daughter. We push hard during these first few hours and because of that, I’m sorry but we’re going to need you to push yourselves hard, too. Can you do that for me … for your daughter?” he asked as he looked at the two people seated across from him.
“Yes, Officer …” Jennifer was the first to speak.
“It’s Sam Hardin, ma’am, but why don’t you just call me Sam. It will be simpler for everyone.”
“Tell us what you need from us, Sam. All we want is to get our daughter back.” Jennifer looked him in the eyes the entire time she was speaking. “Please, tell us what you need from us.”
Casey watched Sam’s face soften as he talked with Jennifer. He seemed impressed by the sincerity and terror he saw clearly reflected in the woman’s eyes, in her speech. “Okay, Mrs. Gibson. Let’s get to work.”
Michael Gibson had sat quietly during the exchange. He seemed stunned by the events and unable to take it all in but he nodded his head in agreement.
“First, I want you to know that an Amber Alert was issued immediately. A description of your daughter and of the van and suspects is being broadcast on television and radio stations right now. A photo of your daughter is also being shown. We hope to get some early leads.” Once he knew the parents had registered what he told them he continued, “Now, let me introduce you to the rest of the team. The tall woman standing behind you is Casey Jarnigan with the DA’s office. This young fellow here is Agent Matt England with the TBI. And this is Susan Webster she is the agent in charge with the TBI and will be leading the search for your daughter.” Agent Webster had sandy hair and had been with the TBI for about seven years. Before that she had worked as a detective with the Nashville Police Department and was a decorated police officer. She took a no nonsense approach to her investigations.
She was seated beside of Sam and placed a notebook in front of her on the table. She was directly across from Michael while Sam was seated across from Jennifer. “We would like to get this information as quickly as possible. It could be crucial to this investigation. I know you’re upset. I know you’re confused. But we need to move quickly to find your daughter. Time is of the essence,” the agent said as she looked from Jennifer to Michael and back. The couple remained silent but looked at her with expectant expressions. “Mr. Gibson if you will stay here with me, Sam is going to take your wife into another room and interview her at the same time.”
Both Michael and Jennifer looked at woman but it was Michael who asked the question that was on both of their minds. “Is that really necessary? Wouldn’t it be just as easy if you talked to us together?”
“Mr. Gibson, I need you to trust us to do our job and believe me this will get us there more quickly,” the agent said.
“It’s okay, Michael. Let’s answer their questions and not waste anymore time,” Jennifer said. She paused to give his shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she rose to her feet. “Sam, why don’t you and I go into the family room and we can talk there?”
I know it’s short but I wanted to get this part posted. Let me know what you think, good or bad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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