Disclaimer: See Part 1
Eva slowly backed away from the car. From the corner of her eye, she could see that Sigrid stood frozen in place, her gloved hand still on the handle of the door. In her mind, Eva was busy calculating what move would get her out of harm's way the fastest. A dive to the left would only bring temporary safety, at least until the owner of the gun had readjusted her aim. A dive to the right would definitely be a lot safer, but it would take out Sigrid. Maybe I can roll us both behind the car.
"For Pete's sake, Twitch. If you don't lower that gun right now, someone will get hurt." Sigrid's voice interrupted Eva's thoughts, and startled she looked away from the gun that was still pointed at her chest.
"Sigrid?" Betty's voice was a mixture of surprise and relief.
"Inspector Clemente?" Twitch lowered the gun, and only when Eva saw the safety slide back into place, she slowly exhaled.
"Yes, it's me. Us. Sigrid and I. What are you doing here?"
"Following a map," Betty said. "It must be on this road, the circle on the map, that is."
"The circle on the map? You're doing a treasure hunt in a blizzard?" Eva shook her head and cast a look at Sigrid, who was busy brushing snow off the car.
"It's Sigrid's map."
"What do you mean it's my map?" Sigrid walked back to Eva, and grabbed her arm for support against the howling wind that was rapidly increasing in strength.
"We rescued it from the fire." Meg's words were spoken with casual ease. "It was the flash... thingy, underneath your dresser."
"The flash drive?"
"Yes, that." Twitch nodded and pointed to a piece of paper Meg was holding. "We printed it out and we're sure this road is where the circle is."
Before Sigrid could respond, Eva put a hand on her back and leaned forward, so she was able to look at the three women inside the vehicle.
"Later. We need to get out of here. The three of you are stuck in a snow bank and there's no way we'll be able to get you out. We'll get you into our car. One by one. Do exactly as Sigrid and I tell you." Eva's voice was stern. "Please," she added as an afterthought. Eva turned to Sigrid and her gaze was concerned. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, just... blown away by all this. But yes, let's get out of here. We can talk later."
"Is there a building on this road?"
"If this is the right road then, yes, there is." Sigrid nodded and pointed to the woods on their right. "That means my parents' cabin is on the next road to the left. We took the turn too early."
"I'm not sure we'll make it there right now. Let's find this building first and see if we can find shelter there."
"It should be close." Sigrid pointed to the road ahead. "See that tree that's almost in the middle of the road? It's to the left of that."
"Let's go." Eva opened the door to the driver side and took a firm hold of Betty when she helped her out of the car. "Hold on to me." She had to fight the wind on her way back to the car and tried to shield Betty as much as she could. Twice, they almost lost their balance, but Eva was able to keep them upright. As soon as she reached her car, she opened the door and practically lifted Betty inside. "There's a blanket here somewhere." She breathed hard, but turned around immediately to head back to help Sigrid with Twitch.
"We're fine." Sigrid had to yell for Eva to hear her over the wind. "Get Meg."
Eva nodded and with her head bent, she made her way back to the car that was quickly disappearing underneath a thick layer of snow.
"Come on, Meg." A loud, creaking noise made Eva look up. "Shit." She reached inside, grabbed both Meg's arms and pulled the woman out of the car with all the strength she possessed. The force made them stumble backward, and Eva felt the air leave her lungs when she landed in the snow with Meg on top of her. With a shattering noise, a huge branch landed on top of the car, blowing out the windows. A spray of glass mixed with snow and pieces of the tree landed on top of them.
"God almighty." Meg shivered. "I'm getting too old for this."
"I agree." Eva coughed and gently rolled Meg away from her. "That was too close."
"Eva! Eva, are you alright?" Sigrid appeared into her line of vision and landed on her knees in the snow beside her.
"Just got the wind knocked out of me." Eva said, brushing snow, shards of glass and small pieces of branch away.
"You're bleeding." Sigrid reached out and brushed a hand across Eva's forehead.
"It's just a scratch. We need to get going, Sigrid. I don't feel particularly safe here right now."
With Sigrid's help, Eva got to her feet and together they assisted Meg to their car.
"I'll drive." Sigrid walked to the driver's side and climbed into the SVU. "There should be a driveway across from that tree."
After a few moments in which the car only seemed to slide from side to side, the tires finally were able to get a grip on the slippery surface and slowly the vehicle plowed through the snow.
Eva cast a look over her shoulder. Meg, Twitch and Betty were all huddled underneath the same fleece blanket, and they looked miserable. "Are you alright, Meg? You didn't get hurt, did you?"
"No, thanks to you. Had you not pulled me out when you did, I would have been dead." Meg reached underneath the blanket and pulled out a tissue. She handed it to Eva with trembling fingers. "You're bleeding."
"Thank you." Eva took the tissue and pressed it against her forehead. It was impossible to tell how bad the cut was, since her skin was still numb from the cold.
"Here's the tree. The driveway should be here somewhere." Sigrid leaned forward and peered out of the window. "Are those driveway markers?" She pointed to a couple of orange pointed sticks that were protruding from the snow.
"They seem to be." Eva smiled and reached out a hand to pat Sigrid's knee. "Good job."
"We're not there yet. Let's see if the cabin is where it's supposed to be." Sigrid steered the car into the invisible driveway. "I hope the markers are all in the right spot, otherwise we might end up in a ditch after all."
"I don't think so. Look." Eva pointed to a dark shape. "That looks like it can be a cabin."
"It sure does." Sigrid said. "I'll try to get as close as I can. I'm sure no one would mind me blocking the driveway on a day like today."
The dark shape became clearer as they approached and, to Eva's relief, it was a cabin. It was small and dark and it was probably cold inside, but they would be away from the raging wind and blowing snow.
"How are we getting inside?" Betty sounded tired, but curious, and Eva smiled.
"Just leave that up to me."
As soon as Sigrid stopped the car, Eva reached inside the glove compartment and pulled out a small box and a flashlight. "I'll be right back." Before anyone could respond, she exited the car and headed toward the front door of the cabin. It was only partially shielded from the wind and Eva gasped at the icy gusts that hit her square in the face. She used the flashlight to study the lock of the door. Piece of cake. She pulled a slim instrument out of the small box and inserted it in the lock, carefully moving it around. After a few seconds, the lock made a clicking sound and Eva grinned. Bingo. It's good to know I haven't lost my touch. She opened the door and stepped inside, letting the beam of the flashlight dance across the unfamiliar space. The room was sparsely furnished. She noticed a couch, two recliners, and a table with four chairs. A brick fireplace held a small woodstove and she smiled when she noticed a neatly stacked pile of wood next to it. At least we'll be warm.
"Stay on the couch, underneath the blanket. Eva and I will get some stuff out of the car and make a fire." Sigrid guided Twitch to the couch and gestured to Betty and Meg to follow her. "Hopefully we'll be able to warm this place up quickly."
"She needs to take care of that cut." Meg's voice was thin and her teeth were chattering.
"Don't worry, I'll see to it that she does," Sigrid said, patting Meg's back. She headed back to the door, almost running into Eva who was carrying an armful of items. "Here, let me give you a hand," she said, taking a bag with food-items. "If we can get the fire started, we might be able to heat up some soup."
"No kitchen?" Eva asked.
"No electricity." Sigrid gestured to an electric stove in the corner of a small kitchenette.
"Of course." Eva made a face and handed Sigrid the last of the bags she was carrying. "I brought in an old paper, so we can start a fire."
"Why don't you let me do that? Go clean up your face, so I can have a look at that cut." Sigrid pointed to a door off the main living area. "I bet that's the bathroom."
"There's probably no water, either."
"No warm water, no, but maybe just cold, if we're lucky."
"Very domestic." Meg remarked from the couch.
Sigrid looked up and frowned. "What do you mean?"
"The two of you, seamlessly dividing chores. It's very domestic, like you're an old married couple."
Sigrid grinned and turned her attention to the newspaper Eva had given her. She ripped up big pieces and crunched them into tight balls, lining the bottom of the woodstove with them. Then she added a layer of kindling, topping it off with a couple of thicker pieces. As soon as she lit a match and touched the newspaper, it caught fire. Slowly, she closed the door, watching the flames dance behind the glass. "I do hope the chimney is in good shape," she said. She turned around and glanced at Betty, Meg and Twitch, who were sitting on the couch, covered by a blanket. All three of them managed to avoid her gaze.
"Who wants to tell me what the heck you are doing out here in the middle of a blizzard?"
Meg and Twitch looked at Betty, who was sitting in the middle and who must have felt their stares, because her head turned first to Meg and then to Twitch. "Am I the spokesperson now?"
"Well, you are the most eloquent one," Twitch said with a nod.
"Besides, you were driving," Meg added.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Nothing, but it sounds good." Meg sent Betty a wide smile.
Sigrid chuckled. "I don't care who tells me the story, I just want to hear it."
"Maybe we should wait until the Inspector is back in the room, so I don't have to repeat myself." Betty gazed up at Sigrid and shrugged her shoulders. "Besides, I think she needs to know about this man."
"What man?" Sigrid frowned.
"What man?" Eva came walking back into the room, wiping the cut on her forehead with a washcloth.
"The one who tried to kill us," Twitch said in a calm voice.
"What?" Sigrid walked closer to the couch and knelt down in front of it. "Someone tried to kill you?"
"All three of us." Twitch gestured between herself, Betty and Meg.
"We're not sure if he was trying to kill us, but he did follow us for a while and then he ran of us off the road. At least, it felt like he did." Betty's voice was soft, but there was a hint of nervousness in it.
"What road? The one we found you on?" Eva frowned.
"Yes. We ended up in the snow bank."
"Where did he go?"
"He turned around and raced out of here." Meg pushed up her glasses and shot Sigrid a curious look. "You didn't see him?"
"No, we didn't. We must have missed him by a few seconds."
"Too bad." Twitch sighed. "I bet he looks good in shackles."
Sigrid shook her head and rose to her feet. She reached out, grabbed the washcloth Eva was holding and gestured for her to lean down. Carefully she dabbed the cut. "It's deeper than I thought it would be."
"It was a big branch." Eva met her gaze and sent her a small smile. "It could have been worse."
"I know." Sigrid's voice was soft and she wished she could hug the woman who was standing in front of her. "No water?" She looked at the cloth in her hands . It was stained with blood and smelled like antiseptic.
"No water. I found a well-stocked medicine cabinet, though. I poured alcohol on this thing."
Sigrid smiled. "Good thinking. I'll have a look to see if there are any decent band- aids in it, so... " She paused when Eva held up a hand. In it was a box with a variety of band-aid sizes.
"Very good. We'll make an EMT out of you yet."
"That would make my mother very happy." Eva chuckled and turned her attention back to women on the couch. Before she could say a word, a muffled sound reached their ears.
"What was that?" There was anxiety in Meg' voice.
"Maybe it was snow falling off the roof." Sigrid cast a look at Eva, who slowly shook her head and reached inside her jacket, to pull out a gun.
Without saying a word, Sigrid reached behind her and pulled her own revolver out of the waistband of her jeans. She registered the shock and surprise on her friends' faces, and pressed a finger against her lips.
"Do these cabins have basements?" Eva walked toward the kitchenette. There was a door in the corner.
"Some of them." Sigrid's voice was husky and she was aware of the rapid beating of her heart. "Eva. If I'm right, this is a safe house."
Eva nodded and put her hand on the doorknob, slowly turning it. The sound of grating metal was very loud in the silent room. Sigrid slid beside her, making sure to stay away from Eva's dominant hand that was holding the gun. Eva inched the door open and immediately they heard a sound that resembled the shuffling of feet. With a grim expression on her face, Eva gestured to Sigrid to stay to her left. Side by side, they entered a staircase. It was dark, and Sigrid felt cold air rush up from below. It made her shiver and she tightened her grip on the gun, determined to ignore her cold fingers. She tried not to think about what they might find in the basement, but concentrated on the silent cues Eva was giving her. They were vulnerable on top of the stairs, descending into the darkness. Her heart rate doubled and her breathing was rapid and shallow.
"If I say 'down', you drop." The words were breathed in her ear and Sigrid nodded.
Eva took a careful step down and Sigrid followed. It was so quiet, the silence made her ears buzz and the only sound she was aware of was the beating of her own heart. The adrenaline that raced through her body made the palms of her hands sweat, and briefly, Sigrid marveled at how the cold had left her fingers. Just as she was about to take another step down, her ears picked up a soft sound. Next to her, Eva halted. Sigrid tilted her head and listened intently. There it was again. It sounded like ragged breathing, the way a person did when being very afraid. Or hurt. She leaned closer to Eva. "Trust me." A sharp intake of breath was the response, but Eva didn't try to hold Sigrid back when she took another step down.
"I know you're scared." Sigrid moistened her dry lips. "We won't hurt you, I promise." A soft whimper rose up out of the darkness, which gave Sigrid the courage to take another step down. She could feel Eva right behind her. "My name is Sigrid and I work for the police. My friend Eva here is with the police as well." She paused, aware of a soft clinking sound in one of the corners. "Please, don't be afraid of us."
"There's a light at the bottom of the stairs. On the right." The voice was so raspy it was almost inaudible.
Without a moment of hesitation, Sigrid walked down the rest of the stairs. As soon as her feet hit the concrete floor, she reached out to the right. Her hand touched a large, hard plastic dome-shaped object, and she let her fingertips dance across the surface, until she felt a switch. She flipped it and, all of a sudden, the basement was bathing in a bright, halogen light. Behind her, Eva cursed and Sigrid quickly turned around. Her hand flew to her mouth and only the steady presence of Eva kept her upright.
"Oh, my God."
Three forms were huddled in the corner, shielding their eyes against the harsh light. Each of them had a leg shackled to the wall behind them.
Sigrid took a few deep breaths in order to regain her composure, which was only partial successful. She felt her body shake and knew that was not only due to the cold.
"My name is Sigrid," she said. "And this is Eva." She gestured to the woman next to her, who was putting her gun back in its holster. Sigrid followed suit, before taking a step closer.
"Are you here to take us away?" It was the raspy voice she had heard before.
"Absolutely." Sigrid sank down her knees so she was at eye-level with the speaker, a girl who could not be more than sixteen years old. Dark eyes in a too pale face looked at her warily.
"What is your name?"
"Where are you from, Morgan?"
"Portland, Oregon. Where am I?"
Sigrid bit her bottom lip and took a deep breath. The simple question rattled her nerves.
"New Hampshire." Her voice sounded strange to her own ears. It was husky and shaky.
"Is it winter? It's so cold here."
A warm hand landed on Sigrid's shoulder and gave it an encouraging squeeze.
"Yes, it is winter." Eva's voice was very soft, but composed. "We'll get you upstairs, where it's warmer."
"The keys are on that shelf." Morgan pointed to cupboard behind Eva.
"Who are your friends, Morgan?" Sigrid's gaze traveled from Morgan to the others. Behind her, she heard Eva rummage through cabinet.
"This is Anjuli, she's from India." Morgan pointed to a small girl, who looked malnourished and scared. "The boy is Danh. He's from Asia somewhere."
"Hello, Anjuli and Danh." The fear in Anjuli's eyes intensified when Sigrid reached out a hand, palm up. "Did you find the keys, Eva?" Sigrid wondered how long she would be able to look at the shackled children without erupting into a fit of rage. She already could feel the anger boil underneath the surface. The last thing she wanted was the children in front of her to think she was angry with them.
"I have them." Eva stepped passed her and knelt down, reaching out for the heavy chain that kept Danh tied to the wall. It only took her a few seconds to free him and the other two. "Can you walk, Morgan?"
"I think so." The reply was hesitant and Sigrid offered her hand. Morgan took it, and grunted with the effort it took her to get to her feet.
"I will carry you up." Eva did not wait for a response, but lifted Morgan into her arms, heading for the stairs.
"Let's go, Danh." Sigrid smiled at the little boy and he shyly grabbed her hand. She lifted him up and was about to climb the stairs, when Anjuli let out a whimper that was barely audible, but laced with so much fear, it halted Sigrid in her tracks. She cringed when she saw Anjuli shiver uncontrollably, and she quickly walked back, slowly extending her hand to the frightened girl. "It's okay, I'm not leaving you here by yourself, I promise." Sigrid was aware of the lump in her throat. "It's okay, I promise, it's okay." A warm tear slid down Sigrid's cheek and she quickly wiped it away. "We'll wait for Eva and then we'll go up together, okay?" She didn't know if Anjuli understood any English, but she kept talking and slowly the tense body in front of her relaxed a little. "That's right, we'll wait for Eva."
"I'm right here." Eva walked down the stairs and took Danh out of Sigrid's arms. "Will you be alright with the girl?"
"I should be. It doesn't look like she weighs a lot." Sigrid took a deep breath and cast a look at Eva, whose face was pale and drawn. "I'm trying so hard not to be incredibly furious right now."
"I know what you mean." Eva sent her a tight smile. "Let's go upstairs. It's already warming up."
Sigrid nodded and extended her hand. Anjuli grabbed it and looked from her to the stairs and back again.
"We're going upstairs." Sigrid pointed to the top of the stairs. "It's warmer there and we'll get you something to eat. Are you hungry?"
Anjuli silently looked up with soulful brown eyes that were too large for her small, narrow face.
"Are you hungry?" Sigrid rubbed her belly, hoping Anjuli would understand what she meant. When the girl nodded and brought her fingers to her mouth in a gesture that resembled eating, Sigrid smiled and nodded. "That's right. Food."
Anjuli tightened her grip on Sigrid's hand and slowly made her way to the stairs. It would be easier to just pick her up and carry her, Sigrid knew, but she wanted Anjuli to set the pace. Silently, she marveled at the girl's stubbornness, staying right behind her on the stairs, just in case she would stumble.
Eva watched as Betty, Twitch and Meg silently handed the three children pieces of fruit, crackers and cheese. They devoured everything they were given and she wondered how long they had been deprived of food. A pot of melting snow sat on the stove, so they would be able to drink something warm. But then what?
"We can't stay." Sigrid's voice was very soft and when Eva looked up it was in a pair of sad, blue eyes.
"I know. I want them to warm up, eat something, and drink a cup of hot cocoa, before we take them out of here. We should go to your family's cabin."
"At least we have a generator, so there will be heat and warm water. And my mother keeps the pantry stocked. Do you think it's snowing hard enough to cover our tracks?"
Eva nodded and reached out to touch the back of Sigrid's hand. "I believe so. If we leave within the next hour or so, our tracks will be invisible."
"There are two ways to get to the cabin," Sigrid said. "There is the main road, well, the road off the main road, but then there is also a little track that leads to the back of the cabin, to the dock. My dad uses it when he puts the boat n the water. If we would be able to use that one, nobody would know we're there."
"How do we get to that one?" Eva's interest was piqued.
"When we're back on the main road, it will be the second turn on the left." Sigrid paused and raked her fingers through her hair. "The problem is that it will be almost impossible to see."
"But it's worth the try. Right?"
Sigrid smiled. "Yes, it will be." She reached out and brushed her fingers across Eva's cheek. "I'm glad you're here."
Eva smiled. "I am too."
"I'm so tired I can sleep standing up." Eva yawned and felt her already burning eyes tear up.
"You don't have to. I'll share the couch with you." Sigrid grabbed Eva's hand and pulled her with her. "My parents will never believe there are eight people bunking in their cabin tonight."
"Remind me to thank your parents for installing a generator. That shower felt really good." Eva yawned again and eyed the makeshift bed Sigrid had put together. It looked cozy, warm and soft.
"Don't worry, I'll tell them. Now, crawl underneath the covers. You're so tired that looking at you hurts my eyes."
"I wanted to check up on the kids one more time." Eva's protest was ignored by Sigrid who gently pushed her down on the couch.
"I just did. They are clean, have a full stomach and are fast asleep. Now it's our turn."
"As soon as I lay down, I won't be able to get up anymore. Not for at least ten hours, anyway."
"What if... ?"
"Eva, honey, if you don't crawl under the covers right now, I will have to hurt you." Sigrid increased the pressure on Eva's shoulders, pushing her into a horizontal position. "You're postponing cuddle time."
"Cuddle time?" Eva looked up at Sigrid and chuckled. "What if the Three Musketeers find us in a compromising position in the morning?"
"They'll be jealous, but I'm sure they'll get over it." Sigrid smiled. "Besides, they have the bedroom, so they can't complain. We'll just have to make do, and if cuddling softens the pain of not having a bed, so be it."
"You're perky." Eva yawned again and slid underneath the covers. Laying down felt so good, she let out a soft moan. "Did you catch your second wind?"
"Second?" Sigrid softly snorted. "More like sixth. I was exhausted when we reached that safe house. And that was, when, six hours ago?" She slid in next to Eva, wrapped her arm around her middle and rested her head on her shoulder. "Oh, this feels good." She let out a happy sigh and wiggled to get even more comfortable. "Now, if only I could forget about this day, just for the night."
"It's hard to get that image out of my mind," Eva said. Her voice was somber. "Children, shackled to a wall in a dark, cold basement. What monster would do something like that?"
"Their shins are bruised and chafed." Sigrid shivered and immediately, Eva pulled her closer. "I don't think I'll feel at ease, until we've had a doctor look at them."
"I want to catch the ones responsible for this, Sigrid." Eva buried her face in Sigrid's neck and inhaled the scent of shampoo and soap. "I want to lock them up and throw away the key."
Sigrid covered Eva's hand with her own and entwined their fingers."We will. I know we can't single-handedly put a stop to human trafficking, but we can stop this branch. We will."
"I really need to talk to Chuck. He might have been able to dig up some information about Tate and Brothers."
"We usually have a signal in the cabin, when there's no blizzard raging outside." Sigrid shifted position, snuggling closer. "Maybe we'll be able to get through to him in the morning."
"We'll have to get through to somebody." Eva sighed, enjoying the feel of Sigrid's warm body in her arms. "If the smugglers show up, I want the children and the musketeers out of harm's way."
"So, what do you girls think?" The sound of Twitch's voice penetrated the darkness in the bedroom.
"About what?" Betty sounded wide-awake.
"About what? About all this, of course. Our pastor pulling out a gun, like she's some kind of police heroine, children locked up in the basement and don't forget about Meg, who almost got crushed by a tree."
"It was a branch," Meg said. "And I'd prefer not to think about that."
"Do you think the guy who tried to run us off the road has anything to do with those poor babies being locked up in that cabin?" Twitch's voice was pensive.
"I'm starting to think he does." Betty sighed. "I have read about human trafficking. I know it exists, but actually seeing some of the victims with my own eyes gives me a whole new perspective."
"I'd like to get a hold of the people responsible for their suffering," Twitch said in an angry voice. "They should be shackled to a wall somewhere in a cold, dark basement. And nobody should let them out. Ever."
"Sigrid knew." Meg's voice held a mixture of confusion and admiration. "It was her map, remember. The circle on the map was that cabin."
"You're right. How the hell did she know about it?" Twitch sounded surprised and curious. "And why is she carrying a gun?"
"New church policy?" Betty softly chuckled.
"Maybe someone confessed to her about it," Twitch said. "On their deathbed. And before she could go to the police, she wanted to verify the information."
"I didn't think our church does deathbed confessions." Betty's voice was dry and held a hint of amusement. "You have too much imagination, Twitch."
Twitch chuckled. "That's what my late husband used to say. God bless his soul. It did provide us with some interesting activities in the bedroom, though. I guess, in a way it contributed to his heart failure, poor thing."
Meg groaned. "That is too much information, Twitch."
"But I haven't even started yet."
"Don't." Betty chuckled. "I have seen your toy collection."
"Twitch has toys?"
"I like to say that I might be old, but I'm not dead." Twitch let out a soft laugh. "Besides, bringing up the subject of my toy collection always generates interesting reactions."
Betty let out a soft snort. "I wonder why."
"Do you think Sigrid is mad at us?" Meg said after a brief silence.
"I don't think so, Meg. What do you think, Twitch?"
"She's too sweet to be mad at us. But then, she hasn't had the opportunity yet to grill us." Twitch let out a sigh. "I just hope she isn't into water boarding."
Charles Benoit looked at his watch. Only two minutes had passed since the last time he had checked. "Damn, Eva, where are you?" He picked up his Blackberry and stared at the screen. Wouldn't it be great if a message came in just as I'm looking at it? He rubbed his chin, feeling the stubbles underneath his fingers. He had not been home since he had talked to Casey Planters. She had shared her files with him and even when he was only halfway through them, he knew the information was like a ticking time bomb.
"Do you want some coffee, Chuck?"
Charles turned to see one of the secretaries stare at him. The expression on her face was one of concern.
"Yes, thank you, Linda."
"I'll make it extra strong, since you've been here all night." She sent him a smile, before disappearing into the hallway.
Charles walked to his computer and tapped the mouse pad. On the screen, a map of Maine and New Hampshire appeared. It showed the latest road conditions and his eyes tracked the route Eva would have taken the previous day. A few roads were closed, due to the incredible amount of snow that had fallen, but none of them would have been part of Eva's scheduled itinerary. He glanced at his watch again and jumped when the phone on his desk rang. "Benoit."
"Have you heard anything yet?" It was Casey Planters.
"It's still early and they had a lot of snow up north."
"I know." Charles rubbed his face again. He would have to shave before he went home, if he would make it home anytime soon.
"Listen, Chuck, there seems to be a new development." Casey sounded nervous and Charles took a deep breath. This can't be good. "What is it?"
"There will be an arrest warrant."
"What? How do you know?"
"Reliable source." Casey's voice was tense. "It means your hands will be tied."
"Like hell they will," Chuck said. He could feel the anger bible up inside.
"Listen. I know it's bogus, but it might give him the time he needs to get rid of evidence. I'm driving up."
"I'm coming with you."
There was a brief silence and Charles could hear Casey sigh.
"You're about to retire, Chuck. Don't mess it up."
"I'm not." Charles grabbed his Blackberry and slid it into his jacket. "Officially I'm not aware of any of this. And cell service in the rural areas is really bad." He grabbed his coat from the back of his office chair and slung it over his shoulder. "Where do I meet you?"
"I'm at Jazzy Java."
Charles smiled and a warm feeling settled in the pit of his stomach.
"You're awesome, you know that, right?"
"From your lips, to God's ears. I'll see you in a few."
He stared at his hands as they rhythmically clenched and unclenched around the crucifix he was holding. It was soothing to stare at the motion, almost hypnotizing. His gaze traveled up and landed on the book in front of him. It was old and well used. It had belonged to his father and his father before that. The thin pages, its edges yellow from use, were a silent testimony to its frequent use. Father forgive me, for I have sinned. His eyes scanned the open page. Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of righteous. He lifted his gaze and stared out of the window. They will not stand. The way of the wicked leads to destruction. With trembling fingers, he picked up the letter that he had received that morning. The instructions were clear. He knew he would be able to carry them out. He would not fail again. Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. He took a deep, cleansing breath and bowed his head in prayer. The only sound was a clock's loud ticking.
To be continued….
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