See part 1 for disclaimers
They had made their way through the forest in a slow, but steady rhythm, blindly trusting Yarra and Alice. The young blonde occasionally gave her dark-skinned partner some whispered instructions, trusting Yarra, who knew the forest like the back of her hand, to be their eyes in the darkness.
Deeper and deeper into the forest they had hiked, dodging slick rocks and roots and constantly swatting at mosquitos that swarmed around their heads.
"I sure am glad Jody insisted wed spray ourselves," Sam muttered. "I hate mozzies."
Kurt, impatiently pulling his leash, looked up at his tall companion and whined softly.
"I know, boy," Sam sighed. "But Im sure well be there soon. Youll have your chance to track later, I promise."
"Are you doing alright, Sam?" Trishias voice sounded.
"Just talking to my eager dog," Sam chuckled. "He cant wait to get off the leash and follow tracks."
"Im sure he can do that soon enough," Trishia answered.
"Thats what I told him," Sam smiled, reaching down and giving the German Shepherd a scratch behind his ears.
Suddenly the small group halted and Sam could hear Peter Jones, who was walking behind her, mumble a curse when he almost ran into her.
"Sorry, Sam," he apologized. "I cant see a thing."
"I know. But dont worry about it, Pete, it will be day soon," Sam answered, looking up and spotting some light grey patches of sky through the dense canopy of trees. "Why did we stop?"
Alice, who had grabbed Yarras hand, turned around and cast a look at the tired, but expectant faces behind her, illuminated by the soft beam of one, single flashlight. Trishia had insisted on as little light as possible, not willing to give away their presence.
"Its here," Alice spoke in a soft voice. "I saw this in my dream. Theres a cave behind these bushes." She swallowed hard and immediately felt the encouraging squeeze of Yarras hand. "If...in my dream they escaped. I dont know if...that has already happened, or not. I...I guess wed better check it out."
"Yes, we will," Trishia pointed at Peter Jones and herself. "You, Yarra and Sam stay here. Come on, Pete."
In total silence, the two police officers carefully made their way through the bushes and within a few moments they had disappeared out of sight, while the others waited, their stomach tied in knots.
Trishia and Peter did not waste any time. They knew there was a chance that, if Alice had been right about the location, they would run into Fionas and Robins kidnapper. But if they did, the element of surprise was on their side.
As soon as they cleared the bushes, the two police officers stood in front of a steep rise in the hillside. Immediately their eyes fell on the makeshift door that was pushed aside, giving them a clear view of the small opening in the rocks.
"A cave," Peter mumbled. "I guess Alice was spot on. But it seems to me like theres nobody home, unless...." He paused and cast a look at Trishia whose expression was a grim one.
"Unless he...hurt them," she added in a hoarse voice. "Cover my back, Im going in."
Before Peter could even respond, Trishia was already crawling through the narrow opening, her gun firmly clenched in her fist. Peter did not know he had been holding his breath, until Trishias voice called out to him:No one here, and he exhaled slowly.
He watched Trishia crawl back through the opening again and quickly jump to her feet.
"I should kick your butt for crawling in there," Peter scoffed, but there was a twinkle in his eyes. They both knew he would have done the same thing.
"You can kick butt when we find this bloke," Trishia promised, brushing her jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt. "We need Kurt to track the girls. Ive a feeling they made a run for it."
"Yeah. I saw a stack of supplies, so my guess is he wanted to keep them there for a while, but they re not there now. Neither Robin nor Fiona are the kind of people to sit around, passively waiting to see what will happen next."
"I hope youre right," Peter sighed. "But hes a big dude, Trish."
"I know. Weve got no time to lose, Pete, lets go back to the others."
The others, Sam, Yarra and Alice were impatiently waiting and when Trishia and Peter came back into view, Kurt let out a frustrated, high pitched howl.
"Alright, Kurt," Trishia said, nodding at Sam. "Its time for you to find Fiona."
Hearing the familiar sound that identified one of his favorite humans, Kurts ears twitched and he pulled his leash, not wanting to waste any more time. He loved his human pack, but couldnt they smell it? He could easily detect the tall, dark-haired one and the other human. Their scent was mixed in with another one, one that made him growl deep in his throat. It was a scent of blood, sweat and anger and Kurt wanted to find the source of it, because his canine instinct told him it was the smell of trouble.
Again he pulled his leash, softly whining and this time they listened. His pack made room for him to pass and even though Sam still held him on the leash, at least she was following him.
Kurt pulled hard, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He wanted to run, to fly down the steep mountain and find his humans. The Sheperd had no time to investigate all the interesting smells the forest had to offer. His nose only followed one distinct scent and, even when a small bird flew up from the ferns just in front of him, Kurt did not allow himself to be sidetracked.
"Its getting light, thank goodness," Sam breathed. It was hard to keep up with the anxious dog. The forest floor was uneven and even though the sky was rapidly losing its darkness, it was still hard to see what was right in front of her. But Sam did not want to give her dog free rein, not yet. She knew Kurt would make a run for it as soon as she would unclip his leash, but they needed him to find Fiona and Robin. Without the Sheperd it would be very hard to find the two women in the dense forest.
Yarras ears picked up the sound of running water and when Kurt started to lead them straight down the hill, a small smile appeared on her face.
"They went down to the creek," she spoke.
"You sound so sure," Sam frowned, hoping and praying the veterinarian would be right.
"Its what my dad taught us a long time ago. Fiona was with us," Yarra explained. "He made sure that we knew to find water, whenever we would get lost. Fiona did, look," Yarra pointed at a small bush with branches that were bent and pushed to the ground.
"Seems to me that someone fell, but dug their heels into the ground," Yarra explained. "Must have been Fi or Robin. That big bloke would have made deeper tracks."
"Lets get going," Sam spoke. Kurt was getting more and more restless and she knew they were probably very close. She wished she could just call out, but she knew the kidnapper could be within hearing distance.
Kurt was almost impossible to control now. The German Sheperd pulled so hard, Sam had trouble keeping her balance. Whenever she stood still for a few seconds, the dog whined softly, his intelligent brown eyes staring at the bushes in front of him. The smell was so strong it was almost driving him nuts. If only his pack could understand. They were so close...
And then, all of a sudden, they cleared the forest. In front of them was the creek. The bleak light of the early morning turned the water into a stream of living silver, but nobody had eyes for the beauty that was spread out in front of them.
Kurt let out an angry bark and growled, a rumbling sound that came from deep within his chest and when Sam looked down, she saw the dogs upper lip was pulled back, showing strong, sharp teeth, while his ears were lying flat in his neck and the hair of his back stood upright.
The sound of two guns being cocked made her look up and then she saw it. Across the creek she saw the tall figure of a man, all dressed in black. His back was turned towards them while he hurried away, but Sam was certain that if he would turn around, they would see a mask covering his face.
Robin had grabbed Fionas arm to prevent her from jumping up. She knew they were hidden behind the huge boulder, but if their kidnapper would find them anyway, there was no where to go. They would be trapped.
A bark made the birds around them fly up, protesting loudly and when Robin and Fiona looked at each other, they both sported a huge smile.
"Kurt," Fiona said, knowing that if the Sheperd was close, rescue was near.
They both jumped up at the same time and as soon as they were able to look over the boulder, their breaths were caught in their throats. Running towards them was the tall, broad-shouldered figure of their kidnapper. They spotted each other simultaneously and for a moment they could only stare.
Behind the big man, on the other side of the creek, Fiona could see the distinct figures of her family and friends.
"Shit," she whispered, when she noticed the gun in their kidnappers hand.
"Get down," she yelled, pushing Robin back to the ground when the hand with the weapon in it was raised and aimed at them.
A loud, crackling sound shattered the silence and both Fiona and Robin could hear a bullet impact against the rock they were hiding behind. They were showered with small shards of rock and Fiona gritted her teeth, wishing there was a way for them to make a run for it.
"Kurt! No!" she suddenly heard Sams voice and Fiona, who knew what was about to happen, impulsively jumped up again, her hands clenched into fists, ignoring the muttered curse that was coming from Robin.
With wide eyes all spectators on both sides of the creek watched as the big German Shepherd, who had pulled himself free from Sams tight grip, almost flew over the rocks and pebbles, heading straight towards the tall, dark figure, who had just fired a shot at one of his pack.
With a furious growl, Kurt jumped over the rocks that were in his way, not caring that some of the smaller ones cut the soles of his paws.
The tall man had heard his growl and turned around. For a moment his body froze, but then he turned around to face the Shepherd and without hesitation he raised his gun.
With an angry, unearthly howl, Kurt launched himself in the air, crashing into the sturdy frame of the tall man, sending them both to the ground. A shot rang through the forest, followed by Sams voice: "Kurt!"
But the dog had no time for his leader. He had sunk his teeth in the mans shoulder, ignoring the howls of pain, and every time he tried to move, he bit a little harder.
In the meantime Fiona, who had watched it all happen, jumped out of her hiding place and hurried towards the fallen man, intent on kicking the gun, that had tumbled to the ground, out of his way.
"Good boy," she panted when she reached Kurt. Using her foot, she carefully pushed the gun aside, hoping it wouldnt fire. It didnt and she let out a breath of relief when the weapon was out of her kidnappers reach.
Taking a step back, she watched Trishia and Peter run towards them, followed by Sam, Yarra and Alice.
"Hey, guys," she greeted them with a tired smile. "What took you so long?"
"We had to finish dinner first," Sam quipped, her blue eyes taking in the tired, drawn face of her sister-in-law. "Are you alright?"
Fiona just nodded and took in a deep breath, wondering why, all of a sudden, she felt like crying. Sucking in her bottom lip she stared at her feet, trying to regain her composure, when a hand on her arm forced her to look up.
"Its okay to let it out," Alices voice was warm and gentle when she hugged her friend close and Fiona smiled through the tears that suddenly rolled down her cheeks.
"Its the reputation thing," she sniffed, trying to joke.
"To hell with your rep," Sam sighed, reaching out and pulling the photographer firmly in her arms. "Cmere, Red."
Burying her face in Fionas messy hair, Sam could feel her own tears sting and she swallowed hard. Words would not be able to describe how scared she had been. From the first moment she had seen the security tape, showing the smart, cold- hearted kidnapping of Fiona and Robin, she had been sick to her stomach, afraid that the two women could not be found. Ever. And knowing what that could have done to Jody.
"We were all so scared, Fi," Sam whispered, pulling the dark-haired woman closer.
"He didnt hurt you, did he?"
"Not really," Fiona answered with a sigh, slowly pulling away from Sam and looking at the big man, who was now lying on his stomach, his hands tied behind his back with a pair of handcuffs. The fabric was torn away from his right shoulder and Kurts teeth marks were clearly visible.
"Kurt," Fiona suddenly spoke, looking at the brave dog, who was still panting heavily. Yarra had turned him onto his side and was examining the dog with careful fingers.
"Is he alright?" Sam asked worriedly, gasping in horror when she noticed the bloodstained fur.
"Hell be fine, Sam," Yarra hurried to reassure her friend. "The bullet just grazed him. He only has a superficial wound, nothing major. Ill wash it out and when we get home Ill dress it." Yarras brown eyes were warm and shone with respect when she looked up at the tall blonde.
"You taught him well, Sam."
"Hes a smart dog," Sam shrugged, but her eyes were twinkling.
She knelt next to Kurt and gave the dog a quick hug, something he allowed with a soft grunt. His eyes, full of trust and loyalty, looked up at her and Sam smiled.
"You are a hero, boy," she said, grinning when the Shepherd thumped his tail against the ground. "Im sure your other mommy will spoil you rotten once she hears how you have saved her sister."
"Im sure she will," Trishia agreed, wiping her hands on her shorts. "By the way, that was the stupidest thing Ive ever seen you do, Fiona," she spoke, sending the photographer a look that was a mixture of happiness, annoyance and long-suffering. If Kurt had not been so fast, Fiona could have been shot after she had jumped up again. Trishia sighed and sent the youngest McDonnell a tired, but happy smile. "But I sure am happy to see you."
"Thanks," Fiona mumbled, when she disappeared in another pair of long, strong arms.
"Im so tired, Trish. Cant you call in a helicopter or something?"
"Im afraid not, Red," Trishia smiled, playfully ruffling Fionas hair. "Well have to walk back up."
"Figures," Fiona mumbled, turning to see Alice talking to Robin. She couldnt understand what was being said, but the teasing look her blond friend sent her almost made her blush.
"Is this family always prone to adventures like this?" Robin asked, which earned her an amused smile from Alice.
"They certainly are," Alice nodded. "But, until now, all adventures have had a happy ending."
Robin smiled and raked her fingers through her unruly hair. She felt tired, dirty and hungry. She knew they would have to hike back up the mountain and the thought alone made her muscles ache.
"Theres a perk to all the adventures though," she heard Alices voice and her puzzled eyes met a pair of twinkling blue ones.
"There is?" she asked hesitantly.
"In the end, a McDonnell always get the girl," she winked, seeing the blush creep up Robins face.
Robin was spared an answer, by the kidnappers angry yell when Peter Jones reached out to pull the ski-mask away from his face.
"No! Leave it on."
"In your dreams, mate," Peter replied, pleased with the knowledge the big mans hands were tied behind his back. "We need to see whom we re dealing with here."
"No!" the man answered forcefully. "Not...here, not...now."
Peter sent Trishia a quizzical look, but the police woman just shrugged her shoulders.
"When and why?" she asked with more patience than she felt. The fact that they had found Robin and Fiona in good health had taken a tremendous weight off her shoulders, but she really wanted to hike back to their cars and make sure everybody would return home safely.
"Not here," the man answered stubbornly.
"Im afraid youve no choice in the matter, mate," Peter answered and before the kidnapper could react, the police man had reached out and pulled off the ski-mask in one, fluid motion.
Immediately, he took a step back and gasped loudly, a sound that was echoed by the onlookers.
"Good God. What happened to you?" Peter asked in a hoarse voice.
The tall mans face looked like it had melted. Scars littered the red and swollen skin. One eye was shut, while the other one seemed to be pulled down by the mangled skin of his cheek. The nose was nothing but a small clump of flesh and his upper lip had completely disappeared, just like one of his ears.
"Chemical burns," Trishias voice sounded softly. She had seen it before, knowing things like battery acid were sometimes used as a weapon. She understood the mans pain and his reluctance to show his face. People could be harsh and unfeeling in the way they treated others who had the misfortune to be disfigured. And even though their suspect obviously was a criminal, there was no reason for them to add to his daily suffering.
"Put his mask back on, Pete," Trishia ordered calmly. "Whats your name?"
"Who wants to know?" the mans voice rasped, raw from not having been used for a long time.
"Senior-Sergeant Trishia Waters," Trishia identified herself, showing him her identification. "Whats your name?"
"Frankenstein," was the growled answer.
"Fine, have it your way," Trishia shrugged her shoulders, watching Peter Jones put the mans ski-mask back into place. "You know well find out anyway, sooner or later. But if you cooperate, your life will be a lot more pleasant." Trishia stepped closer and searched for the eye, the only thing visible through the mask. "But when my friends and family are kidnapped and shot at, I tend to take it personally," she warned him in a low voice, before turning on her heels and motioning the rest to follow them.
"Lets go, people, Ive had enough hiking for a while."
"Amen to that," Robin sighed, willing her tired body to obey. The first few steps were the hardest, she knew. Her muscles were pulling and screaming in agony and a quick glance aside showed her Fiona was in no better shape. The photographers t-shirt was ripped at the side, something that must have happened when she had lost her balance and Fiona had caught her, stopping her from rolling down the hill. Her face was dirty and the dark-green eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep.
If Fiona looks that bad, how do I look? Must be awful.
Robin sighed and automatically put one foot in front of the other, trying not to think of the long, steep climb that was still ahead of them. If she would listen to her body, she would find a grassy spot, lie down and sleep. For hours. Maybe even days. But she knew that was impossible. They needed to keep going. Maybe if she would think positive thoughts it would help her forget about the pain and fatigue.
Robins heart jumped in her chest when she remembered how it had felt to rest, snuggled up against Fionas taller frame, the photographers arms firmly wrapped around her body. Even though she had been scared, tired, cold and hungry, the close contact had provided her with something she thought she would never experience again: a warmth and safety born out of the comforting presence of a person who had captured her heart.
Because that was exactly what had happened; she had fallen for Fiona McDonnell. It had been a swift conquest that had taken her completely by surprise. Ever since they had met, Robin had tried hard to ignore the little voices in the back of her mind, not looking forward to all the complications a one-sided...crush...would bring. Until last night.
Until Fionas whispered: Its still unwritten.
Those few words suddenly had changed...everything. Robin knew Fiona had not said it yet, but she felt in her heart that the photographer had been talking about her feelings for her, Robin Adams. And, suddenly, things had looked totally different.
Her feelings for Fiona McDonnell had not been one-sided at all.
Unconsciously Robin smiled, sensing a warm feeling settle in the pit of her stomach. When she glanced up, it was as if Fiona had been reading her mind, because a pair of tired dark-green eyes looked at her with a mixture of shyness and affection and Robin sent the photographer a warm smile.
She knew they needed to talk, but she had promised to wait until Fiona was ready. And she would. As long as she needed to. And, in the meantime, they could get to know each other better, since they had only met each other the previous week.
Robin shook her head in silent amazement and suppressed a chuckle. Who could have known this would happen to her? She seriously thought she would have been too old to lose her heart so drastically.
Time for a bath, some sleep and some serious reflections, Robbie.
"Amen to that," Robin sighed, not aware of having spoken those words out loud.
"To what?" Sam asked curiously, walking right behind Robin. She had given Kurt free rein to wonder around, knowing the dog would be close and always would come when she would call him. He apparently had not suffered from his superficial wound, because as soon as Sam had unfastened his leash, he had taken off into the forest with a happy bark.
Robin cast a look over her shoulder and smiled at her boss.
"I must be exhausted. I didnt even realize I was talking aloud," she explained with a shrug of her shoulders. "I was thinking how nice it would be to have a shower and a good sleep."
"Amen to that," Sam smiled warmly, repeating Robins earlier words. "Your brother will be so thrilled to see you. Trishia practically had to order him to stay home, he was so eager to come with us."
"Its a good thing he didnt. Josh is the best brother I could have wished for, but he can be a bit of a hothead, sometimes. Im afraid he would have been right next to Kurt when he attacked."
"Trishia told him and Michael to stay home and take care of the women," Sam pulled a face, which made Robin smile. "Jody can take care of herself and so can Lucy, but I guess it sounded good enough. Trish only wanted a small group to come along, to keep things quiet."
The next few minutes, they all climbed the steep hill in silence. The only person who seemed to have no trouble at all, was Yarra. It was obvious she was holding back in order to give the rest of them a chance to catch their breath. Making sure to stay close to Alice, she often took the blondes arm or hand to help her cross the most difficult areas.
Fiona intercepted a few glances between the couple and she inwardly smiled. Yarra and Alice were so cute together. They always had been, and it seemed that, as they grew more older and mature, their deepening relationship was often reflected in soft touches and knowing glances. In Fionas mind, Yarra and Alice belonged together just like Sam and Jody did.
"How are you doing, Fi?" Yarra called out to her friend.
"Just peachy," Fiona answered, trying not to pant. She was exhausted and wondered if the gas their kidnapper had used, had done some damage to her lungs. Her legs still felt heavy and the headache she had successfully fought before, was threatening to come back full force. "But Ive had better days though," she added with a grimace, trying to ignore the throbbing pain behind her eyes.
"It wont be long now, mate, hang in there," Yarra called over her shoulder. "Just one last steep bit and after that it will be a walk in the park."
"Ill hold you to that," Robin muttered. The biologist had never felt more tired in her entire life. Her legs felt like rubber and her breathing was labored, while her head felt like it was filled with cotton-wool and her eyes were burning, begging to be closed.
With a look that bordered on desperation, Robin looked up at the last steep bit as Yarra had called it. Steep it was, she had to agree, but the trees prevented a clear view and it was impossible to tell how long the climb would take.
A hand on her shoulder made Robin look up she smiled weakly at Fiona who looked at her with obvious concern.
"Will you be alright?" the photographer asked.
"Do I have a choice?" Robin replied with a grimace, fighting the urge to rub her cheek against the warm hand on her shoulder.
"I could carry you up," Fiona suggested with a twinkle in her eyes.
"That would be a sight to see," Robin chuckled. Not able to resist any longer, she just had to touch Fiona, she covered the hand on her shoulder with her own, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Ill be right behind you," Fiona promised.
"Thank you," Robin nodded, wishing she could just snuggle up against Fiona and go to sleep. Now she knew how it felt to be held by the photographer, her body seemed to crave the contact with an intensity Robin had never experienced before.
I must either be extremely exhausted or head over heels. Or both...
Fiona glanced at the small group in front of them. Like Yarra and Alice, Trishia and Peter were already out of sight, their prisoner in between them. Fiona didnt know how they did it, but every now and then, it was like the two police officers hauled the big man up, not willing to take off the handcuffs.
Sam was steadily following, a determined expression on her face, using Kurts leash as a rope in her climb back up the hill.
"Come on, Robin, you can do it," Fiona encouraged, gently pushing the other woman forward.
With a grunt, Robin reached out and grasped a branch, pulling herself up. When her right leg felt like it would slip away from underneath her body, Fionas hands were immediately around her waist, steadying her until she had regained her balance.
"You know, if I could, Id carry you up," Fionas voice sounded close to her ear and Robin smiled. She knew it was impossible, but the sentiment was endearing and she half-turned to give the surprised photographer a quick kiss on the cheek.
"I know you would, thank you."
"No worries," Fiona drawled with shining eyes, while her fingers touched the spot Robin had just kissed her.
"Youre so sweet," Robin added with a smile, before turning her attention back to the climb ahead.
With a happy grin on her face, Fiona followed close behind.
"Taryn, no!" Jody warned her daughter for the second time, quickly grabbing a little hand. "Thats your brothers toy, not a weapon."
A pair of innocent green eyes looked up at her from the floor, but Jody wasnt fooled by the sweet glance she was receiving, so she sent her daughter a stern glare, which had the desired effect, because Taryns bottom lip started trembling.
"Hopefully mama will be home soon, sweetie. In the meantime, youll have to put up with me and I dont want you to hit Tim with his fire truck. No hitting!"
Taryn looked at the red truck in her hands and decided it wasnt worth the fuss. With a determined gesture, she tossed the toy in a corner and crawled over to Jodys mother, reaching out both hands.
With a smile, Joan McDonnell lifted the toddler off the floor into her lap, nuzzling the soft hair that smelled like baby-shampoo.
"They re a little out of sorts, honey," Joan spoke to her eldest daughter. "They pick up on the tension."
"I know," Jody sighed, casting a look at Lucy who was stretched out on the couch. It had taken her a lot of convincing, but she had finally managed to get her exhausted sister to lie down for a while.
"Its been daylight for a while now. I just wish wed hear something. The longer it takes, the more tense I feel. And poor Joshua," Jody sighed, glancing outside where she could see Robins brother pace the veranda, while Michael was quietly sitting on the railing.
"I know, honey," Joan McDonnell answered softly. "Im scared, too, but deep down inside, I feel that everythings going to be alright."
Jody nodded and looked down when she felt a hand pat her leg. A pair of clear blue eyes looked up at her pleadingly and immediately she smiled.
"Come here, big guy," she said, lifting Timothy into her arms. The little boy wrapped his arms around his mothers neck and pressed his cheek against hers in a gesture of silent comfort.
Jodys thoughts traveled back to the moment she had kissed Sam goodbye, when the small group had set out to find Fiona and Robin. Sam had been filled with quiet determination and Jody knew her partner would not want to come home without the two women.
"Well find them," Sam had promised, her voice full of confidence and Jody hoped and prayed that would be the case.
For a long time it was silent, while both Jody and Joan McDonnell were lost in thought, each of them holding an unusually quiet toddler, while Lucy had drifted off to sleep on the couch.
The first warm rays of morning sun came tumbling into the room, illuminating red lights in Jodys and Taryns hair, something that made Joan McDonnell smile softly. They were so much alike, mother and daughter, while Timothy had all the physical characteristics of the Stevens. Her grandchildren were the perfect reflection of their parents love for each other and, again, Joan McDonnell said a silent prayer of gratitude for having had the chance to come to accept the relationship between her daughter and Samantha Stevens. She would have missed out on so much if she hadnt.
The long-awaited, but still unexpected sound of the phone made Jody almost jump out of her seat and with trembling fingers she reached for the device, seeing Lucy shoot up straight and hearing the slamming of the kitchen door when both Michael and Joshua came running in.
"H...hello?" she said, holding her breath.
"Pea? Its me, we re fine," Fionas voice filled her ear and Jody closed her eyes, letting out a shuddering sigh of relief.
"They re fine," she repeated in a hoarse voice, immediately seeing Lucy sink back in the pillows, while Joshua had to hold on to the back of a chair to keep from sinking through his knees that suddenly felt like they were filled with gelatin.
"Where are you?"
"We just climbed Mount Everest, or so it feels," Fionas explained in a tired, but happy voice. "Sam promised well be home in time for breakfast and I have to admit Im dying for a cup of coffee."
"Ill make sure its right here waiting for you," Jody smiled, wiping away a tear from the corner of her eye. "Are you sure you and Robin are alright?"
"Just tired, hungry and in dire need of a shower. We re fine. Kurt caught the bad guy and Peter will escort him to jail. I guess it was a pretty productive morning."
"Kurt caught the bad guy? Honey, what..." Jody sighed and shook her head with a smile. "Im sure well hear all about it when youre home." Glancing at Joshua, Jody smiled. "Fiona, honey, can Joshua talk with Robin for a moment? Im sure hell feel a lot better if he can hear her voice."
"Sure thing, sis. Here she comes, Ill see you soon."
Jody handed the phone to Joshua, who eagerly grabbed it and brought it to his ear.
"Hey, Josh. Are you alright?"
"I was worried sick," Joshua answered with something close to a sob. "Did they catch the bloke?"
"Yes, they did," Robins tired voice answered.
"Are you alright? Did...did he hurt you?"
"No, he didnt, Josh," Robin hurried to reassure her brother. "Fiona and I are both alright, just tired, hungry and..." Joshua could hear his sister make a sniffing sound and he chuckled. "...dirty," she added with a trace of amusement. "We re heading to the cars right now and we should be home in about thirty minutes."
"Great, Im so happy, Robin. I was so worried about you."
"I know, honey. I was worried about you as well. But its over now, alright? Were coming home. Can you hand the phone back to Jody. Im sure shed like to talk to Sam, since this is Sams phone to start with," Robin chuckled. "Ill see you in a little bit, big brother."
Joshua nodded and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, while he handed Jody back the phone.
"Hey, sweetie," a tired, but familiar voice sounded, and Jody swallowed hard.
"I guess Alice was right then?"
"Spot on," Sam answered with a happy sigh and Jody could almost picture the twinkle in her partners clear blue eyes. "And Yarra is the best darn tracker Ive ever seen. Of course I already knew that," Sam added with a laugh. "But it was nice to see it confirmed again. Oh, and honey? Kurt deserves a big, fat juicy bone."
"Hell get one," Jody promised, looking down when a small, but insistent hand tugged on her arm.
"Mama?" Timothy almost begged, his eyes full of expectation.
"Yes, its mama and shell be home soon, honey."
"Is that Tim?"
"Yes and Taryn is wiggling her way down off moms lap. Theyve missed you this morning when you werent there."
"Ive missed them too," Sam sighed. "I love it when theyre just awake and snuggle with us in bed. Maybe we can do a little snuggling later," Sams voice was hopeful and Jody smiled.
"Im sure we can, honey," she promised, already looking forward to it. "Just come home."
"Im on my way," Sam answered. "Well be there soon. I love you."
"I love you too, Sam. See you soon."
With a smile, Jody put down the phone and got up to walk to the couch, plant Timothy in Lucys lap, enveloping them both in a quick, but heartfelt hug and then turned towards her mother, who was silently crying. Kneeling in front of Joan McDonnell Jody wrapped her arms around her and pulled her close, silently rocking her in a comforting gesture that always worked wonders with her twins.
"Its alright, Mom, its alright," she whispered. "Shes fine and shes coming home."
"I know, baby," Joan McDonnell sniffed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "Its just..."
"I understand," Jody smiled. "Weve all been under a lot of stress. To be honest, I dont know what to feel right now. Part of me wants to jump up and dance and the other part wants to sit down and cry."
"See? Ive always known you were a nutcase, Jody McDonnell," Lucy laughed through her tears, making her mother smile.
"Thanks, Luce, coming from you Ill take that as a compliment," Jody grinned, patting her mother on the shoulder. "I need some help in the kitchen, Mom. Im sure everybody is starving."
"Oh, well help," Joan McDonnell immediately replied, referring to herself and Lucy, who pulled a face at Jody when her older sister winked at her. "I know exactly what Fiona likes."
Trishia had left Fionas and Robins kidnapper in the capable hands of Peter Jones, who, together with a uniformed police officer, would accompany the man to the police station.
Trishia wanted to go with them, so she could be part of the interrogation team, but an even bigger part of her wanted to be with Lucy and her family. To be together and celebrate their fortune in having found Fiona and Robin. Alive and well. How many times had she been part of an investigation when victims of a kidnapping were found dead?
Trishia swallowed hard and tried to focus on steering her car down the hill. Sams car with Yarra, Alice, Robin and Fiona was in front of her, while the police car with Peter was somewhere behind her. The road was narrow and trying to overtake a car was treacherous, to say the least. The view was simply breathtaking but there were no sturdy railings shielding the cars from the steep drops on the side of the road, so Trishia concentrated on the road in front of her, occasionally glancing in her rearview mirror.
Peter Jones sat half-turned in the passenger seat, so he could keep an eye on his prisoner. The man had been very quiet and Peter did not trust him at all. His instincts, honed by years of working in the police force, told him there was a lot more to Fionas and Robins kidnapper than met the eye. And Peter knew he had to be alert.
He had not talked to Trishia about his gut-feeling, there had been no need. Her eyes had reflected his emotions and he had mentally patted himself on the shoulder. He respected and admired Trishia and unconsciously being on the same wave-length as his Senior-Sergeant was something he was secretly proud of.
"If youd tell me your name, it would make conversation a lot easier," Peter remarked casually.
A low growl was his answer and Peter shrugged his shoulders, not at all impressed. During his career he had been called all the names known to mankind, and then some, so a little growling was hardly intimidating.
"Tell you what," he continued, almost cheerfully. "Back in the forest you told us your names Frankenstein. I cant call you that, but Ill call you Frank. How about that, mate?"
"Go to hell," was the answer, followed by a cough and Peter just shook his head.
Another cough followed and Peter and the police officer driving the car exchanged a look when the coughing became deeper and longer.
"Do you need some water?" Peter asked, not unfriendly, but he received no answer, just a dark glance from behind the mask.
"Do you think hes choking, or something?" Daniel Tiller, the driver, asked a little nervously.
"I wouldnt know what he could choke on, mate," Peter answered. "Its not like he ate something lately."
"I...cant...breathe..." the kidnapers voice rasped and immediately Daniel Tiller stopped the car, ready to jump out. A strong hand on his arm stopped him.
"Where do you think youre going?"
"You heard what he said, he cant breathe," Daniel answered in a voice that was a pitch higher than normal.
"Did you ever consider that can be a trick?" Peter asked patiently, immediately seeing the light blush color the face of the rookie police man. "Thats what I thought. Just let him cough and give him time to catch his breath, alright? Well know when hes really getting in trouble, believe me."
But the coughing did not stop and Daniel Tiller shot Peter Jones an insecure look. He had heard a lot of stories about Peter Jones and Trishia Waters, both seasoned police officers who were highly respected by their peers. But even an experienced Peter Jones could make a mistake, couldnt he? What if their suspect was choking and they didnt do anything to help him?
The sound of wheezing almost made Daniel Tiller jump and casting one last glance at Peter Jones calm face, he made a decision. Quickly opening the door, he jumped out and opened the door to the backseat. He leaned forward, intent to slap the big man on his back to help him breathe better, when all of a sudden all air left his lungs with a loud whooshing sound when a pair of strong legs impacted with his chest.
Daniel Tiller literally flew out of the car, backwards, to slam into a tree on the side of the road, where he slowly slid down, gasping for breath.
Before Peter Jones could make it out of the car, Frank was standing next to Daniel Tiller with one foot pressing against the incapacitated police officers throat.
"Keys," his raspy voice commanded.
"What?" Peter asked, knowing full well what he meant, but hoping that maybe he could buy some time.
"Throw the keys of the handcuffs, so mister Green here can hand them to me. If not, Ill crush his windpipe."
"This is insane, mate," Peter tried. "You know you wont get far."
"The keys," Frank growled, increasing the pressure on Daniel Tillers throat.
With a frustrated groan and a muttered curse, Peter pulled a pair of keys out of his pocket and threw them at the two men. They landed just in front of Daniel Tillers hand.
"Pick up the keys and open the handcuff," Frank commanded while putting even more pressure on the police mans throat. With concern Peter noticed that Daniel Tiller was rapidly becoming blue in the face and inwardly he cursed.
With trembling fingers, the rookie managed to open one of the handcuffs and, when he could feel the pressure on his throat disappear, he took a deep, wheezing gulp of air that immediately made him cough violently. In spite of his predicament, Daniel Tiller had not forgotten his training and his hand searched for his gun, only to be slapped away by a larger one.
"Thanks, mate," a raspy voice sounded close to his ear.
Peter, who had already pulled his gun had quickly jumped behind the police car when he had noticed how Frank had positioned himself behind the rookie and had taken possession of Daniels gun. He had no clear shot and with utter frustration Peter had to watch how Frank whispered something to Daniel, before knocking him out cold with the butt of the gun and disappearing in the thick, green wall of the forest behind him.
"Shit," Peter exclaimed. "Trish is going to kill me."
To be continued in part 13
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