For disclaimers see part one
It was not the hair tickling under her chin, nor the gentle pressure of a cheek pressed against her shoulder that pulled Lauren Darkwolf out of slumber. It was the incessant ringing of the phone, a noise that started like a faraway echo and quickly developed into something so utterly annoying, the dark-skinned Agent swatted at the source of the disturbance, only realizing it was the phone when she actually touched it. With a frown, she picked up the receiver and brought it to her ear.
“Darkwolf,” she said, sounding more awake than she really was.
“Lauren,” a familiar voice filled her ear and immediately all sleep vanished.
“Chief,” Lauren responded, putting her free hand on the back of Maureen’s head when she felt the other woman jerk. With gentle pressure she coaxed her back to her shoulder, smiling when Maureen let out a soft sigh and kissed the skin just below her collar bone.
“Lauren, I’m sorry to wake you this early, but I think there has been a development in the case.”
“There has?” Lauren replied, aware of Maureen lifting her head and sending her a curious glance.
“A nurse and baby have been kidnaped from the hospital in Elk City and we think there’s a link to the case you and Lawrence are working on.”
“How so?” Lauren asked, all traces of sleep forgotten.
“It’s something he said and one of the nurses overheard when he was on his way out, with the nurse and the baby.”
“What was it?” Lauren asked, feeling the tension surge through her body, that immediately responded by pumping adrenaline through her veins. Her heart rate picked up and the synapses in her brain were already firing, going through countless possible scenarios.
“Something about he had never intended his boy to be dumped at the side of the road.”
“Is there a security camera in...”
“The tapes are secured,” Jack Wilson interrupted. “I need you and Lawrence to fly to Elk City immediately.”
“Fly?” Lauren echoed in surprise.
“A police helicopter is waiting for the two of you at Wiley Post airport. How fast can you be there?”
“Forty minutes,” Lauren answered, not entirely succeeding in suppressing her feelings of disappointment. She had hoped to have been able to wake up slowly and peacefully, taking her time spending some more precious snuggling time with Maureen. Letting out a small sigh, Lauren looked into the green eyes that were staring up at her and mustered up a smile. “We’ll be there in forty minutes,” she repeated, before putting the phone down.
“Where are we going?” Maureen asked, rolling on her back, trying not to sound too disappointed.
“Oh, wonderful,” Maureen moaned. “Are we visiting your friend Morty while we’re there?”
“We might,” Lauren chuckled, unexpectedly rolling over and pinning the redhead underneath her. Before Maureen could react to the gentle assault, her lips were captured by Lauren’s, kissing her deliberately slow and tender. It did not take long for Maureen’s body to go completely limp, surrendering to the warmth that overtook her. By the time Lauren broke away, Maureen’s heart rate had picked up and her skin was flushed.
“That was...that was...very, very nice,” she said softly, looking up at Lauren with smiling green eyes.
“It’s my way to say ‘Good morning’,” Lauren smiled, brushing away a strand of red hair from Maureen’s forehead. “And also my way of saying that I am sorry we can’t snuggle. We’ll have to leave as soon as we can.”
“I know,” Maureen nodded, reaching up and cupping Lauren’s cheeks, so she could pull her closer for yet another slow, deep kiss.
“This is my way of saying ‘Good Morning’,” she said, smiling at the dazed look in Lauren’s eyes.
“I like it,” the dark-haired woman smiled.
“I guess we need to hit the shower,” Maureen sighed, patting Lauren’s hip. “I’m sure we could be faster if we’d...”
“Shower together?” Lauren asked, with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Exactly,” Maureen grinned. “Besides, while we shower, you can brief me. How’s that?”
“I love your practical side,” Lauren laughed, getting up from her comfortable position on the bed and pulling Maureen with her. “Follow me, Agent Lawrence. Let’s conserve some water.”
Karen Donalds nervously wiped her sweaty palms on her scrub pants. The man who was driving the car had not said a word ever since they had left the hospital, even though she had asked him, numerous times, where he was taking her and the baby.
Karen Donalds’ husband worked for an oil-company and they had moved into Elk City just a few months ago. She was not particularly familiar with the surrounding area and it did not take long for her to feel disoriented. There was nothing she could see through the car window that looked remotely familiar. Her kidnapper had taken I-40, going East, but as soon as he had spotted a police cruiser about half a mile in front of him, he had left the Interstate and headed for one of the country roads.
“Where are you taking us?” Karen tried again, with a conscious effort to keep the strain out of her voice. If she managed to sound calm, he might be willing to talk.
“Someplace safe,” was the gruff answer.
“Safe for you, or safe for us?” Karen sighed.
“Listen, Lady,” the man responded , casting a glance in the rearview mirror. “I don’t have any intentions to hurt you, alright? We will all be safe and when the time is right, I will let you go. All I care about is getting my son.”
“What about his mother?” Karen asked. “She will be frantic. Don’t you care about that? This baby needs his mother.”
“His mother is dead,” was the mumbled answer and, for a brief moment, Karen Donalds froze. The unexpected words had thrown her for a loop and it took her a few moments to regain her composure. What did he mean, his mother is dead?
“This baby’s mother is in the hospital we just left,” she said slowly, keeping her eyes on her kidnapper’s face to be able to see his reaction. “She’s not dead. I talked to her about thirty minutes before you came in.”
The response was unexpected. Her kidnapper slammed the brakes of the car, throwing clouds of red dust into the air and as soon as the car had come to a stop he turned around and looked at her with a mixture of anger and shock.
“This baby’s mother, I talked to her about thirty minutes before you came in,” Karen Donalds repeated softly.
“What’s her name?”
“What is her name?” he repeated with so much venom, Karen swallowed hard and held the sleeping baby in her arms a little closer.
“Mary-Ann Johnson,” Karen answered in a hoarse voice, immediately seeing all color drain from her kidnapper’s face. “Look,” she continued, showing him the identification bracelet the baby was wearing.
The kidnapper mumbled something unintelligible that closely resembled a string of colorful curses and, unconsciously, Karen held the baby closer. Her heart slammed against her ribs in fear of what might be happening next. She hoped and prayed he would just open the door and put her and the baby out on the road. If he would, she could walk back in the hopes of flagging down a car and asking for help.
Her hopes were crushed when the man turned back into his seat and, without even looking over his shoulder, drove off, heading East, without speaking another word.
Morton Pitts parked his old, beat up truck in his driveway and slowly crawled out of the cab, silently cursing the damage years of arthritis had done to his bones. Sometimes he wished he had not lost the strength in his arms and legs, there were still so many things he wanted to do.
He glanced up at his house and there was sadness in his eyes. He and his wife had built it together, many years ago, before he lost her in child birth. He did not have the strength, nor the money to make the much needed repairs and it pained him to see the place fall apart.
Shaking his head, the old man walked toward the old shed behind his house and pulled out a key to open the padlock on the door.
“Come on, Morty, no time to dwell on the past,” he sighed, stepping inside the shed. It was dark inside, but he knew exactly what he was looking for and, after rummaging through some boxes he emerged with some pieces of metal. They seemed to be heavy and it was obvious it took the old man a lot of strength to carry his load away from the shed, toward the bottom of the hill.
“Punks,” he muttered to himself, glancing at the desolated road. “Stupid, young punks.”
Determined not to give into the pain that was limiting his movements, Morton Pitts, or Morty to his friends, placed the metal where he thought it would work out best and, as quickly as possible, made his way up the hill again, stopping at his truck to pull out his old shotgun.
“Better not leave it for anyone to find,” he mumbled to himself, while he climbed the stairs to the front door that was rarely used. It took some force and determination to open the door far enough to slip inside, but after he had done that, Morty looked at the road one more time and nodded his head in approval.
“That’ll do it,” he mumbled, closing the door behind him.
Karen Donalds was getting desperate. While the car she was in was speeding down the road, she was trying to hold on to the baby in her arms. Their kidnapper did not seem to be too concerned with the infant’s well-being. The road was bad, torn up after the long winter season and every time the car hit a pot-hole, Karen had to hold on for dear life. The baby was firmly held in one arm, while her other hand was clenched around the strap over the door. Her eyes were shooting daggers at the driver, every time he hit a hole in the road, violently shaking her and the baby.
“Why don’t you just let us go,” she managed to shout between clenched teeth. “Just stop and let us out of the car.”
“Shut up,” the man yelled back, jerking the steering wheel to the left to avoid a particularly large hole that could have easily punctured his tire.
With fear-filled eyes, Karen tried to look at the road that was stretched out in front of them. There were fields to her right and thick shrubs to her left, but there was no house in sight, except for an old, run-down ranch house on top of one of the hills.
The baby in her arms had started to cry and Karen held the infant a little closer, desperately trying to minimize the effect of the rough road, cradling him against her body so she could keep him from getting hurt.
Looking over her shoulder, Karen could only see a big cloud of red dust and dirt, kicked up by the speeding car. She could not tell if anybody was following them, although she hoped the red cloud could be seen for miles away. She was holding the strap over the door so tightly, a cramp in her left hand made her wince in pain, but she knew she could not let go. She needed to anchor herself in the speeding car, to prevent herself and the baby from getting injured.
They were rapidly approaching an intersection, Karen saw. She could tell by the road signs alongside the road and she closed her eyes, saying a silent prayer and wishing there would be no other car crossing their path. The feared impact did not come and just when Karen let out a sigh of relief, the sound of, what seemed to be a gunshot, filled the air and immediately the car started skidding toward the side of the road.
“What the...?’ the kidnapper cried in surprise.
He yanked the steering wheel to the left, hoping to keep the car on the road, but his speed had been too great and while Karen Donalds used her legs and one hand to brace herself, the kidnapper cried in frustration when the car’s tires hit the side of the road, heading straight for a dry, shallow ditch.
The car shook violently when its front dug into the ditch. The vehicle came to such an abrupt stop, the back tires came off the ground a few inches. As soon as the car landed back on all four tires, it rocked from side-to-side and Karen Donalds moaned when her head collided with the window. For a frightening moment she thought she would pass out, but her willpower kept her from fainting. She was holding a baby and no matter what would happen, she was determined to keep the infant boy safe.
Still dizzy from the blow to her head, Karen was vaguely aware of a door being opened and slammed shut again, but she did not pay much attention to the sound. She was focused on the baby in her arms, who was crying unhappily, his eyes squeezed shut and his face wrinkled and red.
“It’s alright, sweetie,” Karen whispered, aware of the shaking of her body. She let go of the strap over the door, feeling the muscles in her hand cramp. Stiffly she shifted the baby, holding him close to her chest and softly pressing her lips against his warm forehead.
“It’s alright, sweetie,” she whispered over and over again, reassuring the infant and herself. “It’s over. It’s over.”
Outside, the kidnapper had run away from the car as fast as he could. He was no fool and knew that the blowout of four tires had not been an accident. Somebody had put something on the road to stop him and had succeeded.
Heading for the field where he had noticed a forest of dense shrubs and trees, he ran on slightly wobbly legs, ignoring the blood that was dripping from a cut in his forehead, caused by the steering wheel when his head had slammed against it. From the corner of his eye he noticed a figure hurrying toward the car. It made him stop dead in his tracks and with a low growl he watched a tall, burly man open the back door of the car, talking to the nurse who was still inside.
Rage soared through his body as he watched the stranger stiffly kneel down next to the car, still talking to the woman inside. He was infuriated with the man for interfering with his plan that had been so carefully planned. Without thinking twice, he turned around and headed back to the car.
“Are you alright, ma’am?” Morty asked for the second time, worried about the dazed look the young woman gave him. He had noticed the large bump on the side of her head and wondered if she would have a concussion.
“I’m...I’m fine,” Karen Donalds replied in a tired voice, still struggling to focus on her surroundings. “I...hit my head and saw stars for a minute, but I’ll be fine,” she continued with a weak smile.
“I need you to come with me,” Morty continued. “It’s not a good idea to stay in the car. The driver ran off, but...”
“In your dreams,” he heard a voice behind him and inwardly Morty cursed. How could he have been so careless? He should have made sure the driver had disappeared into the woods, before turning his attention to the woman in the car. But when he had heard a baby cry, fear had grabbed his heart and he had wondered if, in his determination to stop the car, he had injured an innocent child.
Painfully slowly, Morty pushed himself into an upright position, making sure his body was in between the woman with the baby and the angry voice behind him. Carefully, he turned around, until he came face-to-face with a young man, who, at first glance, looked like a businessman with his clean shaven face and dark-grey suit. It was the expression in his eyes though that told the old man otherwise.
“You might want to point that gun at something else, son,” Morty drawled.
“I point it where I want to point it,” the young man answered. “Why did you blow out all my tires?”
“I did what?” Morty asked in an innocent voice. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, son. I was in the field when I heard a noise and I saw your car in the ditch. I was wond’ring if y’all needed some help.” Morty glanced at the weapon in the young man’s hand. “There’s no reason for that,” he added in a calm voice. “So, you might want to put it away.”
“I don’t think so,” was the hissed answer.
As soon as Maureen and Lauren stepped out of the helicopter, they were greeted by Sheriff Boswick and Deputy Henderson. The first one approached them with an outstretched hand. It was obvious the Sheriff was more than happy to see them again.
“What’s going on, Sheriff?” Lauren asked, giving the young Deputy a friendly nod.
“Your city boy caused chaos in my hospital,” Sheriff Boswick answered with a grim expression on his face. “He acted like a darn cowboy.”
“Did anybody get hurt?” Maureen asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. In their hurry to leave, she had not had time to do anything with her hair. It was hanging loosely around her face, which annoyed her to no end, but, every now and then she noticed the appreciative look Lauren sent her and inwardly she smiled, pleased with the effect she had on her lover.
“No, just some dented egos,” Sheriff Boswick answered, motioning the women to follow him to a waiting police cruiser. “Apparently he came barging into the nursery, waving a gun, looking for his son.”
“So he took the baby and a nurse,” Lauren sighed, taking a seat in the back of the cruiser, closely followed by Maureen.
“He sure did,” Sherif Boswick answered, while Deputy Henderson started the engine and drove toward the exit of the small airport. “It was the wrong one though.”
“What?” Lauren and Maureen responded simultaneously.
“He grabbed the wrong baby,” Sherif Boswick repeated, turning in his seat so he could look at the women on the backseat. “Instead of his own boy, he grabbed Karen Donalds, the nurse, and the baby she was taking care of at that moment; Frank and Mary-Ann Johnson’s baby boy, Derrick.”
Lauren mumbled something that closely resembled a curse, while Maureen shook her head, muttering under her breath.
“My reaction exactly,” Sheriff Boswick dryly responded. “This guy is nuts and I’m very concerned about the nurse and the baby’s safety when our city boy finds out he grabbed the wrong one.”
“Do you have any idea where he went?” Lauren asked, while her brain was already trying to come up with a plan.
“Some witnesses saw him hit the Interstate, going East, but when we sent out some cruisers, going both ways, we never managed to get a visual.”
“That’s because he’s not on the Interstate,” Lauren stated calmly.
“He’s not?” Deputy Henderson asked in surprise, looking in his rearview mirror.
Lauren cast a look at Maureen who stared back at her with a pensive expression. The redhead slowly nodded and sent her friend a small smile.
“That’s right,” she nodded, remembering what Morty had told them. “There’s a road, off the Interstate that we think is used by drug runners. I bet he took that one.”
“Did the kidnapping get announced immediately?” Lauren asked quickly.
“Amber alert, yes,” Sheriff Boswick answered.
Lauren smiled grimly when she tapped Deputy Henderson on his shoulder.
“Where are we right now? Geographically?”
“We’re driving East, toward I40,” Deputy Henderson answered.
“Perfect,” Lauren answered. “Keep going East on I40 and take the first exit. We need to get to E1120.”
“That’s no problem, ma’am,” Deputy Henderson replied. “Y’all better hang on, because this is going to be a fast ride.”
“Morty?” Maureen asked softly, noticing the worried look in the dark woman’s eyes.
“Yeah, Morty,” Lauren sighed, wincing when Deputy Henderson barely missed running into a car that did not move out of the way fast enough, even though the Deputy had switched on the sirens. “He has a CB radio and I am sure that’s how he stays in close contact with what is happening.”
“That’s how he knew about the baby and his mother,” Maureen nodded, remembering Morty had been aware of what had been going on, even though he lived pretty isolated from the rest of the town.
“Yes, that’s why,” Lauren nodded. “I’m pretty sure he would have been on the look out, after the Amber alert.”
“Do you think he would try something...stupid?” Maureen asked, knowing the answer when she looked at Lauren Darkwolf’s face. “He would, wouldn’t he?” she sighed, shaking her head. Even though she had been annoyed with the old man before, she did not want anything to happen to him.
“Let’s hope he used some common sense,” Lauren replied with a small smile.
“Knowing old Morty, that might be a little too much to ask for,” Sheriff Boswick muttered, searching through some paperwork. “Here. This came in after you two were airborne. It’s from your OSBI people.”
Lauren took the fax that was handed to her and her eyes quickly scanned the paper. A small smile appeared and she let out a soft chuckle when she offered the sheet to Maureen.
“Lee Ann Lawrence. Isn’t she your cousin?
“She sure is,” Maureen nodded, grabbing the paper and letting her eyes fly over the printed words. When she was finished, she looked up and sent Lauren a warm smile.
“That’s our Lally,” she remarked, not able to hide the pride in her voice.
“She did a great job,” Lauren admitted. “Smart woman.”
“Smart as a whip,” Maureen said. “Her dream is to join the OSBI.”
“Well, she’d be an asset,” Lauren replied. “She dug up a whole lot of information in a short period of time. At least we have a name now, Jacob Mannen.”
“If it’s the same one we’re after, he’s slick,” Maureen answered. “And also armed and dangerous. His wrap sheet is as long as my arm. Mostly drug possession and dealing. Armed robbery when he was barely twenty. He’s spent a lot of time in jail.”
“And when he goes back in, he might not come out until he’s old and grey,” Sheriff Boswick said with determination. “I do hope the only thing we’ll have to add is kidnapping. I’d hate to see something happen to Morty, or the to the nurse and baby.
“Son, you can still walk away from all this,” Morty sighed, deliberately keeping his voice calm, although he was very concerned about the woman and baby who were still in the car. “Just turn around and walk away. Or, better yet, I can give you the keys of my truck. Here take them,” he offered, stretching out his hand that was holding the keys. “ My truck is parked behind that bush over there. Go and leave the lady and child in peace.”
“I’m no fool,” the young man said angrily, wiping away a trickle of blood that still oozed from the cut in his head. “And stop calling me ‘son’ !”
“Well, I don’t know yer name,” Mort drawled, eyeing the young man with curious eyes. If only the young punk would lower the gun for one second, Morty knew he had a chance to grab the weapon. He knew he was older and not as fast, but he had a lot more strength than the slenderly built man in front of him.
“You don’t need to know my name,” was the angry answer.
“In that case, I’ll call you ‘son’,” Morty decided.
His remark had the desired effect, because the young man’s face became red with anger, while a vein in his forehead became clearly visible.
“My name is not ‘son’, it’s Jake, you old fool,” he spat, motioning Morty to step away from the car.
“I’m not moving, Jake,” Morty calmly answered. “You’re not going to touch this lady and baby.”
“I touch whoever I want to touch, old man. You hear me?” Jake yelled. “Can’t you see I’m holding a gun? I’m in power here. I am the boss.”
“Only in yer own little world,” Morty replied, outwardly still calm, although deep down inside he feared for the safety of the nurse and infant, who were still hunkered down in the car. He knew he was pushing the young man’s buttons and he could only hope and pray he would not push him too far too soon.
“Move...out...of...the...way,” Jake said through gritted teeth. “If you don’t, I will personally make sure you will never....ever get in anybody’s way again.”
From the corner of his eye, Morty had noticed a cloud of dust that was rapidly approaching. Jake had not seen it yet, since the road was behind him and Morty frantically tried to come up with a plan to stall a little longer. Just a few minutes would be enough.
“Where will you take them?” Morty asked, trying to look at the young man’s face and not at the road behind him.
“None of your business.”
“Actually, it is,” Morty sighed, rocking back and forth on his heels. “See, don’t let these coveralls fool you, my mama raised a gentleman and I can’t allow you to take this woman and this baby. I just can’t. You could take me,” he offered, almost cheerfully.
“Are you nuts?” Jake snapped. “I’m not taking you anywhere. Now, step out of the way, because I swear, I’ll use this,” he yelled, waving his gun. “I give you five seconds to move, old man, and if you haven’t, I’ll....”
Jake halted in mid-sentence when his eye caught the reflection of a movement in the car window.
“What the...?” he mumbled, turning his head so he could have a look at the road behind him, where, to his surprise and horror, a police cruiser came speeding into their direction.
That was the moment Morty had been waiting for. Without hesitation, he stepped forward, grabbing the hand that was holding the gun, pressing it down, so the weapon was pointed to the ground. He squeezed as hard as his arthritis plagued hands would allow him, inwardly cursing his physical condition.
After the initial shock of the older man grabbing his arm, Jake tried to pull himself free, but it was like his hand was caught in a vice. His strength surprised him and with a grunt he pulled again, using his other arm to try and push the older man away. If only he could get him off balance, he might be able to get away. It was only a matter of minutes before the police cruiser would catch up with him and Jake was determined not to get caught. His desperation gave him strength and with a loud yell he pulled himself free, at the same time hearing the deafening sound of a gun being fired.
“Oh, God,” he panted. “Damn.”
It took Jake a few seconds to regain his composure, but then his eyes fell on Morty’s truck keys that had ended up on the dusty gravel road. With a grunt he jumped forward, grabbed the keys and ran toward the area where Morty had told him he had parked his truck. It was right where the old man had told him and Jake almost cried in relief.
Before he opened the door of the beat-up old truck, he cast a look over his shoulder. The tension he was under had made him sick to his stomach and he wiped the perspiration from his forehead and eyes, aware of the nausea that had settled in the pit of his stomach.
“Stupid old fool,” he mumbled, before jumping into the dusty cabin and starting the engine.
Without looking back, Jake sped down the road, leaving Morty, Karen Donalds and the baby boy in an impressive cloud of dust. He knew the police cruiser was not far behind him, but he resisted the urge to look back. Instead, his eyes were on the road in front of him, while his hands were clenched around the steering wheel.
“Stupid old fool,” he kept mumbling to himself. “You should have listened to me. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
To be continued
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