To those who thought this would never happen: here is another chapter and the conclusion of this story will follow soon, in the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience and support. - Lois
“This is Sandra Collins with breaking news: About ten minutes ago the Oklahoma City Department police force and the SWAT team have cordoned off an area around 10th street where, according to a local source, two rival gangs are involved in a stand-off. Shots have been heard and there seems to be a car on fire close to the overpass. We have a team on the spot and will hear from them what exactly is going on. Jessica, can you hear me?”
“Yes, Sandra, I hear you loud and clear.”
“Alright. Go ahead, Jessica.”
“I am standing on the corner of 10th street and Reno and behind me you can see the lights of at least ten police cruisers. This is as close as were allowed to be, but I can tell you that one of the deputies we were able to speak with, confirms that a lot of members of both the ‘Perros and the “Razors are gathered in the area that has been sealed off. Officers of the SWAT team have positioned themselves on several roofs and word is that the two gangs are ready for battle.”
“With each other or with the police, Jessica?”
“Thats a good question, Sandra. Were not sure about that. A few minutes ago shots were heard, but its unclear who fired them. There are two police helicopters in the air, as you can see behind me, but our own chopper is not allowed in the airspace directly over the scene. Right now, I cannot tell you more than that it seems like the ‘Perros and the ‘Razors are involved in a deadly confrontation. But as soon as new information becomes available, we will let you know.”
“Okay, Jessica. One more question for now: have you any information about whether the police were informed about this gathering of the two gangs?”
“I dont know that yet, Sandra, but it is a question that is on a lot of peoples minds. Hopefully we will be able to get an answer to that soon.”
“Keep us informed. Thank, you, Jessica, and be careful. That was Jessica Baker for KFOR news, live at the scene on 10th street. We will continue our scheduled program, but as soon as new information reached us, we will give you an update. Stay tuned with KFOR, for your local breaking news...”
“Well, who would have thought?” Rachel mumbled, turning the volume of the television down. “I hope this wont turn into a shoot-out.”
“Theyll call you back in if it does,” Hannah sighed, snuggling closer into the warm body beside her.
“They might,” Rachel nodded, dropping a kiss on Hannahs blond hair. “I guess it would all depend on what happens. Its pretty strange though. Those two gangs have their territory on opposite parts of town. As far as I know they do fight occasionally, but I never would have thought theyd have a confrontation like this, with the ‘Razors invading ‘Perro territory.”
“Have you treated any of them lately?” Hannah asked, glancing up at her partner, who was pensively staring at the muted tv.
“Just last week,” Rachel answered. “It was a kid with a superficial stab wound. Nothing too serious. He had been taunting a Razor member, who had come after him. I guess if there had been a serious conflict, things would have been worse.”
“I guess they...” Hannah started to reply, when the phone rang. With a groan, the blonde reached out to pick up the receiver, hoping it was not the hospital calling in Rachel.
“Hannah?” a familiar voice sounded.
“Hey, Maureen,” Hannah smiled. “Thats a surprise! How are you doing?”
“Im fine,” Maureen answered, sounding stressed. “Are you at home? Is Rachel there with you?”
“Yes, to both questions,” Hannah replied with a frown. “Whats going on, Maureen?”
“I cant tell you right now, but I will soon. Were on the way.”
There was a brief moment of silence in which Hannah could hear the humming noise of a car engine.
“On the way...to where?” the blonde asked.
“To your house,” was the short reply.
Hannah waited a few seconds, hoping to get some more information, but Maureen was silent. Her blue eyes sought Rachels brown ones and she shrugged her shoulders.
“Maureen,” she started with a sigh. “If youre on your way here, theres something going on that, apparently, involves us. Id like to know what.”
“Its a long story, Hannah. Ill tell you when we get there.”
“And when will that be?”
“A few minutes.”
“Maureen Lawrence, youre as clear as mud,” Hannah could not help chuckling. “Alright, tell me this: are we in some kind of danger? Do I need to get my gun?” she added jokingly.
“Just dont open the door for anyone, except us,” was Maureens serious answer.
The words ‘danger and ‘gun had attracted Rachels attention and with a dark expression on her face, the doctor leaned in closer in the hope of hearing some of Maureens comments.
“Youre scaring me,” Hannah spoke softly, vividly remembering the day when Nathan Kendrick had tried to kidnap her.
“Im sorry, I dont mean to,” Maureen apologized. “Hannah, were a few blocks away from your house, so well be there shortly. Dont open the door for anyone and make sure all your doors and windows are locked.”
“Hannah! Please!” Maureen pleaded and for the first time the blonde could detect something in her friends voice she had never heard before: fear. All of a sudden, her throat felt dry and she swallowed hard.
“Alright, alright,” Hannah answered in a strangled voice. “Well check all the doors and windows.”
“Now,” Maureen urged and Hannah nodded.
“Now,” she promised.
“Thank you, Hannah. Were less than five minutes away. Ill answer all your questions once we get there.”
“Youd better,” Hannah sighed. “Okay, drive carefully. Ill see you soon. Bye.”
“Hannah! No! Dont hang up,” Maureen yelled, stopping the blonde from severing the connection.
“Maureen, youre scaring the heck out of me,” Hannah replied with a raised voice, aware of the cold shiver of fear that ran down her spine.
“I know, I am sorry,” was the curt reply. “Ill explain soon, just dont put the phone down until were there. Please.”
Jacob Mannen had changed into a pair of jeans and a navy blue sweatshirt, leaving his expensive suit behind in the small, dirty motel room. He did not think he would need it again any time soon. Jacob was a smart young man, who knew that, by now an accurate description of him would be in the possession of every law officer in the entire state. So, he rented a motel room, just for a few hours, paying cash, changed his clothes and dyed his hair. He was platinum blonde now, which he actually liked, because it set off his tan. He had managed to borrow an old, red Mustang from Mesh, the leader of the ‘Razors, knowing he would now easily blend into a crowd.
With a grin, Jacob cast a look in the rearview mirror, admiring his new look. He doubted his own mother would recognize him at first glance. The disguise was not perfect, but hopefully it would hold up long enough for him to get what he needed and head out of the state, with his son.
Content with himself and his plan, Jacob left the cheap motel behind him, setting course to the address he had found in the phone book, confident it was the right one. It would not be long now, before he would be having his son with him and they could start a new life, somewhere else.
Again, Jacob cast a look in the mirror, smoothing down his light-colored hair. He winked at himself and chuckled, pleased with the way things had turned out. Who knew it had been that easy to convince Mesh? What a brilliant idea had it been to get him involved in a distraction of enormous proportions.
Jacob let out a happy sigh. It was so satisfying to be smarter than anyone else.
“Turn left here,” Maureen instructed David Hargrove, who was driving the car, into the quiet neighborhood where Rachel and Hannah lived. Except for Maureens voice, talking to Hannah on the phone, the occupants of the car had been very quiet. The expression on all four faces showed a different variety of tension and anxiety, with Lauren Darkwolfs being the most calm, but unreadable.
“Keep your eye out for anything out of the ordinary,” Lauren suddenly spoke, her voice soft, but clear. “This guy is very slick.”
“We re almost there, Hannah,” Maureen spoke in the phone. “Have you closed all the windows and doors?”
The red-head nodded when Hannah answered her, but then visibly stiffened.
“You what?” she asked in a voice that was pitched a little higher than usual.
“Dammit, Hannah. Tell her to leave it alone. Well be there in a minute.”
“What?” Lee Ann and David asked simultaneously.
“Someone in the back yard,” Maureen answered through gritted teeth. “And Rachel is wondering whether she should check it out or not.”
“Stop the car, David,” Laurens voice commanded and the younger man immediately slowed down the car. Even before he had come to a full stop, Lauren had opened the door and was already halfway out of the vehicle. Before anyone could ask what she thought she was doing, Lauren was out of the car. For a split second, her dark eyes found Maureen and she gave her lover an almost imperceptible nod, before shutting the door, turning around and sprinting to a narrow path that lead between two houses.
“What the...?” Lee Ann started, but Maureen interrupted her cousin.
“Keep going, Dave. Fast,” she added, knowing Lauren could easily beat them to their destination.
Without asking any further questions, David Hargrove revved the engine and continued to drive down the street. One more block, he knew, and then they would be there. Deep down inside he hoped Lauren and Maureen would be wrong and Jacob Mannen would not show up that evening, but he also knew that Lauren Darkwolf was an excellent Agent, who often went with her instincts and hardly ever was wrong.
“Its the house in the middle of the cul-de-sac,” Maureen explained when they turned the very last corner. “Hannah, where are you and Rachel?...Okay, were there. Ill be hanging up now. Open the door.”
Maureen tucked her cell phone in the pocket of her jacket and reached for the holster underneath it.
“Other than Hannah and Rachel, there are an elderly lady and a toddler in the house,” she warned her companions. “Dont flash any hardware around, unless you really have to.”
“Got it,” Lee Ann mumbled, feeling for her gun, making sure it was easy to get to, just in case she needed it and David silently nodded.
“Lets go,” Maureen said in a tense voice as soon as David had stopped the car in front of the driveway. “And be careful.”
“What is it with you and young, male criminals, sweetie?” Gertrude asked her granddaughter, while following her to the front of the house, with Rachel right behind her.
“I have no idea, Granny,” Hannah sighed. “But I can assure you Im not enjoying it.”
“I know,” Gertrude answered, putting a hand on the blondes shoulder and giving it a loving squeeze. She smiled at the sleepy-eyed toddler in her granddaughters arms and received a half-grin in return.
“Besides, who says hes after me?” Hannah spoke over her shoulder. “For all we know he could be interested in Rachel.”
“Youre cuter, though,” Rachel quipped, which earned her a chuckle from both women in front of her.
“And youre biased,” Gertrude spoke.
“Does that mean Im not cuter?” Hannah asked with a smile. She was enjoying the gentle banter. It distracted her from the reality, which consisted of someone with bad intentions hiding behind their house.
“Youre beautiful,” Gertrude assured the blonde. “Now, shall I open the door to let the posse in?”
Without waiting for an answer, Gertrude opened the front door and immediately faced three officers of the law with serious expressions on their faces.
“Hi, sweetheart,” she greeted Maureen with a smile. “Wheres Lauren?”
“Backyard,” the red-head answered, stepping passed the elderly woman into the house. “Lee Ann, stay with them, Dave, follow me.”
“I guess well chat later,” Gertrude mumbled.
“She doesnt mean to be rude, maam,” Lee Ann apologized on behalf of her cousin, who was already on her way to the back of the house. “Its just that...”
“I know, dear,” Gertrude nodded. “I understand. So, where do you want us to go?”
Lee Ann looked at the three women and toddler in front of her and could not help but smile. They were all dressed in different styles of night clothing and had the situation not been so serious, their appearance would have made a great picture for the family album. Especially Gertrude with her powder-blue robe and pink, fuzzy slippers and Nicky in her yellow Dora the Explorer pajamas.
“Anywhere, as long as were not facing the back yard,” Lee Ann answered.
Lauren Darkwolf had slowed down the moment her eyes scanned Hannahs and Rachels back yard and had noticed a movement around the tiny shed on the side of the house. She knew her friends did not have a dog, so she was very aware of the fact that the slowly moving shadow could be Jacob Mannen. To be sure, she needed to get closer and Lauren took a few seconds to weigh her options. Allowing her eyes to get used to the surrounding darkness, she leaned against a tree, making sure she could not be seen by whoever, or whatever, it was that was sneaking around the house.
Unmovable, she stood next to the tree, blending in with the shadows around her. Her breathing was slow and deep and the only thing moving were her eyes, as they slowly swept the area in front of her, looking for any kind of movement. In spite of the rapid beating of her heart, her breathing was slow and controlled. Lauren could hear a car stop in front of the house and she knew Maureen, LeeAnn and David had arrived. It made her feel better to know her friends inside were protected. For a brief moment, she allowed herself to relax and she slowly rolled her shoulders, aware of the tension that had made them feel stiff and uncomfortable. But, as soon as her ears picked up a soft rustling sound to her left, her body immediately went back into full alert. While consciously taking slow and deep breaths, Lauren turned into the direction of the soft, barely audible noise and patiently waited for it to come closer. Her face held no expression as she noticed a tall figure, dressed in dark clothes, carefully making its way to the back of the house, heading for the back door.
Silently, Lauren moved closer. The many years of blending in with nature, taught to her and her brothers by her grandfather and father, gave her the skills she needed to approach the intruder undetected. Her feet carefully choose a path across the grass and it seemed as if her graceful movements never even disturbed a blade of grass. While the dark-clad stranger was creeping toward the backdoor, Lauren moved closer and closer, until she could almost feel the warmth his body radiated. Her eyes never left the figure in front of her that was only a few feet away. They registered every move the intruder made and when he reached inside a pocket of his black jeans, Laurens fingers deliberately tightened around the gun she was holding. Before the stranger could make another move, Laurens voice sounded through the quiet, dark evening; low and controlled.
“OSBI, put your hands in the air,” she spoke quietly, but loud enough for the person in front of her to hear her.
Immediately, two hands slowly rose in the air and Lauren took a careful step back.
“Turn around,” she ordered. “Slowly.”
“How do I know you are who you say you are?” a male voice answered with defiance.
“Keep your hands up, turn around slowly, and Ill show you my badge.”
The man did as he was told and slowly turned, until he was facing Lauren, who, without moving her gun, had used her other hand to pull her badge out of her back pocket and had flipped open the leather holder.
“I cant see. Its too dark,” the voice taunted and Lauren sent him a smile that never reached her eyes.
“Youll have to trust me then and wait until we do have some light.”
“Ill file a complaint against you and...”
“Youll have to get in line,” Lauren interrupted with a shrug. “Now, take a few steps toward me, away from that door.”
Again, the man did as he was told, apparently not willing to take the risk of forcing Lauren to use her weapon.
“Keep your hands above your head and kneel down,” Lauren spoke calmly.
“I cant. I have bad knees,” the man mocked.
“You didnt when I saw you crouching underneath the window, on your way to the door,” Lauren responded coolly. “Now, kneel down, keep your hands above your head where I can see them.”
“Or Ill help you,” Lauren promised in an even voice.
All of a sudden the backdoor was opened and the familiar silhouette of Maureen appeared in the doorway. Her gun was drawn and her eyes quickly took in the scene in front of her.
“Wow, youre on a roll,” she complimented Lauren, who did not respond, although there was a smile tugging on the corner of her mouth.
“Im turning a light on. Hang on.”
Knowing the light would probably blind her for a couple of seconds, Lauren instinctively relied on her partner to make sure the intruder would not do anything foolish. As soon as the red-head flipped a switch inside the house, the backyard was flooded with bright light.
“Dont even think about it,” Lauren heard Maureen say and inwardly she chuckled.
The dark-clad intruder muttered a curse and sank to his knees, realizing there was a second gun pointed at him.
“Smart choice,” Maureen commented and, from the corner of her eyes, Lauren noticed her friend stepping out into the yard, followed by Lee Ann Lawrence and David Hargrove.
“Pat him down, Dave,” Lauren said and the tall policeman stepped closer, making sure to stay out of Laurens and Maureens line of fire. He expertly cuffed the kneeling figure, before pulling him back to his feet. He quickly, but carefully patted him down and, mumbling softly, pulled a gun from underneath the mans clothes and a knife out of his boot.
“Nice weapon,” his muttered. “Im sure you have a license for this somewhere?”
The intruder let out a curse, followed by a few expletives and David chuckled.
“I didnt think so,” he said dryly, opening the wallet he had pulled from the mans inside pocket. His fingers worked their way through a few credit cards, silently taking in the names on them, until he finally found what he was looking for. In the bright illumination of the patio lights, he read the name on the drivers license.
“Jeremy Arthur Mannen,” he read and both Lauren and Maureen stiffened.
“Jeremy Mannen?” Lauren asked, her voice not betraying the mixture of confusion and excitement she felt. “Are you, by any chance related to Jacob Mannen?” she asked casually, already knowing the answer, just by looking at the man in front of her.
Maybe it was the look in Laurens eyes, but when Jeremy opened his mouth to deny the family connection, he shut it again and let out a deep sigh.
“Hes my little brother,” he answered reluctantly.
“Thank you for being honest,” Lauren nodded. “Why did he send you here?”
“He said it had something to do with his kid,” Jeremy shrugged. “Something about some chick being his temporary foster parent and not willing to give him up. Jake asked me if I could look and see if his boy was still here.”
“Well, hes not,” Maureen answered, stepping closer.
“I figured that when I heard ‘OSBI,” Jeremy chuckled humorlessly.
“Do you know where your brother is?” Lauren asked.
“Nope,” Jeremy answered and when he saw the inquisitive look in Laurens eyes, he shook his head.
“Honest,” he spoke, while his eyes widened and looked straight into Laurens. “I talked to him on the phone and he told me what he did and then gave me this address.”
“Did he also tell you to bring a gun?” Maureen asked coolly.
“Yes, he did,” Jeremy nodded. “He told me theres a crazy guy living here and Id better be ready to defend myself.”
“You could be making all this up,” David muttered.
‘I could,” Jeremy answered, glancing over his shoulder. “But I didnt.”
“I guess well be discussing all this at the station,” David decided. “Shall I take him downtown?”
“Can I see his cell phone, please?” Lauren asked David, having seen how he had pulled the small device from Jeremys belt. Jacobs brother let out a soft groan and hung his head, mumbling something like: ‘Jakes gonna kill me.
Nobody responded to Jeremys words; instead, David silently handed Lauren the phone, wondering why he had not thought about that option before.
Lauren flipped open the phone and quickly opened the ‘received calls menu. Her eyes scanned the row that popped up on the screen and when she raised her head to look at Jeremy her dark eyes were pensive.
“Maureen, would you mind calling headquarters and ask them if they can trace a call? I think its time to call our friend to see where he is and what hes up to. Heres the number,” Lauren said, handing Maureen the phone.
With a grin, the red-head took the phone and used her own device to make the call Lauren had requested. While Maureen was softly taking to the person who had answered the call, Lauren turned back to Jeremy and sent him an inquisitive glance.
“Is there anything you feel you need to share with us?” she asked. “Its not too late to tell us where we can find your brother. We will figure it out on our own, of course, but helping us out here will dramatically improve the way the judge will look at you.”
Jeremy gave Lauren a hard stare, but she looked back at him without flinching, not saying a word, but just waiting for him to respond. Slowly, the expression on his face changed from hard and defiant to doubtful and insecure. After a long silence, Jacob Mannens brother cast down his eyes and all of a sudden he looked very uncomfortable. Still, Lauren did not speak.
David Hargrove looked from Jeremy to Lauren and back again. He was impressed by the Agents demeanor and mentally he was taking notes. Lauren Darkwolf was known by most of the law enforcement officers. Her reputation was almost legendary and he decided that everything he had heard about her must have been true - Lauren Darkwolf should never be underestimated.
“He told me to meet him after,” Jeremy finally spoke.
“Where?” Lauren asked calmly, aware of Davids close attention.
“Downtown. Near the Botanical Gardens.”
“Not good enough, Jeremy,” Lauren spoke softly. “Try again.”
“Theres a bench, behind the stop or the trolley. Its next to the entrance to the Gardens. He wants to meet me there.”
“I dunno,” Jeremy answered, a little too fast.
“Try again,” Lauren replied with a deceptively calm voice.
“I really dont,” Jeremy muttered, but he stared at the grass, not able to look Lauren in the eyes.
“Let me help you, Jeremy,” Lauren started in an almost friendly tone. “Your brother knew there is no baby in this house. He used you as a diversion. But, since he wants to see you, there must have been something he wanted you to do. Your brother is a lot of things, but hes not stupid.” Lauren paused for a moment. “Tell me, Jeremy.”
“Hell kill me,” Jeremy answered, still staring at the ground, but this time the fear in his voice was obvious.
“Not if well be able to catch him tonight,” Lauren stated. “Its amazing how a sentence can be influenced by cooperation, although, its your choice, of course.”
“Have you ever been in prison?” David asked casually, immediately seeing Jeremy stiffen.
“Once,” Jacobs brother admitted. “For drug possession,” he quickly added, before anyone could get the wrong idea.
“Are you clean now?” David continued.
“Not really,” Jeremy admitted and David nodded.
“Did Jacob threaten you?” Lauren asked.
“Badly,” Jeremy nodded. “He said Id better make sure to do it right, or Id regret the day I was born. He was laughing when he said it,” Jeremy added bitterly.
“What did he want you to do?” Lauren pressed. Her gutt-feeling was telling her Jacob Mannen had not just sent his brother to Rachels and Hannahs house to distract the police. The distraction had been the war between the Razors and the Perros, Jeremys had been on a mission Jacob had been reluctant to do himself.
“I was supposed to get the blonde,” Jeremy finally sighed. “He gave me this address and told me to get the blonde.”
Maureen, who had finished her conversation on the phone, stepped a little closer and looked at Jeremy with barely concealed anger. Only the barely noticeable hand gesture from Lauren made her swallow her words. Mentally, she scolder herself. They needed information from Jeremy and getting on his bad side would not be helpful.
Maureen rubbed her eyes, realizing how incredibly tired she was.
“You came here to ‘get the blonde,” Lauren repeated. “Then what?”
“He told me to...make it look like an accident,”Jeremy mumbled, clearly uncomfortable with the task his brother had given him.
“Make what look like an accident” Lauren asked patiently, but inwardly her anger was rising.
“Get the blonde, set the house on fire to get rid of any evidence. I was supposed to take her into the van and then go see Jake, downtown, to give him the car keys.”
“Did he tell you who are in this house?” Lauren inquired.
“The blonde and this... crazy guy he was talking about,” Jeremy answered.
“The blonde, her partner, who, by no means is a crazy guy but a well-respected physician, an elderly lady, and a toddler,” Lauren spoke.
“W..what?” Jeremy stammered. “Theres...he never said...I...a toddler?” he croaked, suddenly looking very pale in the artificial light.
“You heard me,” Lauren replied, relieved to have been able to stop Jeremy in carrying out his brothers orders, but also burning with anger by the casual way Jacob Mannen regarded human life.
“I didnt know,” Jeremy said in a hoarse voice. “I didnt know. A kid in the house...” He lifted his head and Lauren saw the naked rage in his eyes. “Im going to snap his damned, worthless neck,” Jeremy spat. “God, Im an idiot. I should have let him shoot me!”
“Wow, thats the best self-evaluation Ive heard in a long time,” David muttered, but Jeremy did not hear him.
Lauren glanced at Maureen and, for a brief moment a silent conversation took place. David saw the exchange and waited with anticipation until one of the women would speak again. He did not have to wait long.
Lauren turned to Jeremy and studied the honest anger, defeat and shame on his face. What she was about to suggest was not without risk, but her instincts were telling her it was their best option.
“Do you want to help us catch your brother?” she asked.
To be concluded) in Part 14.
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