crunch of snow under his boots made the hooded figure pause, checking to see if
his movements had been heard. He’d followed the detective for the last twenty
minutes up to the old cabin. Once the woman had gone into the cabin, he moved as
quietly as he could around the other side to check the windows. For a moment, he
was afraid that he’d been spotted, but he noticed the woman had returned to
examining the interior.
waited until he saw her close the door behind her, and made her way back through
the wooded path before he took out his cell phone and dialed his boss as he
moved up the wooden steps.
the voice on the other end snapped in his ear.
detective has been at the cabin. She just left,” the man responded.
she remove anything?”
looked around the cabin, not seeing anything that had been disturbed since
he’d left the night before. “I don’t think so. Everything looks the
the voice responded.
man began to fidget. “Do you want me to do anything more, sir?” He was
uncomfortable with the task of monitoring a property for a boss he’d never
met. He learned early on in his life that asking too many questions usually had
ended up with him in detention, jail or beaten. He didn’t know how or why
he’d been chosen for this job; his rap sheet consisted of breaking and
entering and drug possession and trafficking, nothing like this. But the pay-off
was good and that’s what he cared about.
Return to town. It will be better for you.”
that was cryptic,
the young man decided as he closed his cell phone and stuffed it in his jacket
pocket. He wondered briefly if he should torch the place and get rid of any
evidence, but he had enough self-preservation skills to realize that if one cop
had been here to check out the cabin, more would probably soon follow and he
didn’t want to get stuck out in the sticks in a winter storm when they
know where Natalia is,” Anna said, looking around the full room. In the moment
that it took for everyone to take in that bit of information, she swallowed
audibly before the inevitable deluge of questions.
his attention to the newly arrived detective, Frank started, “How did you
me, NOW!” Olivia said, her body was tense with anxiety, fear and hope all
rolled into one.
on a second,” Anna started. She understood Olivia’s desperate need to find
Natalia, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good if they rushed head in head first
without knowing the score. “I need to tell you what I found. I was following
up a lead from a source who spotted a cabin in the middle of nowhere during an
overhead flyby. There are overgrown trees and bushes; we wouldn’t have been
able to find the place otherwise.” Anna stopped for a moment to recall the
specific details of her search. “The cabin looked pretty run down and the
first walk around didn’t reveal much at first; it looked long abandoned, until
I got to the living area. There were supplies around: tape, ropes, batteries,
maps, and a coffee cup. But that wasn’t what caught my eye. On a bulletin
board on the wall were news clippings of kidnappings of kids in the town over
the years. And then Natalia’s picture was there.”
continued briefly telling them about the other articles that were on the wall.
“I took some pictures with my phone just in case. I’ve already sent them to
print. They should be here in a minute.”
you sure it’s not a trap or another false lead?” Mallet asked.
bristled at the questioning, but realized that there was a possibility.
“There’s no way to be certain.” Anna stopped for a second and shivered.
“Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I had a feeling that I was being
watched. I checked around the perimeter but didn’t see anyone, and the snow
drifting was covering any tracks. But my instincts say that this lead is
need more than a hunch,” Frank responded. “Someone’s life is at risk.”
His hand shook as he ran it through his hair; he was furious that she hadn’t
given that information to him earlier before she went off on her own to
don’t think I know that?” Anna turned and glared at her chief.
the location of the cabin?” Frank demanded. “I’ll need to send Eleni and
her team out there.”
might need a helicopter unit. Maybe an ATV or snowmobile to get in there quickly
– it’s pretty remote,” Anna said as she quickly wrote down the
co-ordinates and directions on a slip of paper and handed it over to him.
did you know about this place?” Mallet asked. They’d all been working
diligently and were nearly at the point of exhausting all their resources.
got a tip off,” Anna responded. She was reluctant to say anything regarding
the fact that Jeffrey was the source behind the information.
tip off?” Frank asked as he paced the small area. “And you didn’t call it
I didn’t know whether it would be any more productive than any of our other
efforts.” Anna stopped and ran a hand through her still damp hair. She’d
been just as frustrated with the lack of progress in the case as the rest of the
team. “We’re working as hard as we can on this. You did direct us to go on
our own to follow up some leads. This one got us some results.”
was persistent about getting all the information he could. “Who tipped you
source I’ve trusted in the past,” Anna hedged.
A source? This isn’t the damned media. If I ask you to tell me who your source
is, you tell me!”
I don’t –” Mallet was about to respond when there was a knock on the door
which startled everyone.
Li, these are the pictures you asked for,” Officer Hodgins said as she handed
over the prints.
you,” Anna said and dismissed the young officer.
here are the pictures from inside the cabin,” Anna said as she pinned them to
the boardroom evidence board. She hoped that the distraction of the pictures
would redirect Frank’s focus to more important things. “If you look here,
you can see the newspaper clippings I was telling you about.”
looked closer, seeing pictures of the kids, including Marina, Daisy, Dylan and
the others and his face went ashen. Memories of his daughter and Harley’s kids
being kidnapped flooded his thoughts. But then his eyes scanned each of the
photos of the clippings as he got to Natalia’s.
Olivia interrupted, “You said you knew where Natalia was. Out with it!”
believe she’s being held out at the old Springfield lighthouse,” Anna said
as calmly as she could.
makes sense,” Jonathan said, nodding his head in Anna’s direction. “The
lighthouse is run automatically; it hasn’t been manned in probably ten years
or more, so it could easily serve as a hiding spot.”
then, what are we waiting for?” Olivia asked determinedly, even as she wrapped
her jacket tighter around her.
turned towards the anxious woman. “Olivia, you can’t go out there. Let the
police handle it.”
turned and leveled a furious glare at the police chief. Lowering her voice, she
all but growled, “You try and stop me.”
tempted to lock the woman in an interrogation room, Frank realized it would be a
futile effort, not to mention an illegal act on his part since she hadn’t done
anything wrong. He sighed. “What about the kids? What happens if you get hurt
trying to play hero?”
shook her head in disbelief. Raising her head to lock eyes with the older man,
she raised an eyebrow. “Do you really want to go there, Frank?” She took a
deep breath, letting it out slowly. “What if you weren’t a cop and the
kidnappers had Eleni or Marina, Daisy or Francesca? What would you do – sit
back and wait for someone else to go in?”
not the point,” Frank interjected, knowing if he were in Olivia’s position
he’d feel the same.
forbid anything happens to Natalia or me, but all our children know we love them
and they’ll be well taken care of. If you’re really interested, Natalia and
I redid our wills after Francesca was born. We made sure that everything was
clearly spelled out. Mel, Doris and Beth have our documents on file.” Olivia
ran a tired hand through her hair. “Now, can we please get going?”
over at her friend’s anxious form, Doris put her hand on the other woman’s
arm. “Olivia, let me drive.”
can drive,” Olivia protested as she pushed Doris’s hand off, but there
wasn’t much effort in it.
sure that you can, but right now you need to focus on being there for Natalia,
whatever the outcome. So you do that, and let me take care of this,” Doris
paused as she waited for Olivia to concede. “Okay.” She guided Olivia out of
the police department to her car and sighed. Even though it wasn’t even noon
yet but she felt the day was just going to get a whole lot more crazy.
I can’t stop you from going out there, but stay out of the way,” Frank
huffed as he warned Doris and Olivia. “All right, let’s get moving.”
school had been cancelled that morning due to the anticipated snowstorm, Emma
had gone to the Beacon daycare center to stay with her sisters. As she sat at
Leyla’s desk, Emma tried to focus on her homework as her sisters were on the
floor playing with building blocks. With everything going on with her Ma gone,
Leyla leaving for Chicago to tell her family about Natalia’s kidnapping, and
her Mom being so worried, Emma wanted to stay close to her family; she didn’t
want them to go away, too.
scared her. She knew she was too young to do anything to help find her Ma but
she wanted to do something. Looking down at her math homework, all she saw were
blurred words and numbers through tears that had gathered in her eyes.
at the tears with the back of her hand, she took out her diary that Anna had
given her. It had helped her to write down what she was feeling about what
happened to Jane and at the wedding. While the martial arts had focused her
anger in a positive way, writing in the journal helped focus her thoughts and
feelings. She’d been trying to be more open with her Mom; they’d both been
working on not shutting each other out, but it was hard.
was working on her journal so intently that she didn’t realized Sarah had
asked her something until she felt the younger girl tug on her shirt.
can you help me? The zipper is stuck,” Sarah said as she tried to pull up the
toggle on her sweater.
looked down at the younger girl and then over at her older sister; seeing that
Ava was busy she smiled down at Sarah. “Sure,” Emma said, looking down at
the problem zipper. She wiggled it a few times and when it wouldn’t budge, she
noticed the toggle had caught on the fabric of the girl’s shirt. Pulling it
gently apart like Natalia had shown her, she managed to get Sarah’s zipper
you,” Sarah said with a smile. She was so happy that she gave Emma a hug
before heading back to play with her toys.
To say that the atmosphere in the small conference room off the courtroom was tense was an understatement. Legal pads were strewn around the table and both Mel and Beth were at their wits end. The judge had once again threatened them with contempt of court because their client couldn’t seem to stop herself from making comments. They’d already been fined, which as far as Beth was concerned was being added to Dinah’s legal bill. Never mind that Dinah’s comments didn’t have some merit; it just wasn’t the time or place to make them. The judge had given them a twenty minute recess to get their ‘client under control.’
Dinah took a sip of her water as she looked sheepishly over at her lawyers.
After looking over her notes on the pad in front of her, Beth looked over at Mel and then to Dinah. "I don’t think we should put you up on the stand."
"What? Why not?" Dinah asked, curious and not a little annoyed at the change in plans. She wanted to tell her side of things.
"Right now, I think it might be more of a detriment to your case if we put you up there," Mel said bluntly.
"You don’t think I can keep to what I rehearsed already?" Dinah said as she tapped her fingers rapidly on the wooden table.
Scratching some notes on her pad, Mel looked up at her. "I think you can answer our questions the way you have, but when we went over the questions the prosecution is likely to ask you…well, you went off on tangents."
"Well, the prosecution questions were a little annoying. I could have written better questions as a reporter at WSPR."
"I’ll be sure to mention that to Doris," Beth said under her breath.
Mel snorted softly at the comment. "We’re trying to get you exonerated on the merits – or lack thereof – of the prosecution’s case and the mishandling of evidence. We’re also going to try to get your confession as it stands thrown out or at least mitigate the weight of it against your case. If we put you up on that stand, you’re likely to throw all that effort out the window."
"There’s no way you can argue that it was done for the good of the town…kind of like a town self defense?" Dinah started to fidget with a piece of paper in front of her and then looked up to Mel. "Besides, won’t it make me look guiltier if I don’t get up on the stand?"
"Sometimes it can."
"Also, how can you verify that the confession was made under duress if you don’t put me on the stand?"
"There are ways to get around it," Mel said with a wry grin. "I’ve done it several times and we’ve won the case."
"I’ll behave myself," Dinah said. When she noticed the rise of Beth’s eyebrow, she frowned. "Come on, I can be good when I need to be. And I really need to be. It’s not that I don’t think that I shouldn’t be punished for killing David Andrews; it was wrong," she said exasperatedly. "I should have gotten the real bastard, then all the crap in the past two years would not have happened."
Beth sighed as she spoke, "See, it’s comments like that that will get you in trouble on the stand."
There was a quick knock on the door before one of the bailiffs opened the door. "You are required to return to court."
"Thank you, officer," Mel responded, filing her legal pads into her briefcase before lifting the strap onto her shoulder. Turning to Beth and at then Dinah curiously, she asked, "Well?"
"Come on. Let’s try and get this trial over with," Beth said.
"Counsel, are you ready to continue?" the judge asked both representatives on either side of the court. Upon confirmation from both prosecution and defense attorneys, he directed the defense to proceed.
Standing, Mel said, "Defense calls the defendant, Dinah Marler, to the stand."
After Dinah took her place, the court officer swore her in.
"Ms. Marler, can you tell the court about what happened the day David Andrews died."
"I’d returned to Springfield with Detective Mallet from Bosnia with a baby for adoption. The child was to be adopted by Mallet and his then wife, Marina Cooper. We discovered that Shayne Lewis was the baby’s biological father, and the mother was Lara Winslow." Dinah looked down at her hands where she was fidgeting with her skirt. "Edmund Winslow, her father, grieved by the news of her death, came to Springfield to presumably vow revenge on Shayne and anyone he saw that threatened him or his family. He was also threatening Jonathan Randall and his daughter; Jonathan and Shayne are brothers."
Mel nodded. "What happened then?"
"I had seen what I thought was Edmund Winslow down by the river. I wanted to go down and warn him to stay away from Henry and Shayne and the rest of his family."
"Why did you do that?" Mel asked.
"At the time, I was in love with Shayne. It was important to me that he and his family were safe. And Edmund Winslow was anything but safe," Dinah said as she looked over at her attorneys and then at the judge. "So, I went down to the river to talk to him; get him to see reason."
"How did you come to hit him with the piece of plastic from Henry’s stroller?" Mel continued her line of questioning.
"I was taking the stroller over to the Cooper’s house."
Nodding that all the questions were going as planned, she asked, "That wouldn’t have been odd, taking a walk in the park with an empty stroller?"
Dinah raised her eyebrows. "Yeah, it probably would be." She cleared her throat before looking over at the judge and then back to her lawyers. "Anyway, I went up to him and was about to give him a piece of my mind and he just laughed. He said that Springfield would pay for all the hell he thought people had put him through. I lost it. It was the last straw – I couldn’t let him hurt any more people. I picked up the stroller and I swung. He just went down. I thought I just knocked him out at first, and I panicked; I didn’t really want him dead, I just wanted him to leave town."
"You were aware that the police were initially looking at Shayne’s mother, Reva O’Neill, for the murder of Edmund Winslow?" Mel asked.
"Yes. And she had confessed to murdering Edmund, even though I told her not to confess to a crime she didn’t do." Dinah was nervous even though the proceedings seemed to be going well enough. She looked down and realized that her fidgeting fingers had almost resulted in her skirt being indecently short. Quickly she smoothed it down.
"Why was that?"
"For one, she didn’t do it, as much as she wanted to have been the reason he died. But she also had a new baby, Colin – who Edmund had tried to kidnap. She had also just gotten through cancer treatment."
The rest of the questions Mel had fired at her had gone according to plan and soon the prosecutor got up to address her.
"Good morning, Ms. Marler. I’m going to touch on a few things you mentioned, however, I did want to address the facts immediately following the death of David Andrews. Why did you not initially come forward when you learned that the man you thought was Edmund Winslow had died?"
"Like I said, I panicked. Then I learned that there were several other suspects in the case."
"So you thought you’d get away with it?" the prosecutor pressed.
"That’s not what I said," Dinah responded, frowning. She blew out an aggrieved sigh. "Jeffrey O’Neill had overheard a conversation I had had with his wife telling her not to confess to a murder she hadn’t committed; he thought I was trying to frame her. Then he learned that the real Edmund wasn’t dead after all. Jeffrey then tried to take the blame for ‘Edmund’s’ death, before fleeing the country to go look for him." Dinah ran her hand through her hair, and swallowed. "I found out what he was doing, and wanted to help him draw the real Edmund out – pretending to be his late daughter, Lara. He and I ended up getting split up and when I returned to Springfield, I’d learned of the death of Jeffrey O’Neill in a plane crash as he was searching for Edmund."
"So you immediately went to the police department upon your return?" the prosecutor asked.
"I just couldn’t right away." Dinah sighed. "I did go to see Frank Cooper to talk him into closing the case on the murder of the Edmund imposter. A friend of mine had overheard me telling Henry, Shayne’s son, that the reason I’d killed the imposter was because I was afraid that Edmund was going to take the infant. When I learned that Mallet was going to arrest his wife, Marina, for the murder, I confessed to Mallet that I’d killed the man to protect Henry."
"Why weren’t you arrested at that time?"
"I nearly was. I was at the police station, demanding to be arrested for the murder. A friend urged that I leave town, start over." Dinah looked up and seeing Shayne, they locked eyes. Tears began streaming down her cheeks. With regret, Dinah said softly, "So, on the day after I got married to Shayne Lewis, I left for Europe and didn’t look back. I will regret that as long as I live."
The prosecutor looked from Dinah to the judge and then back at the woman on the stand. "But you stayed away for eighteen months, didn’t you?"
"Yes. I returned a couple of months ago, in November," Dinah said.
"Why return now? Surely you knew that as soon as you returned you would be placed under arrest?"
Dinah nodded. "Yes, I knew that would happen. But it was time. I needed to come home. My step-father had just had a massive heart attack while attending the wedding that Edmund Winslow attacked." She looked over at the judge before she continued with sincerity, "I just wanted to make sure my family and my friends were safe."
The lunchtime rush was well underway when Phillip entered Company to grab some take-out sandwiches for Beth, Mel and Dinah for their lunch break at the courthouse. He hadn’t been able to get to the courthouse that morning as he’d been in meetings all morning. Shaking some of the snow off the shoulders of his jacket, he looked around the restaurant and he noticed some familiar faces.
"Hi, Phillip," Shayne said as he came in behind the other man. Spotting Henry quietly playing over in the corner, he turned in his direction. "Hey Henry, how’s my little man?"
"Good, Daddy." Henry grinned up at his father. Holding up a little monster truck for his dad to see, the boy exclaimed, "Look what Grandpa gave me!"
Shayne grinned at his son’s enthusiasm. "That was very nice of him. Did you tell him ‘thank you’?"
Henry nodded, and then went back to playing with his new toy.
Pulling himself up onto a stool at the bar, Phillip looked over at him. "Shayne, how’s Dinah’s trial going this morning?"
"Pretty good. Mel and Beth are pulling apart holes in the prosecution’s case. If Dinah could keep her thoughts to herself, they might be going faster."
Phillip snorted. "That ought to be fun to watch anyway."
Shayne nodded his head, well used to Dinah’s mannerisms. "I think Beth might string her up though, since the judge has already threatened them with contempt of court."
"That sounds about right." Phillip turned back to the front of the restaurant where Blake had just come out from the kitchen.
"Oh hey, Phillip," Blake said cheerily. "What can I get you?"
"Some sandwiches to take over to the courthouse," Phillip said and then he gave Blake his order. "Thanks, Blake."
As Buzz came out with an order, he noticed Shayne at the bar. "Hey there, are you looking for Marina?" Buzz continued over to the bar, placing the plates of some customers.
Looking over at the older man, Shayne smiled. "Yeah. I told her I’d come by and take Henry for a little while this afternoon. See if I can keep him busy for a while."
"I sent her out over to Oakdale this morning to get some things from one of our suppliers." Buzz frowned, realizing that it had been some time since his granddaughter had left the restaurant. "If the weather continues like this, maybe she’ll decide to wait it out and come back once it’s cleared."
Shayne moved up to the bar and said, "Okay, thanks, Buzz. I think I might take him over to the school gym to bounce some balls after lunch."
"He had some macaroni and cheese a little while ago, so he’s all good to go whenever you’re ready," Buzz said, as he dusted his hands off on his pants.
"Thanks." Shayne placed an order for his own lunch and then sat with his son in one of the back booths.
The darkness of the room combined with the cold of the cement floor had made Natalia even more numb than the drugs were making her. The drugs at least gave her some distraction, even if they were hallucinations. However, the drugs that flowed through her system were wearing off. While that brought about some periods of lucidity, it also made her stomach nauseous. Shivering, she brought her knees closer to her chest and she pulled the scratchy woolen blanket tighter around her to ward off the cold drafts of air that came in through the vents. She was pretty sure she was developing pneumonia. Her nose was runny; she’d been heavily coughing off and on to the point where it was difficult to breathe the past couple of days, though her perception of time was certainly distorted.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten or drunk anything. Looking over towards the door, she noted a metal cup that still held some water and an empty plate. She debated the merits of using up the little energy and warmth she’d managed to create to go get the water, but her parched lips and dry throat made her make that decision rather quickly. Crawling over to the wall near the door she reached out and brought the mug towards her. She wanted to drink as much as she could to alleviate the desperate thirst that seemed to pervade her system, but she knew that if she didn’t slow down and conserve whatever fluids she had she’d have nothing left - especially since she didn’t know when her kidnapper would provide her with more.
Crawling her way back against one of the wooden crates, she bundled herself back up and tried to pass away the time. It was sad that she looked forward to the next dosage of drugs because it would put her in a drug-induced oblivion. Sometimes, if she was lucky, she dreamed of her family, of Olivia, and their future together, and that could get her through the next day. She’d almost managed to get herself into a state of calm when the door was abruptly swung open.
The masked, hooded individual entered the room, and without saying anything placed a plate of food on top of the crate. When Natalia hadn’t immediately moved to get the food, the figure moved closer, nudging her to get up.
Natalia tried to conserve most of her reserves by staying still, refusing to budge.
"Eat or don’t. It doesn’t make any difference to me, Rivera. I’ll be back soon," the figure’s gravelly voice spoke.
Waiting until the figure had left the room, Natalia sighed, and then slowly crawled over to get the sandwich and cup of black tea. Never before had Natalia been so grateful to get a ham and cheese. It wasn’t her favorite but at the moment, she didn’t care. She nearly wolfed it down then wrapped her hands around the warm mug. Shaking her head, she thought the voice seemed familiar but she couldn’t place it, and she realized too late that the sandwich had to have been drugged. She shook her head; whatever recognition she might be able to come up with was lost again. She relished the heat of the tea; the mug warmed her hands even as the liquid warmed her insides. Finishing the tea not long after, she scooted back towards the crate. The wooden surface provided some additional warmth. Combined with the food, tea, drugs and woolen blanket, she was lulled back into an uneasy sleep.