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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

In Memory of Ed Wooton

For the Love - 36. Sleeping in the Light

Pain shot through my leg, jarring me back to consciousness. Letting out a yelp as I recoiled from the pain, I struggled against the fog, fighting my way back to awareness.

Opening my eyes, my vision still blurry, I saw Steve waking up in my arms as I reached down to touch my wounded leg. I drew my hand back, seeing red in more ways than one. Steve opened his eyes, staring at the smear of blood on my hand, muttering, "Damn it, he must have been under the bed..."

"Beelzebub," I growled, "What is it with that damn cat..."

Steve sat up, looking at my scratched ankle, "You must have had your leg over the side of the bed. If Beelzebub sees something move, he goes for it. He was probably asleep under the bed when we came in. He's gotten me a few times that way," Steve reached down to give my morning wood a pat, "You're just lucky it's your foot he went for..."

Sighing, I got up, opening the door to shoo the agitated Beelzebub into the hall. I heard the tap running in the bathroom, before Steve appeared with a wet facecloth and began dabbing at my ankle. I gasped from the stinging sensation, as Steve informed me it was hydrogen peroxide. Giving him a one-armed hug, I said, "Remind me to check under the bed from now on. That's not a fun way to wake up."

Steve glanced towards his partially open closet door with a grimace, "Beelzebub usually leaves a calling-card in my closet when he sleeps in here. He likes to piss in my shoes."

Sure enough, a pair of Steve's sneakers made a one-way trip to the garbage can that morning. At least it was an old pair; Beelzebub apparently hadn't learned, yet, to select the newest items in the closet for a bathroom break.

As we got ready for school, including bandaging my ankle, we received a call from Dex, who was even more cryptic than normal. He wouldn't say what, or why, or much of anything other than that he had an idea, and wanted us to drop by his house, which we agreed to do.

After school that day, our first appointment was with our lawyer. Rick ushered us into his office, beaming, even humming to himself as he took a seat behind his desk. He got right to the point, "Thaddeus has an attorney, who has apparently informed the good reverend that he'll need some free assets for his defense. I suppose his lawyer would like some certainty that he'll get paid. Thaddeus needs to clear the decks for his criminal case. The offer to settle came in this morning; basically, every asset of the corporation. That would leave Thaddeus with a small personal account, less than fifty grand, plus whatever he's squirreled away overseas, which I expect is a significant amount, though getting our hands on it would be damn near impossible. What he's asking in return is for confidentiality on the terms of the settlement. That's the good news."

We both knew Rick well enough that we sat in silence, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Rick didn't keep us waiting, "Guys, there's bad news too. Thaddeus was cooking the books; he was having the non-profit corporation pay insurance premiums to him personally, as a way of raking in income from the non-profit corporation. In other words, the church wasn't insured, and the building is a total loss."

"So what we get is a smoking hole in the ground," Steve said with a sigh.

Rick laughed, "Yeah, but a lot more, too. Thaddeus had a half interest in the ISP over in Piedmont, plus some sizable accounts held by the corporation. There's also the land the church was on; it's a commercial corner lot, nearly an acre, at the main intersection of Lonesome Valley. The total assets in the offer pencil out at roughly one million dollars. If you settle, you should obtain control of some of the accounts within a week, and those accounts contain nearly two hundred thousand dollars."

Rick glanced at some notes before continuing, "My share will be one-third, but I'll take that pro-rated as it comes in, and I'll wait for up to a year on the non-cash assets. Your tax situation would be an accountant's purview, and I've made an appointment for you both, but according to the tax code, the only damages you can enjoy tax-free are those that compensate you for physical injury or physical sickness, per 26 U.S.C. § 104(a). As Thaddeus did not directly injure you, this award, minus my fees, will be taxable inactive income."

I exchanged a glance with Steve before asking, "Roughly how much would we end up with, after everything?"

Rick ruffled through his notes again before answering, "Somewhere north of a quarter million each, perhaps a little more depending on what you sell the church's lot for."

My eyes met Steve's, an unspoken question asked, and then silently answered, before he said, "Do it. That'll more than take care of college, and give us a good start."

Rick smiled, "Consider it done. I should have the paperwork ready for your signatures by this evening, and I don't expect any trouble getting the judge to approve it. You should also bear in mind that this does not affect your case against Piedmont County, though that one may take years to wind its way through the courts."

Steve shook his head, "That's not ourcase, that's Chris' case. He's the one that bastard nearly killed, twice."

Rick glanced at me, taking the confirmation from my eyes, "That would be true, except for the fact that Chris phoned me to say that you would share equally in those proceeds."

Steve's mouth began to open, but I cut him off, "Steve, remember saying 'forever' on that beach in Hawaii? That meant 'for better or for worse' and this is definitely the first half of that saying, so shut up, I'm not budging on this."

After a few moments silence, Steve nodded, as his hand found mine.

Escorting us to the parking lot with a huge grin on his face, Rick waved us goodbye as we drove off in my Jeep, heading for our appointment with the accountant.

The accountant turned out to be a dull, humorless man, prone to elaborate monologues about the tax code. After two mind-numbing hours, we left with Rick's predictions basically intact. Uncle Sam, followed by the State of Arizona, would be taking a hefty bite out of our settlement. The good news was that we would still end up with far more than we'd ever expected.

As we drove towards Dex's, still somewhat shell-shocked, I said, "I can barely believe it. That's one hell of a lot of money, and it's all coming out of Thaddeus' hide."

Steve rapped his fingers on the dashboard, "Yeah, we burned Thaddeus, but good, and you got that damn sheriff; if you hadn't done the things you did, he probably wouldn't be under indictment right now. I'm really looking forward to watching you testify against him."

We arrived at Dex's house, to find him in his garage workshop, tinkering with one of his remote control airplanes. After a few minutes, he noticed us standing there, his face lighting up as he said, "I had an idea."

Exchanging a puzzled glance with Steve, I said, "Yeah that much we know... What's the idea?"

Dex smiled, pausing for a few moments before saying, "I was thinking that we should check out the location that my GPS tracker sent. Basically do some surveillance. I know the State Police will likely be checking in a few days, but it might be useful for us to have a look."

We both gave the normally cautious Dex an incredulous look, though Steve was able to recover the ability to speak first, "No way, no how. Chris nearly got killed the last two times he was in Piedmont County, and you think we should pay them anothervisit?"

Dex stared at us blankly for a few moments, and then replied, "No, I never said we should go there. I just said we should look around the place."

I shook my head, trying to clear it. "Whoa, dude, isn't that the same thing?"

Angling his head, Dex considered for a moment, "No, it is not. We would do it remotely, from well this side of the county line," he said while tapping his screwdriver against the fuselage of the model aircraft.

The light finally dawned, and I shared a smile with Steve as Dex continued, "This is a gasoline-powered radio-controlled aircraft. I have enhanced the size of the fuel tank, and I have also up-rated the radio transceiver to increase its range and handle a video downlink." Dex opened the nose fairing to reveal his micro-camera, just a lens on a tiny black box circuit board, a couple of inches square, apparently the same one he'd used in the remote-controlled model 4X4 to explore the tunnels and plant the GPS tracker.

"Dex's air force," muttered Steve.

The model plane had a seven-foot wingspan, but that question was answered as I watched Dex dismount the wings. The next obvious question was the foremost on my mind, "How close do we need to get?"

Tapping the small antenna, Dex began to explain, "The transceiver is unidirectional, line-of-sight, and given that radio, like all electromagnetic radiation, is subject to the fourth-power function regarding range..."

Steve interrupted to ask again, "How close, Dex? How close to the county line would we need to get?"

"To ensure a decent margin for error, and given that the location we are investigating is less than a mile from the county line, and given the terrain in the area, a low hilltop within eight miles of the county line would suffice," Dex replied with a faint smile.

Steve turned on his heel, heading for my Jeep, and I waited until he returned with what I'd expected in his hand; a topographical map. We both carried them, due to the extensive network of poorly marked dirt roads that were the sole means of access to much of our part of the state.

Shoving aside a litter of parts and wires, Steve spread the map out on the workbench. Dex leaned over to study it, retrieving a pencil from behind his ear to mark one spot with an X, "That's the location my tracker indicates. It should be accurate to within twenty yards."

Leaning over to examine the map, paying careful attention to the contour lines, I shook my head. "Dex, there's some higher ground between the site and the county line."

"I know," Dex nodded before continuing, "But look at the contour lines; that's low ridge, maybe one hundred and sixty feet above the surrounding area. As long as I do not send the aircraft below the altitude of the ridge, the high ground cannot interrupt a line-of-sight transmission. I plan on making the initial reconnaissance at four thousand feet above ground level. All we need is a location for the controlling transmitter, monitor, and recorder," Dex tapped his pencil in a spot a hand span from the marked site;"These hills here look adequate for our purposes, and they are approximately five miles from the county line. There's a road shown on the map, but I have no idea if it is passable. It does however approach the hills from the side opposite to the county line, eliminating any need to approach the line itself. "

I looked, and found that most of the road was familiar, "That's the one where my Jeep broke down with a bullet hole in the pan. Yeah, it heads northwest out of town, then bends west to join up with the old mining road, but if we take the fork to the north, that would take us there. I've never been on that stretch."

Steve said he'd never been on that road either, but I knew my Jeep could probably handle most anything. There was one thing I wanted to take though, even though we'd be miles from the county line. "We'll stop by our house and pick up the shotguns."

Dex gave us a perplexed look, reached under the workbench, and tossed me a smoke-stained SKS, which I recognized as Betty's. "How did this survive?" I asked, "I thought it was left in the tunnel storeroom, and destroyed by the fire."

"I was curious about the tunnels, so a few hours after the fire department had extinguished the fire, I went exploring with Betty. We found it lying on the stone floor. Heat rises, so it apparently escaped the worst of the fire. I said I'd clean it up and fix it, so I brought it home this morning. It can still fire; it just needs cleaning up, and the stock refinishing. It would be superior in a distance engagement to a shotgun," Dex said, as I rolled my eyes at the understatement.

I turned to look at Steve, and saw a familiar upturn at the corner of his mouth as he asked offhandedly, "You went to see Betty this morning?"

Dex's color changed to a subtle crimson as he said, "I saw her this morning. I mentioned the reconnaissance plan to her, and she thought it was worth trying. She agrees with me; the more we can learn the better. It will help the police investigation."

"What did Sheriff Buchanan say about it?" I asked.

Dex hesitated for a moment, before replying, "I did not mention it to him. I assumed he would not mind, due to us not needing to approach or cross the county line. He is also quite busy preparing for his trip to Phoenix in the morning."

"Translation: you didn't ask 'cause you thought he'd say 'no!'," Steve said with a wicked grin.

Dex nodded, a smile creeping onto his face, "That was a factor. I just want to try out the aircraft in an actual operational environment. I also believe that we could learn something useful. For example: what is at this site? The sheriff can then tell the State Police what to expect. We might also spot something nearby; we can see far more from the air than can be seen from the ground. Further, the State Police do not yet have a warrant for this location; it is on private property. They should be able to get one, but we may be in a position to make it certain. What could go wrong?"

Steve glanced at me, arching his eyebrow in an unspoken question which I answered with a slight nod. He turned back to Dex saying, "Let's give it a try, but one thing; if anything bad happens, you don't ever let Veronica find out, 'k?"

Dex agreed, and after I put the Jeep's top down, we began loading supplies from his van into it. The SKS, with a full clip, went in first, followed by Dex's camcorder and laptop computer. A small bag of cables and tools followed. With great care, we lashed the fuselage of the aircraft behind the roll bars. Dex handled the wings; placing them between the seats, sticking out the back, before padding them with a few old towels. As we climbed in, Dex crouching in the back, I noticed that the underside of the wing was painted sky blue. Dex noticed my glance, "That's to blend in with the sky, it should make the aircraft nearly impossible to spot from the ground," he said.

Steve had the map in hand, folded to show the area we needed as I pulled out of the driveway.

We drove to the edge of town, and I shifted into low-range as soon as the road turned to dirt. I couldn't help but shudder as we descended into the first arroyo, and to my left I saw the copse of trees where I'd hidden my Jeep after it had been shot by the Piedmont Sheriff. A touch on my hand startled me for a moment, as Steve put his hand on mine. He knew, and he understood.

The road wasn't too challenging at first, just a set of wheel ruts across the mostly flat desert, with a few dry watercourses to cross. We found the fork to the north with little trouble, finding it to be little more than a trail. I framed out a few times while dealing with some of the rock-strewn stretches, my tires kicking up dust and grit while pulling free, but we kept going for several miles, until Steve pointed to a low hill to the left, "That looks like the one."

I turned off the road, weaving between the mesquite bushes on the sandy plain, until a slope consisting mainly of boulders barred our way. There was no way to drive up that, so I parked the Jeep, turning to say, "We'll have to haul everything to the hilltop on foot from here, it's only a few hundred yards by the look of it."

Dex shook his head, "I need to take off from flat ground. There's a stretch right beside us that will do. We'll assemble the aircraft and leave it in position, then haul the gear up to the hilltop. I'll control the takeoff from up there."

We unloaded the gear, and stood back to watch while Dex assembled the aircraft, attaching the wings with, much to my surprise, what appeared to be giant rubber bands. Dex powered up the remote-control console, and ran a few checks by moving the aircraft's control surfaces, as well as checking the camera.

Dex stood back from his creation, turning around to tell us, "We're all set. I can't start it remotely, so we'll leave the engine idling until we get to the hilltop. That shouldn't use up too much fu..." Dex stopped in mid-sentence, his eyes staring into infinity.

"You forgot the fuel, didn't you?" Steve asked.

His cheeks took on a crimson cast as Dex coughed a few times before replying, "Yes. It seems that I have. Perhaps we can go to a gas station; all I need is a half-gallon of gasoline."

I couldn't help it, I laughed;"Dex, my Jeep has a gas tank. Why don't we just use gas from that?"

Dex stared at my Jeep for a moment before replying, "Do we have a siphon, and some way to defeat the anti-siphon device in the filler pipe?"

This time it was Steve who laughed, "Nope. We don't need 'em either. Sit tight for a few; we'll get you your gas."

Retrieving my toolkit from under the passenger seat, I popped the hood. Steve opened it, and then peeled off his shirt, tossing it over the hood to land in the passenger seat. I tossed mine in beside it, and then joined Steve under the hood, prepared to get a little greasy.

Steve found the fuel filter by tracing the gas line back from the fuel-injection manifold. The little canister was on the firewall, easy enough to access. Selecting a flat-bladed screwdriver, I released the top fuel-line clamp, pulling it off the fuel filter. Steve poured out a water bottle, windmilling it around to dry it. Steve handed me the bottle before jumping in behind the wheel. "Ready" I said, holding the gas line in the bottle.

Just a single touch of the key gave me about an ounce of gas. I swirled it around the bottle, dumping it out on the ground. With any last traces of water hopefully removed, I re-inserted the gas line, and told Steve to hit the key. A couple of minutes later, I was handing a befuddled Dex a quart of gasoline.

"What did you do?" Dex asked, using a small funnel to fill the fuel tank of his plane.

Crouching beside him I answered, "The Jeep has an electric fuel pump. Disconnect the gas line, and you can use it to pump gas out of the tank by clicking on the ignition switch."

As he closed up the aircraft, Dex gave me a bemused smile, "I had no idea that could be done. I'm not into cars."

"Blasphemy," hollered Steve, causing me to stifle a laugh, or try to at any rate.

Dex confirmed that he had sufficient fuel, and I made quick work of re-attaching my fuel line. Just to be sure, I started my Jeep and let it idle for a minute before clicking it off; I didn't want to risk being stuck out here if we stirred up any trouble.

Dex hooked up a small battery to the engine via alligator clips, and then attached a cordless drill to the front of the engine. With a whir and a buzz, the engine began to run. Dex backed the drill away before yanking off the alligator clips. Reaching for his control panel, he idled the engine, giving the plane a satisfied nod.

As soon as Dex lined the plane up with the bare stretch of ground, we were ready to go. Dex picked up his control panel, camcorder, and laptop while Steve grabbed the large twelve-volt battery and the SKS. I carried the antenna and binoculars plus Dex's tool bag as we set out up the hill, with me leading the way.

It was an easy enough hike, the hill was low, with a gentle slope, the granite boulders proving easy enough to walk around. Reaching the crest after a few minutes, we looked to the west, and after looking back to ensure that he could still see his aircraft, Dex approved the location by setting his control panel on a rock.

Detailing me to hold the antenna pole, and Steve to take care of the binoculars, Dex focused on his task. Setting the laptop beside the radio-control panel, with the Camcorder next to it and the battery on the ground at the base of the rock, Dex began hooking up cables. Within seconds, Dex had everything plugged in and powered on.

With a flick of his wrist, Dex revved the plane's engine. We watched as it bounced down the stretch of bare dirt, lurching skyward as its wheels left the ground. The plane climbed, passing our level, as Dex made quick checks of the monitor screen. He pushed a button in his camcorder, "Okay, we're recording."

Glancing over his shoulder at the monitor, I saw a picture of the three of us, Steve with the SKS slung over his bare shoulder, as the picture zoomed in on him. Dex announced, "I added some optics; I can zoom but can't pan, so all we can see is what's in front of the plane."

As if to prove his point, the plane buzzed past us, twenty feet overhead. Dex eased back on the joystick, putting it in a shallow climb, paying careful attention to his screen. "I'll climb en-route, and approach the site at altitude. The camera is angled down twenty degrees from the fuselage axis, so we should get some decent shots. I can read airspeed and altitude, so this should work."

Steve turned to ask, "Should? How many times have you tested this setup?"

"Counting today," Dex shrugged, "once," he added with a wry smile

During the climb there was little to see, so I checked my cell phone for signal, just in case we needed it. I picked up a strong signal - strong for our area; three bars.

Dex noticed, and pointed off to the left of out target, "There's a cell tower up on Mount Diablo, north of Piedmont. Anywhere within line-of-sight and you'll get a signal, but you're blocked by mountains if you go further south, and that's the only cell tower on a high point in the area. That tower is the only reason my GPS tracking device was able to phone in. Hmmm, I wonder if I could use cellular communications instead of direct radio to control an aircraft? I could use a lossy algorithm to solve the bandwidth issue..."

Steve shot down that idea, "Ever had a dropped signal on a cell phone? What would happen to the plane if that happened?"

Dex winced, "That would be bad."

We stood in silence for a few minutes, as Dex's aircraft climbed towards our target. Dex lowered the nose, and we were rewarded by a panoramic view of the desert, and nothing but desert. Dex played with the zoom, examining some rocky outcroppings, and I began to think we'd see little else.

The view changed slowly, as Dex remarked, "It just crossed the county line, as near as I can tell, so about a mile to go. I think I'll add a GPS unit to it one of these days, it would make this far easier."

A more brightly colored lump came into view, and Dex zoomed in on it; a Cadillac, by the look of it. The black-and-white image made it hard to tell the color, but it was a light shade, just like...

"Thaddeus' car," said Steve, as Dex zoomed out. The Cadillac was parked on rough ground, behind a low ridgeline, with nothing man-made apparent around it. Dex checked the topographical map, "We're nearly a mile from where my tracking device indicated. Perhaps they wanted to hide the car once they heard of Thaddeus' arrest?" Dex asked.

Steve growled, "Eric had to get away somehow, and I'm betting he took Thaddeus' car. Maybe he's here."

Dex began to sweep the view from side to side, until a building appeared, resolving into three as Dex zoomed in. The buildings looked old, a patchwork of wood and tin. I recognized them as old mining buildings. The vehicles outside proved they weren't abandoned, at least not at the moment.

"I think that's the Piedmont Sheriff's Department 4x4, plus two pickup trucks, and those buildings look like they've been fixed up a little," Dex said, while zooming in on the entrance to a mineshaft next to the buildings. Studying the images for a moment longer, he added, "The dirt's all torn up, this place has seen plenty of activity. I don't see any perimeter or sentries, though they could be hidden."

Angling the plane's nose down to track in on the site, Dex played with the zoom, zeroing in on a large pile of apparently empty and discarded boxes behind one of the buildings.

"I think we've got enough to guarantee a warrant for a raid on this place. The GPS tracker was probably enough, but the vehicles and the pile of boxes confirm it; something's going on here, most likely the sheriff's methamphetamine lab. I'll take one more pass and see if I can spot anything, then bring the plane back."

We watched in silence for twenty minutes, while Dex maneuvered the aircraft, keeping it at an altitude of over three thousand feet above the desert, which he assured us would make detecting it from the ground nearly impossible. He garnered plenty of videotape showing rocks, sand, and bushes, but little else. On the way back, he conducted a similar search near Thaddeus' car, turning up even less. Dex used the planes' camera to locate our hilltop, centering it in the screen as he brought the little aircraft home.

The landing was anticlimactic, Dex settling the plane onto the bare patch of dirt, bringing it to a halt within yards of its touchdown point. We made haste to gather up the gear and return to my Jeep, just as the planes' idling engine coughed and died. Dex stared at it in horror, stooping down to open the fuselage, "It's out of gas," he declared, a look of shock on his face, "I thought I had more potential airborne time than that. I'll need to add a fuel gauge to the remote instrumentation; this could have easily resulted in the loss of the aircraft."

We made quick work of loading the gear back into the Jeep, and with relief I put the nearby county line in my rearview mirror as we returned the way we'd came. As we passed the spot where my Jeep had broken down, Steve's hand came to rest on my bare shoulder, the feel of contact calming me. I spared a moment, looking at Steve; his windblown blond hair, gorgeous bare chest -attractive images all, but at that moment, what mattered the most to me was the understanding I saw in his gentle blue eyes. I'll always remember him as he was that day; the desert sun glinting off the arrowhead necklace I'd given him as it hung against his bare skin, over his heart; a heart I knew to be mine, as mine was his.

Upon reaching Dex's house, we unloaded the Jeep, our strange adventure over. I was relieved; I'd half-expected trouble, for trouble seemed to occur whenever I had anything to do with Piedmont. I returned the SKS to Dex, and he asked us to tell Betty that he'd fix it up and return it to her at our party tomorrow. I couldn't help but notice the wistful look in his eye as he said her name.

As we drove home, I asked Steve, "What were you teasing Dex about? Is there something going on?"

Steve chuckled, "I don't know. There might be, or will be soon. Keep an eye on Dex and Betty at the party tomorrow, and let me know if you see what I see."

The next morning, we saw Mr. Williams dashing about, gathering paperwork, in a furious haste due to having slept through his alarm, and was thus running nearly an hour late. We stayed out of his way until he was on his way out the door, following him out and wishing him a safe trip as he left to pick up Sheriff Buchanan for their trip to Phoenix.

By early afternoon, we were both done with classes, and partying was on our minds. Veronica had told us she'd be getting off work at noon, so we should show up at her house by two. We swung by the house to grab some clothes, and I kept an eagle eye on Steve; I knew he'd be out to get me back for the trick I'd pulled on him in Hawaii, and wondered just how he planned to do it this time.

We took my Jeep, pulling into Veronica's driveway just a few minutes early, to see Dex's van already there, parked next to Chad's car.

Chad greeted us as we walked in the door, tossing us each a soda as we took seats next to Dex, who sat cradling Betty's repaired, cleaned, and polished SKS in his hands. I nodded a greeting at Dex, which he returned, and as we sat down, I noticed Chad looking intently out the window. "Where's Veronica?" I asked.

"She must have stopped at the store on the way home. I called the diner and they said she left at noon, so she should be here by now even if she did stop. Rob and Joe said they'd be here by six, and Betty just called, she's on her way over," Chad replied, still gazing out the window.

At the mention of Betty's name, I thought I saw Dex brighten for an instant, making me wonder if Steve could be right.

The hum of an engine announced Betty's arrival, and as she walked in the door, Dex leapt to his feet, handing her the SKS. Betty beamed, opening her mouth to speak as my cell phone began to ring.

I glanced at the screen to see Mr. Williams' name, so I flipped open the phone, hoping for good news.

"Hello Chris," said a voice I recognized instantly, the shocked expression on my face causing Steve to rush to my side. I eased the phone away from my ear, motioning for Steve to lean in and listen with me, as the Piedmont Sheriff continued, "I'm sure you've noticed whose phone I'm calling on; the good sergeant and Buchanan decided to try driving through mycounty this morning. I have them both. It's a pity that the Lonesome Valley Sheriff's department is so short-handed right now, just one wounded deputy, so you can't count on any help from there. I'll make this brief, you and Steve Williams are going to bring the information I purchased from Blackheart to the scrap yard in Piedmont. You'll come alone and unarmed. I'll have people watching, so don't try anything stupid."

Steve's hand on my shoulder gripped me tight, as the sheriff added, "You have thirty minutes, but I'd suggest you hurry. I've also got your little lady friend, and one of my men is, shall we say, busy entertaining her with his masculine charms. In thirty minutes, unless I've received good news from the scrap yard, I'll start by killing her, followed by the others. Now, just so you know I mean business, listen, and listen good."

There was silence on the line for a moment, soon filled a distant male voice, drowned out by Veronica's anguished cries.

©Copyright 2007 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.  The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

Many thanks to Conner for editing, support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions on this chapter.
Many thanks also to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions (and for thinking up a title!).

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading and advice, and for putting up with me.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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How did they manage to get the jump on two trained police officers? I had a bad feeling about Veronica not showing up and her being captured isn’t as much of a surprise. Poor Veronica doesn’t deserve what they’re doing to her but nobody does. I’m not sure how the can handle this without any help but we know they will somehow make it through this.

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I was OK with the chapter until the very last.  I hope that there is someone in law enforcement they can contact.  I would be sure to try to contact both dad and Sheriff Buchanan to make sure they are not being scammed.  

On a side note, might there be a gender reveal in the offing?

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