Authors: Jessica Wilde
Katie was just the start and since I had made detective, I
hadn't lost a kid yet. Prayed I never would either.
"He is, sir. We're just pissed we didn't get the bastard
that took him."
Payne nodded grimly and slapped me on the back. "Don't
fret. We'll find him. They always slip up eventually. Let's just hope it's
sooner rather than later. You finish your paperwork tonight and have a good
weekend, but keep your phone on."
He nodded and left, leaving me with only two others in the
small office space we had for the detectives. There were several of us who
worked all hours of the day, but being the newest, I attempted to pull more
than my weight and stayed to get paperwork done whenever I could. It was the
only time I got to go through evidence alone and the best time for me to find
something significant. I was halfway through my report when my night turned to
"We got a letter."
My partner, Evan Lincoln, slumped into the chair across from
me and threw a stack of papers onto my desk.
"God damn it! Please don't say it," I growled.
"Fine, I won't say it," he sighed and lifted his
hands as if to say 'don't shoot the messenger'.
Lincoln was just as badass as the captain with two small
differences; he was about six inches shorter than me and scrawny as hell. He
had beach blonde hair, pale green eyes, and never went a day without shaving.
All the women say he is a sweetheart. Doesn't change the fact that the man could
take me down in a heartbeat. A 2nd Dan black belt in karate, master of
Taekwondo and ridiculously skilled with Jiu Jitsu; he could probably kill me
with one strike and I wouldn't have seen him coming. A first glance at him
would leave a very underestimated impression and he had corrected that more
than a hundred times in the time I had known him.
Being my closest friend since the day I moved to Detroit,
I'd see him in action too many times to count and we climbed the ranks side by
side ever since. He made detective about two weeks after me and Payne
immediately partnered us up. The department hadn't been planning on the extra
position, but we worked too well together and Payne saw it. All that was needed
was the okay from his superiors and lo and behold, we were all but exclusively
on missing persons. Payne made it clear that the other cases would rotate
around depending on our work load and we were completely fine with that.
Lincoln had the same mindset as I did and no way were we going to argue about it.
He gave me a shrug before logging onto his computer and
nodding towards the papers in front of me. "I don't really have to say it
once you take a look."
I started reading the page on top of the thick stack of
papers and felt my stomach twist into a knot. This guy was the reason I had
spent the last three weeks working sixteen to twenty hour days and the reason I
had seen more shit in that time than I ever wanted to see. Leads had turned
into dead ends trying to find these kids, but the people we investigated turned
out to be heavily involved in other shit. Shit you just can't un-see.
Now I know why Dad loved Mom the way he did. You can't help
but take some of this crap home and I would give anything to know that the
person waiting for me at home was strong enough to help me through it. Dad
never asked for help, at least not that I ever witnessed, but Mom didn't need
to be asked. She was a rock.
God, I miss her.
I knew without a doubt that Isabelle Brannock was the reason
I found these children. It was her strength that taught me to keep going, to
protect the people I loved which in turn meant the people I served.
However, this letter made me wonder why I ever chose this
profession in the first place. Our kidnapper hadn't done the same thing twice
with the exception of actually taking the kids. The method, the contact, the
demands; none of them were the same. Even the letters were completely
different. The paper was different, the medium different, the method of
He was a God damn ghost.
The only reason I knew it was the same guy was the twisting
in my gut. Same with Linc. At least until now. Now, there wasn't a question
"What the fuck is this, Linc?"
"I told you I wasn't going to say it. Just read it and
tell me you are thinking the same thing as me."
I didn't know what to think as I stared down at the glued
letters and crinkled paper.
I gave you 2. 3rd time's the charm. Don't get too cocky.
"Yeah," Linc sighed.
"I'm assuming we got nothing on the letter," I
stated as I flipped through the papers beneath it. All test results and all
stating the same thing. Nothing. No fingerprints, no DNA, no leads on where the
paper even came from. It was too common and so was the glue used to paste the
"Nothing," he replied and leaned forward resting
his forearms on his desk. "And get this. It showed up in Denise's inbox.
Just sitting there in the middle of all her paperwork in a blank
"You have got to be kidding me."
Denise was the receptionist that sat in the lobby at the entrance
to the station. She handled a lot of paperwork, but every single piece of it
that wasn't official mail had to be hand delivered and placed in the box on top
of her desk.
"So now what? We got nothing to start with?" I
asked, my voice loaded with frustration.
"Payne put Pax and Eckart on lead and wants us as back
up. He said we need some time to recover from the last few weeks on lead. We
each take the weekend and get our personal shit taken care of, rest, relax,
then we hit it hard on Monday."
"You know for a fact I can't just forget about
"Yeah, I know. And so do Pax and Eckart. That's why
they are taking lead on this over the weekend and then Monday we'll rally and
go from there." He shook his head and rubbed a hand down his face.
"We need a minute, Gus. You look like shit and my wife has almost
forgotten what I look like."
"You're right. Let me just make sure Pax is going to
contact us with anything big."
"Already told him to. Once we get this paperwork done
with Johnny's case, we head home."
I leaned back in my chair and looked up at the ceiling.
Something had to give. No way could I just sit back and let this guy take
someone's kid again. Who knows what he would ask for this time?
When we first got the call on Johnny Brooks, I had sworn to myself
I would put the guy away. We got lucky on the first kidnapping. He had taken a
7 year old girl from the park where she and her mother were spending the day.
Her mom turned away for less than a minute to look in her purse for a snack for
her daughter and that was all it took. She had been gone for three days before
we finally got a tip. Linc had been two minutes ahead of me when we got the
call and he was in the middle of untying the little girl when I showed up. The
rest of the place was empty. An abandoned building that used to be a pet store
and a box of random food was all we found with her.
When we got the call on Johnny a week later, I knew
immediately it was the same guy, even if all the evidence said otherwise. He
had been missing for five days before the call for a ransom came in to his
mother and father. They attempted to collect the requested fifty thousand
dollars within the ten hours he gave them. A problem at the bank resulted in a
call to me an hour before the deadline. We were ten minutes late and lost
contact with the kidnapper until a few days later when he called again asking
for a different amount.
The amount was ridiculous, but not because it was more than
anyone could collect in a day. No, it was because it was so little and so perfectly
budgeted to the Brooks' savings account.
They had collected the balance of the account and were
preparing to make the drop in exchange for their son when the bastard changed
his mind and just left the kid in the middle of the same department store he
had been taken from. A woman who noticed Johnny wandering around looking for
someone to help him called the police and I went and picked him up. The kid is
only 6 years old, but he was tough. Cried only when I told him I was getting
him back to his parents and didn't shed a tear since.
He never saw the kidnapper's face since the guy wore a mask
and only saw him three times every day for each meal. After he answered all of
our questions, he told me he knew I would come for him and that was that. I
don't think I've ever felt that tightness in my chest before, but I felt it
then and I'll never forget it.
Made me all the more determined to bring this guy down. A
part of me wondered if the bastard even had a clue as to what he wanted and was
just looking for the right opportunity, but a bigger part of me thought the guy
was just fucking with us.
It was sick.
It was frustrating.
It was absolutely terrifying not knowing a damn thing about
him when he apparently knew so much about the families he was terrorizing.
"I know this sounds harsh, but at this point, I'm glad
Kristie and I don't have any kids," Lincoln said glumly. "Makes you
wonder if as a cop, we're more susceptible, you know?"
"Yeah. I know."
"Is that awful of me to say? I mean, Kristie wants them
so damn bad and we've been trying for over a year. You'd think something would
have taken by now. Starts to make me think there's a reason."
I smiled weakly and raked a hand through my hair.
"There's always a reason for everything that happens to us. At least, that's
what my mom always used to say." I stood up and stretched my arms and legs
before looking back down at my friend. "The good comes. It may seem to
take forever, but it comes eventually. Just gotta keep on keeping on."
Linc smiled back before turning his attention to his
computer screen. "Amen."
My pocket started to vibrate and the familiar ring tone of
Just Wanna Have Fun
broke the heavy silence.
Linc laughed heartily and shook his head. "That sister
of yours. Did you know about this ringtone?"
I smiled at the screen and nodded. "Yeah, figured she
would only change it to something ten times worse if I messed with it this
I lifted the phone to my ear and greeted my little sister.
"Hey, Gus Gus. How's it going?" Her familiar voice
made my heavy heart lighten. She was an exact replica of my mother and no
matter how hard of a time we gave her, she was always the light we all needed
through the years.
"Good as it can be," I smiled. "How's wedding
She sighed, like always, at my unnecessary use of swear
words. She wasn't so innocent herself, but old habits die hard. "
is going just fine with a slight change that I wanted to talk to you
"Shoot. What is it?"
"We are moving it up," she all but whispered.
"It's not in December anymore. It's… um… it's in
"Serious? But it's almost July already."
The shakiness in her voice was all the warning I needed.
Something was seriously wrong and it either had to do with Luke or her health.
"What's going on, Ash?"
"Just say it and get it over with," I snapped and
immediately winced at the harshness of my tone. I had been making an honest
effort to be nicer to everyone since I got back from Oakland. I didn't want to
piss her off, but if something was wrong, I needed to know right away.
She sighed into the phone and I could just picture her
twisting that locket around her neck and biting her lip to the point of almost
breaking the skin. When Ash was nervous, everyone knew it. "I'm pregnant."
Couldn't have been more shocked if I planned it. Or pissed.
"Fucking Shady! He knocked you up? I'm gonna kill that
little piece of-"
"Come on, Gus. Don't be an asshole," she bit out,
but I could hear the wariness in her voice and it helped to tamp down my sudden
Lucas Shade, her fiancé, and one of my best friends, was a
good guy. He wouldn't screw her over. No way. Not after the years he spent
pining after her in secret.
"How long have you known?" I asked after a few
"A week or so?"
"Does Con know? Does Dad?"
"Dad does and he freaked at first," she stated,
amused, "but the thought of a grandchild apparently won out and you know
how close he is to Lucas. I don't know how to tell Con. He's still trying to
smooth stuff out with Emily and getting her a teaching job and he hasn't even
gotten back to regular work. I don't know how to spring this on them." She
was starting to ramble and it made me grin. No matter how tough she had become
with Luke, she was still the same little Aislinn Brannock. "If she gets
this job, Emily will just be starting the school year and won't have time to
take off for the wedding so I need everyone to rally together and help me out
here. I'm terrified, but so incredibly happy about this, Gus. I need my family's
Of course she would play the 'family' card on me. She more
than anyone knew how much I loved my family. Everyone may think she has a
closer relationship to Con because they talk on the phone more often, but after
all she went through months back, I've made it a point to make sure she knows
I'm always here for her. Her and mom were the rocks in the Brannock household,
now it was my turn no matter how far away I was.
I sighed and sat back down in my chair, glancing at Lincoln
who was sporting a smile and pretending not to eavesdrop. I rested my head on
my desk as I spoke to her. "You know you have my support, Ash. Just keep
Luke away for a while so I don't have to kick his ass for letting players pass
the goal line."
She laughed loudly, making me smile even wider. She was
happy with Luke and there wasn't a better man for her. She had let us control
her life even after she moved away, but she had made it clear that doing so
protected her and made her time with Luke that much better. I'll never regret protecting
my sister, but we all should have backed off, especially after Mom died.