He kept his hand wrapped tightly around Drake’s bicep. He didn’t need more than that to control Drake. He kept the gun he had stolen tucked in his waistband under his hoodie, but he would only use it if he had to. If guns started firing, his boy might get caught in the crossfire. He could see his boy standing next to that bitch of a Sheriff. He looked good. At least, they had been taking care of him. He had new clothes on. He couldn’t see the boy’s face. He was backlit by the headlights, so his face was in shadow. He hadn’t thought about the headlights. He didn’t know if he wanted to walk into a pool of light, but he had no choice. This was his only chance to get his boy back. If he pulled out now, the Sheriff wouldn’t bargain with him again.
He suspected that someone was up in the trees somewhere, but he couldn’t spot him. A few moments after he and Drake had settled into the trees around the clearing, he had heard a car engine. He’d only heard the sound for a moment before it was cut off. He didn’t know if the car had stopped near the area or if it had driven away. Again, there was nothing he could do about it, anyway. It didn’t matter if the Sheriff had broken her word. He had expected it, as a matter of fact. People like her broke their word all the time when dealing with people like him. With Drake, by his side, however, no one would be able to get a clean shot at him. Once he had the boy and was done with Drake, he was going to run like hell into the protection of the trees and back to the old Jeep. He had found a second way into the clearing. They would have to scramble up through the trees, but his boy was strong. He knew he could do it.
They had reached the edge of the clearing. He paused for a moment and scanned the trees surrounding the clearing one more time. He still couldn’t see or hear anyone else. Nothing but the breeze whispering through the pine needles. Before they stepped into the grass of the clearing, he whispered in Drake’s ear.
“Remember. You’re not going to play the hero. It’s too late for that.”
Drake nodded, but didn’t answer him. The man gave his arm a hard shake, and he could feel Drake wince in response. Satisfied that his hostage was still compliant. he led him towards the light.
When Madison saw the man and Drake step into the light, she almost took a step back. Drake was a tall man, but the man who held him hostage was even bigger. She had known he was big from the footage they had of him, but seeing him in person was different. His arms and chest were roped with muscle. The man had one huge hand dug into Drake’s bicep. The light from the headlights illuminated his face even though he had his hood up. His eyes were dark like Elijah’s, but they were cold and dead.
She finally tore her eyes away from the suspect to look at Drake. Drake was staring at her, his blue eyes bloodshot and glazed with fear. He was pale and sweating. His cheek was badly bruised, but she couldn’t see any other injuries. She began to breathe again. Just a few more minutes and she would have Drake safe and the monster would be in custody. Again, she refused to let herself look around for Hal, but returned her gaze back to the man.
“You’re late,” she said as she decided to take the offensive. She kept her voice cool and business-like.
“Sorry, Sheriff. I had to make sure you abided by your word. You didn’t bring anyone with you, did you?”
“No, I wouldn’t do that.”
The man granted. “Of course, you wouldn’t. Just an even exchange, right? Your man for my boy.”
Madison waited for a shot to ring out, but nothing came. Maybe, Hal couldn’t get a clear shot. Drake was standing right next to the killer. Hal wouldn’t risk hitting Drake.
“That was the agreement. Let Drake go.” The man looked at Elijah.
“Come on, boy. It’s time to go.”
Elijah shook his head.
“No? You’re telling me, no, after everything I’ve done for you?”
The man looked shocked, and then pure rage slithered across his face.
“You don’t say no to me, boy. You’re my son. You belong with me.”
Madison wasn’t shocked to hear that Elijah was the man’s son. It made sense. At first, she had thought that maybe Elijah and the man were just travelling together, but no one would risk themselves, like the man had, for a casual travelling companion. She refused to call the man’s obsession love, but he was loyal to his son. She braced herself. The man had risked a lot to be with his son again, and now his son was rejecting him. She had to be ready for anything the man did. She hoped Hal was ready as well.
The man moved so fast that Madison was stunned. She saw the flash of silver and then blood erupted from the side of Drake’s shirt. The man launched Drake at Madison. She took the brunt of his weight and they both toppled to the ground. The man lurched forward and grabbed Elijah. Still, Hal didn’t fire. She realized that the man was carrying Elijah, so Hal would not have a clear shot again. She pushed herself from under Drake and flipped him onto his back to see the damage. Her cell phone rang.
“Madison, I couldn’t get a clear shot.”
“I know, Hal. It’s Drake. He…”
“I’m going after them. I won’t let them get away.” And then the line went dead.
Madison realized that Hal was right. They had to keep that man from getting away. Taking her coat off, she pushed it onto Drake’s side.
“I’m sorry, Madison. I didn’t…”
“Don’t talk, Drake. I need you to hold this onto your side. I have to go after them.”
“No, Madison. You don’t know him. He’s…”
“I’m not alone, Drake. I have Hal. He’s already in pursuit. You have to hang on for me, all right?”
“Don’t worry about me. Just take care of Elijah.”
Madison nodded and ran towards the dark trees.