Sins of the Father: Chapter 25

Thursday morning, Madison sat by Drake as he picked at his breakfast. Even though he had slept, he was still pale. The bruise on his face was a livid bluish purple against his pale skin. He refused to look at her or at Elijah. Both he and Elijah had retreated back into silence. She held back a sigh. Tomorrow would be a week since Andie was first killed. She could’t believe that only a week had passed. She felt like a different person. She knew she would have to answer for taking Elijah to exchange with the killer and for the killer escaping. She knew Hal would also want to take responsibility for what happened, but she wasn’t going to let him. She had her account of the events ready to go. She just had to convince Hal to go along with it.

The door opened, and Madison turned to see who it was. Hal was standing at the door. Drake sat up a little straighter.

“Hal,” Madison said. “This isn’t a good time. Drake isn’t..”

Drake spoke in a quiet voice.

“I invited him over.”

She turned back to Drake.

“What? When?”

“When you went down to the cafeteria to get Elijah some breakfast. Madison, there’s something I need to tell you. I tried to tell you last night. If I don’t do this right now, I’ll lose my nerve.”

“Okay, Drake, but I don’t understand what Hal is doing here.”

“I need someone who is impartial to hear what I have to say.”

Hal had taken out his little notebook and a pen. Clicking the pen, he began to read Drake his Miranda rights.

“Hal, what are you doing? Drake is not a criminal.”

She noticed Elijah’s eyes darting from Hal to Drake. He looked scared. Drake noticed him, too.

“Elijah,” he said. “Would you do me a favor and go see how the deputy in the hall is doing? He’s probably lonely.”

Elijah frowned and began to shake his head. Drake caught his eye, and suddenly Elijah relented as if Drake and he had shared a silent message that only they could understand. Elijah walked to the door and went into the hallway. After making sure that the deputy would keep an eye on Elijah, Madison shut the door. Hal finished reading Drake his rights.

Keeping his eyes on Hal, Drake began to speak.

“You found that old couple, didn’t you?”

Hal nodded.

“I understand you wish to give a statement. You understand your rights?”

Drake nodded impatiently.

“I waive my rights.”

Madison began to get a horrible feeling.

“Drake, you’re a victim. You can’t be held responsible for…”

Drake cut her off.

“I am responsible, Madison. You need to hear me out.”

Drake began to talk about what had happened yesterday when he went to his meeting. As Madison and Hal had surmised, the meeting was a fake. The suspect had hit Drake in the back of the head and driven off with him in the back of his Pacifica. Drake never even saw him coming. When he’d come to, the man had been pulling up to the old couple’s cabin. Holding a knife on him, the man had forced Drake into the cabin. Madison didn’t want to hear what came next.

“You have to understand what happened. That monster gave me a knife. I knew I had to make a choice. If I wanted to live, I had to kill that couple, so I did it. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I could have turned the knife on myself. If I had done that, then he wouldn’t have been able to bargain for Elijah. I could have turned on him. If he killed me, then, again, he wouldn’t have me as his bargaining chip. I could have tried to kill him, and get away. I have to be honest. It didn’t even occur to me to do any of those things. In my mind, it was the couple or me. I chose me. I wanted to live. I slit that woman’s throat while her husband watched, and then I killed him.”

Hal took a deep breath, and closed his notebook. He looked at Madison.

“You know what I have to do, Madison.”

She started to beg for Drake’s life. She would do anything to keep him safe, and she thought maybe she could convince Hal to keep this between them. Looking into Hal’s steel gray eyes, she realized that he had already crossed the line for her. Drake took her hand and squeezed it.

“I’m sorry, Madison. I wasn’t strong enough when I needed to be. You need to let me do this. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let you cover this up.”

She kissed Drake’s hand. He wiped a tear that had escaped from her eye and was trickling down her cheek.

“You never cry. Don’t cry for me now.”

She nodded and swiped her eyes with her hands.

“What happens now, Hal?”

“I’ll come get him once he’s released from the hospital. I’ll book him. With a crime like this, I won’t be able to just send him home. Do you understand that, Drake? You’re going to have to sit in jail. Before you can post bail, there will have to be a hearing. You’re going to need a lawyer.”

Drake nodded.

“I want this all done by the book. I don’t want any cover-ups or plea deals.”

Hal raised his hand. 

“We’re not going to cover this up, but you need to consider your options. Consider Madison.”

Drake nodded miserably. “I am considering her. That’s why I needed to get this out in the open.”

“Drake, you don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re already in trouble over this. You don’t think I noticed that you brought Elijah to exchange for me?”

“I wasn’t going to exchange him. It was a trap, Drake.”

“I know that, Madison, but you and I both know that, if I weren’t involved, you never would have even contemplated doing something like that.”

Madison had to agree with Drake. She always ran things by the book. She followed the letter of the law to ensure that the cases she built would be air-tight when they went to court. She realized that she hadn’t been thinking clearly since this whole nightmare began. She shouldn’t have even volunteered to foster Elijah. That was a huge conflict of interest. She had been surprised when CPS had allowed him to stay with her.

Hal stood up.

“I’m going to head into the department and start the paperwork.”

“All right, Hal. Thanks for everything,” Madison said.

Drake laid his head back against his pillow.

“I need to be alone for a while, Madison. Maybe, you should take Elijah home and get some rest.”

Madison wanted to protest, but she could tell that Drake didn’t want her around right now. And he was right. Elijah was probably exhausted. She kissed him softly on the lips.

“I’ll be back in a little while.”

With his eyes closed, Drake nodded. When she left Drake’s room, she noticed that Kurt had just taken over for the morning shift. She didn’t stop to talk to him, but merely nodded and motioned for Elijah to follow her. She assumed that Hal had filled Kurt in on Drake’s new status. Kurt was no longer guarding a victim, but a self-confessed murderer. Kurt nodded back at Madison with courtesy, but his eyes were cold.

When she and Elijah emerged into the harsh morning light, she wondered if she should take the department’s SUV, but realized she was still the Sheriff. She would turn it in when she resigned, but she needed to get home. Elijah climbed into the passenger side while she went around to the driver’s side. Letting the engine idle, she turned to Elijah.

“Do you think he’s gone?”

Elijah nodded solemnly.

“You’re sure?”

Elijah nodded again.

“He won’t come back for you?”

Elijah shook his head.

“Because you refused to go with him.”

Elijah nodded, again.

“Okay. Let’s go home.”

She drove slowly up their long tree-lined driveway. She hadn’t seen a battered Jeep anywhere along their route. She was reluctant to call for a unit to watch her house, but when she pulled up to her house, a deputy was already parked in front. As she pulled up to her garage door, Randy and Larry got out of their SUV and came over to her window.

“Good morning, Sheriff. We’re still looking for the suspect. Hal sent us over to keep an eye on things so you could get some rest.”

“When was the last time you and Larry got some rest, Randy?”

“Oh, we both got a few hours of sleep last night after we finished with the last crime scene. We’re fine.”

“Okay, Randy.”

She started to pull forward but stopped.

“Randy?”

“Yes, Sheriff.”

“Call me Madison.”

He looked a little confused, but nodded. She pulled her SUV into the garage and shut the door. After securing her vehicle, she and Elijah went into the empty house.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 24

Madison raced towards Elijah’s scream. She couldn’t believe that he could scream that loud. She prayed that she would be in time. She didn’t know what that man might do to Elijah. It didn’t matter that he was his father. From the state of Elijah’s hands, he had hurt Elijah before. Ducking branches and jumping over fallen logs, Madison had to stop from time to time to orient herself to Elijah’s screams. She finally called to him. “I’m coming, Elijah! I’m coming!”

Up above her, she heard a car door slam and an engine start. She hoped that the suspect had taken off. She could still hear Elijah screaming up ahead.At last, Elijah’s screams seemed to come from straight ahead, and she could tell she was going in the right direction. She pushed her aching legs and continued to run towards the screams. She burst out of the trees and found Elijah standing on the slope. He was alone. As soon as Elijah saw her, he quit screaming and rushed toward her. Grabbing her hand, he began to pull her back down the slope. Above them, Madison heard someone else scrambling through the trees. She heard Hal shout, “Stop, Sheriff’s Department.” And then a shot rang out.

Ignoring the shot, Elijah continued to pull her back down the slope toward the clearing. When they reached the edge of the trees, Elijah pulled away from her and streaked across the clearing to where Drake was laying in the beams of the headlights. A few moments later, she caught up to Elijah, and they both knelt by Drake. He was still alive, but he looked bad. Blood was seeping around the edges of her jacket that she had pressed against Drake’s wound.

“Elijah, help Drake hold that jacket down.”

Elijah nodded and pressed both his fists against the wound. Drake hissed in pain as Elijah put pressure on his wound, but that did not deter Elijah. Madison pulled Drake’s head onto her lap as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. Luckily, it still had a charge. She dialed 911 and relayed the coordinates to the dispatcher. She hoped they would come on time.

A shadow loomed up behind her and she turned instinctively to protect Drake and Elijah. Hal stood behind her. Carrying his rifle over his shoulder, he was breathing heavily. Cuts and scrapes covered his face. She probably looked the same after running through the dark trees.

“I’m sorry, Madison.” Hal said. “He got away. He had a Jeep sitting on top of the slope. There’s an old access road up there. I couldn’t get to him in time.”

“That’s all right, Hal. Just keep a look out in case he decides to come back.”

Hal nodded and brought his rifle down from his shoulder. Elijah continued to press on Drake’s wound while Madison held onto his head.

“Madison,” Drake whispered. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

“Don’t talk, Drake. You need to save your strength. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

Smoothing his hair from his forehead, she stared down into his blue eyes. His eyes were dark with fear and anxiety.

“No, you and Hal need to hear…”

A siren and flashing red and blue lights cut him off. Madison swore. She had cut off the only way into the clearing.

“Elijah, I need the keys.”

Elijah removed one hand from Drake’s makeshift dressing and dug the keys out of his pocket. He tossed the keys to Madison as she took off running towards her SUV. An EMT was getting out of the ambulance. She yelled at him and jumped into the SUV. Quickly, she pulled her SUV out of the way so the ambulance could pull nearer to Drake.

She met the EMT’s as they rushed to Drake’s side.

“He has a knife wound on his side. He may have a head injury.”

The EMT’s nodded and set their gear down by Drake. Elijah was reluctant to leave Drake, but Madison grabbed his wrist.

“C’mon, Elijah. You’ve done a good job. The EMT’s are going to take over.”

The EMT next to Elijah gave him a smile.

“Your dad is going to be okay, but let us take care of him now, okay?”

Elijah nodded and let Madison lead him to stand by Hal. She didn’t correct the EMT. She thought that Drake was probably more of a father to Elijah than his own father had been. She heard more sirens as several more SUV’s from her department pulled into the clearing.

“I’m going to go give them the description of the Jeep,” Hal said as he headed to the deputies. She watched him give the deputies directions. He was calm and exuded confidence. With a flash, she realized that he was more suited to be the Sheriff than she was. He handled everyone with a quiet respect and he earned respect in return. In a few minutes, two of the SUV’s raced away.

The EMT’s had stabilized Drake and were loading him into the ambulance when Hal came back to her side.

“I’m going to head out. I want to help catch the motherfucker.”

Before she could thank him or even offer him a ride to his vehicle, he melted into the trees. His dark clothes made the perfect camouflage, so she couldn’t even tell in which direction he had gone.

“We’re taking him to Colorado Canyon. Did you want to say anything to him?”

Before she could say anything, Elijah scrambled into the back of the ambulance with Drake. Drake smiled at him.

“I’m okay, Elijah.” Elijah clasped one of Drake’s hands between his two fists.

Madison looked at Drake.

“I’ll be right behind you. I guess Elijah is going to ride with you. Is that all right?” she asked the EMT’s.

“Well, normally we wouldn’t let a minor ride back here, but I don’t think we can get that little guy out of there without a fight. He’ll be fine.”

Madison followed the ambulance to the main road. With sirens and lights blazing, she tailed the ambulance to the hospital. Her deputies followed closely behind her. Pulling her SUV into the space allotted for the Sheriff’s department, she rushed through the doors of the Emergency Room. Elijah was waiting for her.

Grabbing his hand, she asked, “Where is he?”

Elijah pointed toward two double doors. Flashing her badge, she entered the double doors leading to the examination room. Nurses and doctors were swarming around Drake as they hooked him up to IV’s and checked the wound in his side.

“Sheriff Rhodes,” a doctor looked up at her. “We’ll be with you in a moment. She continued to hold Elijah’s fist in her hand. He didn’t seem to mind as he pushed closer to her side. The doctor finished examining Drake and came to speak to her.

“He’s going to need stitches, but it’s only a flesh wound. He has a head injury. We are going to do some X-rays. I think we should keep him overnight for observation. We’ll come get you when we’ve got him in his room.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

“We’ll come get him in a few minutes.”

The doctor and nurses left. Madison and Elijah went to stand by Drake. His eyes opened when he heard them. She wanted to cry and throw herself on him, but she knew she had to stay strong. Drake was obviously traumatized. Stroking his forehead, she bent over and gave him a soft kiss on his cheek.

“They’re going to put some stitches in and give you an X-ray.”

Drake nodded.

“Madison, I need to tell you something.”

“Rest, Drake. Whatever it is you can tell me in the morning.”

“No, I need to tell you…”

The doctor came in with a kit.

“We’re going to put those stitches in, and then we’ll take him to X-ray.”

Madison took Drake’s hand while they cleaned his wound and began to numb it. The doctor worked quickly and efficiently. Then an X-ray technician came to take Drake to X-ray.

“I’ll have the nurse show you to Drake’s room. You can wait in there until he’s finished.”

A nurse led Madison and Elijah to the second floor. Once she was in the room, she called the deputies who had followed her to the hospital. She wanted Drake’s room watched until they caught that madman. With her deputies stationed outside the door, she finally dropped into one of the chairs in Drake’s room. Elijah was slumped in the other chair. A nurse noticed him and brought him and Madison each blankets. Cuddled in the warm blanket, Elijah drifted off to sleep. Madison was too keyed up to sleep. Drake had kept trying to tell her something. She thought he wanted to tell her about the last couple they had found, but he didn’t need to do that. They had collected the evidence and secured the scene. They could wait for his account until tomorrow. He needed to rest.

After an eternity, Drake was finally wheeled into the room. The orderly helped him get into bed. Drake was sleepy from the pain killer they had given him. Carefully, she climbed into bed beside him. He laid his head against her chest, and she wrapped her arms around him until he finally fell asleep.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 23

Elijah clung to his father as he ran through the trees. He wondered if Drake were okay. He couldn’t believe his father had done that. Madison had brought Elijah just as his father had wanted. Why did he have to kill him? He began to struggle. He didn’t want to go with this man any longer. He thought his father had a sense of honor. He didn’t steal unless he could help it, and he always kept his word. He could feel his father’s muscle strain as he tried to keep a hold of Elijah’s squirming body. Finally, he stopped.

“What’s the matter with you, boy? We have to keep moving.”

“No.” The word came out in a harsh whisper.

His father knelt down. Expecting a slap to the side of his head, Elijah flinched a little, but his father just grabbed him by the arms.

“She didn’t come alone, boy. There’s someone else here. Can you hear?”

Elijah cocked his head. He could hear someone running through the trees to the side of them. Elijah tried to step away from his father, but his father’s hands tightened around his arms.

“What are you doing, boy?”

“I’m not going with you.” The sound of the person in the forest was moving away from them. The person was going to miss them in the dark. Elijah realized that he could scream and whoever that was would be back on track, but Elijah wouldn’t betray his father.

“You have to, boy. I’m the only one who can take care of you.”

“No.” Elijah looked back at the clearing. He could see a faint light through the trees, but he couldn’t see Madison or Drake any more.

“You mean him. That pansy? He’s not strong enough, boy. You know what we are. He won’t know how to handle you when you get older. I can keep you safe. I can keep you from becoming what I am.”

“I’m not like you. I’ll never be like you.”

They could hear someone crashing through the woods. They were circling back around. They would be here in a few minutes.

“You need to go. Now.” Elijah raised his voice a little. He pulled back with all his strength and his father finally let him go. Flailing his arms, Elijah sat down hard in the damp pine needles.

“Go, Father. Go now!” Elijah stood and pointed into the trees. The crashing through the brush grew louder, and Elijah knew his father would never let himself be taken alive. He’d rather die than live in a cage. His father ran toward him. Elijah’s heart sank as he realized his father wasn’t going to give him up, but his father didn’t stop to grab him. He kept running past Elijah and up the heavily forested slope. He was quiet. A lot quiet than whoever was scrambling around in the trees below him. When he heard a door slam and an engine start, he knew his father had gotten away. And, then, he screamed.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 22

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?”

Drake nodded.

“Don’t worry about me. Just take care of Elijah.”

Madison nodded and ran towards the dark trees.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 21

“I don’t see any way around it, Madison,” Hal said, “We’re going to have to bring Elijah into this.”

Hal mulled over the notes Madison had relayed to him when she spoke with the suspect. The instructions were clear. Madison was to bring Elijah to this clearing outside of Fruita. She was to walk with Elijah into the middle of the clearing and wait for the suspect. Hal had looked at the clearing in the map. It was up in the foothills. There were no houses or cabins in for several miles. Madison wondered if they could get Hal up onto the high ground. He was former military. He never talked about what he had done in the military, but she knew he was an expert marksman. He might have even been a sniper. “What if we can get you up onto the high ground above the clearing.”

“No, Hal. I don’t want him involved. There has to be away that we can take this guy out and save Drake.”

Hal nodded. “I was thinking the same thing. I could head up to the site, before the time and get into position before you get there. That will give me time to scout the area and find the best vantage point.”

“What if he’s watching and sees you coming?”

“I don’t think that will be likely. He’s cunning, but I don’t think he has a lot of surveillance equipment. He’s making things up as he goes along. He has a burner phone, but he’s been stealing cars from his victims. We have a helluva lot more resources that he does.”

“We have to take him alive, Hal.”

“We’ll try. If I can get a clear shot, I’ll wound him rather than kill him, but I can’t promise anything. Our priority is keeping you and Elijah safe and getting Drake back. If we’re going to do this, though, I need time to pack what I need and get into position. We’re running out of time.”

Madison knew she needed to make a decision. This wasn’t Hal’s call; it was hers alone. If things went wrong, she would be the one suffering the consequences. If things went the way they wanted them, there would still be consequences. She was acting outside her purview as Sheriff, and she knew it. She couldn’t pretend that she was acting as a responsible Sheriff. She should be on the phone with the State Patrol right now as well as CBI. She should be treating Drake’s kidnapping case like she would any other citizen’s. Law enforcement might negotiate with a hostage-taker, but they certainly wouldn’t exchange people to get their own back. That was what she was contemplating. She didn’t have any intention of actually giving Elijah back to that monster, but she was going to have to pretend that she would, and that meant that she was going to have to take Elijah with her. She was going to have to risk his safety, just as that man had.

The first thing she needed to do was talk to Elijah.

“Let’s do it, Hal. I need to talk to Elijah, though.”

“What if he doesn’t want to help with our plan?”

“Then we’ll have to come up with something else. Go get ready and I’ll see you up at the site.”

“You won’t see me, but trust that I’m there.”

Madison nodded as Hal left to get prepared. She decided that she would send Rosie home. She couldn’t risk any of her deputies being involved in this. If she could, she would do it without Hal, but she didn’t see any way around involving him. When they were finished, she would take responsibility for everything, and resign her position. She would suggest that Hal become the interim Sheriff. It would all work out for the best. She had to believe that.

When she stepped into her office, Rosie was reading a magazine, but Elijah was just sitting on the couch staring at his shoes.

“Hey, Rosie. It’s been a long day. I think you should go home. I’m going to call it a day as well.”

“Are you and Elijah going home? I don’t think that’s wise…given the situation.” Rosie glanced at Elijah. Madison could tell that she didn’t want to talk about the case or Drake’s disappearance around Elijah.

“No. I think Elijah and I will go to the LaQuinta. No one will no we are there.”

“All right, then. I’ll see you in the morning. I’m on duty at 7:00.”

“Okay, Rosie. Thanks for coming in on your day off.”

“No problem. See you later, Elijah.”

Elijah looked up at Rosie and nodded solemnly. After Rosie left, Madison shut the door to her office. She didn’t want anyone overhearing their conversation. Elijah sat up a little straighter as if he knew they were about to have a serious chat. She sat down on the chair across from Elijah, so she could see his face.

“We have to talk, Elijah.”

Elijah nodded, his eyes serious.

“You know that that man has Drake.”

Elijah nodded.

“I think I have a way to get Drake back, but I need your help”

Elijah nodded more vigorously this time.

“That man called me. He wants me to trade you for Drake. If he gets you back, he’ll let Drake go.”

Elijah’s face was grim as if he knew what Madison was going to say. He seemed much older than 12 or 13 years old. Madison wondered how much horror the boy had seen. She knew he was going to see more tonight, but she hoped he could stand it long enough for them to get Drake back. When this was all over, she would make sure that Elijah got the help he needed.

“I’m not going to trade you, Elijah. It wouldn’t be right.”

Elijah looked startled, and then began nodding again. He pointed at the door as if to say he was ready to go.

“Hold on, Elijah. You need to hear me out. If you don’t want to help me, you don’t have to. That man wants to meet us outside of town at midnight. You and I will go to meet him, but Deputy Steward will be there first. He’s going to hide outside the clearing. When the man brings Drake out, he’s going to try and wing him, so we can get Drake back and keep you safe. We’ll arrest the man and you and Drake will both be safe.”

Elijah shook his head. “You don’t want to help?”

Elijah shook his head again. “What, you do want to help?”

Elijah nodded.

“So you’ll help. I promise, Elijah. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Elijah shook his head again.

“Look, Elijah, I know that you’re scared, but…”

Elijah shook his head again. His face was turning red. He looked frustrated. He began to breathe heavily. Madison couldn’t tell if he were having a panic attack or something, but she realized that she couldn’t possibly have Elijah be a part of this plan. He’d already been through hell. She was no better than that monster. She was going to put Elijah through more trauma. She couldn’t do it. She’d have to go up there without Elijah, and figure out a way to get Drake away from that monster without staging an exchange. She’d just have to negotiate.

“Won’t work.”

She looked at Elijah. He was trying to talk. His voice came out as a harsh whisper as if he didn’t use it very much.

“What did you say?”

“Won’t work. He won’t go for it. Too smart.”

She could tell that it cost him a great effort to speak. She hadn’t had time to get him to that child psychiatrist. Drake had been taken, and that was all she could focus on.

“He might be, but this is the only plan we have.”

Elijah nodded.

“All right, Elijah. Let’s go.”

They had a little over an hour to get to the site. According to Hal, it was a little over 45 minutes outside of Fruita. She wanted to leave early to give her time to get to the site. She didn’t want to risk being late. Elijah followed her out to her SUV. The back halls were empty this time of night.

As Elijah buckled his seat belt, she entered the coordinates for the site into the GPS. She also had the directions Hal had written for a back-up. Before pulling out, she scanned them one more time to make sure she had them fixed in her mind. Slowly, she pulled out of the alley. As she turned onto the street in front of the Sheriff’s office, she noticed that the media vans were gone. The reporters had probably left for the night to regroup in the morning. Following the directions of the GPS, she headed into the back country around Fruita. The GPS took her east into the foothills surrounding Fruita. When she reached the road that led to the clearing, they still had twenty minutes left. She pulled over for a moment before turning onto the road.

“Elijah, I want you to stay right next to me. No matter what happens you don’t leave my side. If I tell you to get down, you get down. If I tell you to run back to the SUV, you run. You hear?”

She couldn’t see his face clearly in the dark, but she saw him nod. He’d gone silent again. Madison hoped that she wouldn’t traumatize him further. Before leaving the vehicle, she removed her gun from the shoulder holster and locked it in the glove compartment. That part had been clear. No weapons. She hoped that the killer didn’t have a weapon either, but she couldn’t count on that. Drake was a tall, strong man. The killer had to use something to keep him under control.

Slowly, she made her way down the rutted track that led to the clearing. She kept her headlights on as the man had instructed. She was glad she wasn’t trying to sneak in. The pine trees closed in so on either side of the track, and their branches sometimes scraped the side of the SUV. When she reached the clearing, the headlights swept across the land. The clearing was dotted with small trees among the long grass that covered it. She didn’t want to walk exposed in the beams of her headlights. She and Elijah would be at the man’s mercy. He would see them coming, but, then again, so would Hal. She knew that Hal was up in the trees surrounding the clearing somewhere. He had gone silent as soon as he left the station, but she trusted him. If he hadn’t been able to get into position, she would have heard from him. She decided to leave the headlights on. There was nothing in the killer’s directions about headlights, so she decided she was safe. She and Elijah unbuckled their seat belts.

She looked at Elijah, “Are you ready?”

Elijah nodded. It was hard to see his face in the dark, but when she patted his shoulder, she could feel him trembling. She felt like she should reassure him, but she didn’t know what to say. She desperately wanted to make sure he was safe.

“Remember what I told you, okay? Stay close to me. If I tell you to get down, get down. If I tell you to get back to the truck, you get back here. Here take the keys. I don’t want you getting locked out.”

She handed him the keys. He took them and shoved them into the pocket of his jeans. Slowly, they made their way to the edge of the clearing. Elijah stayed by her side. They both paused at the edge of the trees. Madison scanned the clearing, but she couldn’t see anything in the darkness that surrounded the beams of light from the SUV. She nodded at Elijah, and they both stepped into the clearing together. She and Elijah walked in the center of the headlights. While she knew the killer could see her clearly, she hoped that staring into the headlights behind them would make it harder for him to see what was around them.

When they reached the center of the clearing they stopped, Madison forced her eyes to remain on the clearing rather than scanning the treeline for Hal. She didn’t want to give Hal away. Elijah was squinting into the darkness as if he were trying to see into the shadows to find the killer. Madison could hear a soft breeze blowing through the trees. Then, she heard the snap of a branch as something or someone began to make their way out of the trees on the other side of the clearing.

Sins of the Father Chapter 20

Elijah was coming back from the bathroom when he heard voices coming from the conference room. Deputy Rosie hadn’t let him look in the conference room earlier. He stopped just outside of the door. A tall man with graying hair was yelling at the Sheriff. The Sheriff looked really pissed. When the man stormed out of the conference room, Elijah scuttled back to the Sheriff’s office before the deputy noticed he was missing or the Sheriff saw him listening at the door. 

Six murders? There had been five murders? He knew about the first lady at the flower shop. He’d had to sit by her body. He’d sat by her until he couldn’t stand to look at her anymore. Then he had drawn the tarp over her body. It had been hard. The tarp was thick and heavy and he’d had to grab it tightly between his thumbs and the sides of his fingers. He told himself that he was doing it for her, to give her peace from prying eyes, but the truth was he couldn’t stand to look at her, and face what he had done. What was his father doing? Why hadn’t he left town? He always left town after he gave into his impulses, but this time he had stayed in town and continued to kill. He never killed this often. It had only been a few days. Had he killed a person a day? He should have known that his father would never let him go. Now, Elijah was responsible for those people his father had killed. He was always responsible. Even though his father did the actual act, Elijah didn’t do anything to stop him. Now, Drake was missing as well. He was probably dead, too. His father never kept anyone alive. He’d kidnapped Drake to punish Elijah. Elijah would have to live with the knowledge that he had gotten Drake killed. If he had done as his father told him in the beginning, those other people would be alive. He wouldn’t be sitting here playing a stupid video game. He wanted to throw the video game at the wall, but he didn’t want the deputy to know how he was feeling.

He pushed his fists into the pockets of the brand new hoodie Drake had picked out for him. He looked at his new shoes. They were expensive and they would last a long time. He had two other pairs back at the Sheriff’s house. He’d never owned more than one pair of shoes at a time in his life. He’d never needed more than he could wear or carry. If his father had extra money, they spent it on food or a place to stay. The first thing Drake did was buy stuff for Elijah to make him happy. He didn’t need three pairs of shoes or more than one hoodie, but Drake wanted to make sure he had everything he needed. He didn’t need the video game, but Drake thought having one would make him happy. No one had ever cared if he were happy, or not. Maybe, his mother had, but his memories of her were fuzzy. He remembered that she had died, but how she died was a mystery to him. When he tried to remember that part of his life, his brain seemed to shut down. He began to sweat and tremble, and he found himself shying away from really remembering her. His father always kept him safe, but he never cared if he were happy or not. Drake was the first person to care about how Elijah felt about things. He had to help him.

There had to be something he could do. Rosie was sitting in a chair near the Sheriff’s desk. She was reading a magazine, and wasn’t paying much attention to him. Maybe, he could slip out. He could figure out a way to get to his father. He could convince him to leave. If Drake were alive, he would convince him to let Drake go. Then, they would leave town together, and continue traveling like they always had. As he prepared himself to sneak out of the office, he realized that he had no idea where his father was. It wasn’t like he could call him. What could he do? Wander around town until his father happened to come by? Someone would see him and probably report him to the Sheriff long before that. He realized there was absolutely nothing he could do.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 19

It was late afternoon. Surely, the police had found his latest scene by now. He’d done everything but call in the directions to the place. Powering on the burner phone he had purchased on his last visit to Grand Junction, he dialed the Sheriff’s cell number. He wanted to make sure he dealt with her directly, and that she understood what was at stake. She had to know that he wouldn’t stop until he had his boy back. She picked up the call after the first ring. She was anxious and waiting right by her phone. He smiled. That was good. She was getting to ready to bargain with him.

“Sheriff Rhodes.”

“Hello, Sheriff. Did you get my message?”

He could hear her take a deep breath on the other end of the line. Her breath shook a little as if she were trying to calm herself. That was good. She was close to losing it.

“I’ve still got your man, Sheriff, and he’s not looking too good.”

Drake, in fact, was asleep on the couch. He was pale and bruised, but he was holding up. He was a pussy, but his will to survive was strong.

“If you hurt him, I swear I’ll…”

“We both know you won’t do shit. You do what I say and you’ll have your man back safe.”

He could have said “safe and sound” but he was pretty sure that Drake was no longer sound. He was having a hard time dealing with what he had done. The man supposed he was having a hard time with his conscience. While Drake had killed that couple, he was weak inside. He didn’t have the strength of character to deal with his choices. He didn’t think that Drake would ever be the same person again. He’d wanted the Sheriff to pay for taking his boy, and now she’d pay every day of her life—when she looked at her man and saw what he was truly capable of.

“I’m going to give you some directions. You’re going to meet me at midnight. You’re going to bring my boy with you but no one else. If I think that you have anyone else with you, I’ll kill your man and come take my boy anyway. This way, we both get what we want.”

He proceeded to give the Sheriff the directions. She was repeating them, so he knew she was relaying them to someone else. That was fine as long as she was alone when the time came. If she wasn’t, he’d break Drake’s neck and go after his boy himself. He’d kill everyone in the town until he had him back. And he’d start with the Sheriff.

When he hung up, Drake was awake and staring at him.

“Why are you doing this?” Drake asked.

“She took my boy. I want him back.”

“Why?”

“Why? Are you stupid or something? He’s mine. I’m not leaving him in this hellhole. He stays with me.”

“So you can turn him into a killer, like you did me?”

Anger lanced through him. He slammed his fist onto the table. Drake jumped at the sudden crack. He charged Drake and hauled him off the couch. Drake flinched away from his raised fist.

“Listen to me, asshole. My boy ain’t a killer. He never will be. I keep him out of my business, and I made sure he’d never do what I do.”

He wanted to kill Drake so badly, his fist began to tremble. He stared into Drake’s pretty-boy blue eyes. He didn’t really need Drake. He could kill him now and leave. He could meet the Sheriff alone and take his boy back. No exchange. He’d kill the Sheriff and save his boy. Drake had begun to tear up. Fuckin’ pussy.

He shoved Drake back onto the couch, but the prick wouldn’t shut up.

“How did you make sure?”

He drew ragged breaths in to calm himself. He couldn’t afford to lose control now. He’d made a deal and he was going to stand by his word. Wiping the sweat off his head, he turned to Drake.

“What?”

“How did you make sure that Elijah wouldn’t….do what you do.”

He bristled at Drake using his boy’s name.

“I made sure he couldn’t use his hands.”

Drake began to look a little ill. “His hands?”

The man sat down. They had a couple hours until it was time to go. If Drake wanted a chat, they’d have a little chat. Maybe, it would keep him from killing him.

“The men in my family have a sickness. My father had it. I have it. For all I know, my granddad had it, too, but I never met him. I know that Elijah probably has it. My dad started taking me on what he called his trips when I was about Elijah’s age. My dad worked a lot, so I didn’t see him very often. I looked forward to those trips. Just him and me. No women around to interfere. We’d go into the city, and find a whore. Dad would take us to a cheap motel room, the kind that didn’t ask too many questions and rented their rooms by the hour. He’d get the whore nice and relaxed and then he’d finally relax himself. He’d give in and put the woman out of her misery. That’s what he used to say. That he was putting her out of her misery. She wouldn’t have to fuck strange men for money, or worry about where her next fix came from.”

“So he was an altruist?”

The man snorted. “Fuck no, he wasn’t no altruist. He was a black-hearted killer. He couldn’t look what he was in the face, so he had to make up a reason to kill that would help him live with himself.”

Drake looked surprised.

“What? You think just because I kill, I don’t know fancy words, like altruist? When my dad was working, I had a lot of time to myself. I liked to read. I would steal books from the library, and take them home with me. I’ve probably read more than you. Ever read The Gift of Fear? That book taught me how to get people to trust me, and how to alleviate their natural-born fears. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Stephen King. Thomas Harris. I learned a lot from reading.

“Killing isn’t about helping people. It’s about control—absolute control. When I walk down the street, I choose who will survive and who won’t. Didn’t you feel it? Back at that cabin. I gave you the power and you took it. You held that couple’s lives in your hands. You held my life in your hands. You held your life in your hands. Do you remember what that felt like?”

Drake shook his head, clasping his hands between his knees. He began to rock like that.

“It didn’t feel like that at the time. I didn’t feel like I had any choice.”

“We always have a choice. Your mind just tricked you. Our will to survive is so strong our minds will make us think we don’t have a choice, when we actually do. You could have turned the knife on me. You could have turned it on yourself. You made a choice”

He could see Drake begin to tremble. That was what was wrong with society. People couldn’t live with their choices. For a moment, he had admired Drake. He had acted out of self-preservation. He had done what he needed to do to survive. What made him a pussy was his fuckin’ conscience. Drake had to believe he was a good person, but sometimes to survive you needed to be bad.

Drake cleared his throat.

“What does that have to do with Elijah?”

There was that name again. If Drake knew the boy’s name, it meant that he had trusted him enough to talk. When he got him back, he’d have to remind him of the value of silence.

“My boy is just like me, and my father before me.”

Drake was shaking his head.

“He is, but I decided when he was born, that I’d never let that side of him come out. I kept him away from the family business, as you might call it. He never goes with me on a kill, and when he was old enough to realize what I was doing, I made sure he could never kill.”

“How did you do that?”

“I broke his hands.”

Drake looked at him, stunned.

“You probably think I’m a monster, but I’m like any other man who is trying to protect his boy. I did it for his own good. He’ll never be able to wrap his hands around another person’s throat. He’ll never be able to hold a knife or a gun. I read a book once about a little girl in China. She had a feet bound to make her more attractive to a Chinese husband. For some reason, that idea stayed with me. I realized I could do the same sort of thing to my son, but with his hands. He’ll never use those hands to kill.”

“He’ll never use them for anything.”

“That’s the price he has to pay.”

They sat in silence for a while. He was feeling better, calmer. He didn’t have the urge to twist Drake’s head off his neck anymore. He wondered where his boywas now. Probably, with the Sheriff. Was she getting him ready? He hoped the boy didn’t get used to the comforts of having a home. That was not the life that was meant for him. The boy was tough like he was. He knew how to survive. If he had to talk to get by with the Sheriff and her fancy man, then that was what he had to do.

“C’mon. We have to get ready.”

He gestured to the kitchen. Drake got off the couch and went into the kitchen ahead of him. Drake might be broken, but the man knew he couldn’t trust him. He had Drake pack up what food there was in the house into his pack. There were quite a few canned goods. He had Drake put the cans into his pack. He added some spoons and a can opener to the cans, and zipped up the pack. It was heavy, but he was used to carrying a heavy load.

“You got any cash on you?”

Drake looked surprised and slapped his back pocket. The man smirked. He hadn’t bothered with Drake’s wallet. He wasn’t a thief, except when he had to be, but his cash was gone, even what he took from the lady at the flower shop. Drake pulled out a couple of hundreds and some twenties, and handed them over.

“Thanks. I’ll consider this a gift.”

Drake nodded.

“Let’s get moving. You don’t want to keep your lady waiting.”

They left the cabin and headed out to the battered Jeep. He was going to park it in the woods, and hope he and the boy could to it in time. He knew that the Sheriff wasn’t going to come alone, but he was prepared for that. The place he’d found for the exchange was dark. Anyone she brought with her would need flashlights to get to the spot. He’d be able to see the headlights of the cars coming down the track leading to the small clearing he had chosen. It wasn’t perfect. There was high ground around the clearing, but he hoped that the dark would obscure him. He’d keep Drake close until the last minute. As soon as he had the boy, he’d take off running to the Jeep and get as far as he could, before they had to abandon it.

He opened the passenger side for Drake.

“You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?” he asked Drake as he climbed into the Jeep. Drake shook his head.

“Good. We’re almost done. Don’t try to play the hero now. You don’t have it in you.”

He slammed the door, and headed around to the driver’s side. Looking at Drake’s miserable face, he said, “Cheer up. You’re going to be back with your lady before you know it.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 18

When ATT called with the location of Drake’s phone, she and Hal were ready to go. She had called the School Resource Officer, Rosie, to sit with Elijah. Rosie had the most experience and training working with children, and she hadn’t been on duty the night Andie was killed. She hoped she could watch Elijah without intimidating him like some of the other deputies might. She knew that she had made the right decision when Rosie showed up with dinner for Elijah.

“Thanks, Rosie. All he’s had since lunch are snack foods.”

“That’s okay, Sheriff. I thought he might be hungry, and you’ve got a lot to handle right now.”

Madison nodded and turned away. Her eyes threatened to fill up with tears, but she had to stay strong, for Drake and Elijah. Hal appeared from the weapons room with two high-powered rifles.

“Are you ready to go?” Madison nodded. She stepped into the office to say good-bye to Elijah and then she and Hal headed to her SUV. Ross and James, the other two deputies she had called in to duty were already waiting in Hal’s SUV. Hal held out his hands for the keys to her SUV. Normally, she would have balked. She could drive as well as any of the deputies, but Hal knew the area better than she did. He probably knew right where they were going. She didn’t want to lose time by having to follow directions. Hal pulled out of her parking space and sped out of town. The other deputies were behind them. Hal turned on his lights and headed down K Road. As they passed a driveway, Hal pointed it out to Madison.

“That’s the other murder scene. Kurt just called me before we left. They’re wrapping up the scene, they’ll be with us as soon as the coroner loads the body.”

“What about the other scene?” 

“Harold is still there with two other deputies. He’s waiting on the coroner. Mesa County had to send someone else for that body.”

In a few minutes, they pulled up to the road that led to the cabin where they had located Drake’s phone. Hal killed the lights as did the deputies behind them. He drove slowly on the rutted gravel road. Scrub brush and wild grass surrounded the road.

“There’s no cover. If they’re in there, they’re going to see us coming.”

“I know Hal. We’ll just have to take our chances.”

The cabin stood in a clearing at the end of the road. The cabin was surrounded by several large trees. Drake’s Pacifica stood in front of the cabin. The Sheriff Department SUV’s pulled up side by side, but no one got out of the cars. Hal used the speaker on Madison’s SUV to call out to the cabin.

“This is the Fruita Sheriff’s Department. Any one in the cabin come out now.”

They waited a few minutes and then Hal made the announcement again. Madison couldn’t stand it any more.

“I’m going in, Hal.”

Hal nodded. As he turned off the ignition and slid the keys into his pocket, Madison pulled her gun out and clicked the safety off. She made sure that she had a round already in the chamber. Hal did the same. Using Drake’s SUV as cover, Madison and Hal slowly approached the cabin. The other two deputies were armed with high-powered rifles and came in behind them. They weren’t SWAT trained, but they were both good, steady men. They covered Hal and Madison as they approached the cabin. Nothing moved at the front window. When Madison approached the door, she could see through the peeling wooden screen that the front door was open. Slowly, she opened the screen door and held it with her foot while she pointed her weapon through the doorway. Stepping into the cabin, she stopped, stunned by what she saw. Dropping her arms but still holding her weapon, she called to Hal. The living room is clear. Hal came in behind her. He only paused a moment before the grisly scene in the living room and proceeded to clear the kitchen and the other rooms down the hallway leading form the living room. When he finished clearing the rest of the cabin, he returned to the living room.

Madison stood in the middle of the room. Another message was scrawled on the wall in blood: You’re wasting your time.

Hal was already on the phone calling for the coroner. The other deputies brought in their forensics kit and began processing the scene. Madison knew she should help, but she stood frozen to the spot. She had no way of contacting the suspect, and no idea where he and Drake were. She hoped that Drake were alive, but if the suspect had realized that she wasn’t going to bargain with him, he may have already killed Drake. Finally, she tore her eyes away from the bloody message, and stepped out of the cabin. She needed to follow protocol like anyone else. She went to her SUV and pulled booties and gloves out of her Forensics kit. The deputies already had a kit in the cabin, so she left hers where it was. At the door of the cabin, she covered her boots with the booties and slid the gloves onto her hands.

When she stepped into the crime scene, Hal was on the phone ordering another coroner. How many coroners did they have working on this case now? Three? It was getting out of hand. She knew that the town wouldn’t stay quiet much longer about the continuing murders, and she was powerless to stop it. They didn’t have a clear description of the suspect, nor did they know what car he and Drake were now using to travel. They could be anywhere. The one thing she knew for sure, however, was that they were still in the area. She now knew that the killer wouldn’t leave until he got what he wanted—Elijah. And there was no way she was going to let him near the boy. She hoped Drake would forgive her for not putting him first, as usual. His last words drifted into her mind: Don’t worry about me, just take care of… She assumed he meant that she should take care of Elijah, and that’s what she intended to do.

She stepped closer to the bodies. They were an older couple, maybe in their early seventies. They were tied to chairs. She wondered why the suspect had suddenly changed his MO. He had strangled both Andie and Mandy, now he was using a knife to stab people. There were two clean slices across both their throats. Their faces were contorted. He didn’t know who he had killed first, but it was obvious he had made the other one watch the murder. She didn’t understand what type of person could do this. How could someone be so evil that they would make people suffer so?

It took several hours to process the crime scene, because of all the blood evidence. After the coroner came and took the body, Madison and her deputies secured the crime scene. As the other deputies left the scene to file their reports and return to patrolling the area, Hal and she sat in silence.

“What do you want to do now?” he asked softly.

Madison didn’t know what to do. Until the suspect called them, there was nothing for them to do. She had to laugh at herself. She thought she was going to get the upper hand over him and gain control of the situation, but she was beginning to realize that she had never had control. The killer had been making the rules of his little game from the start. All she could do was try to figure out his next move.

When they returned to the Sheriff’s department, several news vans were in front of the Sheriff’s department. She was surprised that it had taken them this long to get a whiff of the story. She noticed a couple of vans from stations in Denver. Now, that there had been multiple murders, the rest of Colorado was starting to take an interest in their sleepy little town. She couldn’t give an impromptu press conference. She had to prepare a statement. When Hal saw the vans, he turned down the alley and parked at the back of the station. She and Hal rushed into the station before the reporters could realize where they had gone.

Rita met her at the back door.

“The mayor is waiting for you in the conference room.”

“What?”

“He’s been here for a while. I think he’s getting impatient.”

That was all they needed. She hurried to the conference room to find the mayor examining the information written on the whiteboard. Mayor Rodriguez was a tall man with salt and pepper hair and piercing brown eyes. He turned and pinned her with an angry glare.

“We have a serial killer roaming our town, and I had to hear it from the news.”

“It’s not department protocol to alert you when we have a crime. My deputies and I are working the case.”

“Wouldn’t that be cases, plural, Sheriff? How many murders have there been?”

“Six, but we believe they’ve all been commited by the same perpetrator.”

The mayor paled. “Six? There have been six murders? Have you called in State Patrol to help you with the case?”

“No. The State Patrol doesn’t have jurisdiction over these cases. We’re handling it. My men have been trained in evidence collection and scene preservation. We’re more than capable of solving this case.”

“I disagree with you, Sheriff. You have a total of fifteen deputies and six cases to work. You don’t have the manpower. I want you to contact the State Patrol and get some additional men here now.”

“If I feel the additional men are needed, I will..”

The mayor cut her off. “I wasn’t making a suggestion. I appointed you as Sheriff and you’re damn well going to do what I say. Call the State Patrol in now or I’ll do it for you.”

The mayor stomped out of the office. When he stepped outside, he was besieged by reporters. Madison sent Hal out to run interference for him. When Hal returned after fending off the mob of reporters himself, he headed back to the conference room.

“Madison, I think he’s right.”

“Not you, too, Hal.”

“Look, I’m not questioning your ability as Sheriff, but on top of the murders, we have a kidnapping case, and the victim is your husband. You’re too close to the case. It’s going to compromise your ability to lead the investigation.”

She turned on Hal and snapped, “How am I compromised? Have I deviated from procedure in any way? Have I bargained with the suspect? I’ve followed procedure from the start. I tried to recuse myself from the case, but it’s gotten too big. We need every man available to handle this.”

“That’s what I’m saying. We don’t have enough people to investigate the cases and keep the town safe. We need help searching the back roads. We need help with Drake’s kidnapping. We need to call State Patrol and CBI. If you weren’t personally involved in these cases, I think you would have already called for back-up.”

Madison had to consider Hal’s words. Should she have called the State Patrol? Her men were pushed to the limit. They couldn’t work back-to-back shifts indefinitely. Also, CBI often handled kidnappings. They had the ability to issue statewide alerts. She knew, though, that once the CBI took over Drake’s case, she would have no control. The killer would realize that his game was over and kill Drake. She couldn’t let that happen. She needed to get Drake back and stop the killer before he did any more harm.

“Please, Hal, give me a little more time.”

Hal sighed.

“It’s not me you have to worry about, Madison. I think you’ve run out of time, but I’ll help you any way I can.”

Sins of the Father: Chapter 16

Madison sent Elijah to the living room to get his games, and, then, called Hal.

“Hal, we have a problem.”

“Did you get the picture?”

“Yeah, Hal. Listen. He’s got Drake.”

“Who’s got Drake?”

“The killer, Hal. He wants to trade Drake for Elijah.” “Shit, Madison. Stay put. I’m coming right over.”

“No, Hal. I’m taking Elijah to the station.”

“That’s fine, Madison. Get him ready, but I’m coming. I’ll escort you. Don’t leave until I get there.”

For once, Hal didn’t sign off. She just heard a click.

“Elijah, you need to pack up your games. We have to go into the Sheriff’s department.”

Elijah nodded at her, and began gathering his games. She handed him the GameStop bag and he put them in there. She and Drake hadn’t thought to get him a backpack or anything yet. At the thought of Drake, she felt her throat close up and, for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. If something happened to Drake, she would never forgive herself. How could she have been so careless? She knew that Elijah was travelling with that man and she hadn’t even warned Drake. She hadn’t even thought about it. Now, he had Drake, and there was nothing she could do about it.

“Make sure you put your heating pad in the bag, too. I’m going to change.”

She went into the bedroom and closed the door. The first thing she grabbed was her gun out of the gun safe in the closet. She slid the clip into the gun and made sure the safety was on. She then pulled on her usual black pants, button down shirt, shoulder holster, and blazer. After placing the gun into the holster, she grabbed her badge and her wallet and put them in the inside pocket of the blazer. After pulling on her boots, she left the bedroom and headed to the kitchen. She threw some snacks into a bag for Elijah and then paced around the living room waiting for Hal. Finally, Hal pulled up out front.

She and Elijah got into her SUV and she pulled out of the garage. Hal’s SUV trailed hers as they drove down the drive way and headed into town. At the station, Madison put Elijah on the couch in her office and headed to the conference room where Hal and a couple of deputies were waiting.

“Where was Drake this afternoon?” Hal asked as he began taking notes on the whiteboard.

“He had an appointment in Grand Junction at 2:00 this afternoon. He left at about 1:20.”

“Where was the appointment?”

“I don’t know, Hal.”

Hal stopped writing and looked at her. “You don’t know where he was?”

“No, when he left I realized that he hadn’t told me where he was going, but I thought I would find out about it when he got home.”

“He was driving his minivan right?”

Madison nodded.

“What is it again?”

“It’s a Chrysler Pacifica, 2017.”

“It’s blue, right?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s put out an APB on the Pacifica. I’ll call Grand Junction PD and the Mesa County Sheriff’s department as well as the State Patrol. We’ll find him Drake.”

Rita came into the conference room.

“Excuse me, Sheriff, Deputy. I have a call from Grand Junction PD.”

“Transfer it to the phone in here, please, Rita,” replied Madison.

As Madison answered the phone, she put it on speaker, so Hal could hear as well.

“Sheriff Rhodes, this is Officer Peterson from Grand Junction PD. We’re calling about a red truck we found in the parking lot of Omega Tech. It’s registered to a Fred Loyola. He lives in Fruita, Colorado.”

“What kind of company is Omega Tech, Officer?” Madison asked.

“Uhh, it’s some kind of computer company.”

Hal began taking notes on the whiteboard again.

“What about the truck, officer?”

“Well that’s the odd thing. It was left in the parking lot running with the door open. The keys were in the ignition. We’ve checked with Omega Tech, but Mr. Loyola is not in the building. We’re having the truck towed, but we wanted to check in with you guys to see if you could do a welfare check on Mr. Loyola.”

“Thanks for calling, officer. We will do that. We’re working on a missing person case here. The truck may be related.”

Madison gave the officers the information for Drake’s car and his description.

“We’ll call this in to dispatch and have them put out an APB. We’ll secure the truck as a crime scene. We’ll let you know when the truck has made it to the impound lot.”

“Thank you, Officer.”

After Madison hung up, Hal left the conference room to dispatch a deputy to Fred Loyola’s cabin. Madison called Omega Tech to see if Drake had checked in. They had no record of an appointment with Drake.

“So, the appointment at Omega Tech was fake,” Hal said.

“It looks that way,” Madison agreed.

Hal added more information to the whiteboard.

“So the guy lured Drake to Omega Tech to kidnap him and exchange him for Elijah. Did he really think that we would go for that?”

“I don’t know, Hal. Maybe, he’s seen too many cop shows.”

Of course, she couldn’t trade Elijah for Drake. It did happen on cop shows. The cops always showed up with the person they were trying to protect in order to trade for the person the bad guy had, and they managed to have some sort of crazy plan to catch the bad guy and save both the victims. But that was fiction, and this was life. Cops didn’t bargain for the lives of their people, even if it were someone they loved. She had to treat this like any other hostage situation. She had to establish negotiations with the suspect, and try to come to a peaceful resolution. Her heart began to pound, and she put her head on the table. This wasn’t just any hostage situation. The guy had Drake. She had failed him in so many ways throughout their relationship, always choosing the job over him, and she was about to do it again. There had to be a way out of this.

The first thing she needed to do was locate Drake’s phone. Grabbing her notebook, she began to make notes. She needed to call ATT and have them see what cell phone towers Drake’s cell phone was connected to. Next, she would call Drake’s phone and begin to negotiate with the suspect. She’d had training in hostage negotiation while she worked in Denver. She was going to have to use everything she remembered from that course.

Hal watched her while she wrote in her notebook.

“Do you have a plan?” Hal asked.

She outlined the steps they needed to take, starting with her call to ATT. While she was on the phone with ATT, Hal’s phone rang. He stepped out of the conference room to take it. When Madison hung up, Hal still hadn’t returned so she tried calling Drake’s number again. She wasn’t going to sit around and wait for the suspect to call her. She was going to take the upper hand. The fucker needed to know that he didn’t have the power in this situation. He might have Madison by the balls, but she wasn’t going to play his game. Her call went straight to voice mail. He’d turned the phone off, but that didn’t matter. ATT was going to turn it on remotely. He would have no idea that the phone was turned on and pinging to the nearest cell towers. As soon as ATT located the phone, they would be on the move.

Hal stepped back into the room.

“Harold is at Fred Loyola’s cabin. He said it seems secure. He’s checking inside right now and he’ll check in when he’s done clearing the cabin. What did ATT have to say?”

“They’re going to call back as soon as they have the location of the phone.”

Hal’s phone rang.

“Steward here.”

Madison followed the conversation from Hal’s side, but she could tell from the expression on his face that the news wasn’t good.

“Just secure the scene, Harold. We’ll call some people in off duty and send them out your way. Be careful.”

“Another one, Hal?”

“It looks that way. Harold found some tire tracks at the back of the cabin and followed them to the edge of the woods. He found a body dumped a little way in. We’re going to need more manpower.”

Madison had Rita call in five more deputies, with the two at the other crime scene. They could send two to the Loyola place and have three standing by.

“We’ve got to catch this guy, Hal, before he kills anyone else.”

“We will, Sheriff.”

Madison went to check on Elijah. She thought he would be playing his game, but he was sitting on the couch staring into space.

“Are you all right, Elijah?”

He frowned at her, and shook his head. She sat down next to him.

“Try not to worry, Elijah. I’m going to keep you safe.”

Elijah pointed at the picture of Drake on her desk.

“Do you want to know where Drake is?”

Elijah nodded. She didn’t know what to tell him. She didn’t know how he was connected to the man who’d taken Drake. She didn’t want to upset him, but she couldn’t really hide that something was wrong. The longer Drake was gone, the more Elijah would wonder where he was. Taking a deep breath, she decided to tell Elijah the truth.

“Drake is missing.”

Elijah’s eyes went wide with shock.

“We think that the same guy that killed my friend has him.”

Elijah opened his mouth and began shaking his head. His mouth was open in a silent scream. Madison tried to hug Elijah’s shoulders, but he pushed her away. Breathing heavily, he clenched his eyes shut. Slowly, his breathing calmed and he opened his eyes. He swallowed several times, and sweat formed on his forehead.

“You have to get him back.” Elijah’s voice was a harsh whisper as if he hadn’t used it in a long time. Madison was shocked. Elijah hadn’t spoken since he told Drake his name.

“We’re trying, Elijah. We’re doing everything we can.”

“Get him back,” Elijah repeated, as tears began to course down his face. He leaned into Madison and let her comfort him. Even though Elijah had spoken, she didn’t press him for information. He’d likely shut down again anyway, and she wasn’t sure what help he could be at this point. He was a little boy. It wasn’t likely he’d have insight into the mind of an adult man. She was on her own for now.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 15

Madison watched Elijah’s thumbs move over the buttons of the video game. He was trying to teach her how to play a racing game Drake had bought him. She wasn’t very good, but that didn’t matter. Elijah was starting to relax around her. Every time he beat her in a race, he would smile and once he even giggled. At a little after 1:00, Drake emerged from his office. “I have an appointment at a computer company in Grand Junction at 2:00.”

“Okay. Is it a big company?”

“Yeah, it’s a national company. It would be a big account.”

Drake threw his computer bag over his shoulder, grabbed his keys, and rushed through the kitchen into the garage. Madison didn’t think to ask him which company he was going to, but she would hear all about it when Drake got home. After about a half hour of playing games, Madison put on a movie and got the heating pad for Elijah’s hands. The doctor had said to limit how much Elijah used the game and to give him breaks to put heat on his hands. She could tell that Elijah didn’t want to stop playing, but she could see his face relax as the heat from the pad penetrated his hands. They sat in a silence that almost seemed companionable.

Madison’s cell rang. She grabbed it from the coffee table and answered it.

“Sheriff Rhodes.”

Hal sounded breathless. “Sheriff, we’ve got another one.”

“What?”

“We’ve got another murder.”

Looking at Elijah, she went into the bedroom and closed the door. She had promised herself she wouldn’t talk about any cases in front of Elijah.

“What’s going on, Hal?”

“Randy spotted the silver Honda parked by a cabin on K Road. When he went to check it out, he found a murder inside the cabin.”

“Is it like the others?”

“No, there’s blood, a lot of it. We’re securing the scene now, and I’ve contacted the coroner.”

“That’s good, Hal. Keep me posted.”

“Sheriff,” Hal started to speak and then stopped.

“Hal, what is it?”

“I know we said we were going to keep you out of the investigation, because of your friendship with Andie and fostering Elijah, but you need to see this.”

“Hal, what aren’t you telling me?”

“There’s a message written on the wall.”

“A message?”

“A message in blood. It’s addressed to you.”

Madison’s heart froze in her chest. Why would the killer be sending a message to her? Was he taunting the Sheriff’s department, because he kept eluding them?

“Madison, are you there?” Hal must be really shaken. He rarely called her Madison when he was on duty. She was always Sheriff. He thought it bolstered her authority with the other deputies.

“Yes, Hal. I think we should still stick to protocol. Once we catch the guy, we need to make sure the case is air tight. I need to stay away from the chain of evidence. Send me a picture of the message.”

“All right, Steward out.”

A few minutes later, Madison’s cell chimed with a text message. The blood was a glowing red against a white wall. Rivulets dripped from each letter making the message resemble the lettering from a bad horror movie. Madison stared at the message, her eyes taking in the letters while her brain fought to look away.

Madison,

Let’s make a trade.

Trade? What the fuck was he talking about? A trade? Trade what? She heard a soft knock on her door, and she suddenly realized. The killer wanted to make a trade for Elijah, but what could he possibly trade? Elijah slowly opened the door as her phone rang again. She looked at the caller ID. Drake was calling. He was probably calling to talk about the meeting.

“Drake, I need to tell you…”

“Shut up and listen, bitch.”

The voice was deep and harsh.

“You have something I want.”

The room began to spin as she realized she must be talking to the killer. Taking a deep breath, she forced her voice to remain calm. She couldn’t let herself betray any emotion or let the killer get to her. She had to listen carefully to pick up on any information the killer might accidentally give her.

“What would that be?” Her voice was cold and devoid of emotion.

“Don’t fuck with me. You know exactly what I mean. If you fuck with me, then I’m going to hurt you.”

“You can’t even get near to me. If you try…”

She heard a muffled thud in the background, and then someone groaned in pain.

“Madison?” Drake’s voice was hoarse and he sounded weak.

“Drake?”

“Listen, Madison, don’t worry about me, just take care of…”

She heard a curse and another thud.

“Do you understand now?” The man’s voice was low and deadly. It was not the voice of a desperate man; it was the voice of a man who held all the leverage in a negotiation.

“Yes. I understand. What do you want me to do?”

“Be ready to move when I contact you. I want an even exchange. My boy for your man, got it?”

“Yes.”

The phone went dead in her ear. Elijah stood in the doorway staring at her, his eyes dark with fear. He came to stand by her. Even though he was trying to hide it, she could see his body trembling. She grabbed him and squeezed him against her.

“Don’t worry, Elijah. I’m going to protect you.”

He’d had to abandon the truck. His plan hadn’t gone exactly as he wanted. He’d almost missed Drake in the large parking lot of the computer company. He’d circled around the parking lot, but he didn’t know what Drake’s car would look like. A small flaw in his plan, but one that couldn’t be helped. He’d grown more desperate as the clock had ticked closer to 2:00. Finally, during his last turn around the lot, he had spotted Drake’s curly brown hair as he bent in the back of his minivan. When he saw Drake, he’d slammed on the brakes and left the truck without even turning off the ignition. He’d come up on Drake from behind and cold-cocked him in the back of the head. He’d shoved him onto the back floorboards , grabbed the keys out of Drake’s hand, and sped out of the parking lot. Now, thinking back on it, he should have grabbed Drake when he came out of the building, but then Drake would have been tipped off. He would have found out that the appointment was fake and maybe been on his guard. The man shook his head. He’d done what he had to do, for the boy. It was all for the boy.