I tried to sleep that night at another flea bag motel that dealt in cash only customers. I tossed and turned for a few hours on the rock hard mattress before I finally realized between my nerves and the accommodations, I would never fall asleep. I put the handgun in the newly bought holster positioned at the small of my back and untucked my shirt to help conceal it. I’d noticed an all night drugstore across from the motel.
I locked the motel room door and quickly crossed the street and entered the drugstore. I spied a package of sleep aids and quickly grabbed them. I worked up enough spit to swallow the pills and popped them in my mouth after paying at the checkout.
I unlocked the room and plopped back onto the bed. I closed my eyes. Mommy! Mommy! Daniel was so close. I reached out to pick him up. Then a dark figure behind him stepped into the light. His blue eyes lit up with fury and he laughed as he plucked Daniel from the ground and threw him into the water. Let’s see what sound he makes.
I bolted upright, my chest heaving. Sweat trickled down my back. I took a deep breath, trying in vain to still my racing heart. I put my head in my hands. If a dream scared me this badly, how was I ever going to face my baby’s potential kidnapper in person?
I didn’t sleep at all after the nightmare. I finally stopped trying and flipped on the ancient television. Later, I couldn’t even recall what I’d watched. As the sun broke through the hole-filled curtains, I took the guns out and checked them.
I downed a cup of scalding hot coffee from the gas station where I’d filled up the truck. I punched in the address I’d found for John Leech’s parents’ vacation house. My finger shook as I entered it.
The truck ate up the miles and I found myself turning onto the gravel road in under three hours. It was too soon. I’d spent the entire trip talking to myself. This man could have Daniel. You have to get a grip on yourself. You have to be tough. You have to be prepared to kill… I’d repeated variations of the words over and over again. If I thought them enough, maybe I’d actually start to calm down and believe them.
Either way, I couldn’t turn back. If Casey or John knew anything at all about Chris and Daniel’s disappearance, I was going to do whatever was necessary to find it out. My stomach clenched into a ball, not quite ready to accept what my brain was forcing it to acknowledge.
I got out of the truck quietly. I quickly scanned my surroundings. I appeared to be alone. I put on the holster and placed the CZ 75 inside. I’d flipped the safety off. It was risky. I didn’t want to accidentally shoot myself but John Leech might not hesitate and I needed every second I could get. I attached the hunting knife’s holder to my ankle and pulled my pant leg over it. I turned the sound off on the new phone I’d bought and slipped it into my pocket. The pocket was zippered and I closed it shut. The last thing I needed was a cell phone dropping out of my pocket to announce my presence.
I opened the tool box on the back of the pickup and pulled out a screwdriver. I would have liked to take the wire cutters but they were much too large to hide away on my body. I also decided to leave the rifle hidden in the truck. I wanted to quietly check the place out and spy on anyone staying there. I had only a thin thread of conjecture to tie Casey and John to my family’s disappearance. If neither were involved, I didn’t want to show up with a rifle in my hand and possibly incite Casey’s brother to violence. If he was the monster everyone claimed he was, it might not take much on my part for him to lash out at me, whether he had Daniel and Chris or not.
I lifted a pair of binoculars from the toolbox. Chris liked to watch the deer and birds around our property without disturbing them. I bit my lip. He would have never thought I’d be using them to spy on his kidnappers.
I put the binoculars in my other pocket and started to slowly creep into the edge of the woods. My heart started racing despite my slow pace. Finally I saw a cabin in a clearing up ahead. I pulled out the binoculars and attempted to focus on a window. There was movement. The image was too blurry to make out but something had definitely moved in that window.
I slipped closer, my heart thudding so loud it was drowning out the sounds of the birds nearby. I refocused the binoculars. Casey. It looked like Casey in the window.
A trickle of nervous sweat slid from my forehead down my face. It could be nothing. Casey was out of a job and she might have had nowhere else to go. I continued to narrow my distance.
I stopped dead in my tracks. A man was leaving an outbuilding next to the cabin. I put the binoculars to my eyes and quickly adjusted them. He was tall and lanky with bushy dark hair. He could be John– or Casey’s boyfriend. I had no way of knowing. I hadn’t found any recent photos of Casey’s brother.
I put the binoculars away and took a deep breath. I was going to have to check that outbuilding. I continued to creep along at a snail’s pace in the underbrush of the woods adjoining the gravel driveway.
The cabin and adjacent building were sitting in a wide open clearing. There wasn’t so much as a bush to block the space from view once I left the woods. I lifted the binoculars to peer through the windows. I didn’t see any movement inside this time.
I took a deep breath and then sprinted from my hiding place. I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I pushed myself to move faster, faster! My side hurt with the effort and I gulped air. Finally, I reached the building and crouched behind its side. My lungs were exploding in pain. I panted and gasped, trying to breathe normally again. Reaching to my back, I pulled out the gun and held it clutched in my hands. I listened as I continued to take in raspy breaths. Thank God I was blocked from view again, but had anyone