She was thorough. “No, I don’t think it was a farm, at least not one that kept cows or pigs. I’d know that smell anywhere.” Chris shifted on the bed. Calm down, I told him with my eyes. He seemed to get the message and stopped fidgeting.
“Anything you can tell me about the vehicle? An impression of something might help.”
“It was a car with a large trunk,” Chris replied. “I’m sorry but that’s all I could guess. Like I said, with a tight blindfold on, I really couldn’t see anything.”
Emily made a small sound but continued, “Did they give you a reason for why they were suddenly turning you and Daniel loose?”
Chris shook his head, “They didn’t talk to me except to bark instructions until they opened the trunk. I thought they were taking me somewhere even more remote to shoot me at the time. I couldn’t believe it at first when they told me we were free to go. I heard the car pull away but I thought it was some sort of trick. I waited for a while before I tried to get the blindfold off.”
“Your hands were bound?” Emily asked.
“Yes, and they’d done a pretty good job of it but I finally managed to wriggle a couple of fingers out and then work one hand free.”
Chris looked down at his hands. “I guess they didn’t tie them too tight because they actually wanted me to break out.” He met Emily’s glance, “Maybe they were in over their heads and decided that was a good way out. Do you think you’ll catch them?”
“It’s not much to go on,” Emily said, “but sometimes just one little clue or detail points us in the right direction. Is there anything else you can tell me, even something vague that you think might not be important?”
Chris looked to be in deep thought. He closed his eyes for a few moments. When he opened them he said, “I wish I could remember more details but at the time I was so worried about keeping Daniel safe that I really didn’t concentrate on anything else.” He jumped slightly as if he suddenly remembered something, “They fed us milk and Cheerios and that was all we got the entire time.”
Emily scribbled that down. “That’s a good detail. Anything else?”
Chris shook his head, “No, that was the only thing that slipped my mind the first time.”
Emily nodded back at him, “If you remember anything else at all, call me right away.” She laid another card on the vanity and then clicked something on her phone. “I didn’t want to tell you at first in case it put you ill at ease, but I did record our interview. That is okay?”
Chris nodded, “Sure, anything we can do to catch them.”
I heard his breath of relief. He’d done what I asked. It was over. Emily hadn’t pushed him and she didn’t appear to notice anything wrong in his answers. He must have worked on what to say on the ride down. His answers had sounded smooth and plausible. I’d forgotten to warn him that the FBI knew about his letter but he’d handled it without flinching. I’d never truly believed he’d written it, anyway.
I glanced in the corner of the room. Emily’s partner had moved away from us as we’d talked. I’d almost forgotten he was there. He’d been silent the entire interview. Either he hadn’t thought of anything to ask that Emily hadn’t already covered or his job had been to watch us as we answered what she asked.
We made our way back downstairs. I hugged Emily as she and her partner headed toward the door to leave. “Thank you,” I said.
She looked slightly awkward, “I’m sorry for what I insinuated before. It wouldn’t have been hard for someone to plant the document we found. Obviously, that was what happened since Chris looked dumbfounded when I showed it to him.” She sighed heavily, “This case was so odd. Nothing added up. When the kidnappers didn’t ask for a ransom, I had to start rethinking the angles. I hope you understand?”
“You were doing your job,” I said in acknowledgment of her attempt to apologize. “All that matters is that I have my husband and son back.”
Emily looked at me hard, “If you did pay a ransom and didn’t tell us at the time, I understand.” She waited a moment, “Did you?”
“No, I didn’t,” I said flatly. Perhaps it was better if she did think I’d secretly paid a ransom. She might decide that was truly why the kidnappers had let Chris and Daniel go.
“Well, if you did,” Emily countered, “it might go a long way in helping find the kidnappers. There’s a good chance we could trace the money.”
“I wish I could help you,” I replied, “but I didn’t pay a ransom.”
She still didn’t look convinced. “You might save someone else going through this ordeal. Once your ransom runs out, they’re likely to try this again since it was successful this time. Just keep that in mind.”
I could have denied it again but just nodded instead. That seemed to please her, as if acknowledging I had secretly paid them.
“Call me when you’re ready to talk,” were her last words as she got behind the wheel. Neither Emily nor her partner was convinced we were telling the whole truth but I think neither had any idea just how much we were truly hiding from them.
Chris looked at me nervously as they pulled away but he didn’t say anything more due to the fact our parents were still within ear shot. We put on a good show of normalcy while the grandparents played with Daniel.
Chris finally announced he was tired and no one objected when he made his way to my parents’ guest bedroom. I followed him up after a few minutes. I opened the bedroom door a crack. He was lying on the bed, his eyes open.
I sat down next to him at the head of the bed. I stroked his hair. “It’s over, we’re safe now.”
He sat up and looked at me, “Are we? I don’t think they’re fooled.”
I took one of his hands and held it in mine. “Emily thinks I paid a ransom and that’s why you were freed. That’s all she suspects.”
He looked relieved, “You really think she doesn’t guess I’m not telling everything I know?”
I answered, “She might suspect you’re not giving her every detail but I think she’s writing that down to fear or shock, not a deliberate attempt to misguide her.”
“I hope you’re right.” His eyes clouded over, “I want to protect you but I’m no good at lying.” He looked uneasy.
“Did they say why they took you both?” I asked.
He sighed heavily, “Casey was mad when you laid her off. She thought you were lying about the store losing money.”
I looked at him in disbelief, “She saw the store empty day after day. Why would she think I was lying?”
“She was convinced you were still dropping off pieces to designers,” Chris responded.
I thought back. I had delivered a large array of pieces the week before I’d let her go but they’d been purchased months prior. I’d held the entire lot in storage until the designer was ready for them. “I still can’t believe she did it,” I said at last.
“I don’t think it worked out like she intended,” Chris replied. “I think she came over that afternoon looking to break in and take a few things as revenge. I’d told her at work I’d planned to take you and Daniel out to eat as soon as I got home.”
“You saw her at work?” I asked. “I didn’t know she’d gotten a job there.”
“She didn’t,” Chris replied. “She was part of the cleaning crew. We have an outside firm to do that.” Chris looked at me, “At first I didn’t recognize her when she came to clean my office but then she noticed the photo of you on my desk and we got talking. From then on, we’d have a little conversation every afternoon when she came to clean.”
Chris shook his head, “When I got home, I changed my mind and decided to cook something instead. I’d left the front door unlocked and when I heard footsteps, I thought it was you. When Casey saw me, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Her brother rushed me and hit me on the head with a crowbar, I think. When I woke up, I was tied and gagged with Daniel bound beside me.” Chris’ hands shook slightly, “I’ve never been so scared.”
“They could never let you go,” I said, “you knew who they were.”
“Casey kept him from killing me with the crowbar and talked him into taking us both instead. I overheard her at the house. She thought she could anonymously tip the police where to find us once she and her brother fled the country with a ransom.”
Chris continued, “But her brother didn’t want to ask for a ransom right away. He thought they would be caught and he said he didn’t want to wind up in another place like Gravely. Plus, he said he wanted to make you pay for how you’d treated his little sister. He worked Casey up until she started to agree with him that you should suffer.”
Chris looked at me, his eyes troubled, “I didn’t hear the rest of his plan until the day you showed up. I knew I had to get free but they never undid my hands. Casey spooned the cereal in my mouth and held the glass for me to drink while her brother stood guard over me.”
I slipped up the sleeve of his shirt and saw the bruises. He jerked his arm away and tugged the cloth back over his arm. “You have nothing to be ashamed of,” I told him. “There was no way to escape and you were being held by a psychopath, yet you managed to keep our son safe.”
At the word psychopath his eyes lit up and he turned as if to ask me something but then he suddenly looked afraid. He lay down on the bed and rolled away from me, “I really need to go to sleep. Would you mind if I slept alone tonight?”
I looked at his back, his face hidden from me, “No, that’s fine. Goodnight.” I pulled the door shut and started back downstairs. What had he been about to say?”