very patient so far. They still hadn’t made ransom demands, which I couldn’t figure out. I could only write that down to extreme caution. One rash act on my part wouldn’t cancel that out, surely.
I made several abrupt turns, just for added security. Then headlights appeared behind me. I slowed down, hoping they would pass. They didn’t. My heart skipped a beat. Had they found me after all?
I breathed a sigh of relief when they turned off a few minutes later. The road was now dark again. I didn’t calm down though until I pulled into the parking lot of the large hotel. It was an expensive chain but I didn’t want to risk a hotel without good outside lighting and security cameras. At this price point, I felt pretty comfortable that the staff wouldn’t be open to sharing information for a twenty, either.
I checked in and made my way to the suite. I relaxed. There couldn’t be any hidden cameras or wiretapped phones here. I picked up the corded phone on the desk and called Emily Stratton. It was early morning and I doubted she would answer but I was wrong.
“Liz, are you sure you’re okay?” she’d asked after I told her my story in a rush.
“Much better now. I feel safe here.” I gave her the name of the hotel and my room number.
“What did you say the new note said?” Emily asked.
I hadn’t told her what it had said as I relayed what had happened. I hesitated for a second and then replied, “It asked if I was still having blackouts and hallucinations.”
There was silence for a moment. “Liz, have you been having issues?” Emily asked carefully.
I dreaded having to tell her the truth but couldn’t see any way around it. “I have lost track of some time and I was dizzy and saw spots when I woke up today.” That was close enough to the truth. “But I had a migraine so that’s not unusual.” I tacked the explanation on to try to explain away what happened. I had no intention of telling her just how bad the episodes had really been.
“Don’t you see?” I asked. “They’ve been watching me. They must have guessed what was wrong with me.”
I heard Emily murmur a small sound of agreement. “But how could they possibly know you were hallucinating? Do you think you may have said something out loud for them to overhear?”
“It’s possible. I really can’t remember.” I could have said anything or perhaps made a grab for the man I thought I’d seen. I’d been extremely mixed up at the time.
“I’ll get dressed and pick you up in two hours. Will that work?”
“That’s fine,” I told Emily and hung up the phone. The footage the cameras I’d had installed hadn’t caught a lot of detail that I saw but I wasn’t the FBI. With their sophisticated equipment, maybe they could zoom in on a small detail and gain some clues to the kidnappers. I felt hopeful for the first time that Chris and Daniel might be found soon.
I went down to the front desk and prepared to face a bit of embarrassment. I’d given the woman last night my maxed out credit card. As I thought about it now, I was surprised it hadn’t been declined if they’d put a hold on it for the room. Maybe the security firm’s purchase hadn’t gone through yet. I approached the desk and started to explain.
“Oh, we worked out everything last night when you spoke to us. The new card you gave me worked just fine,” the perky, blond woman told me.
I stared at her. I hadn’t called last night. She handed me the receipt. I looked at the last digits of the credit card number. I didn’t recognize them. I started to ask her questions but stopped cold. If someone had taken out a card in my name, why would they bother to pay my bill for me? More importantly, how had they known I was staying here? Had the kidnappers followed me after all? I couldn’t imagine them paying my bill. It made no sense at all. I walked away and sat down in the lobby to wait for Emily. I’d tell her about it and she could figure it out. She would know the right questions to ask.
When I saw Emily come through the glass sliding doors, I gave her a timid wave. Even from a distance, I noticed her stiffen.
I rushed to her, “Has something happened?” I asked in panic.
Her face became an impenetrable mask. “Do you have your things?”
I nodded yes.
“Let’s go,” she said.
She didn’t answer my original question. “Has something happened?” I repeated.
“I dropped by your house before picking you up. There was another note,” she answered.
“What did it say?” I asked in fear, my heart pounding.
“I’d prefer to talk about it once we get there,” she said.
“What did it say?” I asked again frantically. “Are Chris and Daniel-” I couldn’t get the rest of the question out.
“It didn’t provide any new information on them,” Emily replied.
I looked at her in confusion. “So what did it say?”
She took a breath. “It’s a matter best discussed when we reach your home.”
I stared at her. What was going on? She was acting strange and withdrawn. The note had said something about me again, I realized with a jolt. What could it have possibly said that she would believe? My palms grew sweaty and clammy as we drove. My house loomed in the distance. I wished she would speed up. The car seemed to crawl along.
Eventually, she stopped and I leapt from the car. My front door was open and I could see inside. My mother and father stood there-with Dr. Miles. I began to guess what the latest note had said.