The emails stopped.
Everyone tries to tell me he’s fine, that it’s just the busyness of the holiday, the newness of his relationship with Valerie….
But, dammit, the emails stopped!
This is Sandberg we’re talking about here! He would never stop writing without letting me know something was going on! That’s just not like him!
And I’m worried sick.
The worst part? Nobody believes me. I’m trying and trying to find where Valerie has taken him. But I’m hitting brick walls and –
Okay, so I’m literally hitting a brick wall. I’m so angry I keep kicking the walls of his room. My room. Everywhere I’m at when I get the urge.
Almost. I managed to resist putting my foot up Simon’s rear end when he told me he couldn’t spare me.
So I waited. And bided my time. And quietly put together everything I could find on Valerie Doggett. I didn’t like what I found at all.
Valerie Doggett only existed for four months, apparently. I ran her photograph through the computer, comparing it to mug shots and a national database –
What? Okay, maybe the kid’s rubbing off on me a little.
Nearly an h our later, I was ready to call it for the day when I hit paydirt. A match came up, and when it did, my blood ran cold.
I knew I had a bad feeling about her! I knew it! Why wouldn’t the kid listen to me?
I walked into Simon’s office without knocking and flung the folder onto his desk. “Jim, what?”
“Valerie Doggett. Blair’s girlfriend.”
“Valerie Doggett. Alias Virginia Anderson. Alias Elizabeth Vernon.” I jabbed my finger at the folder. “Wanted in Oregon, Nevada, and Washington for questioning in a string of serial murders.”
Simon was frowning. “They think she knows who—“
“She’s prime suspect number one.” I tapped the folder again. “Read the descriptions of her victims.”
After shooting me an odd look, Simon picked up the folder and read the general description of her six priors. I had it memorized by now – Caucasian males, ages approximately 25-40, slight build, long dark wavy hair, blue eyes….
I heard Simon swear softly, and I knew he’d made the same connection. “Yes, sir,” I ground out. “Blair fits the profile. And this homicidal bitch has him.” I leaned forward and pinned him with my eyes.
”And his emails stopped two days ago.”
I wonder shy she’s lying to me?
Since that brain tumor left me with hypersensitive hearing, I’m able to tell when someone’s lying. Oh, my hearing isn’t anywhere near Jim’s level – I can’t hear heartbeats – but there’s a note in a person’s voice when they lie.
Valerie’s been lying to me for awhile now. Since we came out here, she’s been lying more and more. Our electricity mysteriously vanished two days ago.
Now, normally, that wouldn’t bother me – more time to snuggle by the fire, more ways to share body heat… Well, you get the picture. But you see, there’s just one problem – things aren’t adding up.
My laptop battery’s gone. I can’t find the car keys – and the car vanished this morning.
I don’t understand any of this. I don’t understand why she won’t answer any of my questions.
She just keeps lying to me.
Okay, things took a turn for the bizarre this morning. Valerie fixed a huge breakfast – woke me up working – but she wouldn’t eat a bite!
Now, I’ve lived with Jim long enough to know that’s not entirely natural. So I did the only thing I could think of – I made myself a pot of coffee and had a liquid breakfast.
Valerie, of course, pouted. All that trouble, she groused.
I could care less about the trouble right now. I’m sick of being here – I want to go home.
It was only a few hours later that I realized we’d had electricity in the kitchen for a few hours.
Okay – what is going on here?
It was Christmas Eve, and I was – as Sandburg would say – completely freaked out.
It was as if he and Valerie/Virginia/whatever had vanished off the face of the earth!
Okay, Ellison – calm down – this isn’t the first time your partner’s been kidnapped by a homicidal maniac. Calm down so you can think clea—
Good night – I’m talking about his kidnapping like it’s normal! This is taking a turn for the bizarre, here. Sometimes, I swear, I feel like my life is a TV show or something!
All right. Deep breath. Again. Bring everything clear….
Now to track them down.
Fortunately, I’d saved Blair’s emails. I pulled them, printed them, and started reading them, beginning with the final one.
He mentioned being at the cabin now. What cabin? I looked back over the mails and saw references to heading west.
Well, hell, you can’t get much further west than Cascade! We’re on the edge of a bay that empties right into the Pacific – between us and the ocean westward, all there is is Corbinton….
--A wooded resort.
I went to Simon’s office and found the Corbinton phone book. Without a word to him, I went back to my desk, opened it, and turned to the ‘C’s in the yellow pages.
“Damn!” Two hundred listings for ‘Cabins’. So it was back to Sandburg’s emails, to see if I could narrow it down.
….at the cabin…going to the cabin… go west, young Guide…. Overlooking Corb Lake….
--The cabin overlooks Corb Lake. All right…back to the phone book.
Okay, that wasn’t any help. Most of them have a blurb they overlook the lake.
So I ran those pages of the phone book through the copier and took those sheets, the emails and a pair of pens into the Bullpen. I pulled out three maps before I found one for Corbinton. Taking it out of the holder, I moved into an empty interrogation room.
Hang on, Sandburg – soon as I find you, I’m coming.
Half an hour later, I had the two hundred listings down to twenty-five. The others may have overlooked a lake, but only those twenty-five overlooked Corb Lake.
Back to the emails I went, scanning them and hoping I could find more information. “C’mon, Chief….just one more…”
I think I found it. ‘…Valerie keeps on talking about the sunsets from the balcony of this little cabin overlooking Corb Lake….”
Westward facing – on the east side of the Lake, then.
Back to the maps – three separate campgrounds there. Two with cabins.
Good – two is a lot better than two hundred!
I faxed them both pictures of Valerie/Virginia/whatever and Sandburg, along with a quick recap of the situation and my cell phone number.
Less than ten minutes later, my cell phone rang.
“Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joyeaux Noel!”
If Valerie hadn’t woken me up singing this chant over and over, I would never have realized it was Christmas. One day has blended into another and I’ve lost all track of time.
I’m used to being cold – and that’s what frightens me. I’m going to wait till just after dark, then I’m out of here. I’m sick of this, sick of her.
Looking back now, I think when I wrote those words I had snapped. Those words were very true – I had no idea what day it was and I was so tired of the life Valerie had imposed on us.
No electricity, very little food – well, she’d cook but I wouldn’t eat unless I made it myself. I didn’t trust that she wasn’t trying to drug me.
She was, I found out later – and I’d probably saved my life by not eating.
Little did I know when I wrote those words that if Valerie had had her way, this Christmas day would have been my last above ground.
She was in an extremely good mood, and I was on eggshells trying to keep on her good side while I plotted my escape. I could sporadically hear small sounds that didn’t quite belong. I couldn’t help but wish what I had hearing on Jim’s level. I couldn’t hear her heartbeat, couldn’t tell what she was actually lying to me about.
After she had her lunch – I didn’t eat anything but a granola bar I’d had in my backpack – she came and settled by me on the couch. “Whatcha writing?”
I closed my journal and smiled at her. “Oh, just a few ideas for my next class,” I obfuscated.
“Ah, well,” she said brightly. “I wouldn’t worry about that.”
“Why not?” I frowned.
Her smile was bright, and her eyes were insane. “It’s time, Blair. I’ve been patient. I’ve tried to do it easily, but you seem to want it this way so-- -we’ll play by your rules.”
I put my journal aside. “What are you talking about, Valerie?”
She smiled and hugged me. “It’s time, Blair!” She got up and moved into the bedroom.
I was suddenly so very glad I’d been sleeping on the couch. I was suddenly wary. Lowering my head, I listened.
Suddenly, I heard a gentle hiss that could only have been one thing: a knife sliding from a sheath.
I realised what it was ‘time’ for and decided I wanted no part of it! I got up from the couch, grabbed my backpack and was moving to get my coat when I heard the bedroom door open.
Forget this! I grabbed my jacket and lurched for the door.
There was a roar, and a burning in my leg. I swore with great feeling as it registered that I’d been shot!
I turned as best I could and saw Valerie lowering a pistol. She was grinning insanely. In her other hand a long and wicked knife rested and she was pointing it at me. “It’s time, sweetheart,” she said as she came closer. “It’s time for you to go away.”
“With pleasure!” I snarled, groping for the doorknob.
I didn’t have to open it, as it turned out. The door flew open, and there was the manager of the cabins! He stood there, gaping in shock at Valerie’s armaments and my blood.
Valerie took advantage of the man’s paralysis and lunged at me. I heard a second roar and Valerie flew backward as if on strings. She fell in a lifeless heap, and I knew it was over.
Turning my head to see where the second roar had come, I felt my heart skip a beat. Coming through the freshly-broken window, lowering his weapon –
I made Blair comfortable on the couch and got us both some tea. Then he asked again, “Are you ready now?”
“To answer your questions? Yes.” I sat on the table and smiled. “So ask.”
“How did you find me?”
I smiled. “Your emails left me enough clues that I was able to narrow the cabin complexes down to two. I faxed photos to both managers, and Mister Carver called me back. He remembered you both and was about to head to that cabin when my faxes arrived.”
“He was coming to the cabin anyway? Why?”
“He’d noticed the electricity kept coming off and on and was wondering if something was wrong.”
Blair nodded. “Yeah, she kept cutting it off and on.” He sighed. “So he called you.”
I nodded in return. “And I told him to wait till I got there and we’d go together. So he did and as we drove up, I heard the shot. The rest you know.”
He set down his tea and smiled at me. “And I’m so glad you showed up!” His smile faltered. “Why me?”
“Bad luck, bad timing.” I spread my hands. “She was a serial killer and you fit her target profile.”
“Well, I’m glad!”
That threw me. “You’re….glad?”
He nodded and fixed me with that steady gaze. “She’s dead now. Her future victims have been spared because she went after me.” Blair’s smile spread. “And so am I – because you’re my friend.”
I smiled and hugged my heart’s brother. “I believe in you, Chief.”
“I know,” he assured me, petting my shoulder. “And that’s what makes all the difference.”
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