SAY YOU LOVE ME (Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Book 4)Willow Rose
Saturday, September 28th
Dispatch: Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency? Hello?
Allyson: Hello, I want to talk to the police.
Dispatch: What happened? What is your name?
Allyson: I’m Allyson. I’ve been kidnapped.
Dispatch: How old are you, Allyson?
Allyson: Fifteen. Please, hurry. I don’t know where I am.
Dispatch: What do you mean you don’t know where you are? Don’t you have a town name?
Allyson: I think I’m still on the island, but I’m not sure. It was dark … I don’t know where I am exactly.
Dispatch: Is there anything, any landmarks that can help us?
Allyson: I … I don’t think so. It’s so dark where I am.
Dispatch: Is anyone there with you? Are you alone?
Allyson: Yes. Right now, I’m alone in the room.
Dispatch: Are you in a house or a condo?
Allyson: It’s a house. I’m sitting in the closet upstairs. He’s walking around downstairs. I can hear him. He’s gonna come back up here soon. You must send the police to help me. Please, hurry.
Dispatch: Okay, okay. Problem is, your phone is not showing me any location. Is it a cell phone?
Allyson: Yes. I found it. It’s probably his.
Dispatch: And that is the man that has kidnapped you?
Allyson: Yes … he came … he’s coming … come quickly, please!
Dispatch: Has he hurt you?
Allyson: Yes, he’s hurt me. He beat me up!
Dispatch: Are you injured? Are you bleeding?
Allyson: Yes, I’m bleeding. Please, just send the police!
Dispatch: I would if I knew where to send them. Could you please help me out here? Is there anything that can help you find an address? A street outside the window that you can see the street sign?
Allyson: He closed the hurricane shutters. I can’t look out. Please, please, send someone.
Dispatch: Is there any mail lying around with an address on it?
Allyson: No. Please. I can hear him. He’s gonna come for me. I’m scared. I can’t get out. Please!!
Dispatch: I’m working on it. I’m working. Is there any way you can get out of the house?
Allyson: No. He locked the door, and the window is closed by shutters.
Dispatch: Does he have a weapon?
Allyson: He used a taser when he took me. He was wearing a ski mask.
Dispatch: But no gun?
Allyson: I-I don’t know. I remember something, though. There was a creek. We drove over a creek before I was blindfolded. And his car is blue. Yes! He brought me here in a blue car.
Dispatch: Okay, this is good. Now, try and look around and see if you can get any idea of where you are, anything that can give you an address.
(A long pause. There’s fumbling. Allyson is moving around; then there’s heavy breathing.)
Allyson: I went outside the closet, and I found something in a drawer. A card. There’s an address on it.
Dispatch: Perfect. Give me the address, and I’ll send a patrol out to get you. We’ll find you, Allyson; don’t worry, okay? We’ll find you before he gets back up to you. Just give me the address from the card.
Allyson: T-twenty-three Breakers Drive.
Dispatch: Bakers Drive? Allyson? Was it Bakers Drive?
Dispatch: Try to remain calm. You’re doing an excellent job, Allyson. I’m connecting to the police now. They’ll come for you as soon as possible. Stay on the line. Hello? Hello? Allyson, are you there? Hello?
Saturday, September 28th
Dispatch: Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?
Allyson: Please, hurry! Did you send help?
Dispatch (breathes relieved): Yes, Allyson. I did. The police are on their way. Stay where you are. Are you all right, Allyson? Did something happen?
Allyson (breathing agitatedly): I’m so scared. Please, come quick.
Dispatch: They’re coming, Allyson. I promise. A team will arrive in a few minutes. Try and relax. I heard you scream. Did he come up to you? Did he hurt you again?
Allyson (sniffles): I’m so scared; please, come and help me.
Dispatch: A team will arrive in a few minutes. Stay on the line with me.
Allyson (crying): Okay.
Dispatch (voice cracking slightly): Don’t worry, sweetheart. They’re coming now. You gotta hang in for me now; can you do that? I need you to be the strongest you can be; can you do that for me?
Allyson (crying and desperate): But I’m so scared … please, are they coming?
Dispatch: They are coming, honey. Shouldn’t be long now. They’re on their way. Just stay with me.
Dispatch: Take a couple of deep breaths, okay?
Allyson (breathes): Okay, that helps. Thanks.
Dispatch: Keep breathing for me, okay?
Allyson (whimpers): I can hear him. Please!
Dispatch: Talk to me, Allyson. What’s happening? Where is he? Is he upstairs where you are?
Allyson (almost whispers): I think so. I can hear him … I hear footsteps.
Dispatch (nervously): Just stay calm. Don’t make a sound; you hear me? Just keep the phone close to your ear so I can hear you breathing. The police are closing in now. Won’t be more than a few seconds. I need you to stay calm now, baby. Stay on the line with me, and just stay completely still.
(Line goes dead.)
Dispatch: Allyson? Are you there? Allyson? Hello?
Saturday, September 28th
Dispatch: Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?
Dispatch (gasping): Allyson? Is that you? Oh, sweetheart, I am so happy to hear from you again. Are you all right?
Allyson (whispers, crying): He’s in the room now. I’m in the closet again. I can hear him. Oh, God, he’s right outside the closet now.
Dispatch (sounding agitated): The police should be there by now, Allyson. It can’t be many seconds … (mumbles) why aren’t they there yet? This can’t be right!
Allyson (crying): Please. He’s standing right outside the closet now. The handle is moving, oh, dear God. He’s coming; he is coming for me!
Dispatch: Can you see anything in the closet that you can use as a weapon? All we need is a few seconds. Try and stall him. Talk to him if you can.
Allyson: I … I can’t. He’s so strong. He’s coming to kill me. I saw it in his eyes earlier. He was only downstairs to get ready for this. He is going to kill me, oh, dear Lord.
(The sound of turmoil. Someone yells. Allyson screams.)
Dispatch (crying): Allyson. I … I they … should be there; they should be right outside the house now. I … I … Allyson? Allyson? ALLYSON?
(The sound of someone breathing heavily into the phone, then the line goes dead)
Fernandina Beach High School, Amelia Island
Monday, September 30th
Something is not right.
Lauren had felt it all morning through her first three periods. Something was off. Whether it was just a feeling, or something in the air, or something she had forgotten to do, an assignment she had forgotten to turn in, or something completely different, she didn’t know. But nothing about this day was the way it usually was.
Lauren looked around the cafeteria at the kids who were eating, chatting, and scramb
ling with their trays. Everything seemed to be normal to the eye, but something was definitely off if you asked Lauren. And it made her nervous.
Lauren looked up at Chris, who was sitting across from her and was unpacking his sack lunch. Lauren shook her head with a light shrug.
“I don’t know.”
She had seen Adam this morning before classes. But only briefly. He had been standing by the lockers with his backpack. She had waved and wanted to approach him, but he hadn’t seen her, and then the bell rang, and she had to go to class. But when second period came along, he wasn’t there. Usually, Adam and Lauren sat together in US History. It was her favorite time of day. She’d had such a crush on Adam since the sixth grade, but he didn’t know that. They were neighbors and best friends. And they usually sat together at lunch too.
That’s it. That’s all that’s wrong. You’re just sad that Adam isn’t here.
“I saw him this morning,” she said. “But he wasn’t in US History. Maybe he felt sick and went home.”
Chris shrugged and took a bite of his sandwich. “I just hope he hasn’t forgotten our math paper that we did together. We have to turn it in today, or we’ll get a zero, and I can’t afford that. Maybe I should call him.”
Chris pulled out his phone from his backpack, but just as he did, Lauren looked up and saw Adam standing by the doorway to the cafeteria. Seeing him made her face light up and her heart begin to race.
“There he is,” she said and waved. She was blushing slightly and cursed her treacherous face for always revealing how she really felt. “Adam? Over here!”
But Adam didn’t even look in her direction, and her heart sank. He seemed different somehow, she realized. There was something in his eyes, a look that seemed so strange that she doubted for a second whether it was really him.
“Adam?” she said half mumbling, then looked down at what was in his hand, still covered mostly by his jacket. At first, she didn’t believe her eyes. She simply refused to. There was no way this was happening. Not at her school. Not by the hands of the boy she had loved so deeply for years.
All those stories she had heard came back to her in that instant. All those eyewitnesses she had heard tell their stories on TV, about a shooter coming into their classroom and shooting, about hearing shots somewhere and then barricading the doors to the classroom or rushing for the exits, of friends and fellow students falling to the ground dead.
All those times, she had watched chopper footage of children being escorted outside to safety while others remained trapped inside. All those scared, shaking voices, all those crying eyes, and desperate parents. So many times, she had thought that one day this could happen to her, at her school, but deep down, she had always believed that it wouldn’t.
You never really think anything like this is going to happen to you, do you?
As Adam lifted the AK-47 from his jacket and fired it, Lauren was amazed at how frozen in place everyone in the cafeteria was, including herself. It was like time stood completely still, and no one moved, even though they knew deep down inside that there was no time in their lives that they needed to move more than in this second. Their lives depended on it. Yet, they didn’t. It was like they couldn’t fathom what was actually happening, that this was actually happening to them. This was no longer one of the million drills they had during the school year or something they were watching on TV while their parents held them a little closer, thinking, next time it could be my kid.
This was it. This was real.
This was painfully real.
One Week Later
“How’s he holding up? Any improvement?”
I barely looked at the man standing next to me. He cleared his throat, his eyes avoiding mine, then shook his head.
The man was my father. And the boy in the hospital bed in front of me was my brother that I didn’t know I had until two days ago.
I hadn’t seen my dad in thirty-six years, not since he kidnapped my sister, Sydney in a Wal-Mart and took her to London when she was seven and I was five years old. I grew up not knowing what had happened to her, with an emotionally distant mother, thinking I had to become an FBI-profiler to redeem myself for not having saved her on that fateful day.
Now, my father was back in my life. Not with my goodwill, but because of the boy lying in the hospital bed in front of us, tubes doing the breathing for him. Adam was my brother’s name; I had very recently learned. My father was nothing like I had imagined he would be. He was small and stubby and had nervous blue eyes that made him look like he was afraid of me.
At last, now I knew where I got my red hair, the shortness, and the rest of my looks.
Thanks a lot, Dad!
“I brought coffee.”
The voice belonged to my sister, Sydney. She handed me a cup and then gave one to our father as well. Their relationship wasn’t much better than ours. Even though she grew up with him in London, he had told her that our mother didn’t want her, that she had sent her away back when he took her. Once she grew up, she left London to find us in Florida, but our father wouldn’t help her track us down or even tell her our real names, so for years, she lived very close, but we never found one another. We hadn’t succeeded in reconnecting until about six months ago, and everything was still very new between us. Yet I already felt like Sydney understood me better than anyone in this world. Even better than my boyfriend, Matt, who had known me since we were in preschool. He was a local detective back in Cocoa Beach where we lived, and we had recently found our way back to one another after years apart.
Sydney and I had made the drive to Amelia Island to visit our brother, who was in a coma. It was our dad that had called and asked us to come.
Neither of us knew of our brother’s existence until that moment.
And we still didn’t know much since he hadn’t been awake at all. All we knew about him was that he was fifteen years old and had been in a coma for a week … since the day he decided to bring an assault rifle to school and start shooting in the cafeteria. A school resource officer designated to the school had reacted quickly and shot him in the chest.
I still thought about the call from my dad two days ago. At first, I hadn’t believed him and hung up. Several times actually. I kept telling him I didn’t have a father, and to stop calling me, that it was a sick joke.
It was my sister Sydney who had convinced me to go with her up there. Our dad lived with his mother — our grandmother — in a house on Amelia Island, a three-hour drive from Cocoa Beach. And they needed my help.
“He’s fifteen, for crying out loud,” Sydney said when I told her there was no way I was going, that I didn’t owe our dad anything, that I never wanted to meet him or his son. Ever.
“He’s just a kid,” she continued relentlessly. “It’s not his fault our dad is such a fool. He didn’t ask to be born just as little as you and I did. He didn’t choose his family. We could be that for him; we could be his family or at least help him out of this trouble he’s in.”
I stared at her, mouth gaping open. I could hardly believe her. Was she seriously suggesting that I help them?
“He brought an AK-47 to school and started shooting at his classmates and friends. And you talk about him like he’s some innocent child? He sounds like just as big a fool as our father. If you think I am going to help him get out of the grave he dug for himself, then you’re just as much a fool as the rest of them.”
“He’s in a coma, Eva Rae. They shot him. Dad doesn’t believe the police. He says our brother would never do such a thing.”
“Yeah, well, he’s his dad. Of course, he’d say that.”
“What if he’s right?”
I rose to my feet, but Sydney stopped me.
“Just a few hours away from here, you have a brother that you have never met; you have a grandmother that you haven’t seen since you were a baby probably. Don�
�t you want at least to meet them? Aren’t you curious? Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
It took me some time to admit it, but of course, I was, and here we were.
Our father, David Clarke, didn’t believe his son would ever do what the police accused him of, and he wanted my help to prove it. After two days in Amelia Island, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to help him. If the kid was dumb enough to take a gun to school, he kind of had made his own mess and needed to lie in it, right?
“Have the doctors said anything?” Sydney asked. “Does he still have a fever? Has the swelling gone down?”
I looked at my beautiful sister, the movie star, who was adored by the entire world. I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to have her back in my life after thirty-six years, and I still felt so angry at our dad for stealing those years from us that it made it hard for me to look into his eyes without wanting to kill him. I refused even to call him dad or refer to him as my father.
To me, he was just David Clarke and nothing else.
“No. No one has been in here yet,” David said. “I’m still waiting for the doctor to make his rounds.”
He gave me a brief nervous look, and I sat down in the chair with a sigh. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples.
What am I even doing here? What did I expect to find by coming?
“I’m gonna head on home. It’s late, and I need to get Elijah to bed.”
Matt peeked inside of Chief Annie’s office. She lifted her glance and looked at the clock on the wall.
“I didn’t even know you were still here,” she said, then sighed. “Finding it hard to be without Eva Rae again?”
He nodded. “Yeah, well, she needed to do this. I totally get it. Her father and a brother she didn’t know she had. I can’t blame her.”