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Keep Her Safe

Dr. Lee Rosen had just settled into his chair with the morning's messages when his phone rang. "Rosen."

"Yeah, hello, this is Mac's Auto Body and Customizing down on Twelfth. Your car's done."

"I think you must have the wrong number," Rosen said, putting the mail onto his desk. "I… I don't have a car at Mac's Auto Body."

"Well, your name's on this receipt and this car ain't gettin' any more done, so just come get it, all right?" There was an abrupt car horn blast in the back of the phone call, and then the call was terminated.

For a moment Rosen just stared at the phone. It was only when the off-the-hook signal beeped in his ear that he replaced the receiver. Standing up, he grabbed his jacket from the coat rack in the corner, and headed out of his office.

Down the hall Nina was in the break room, fixing a cup of coffee. Rosen stuck his head in. "I'm stepping out for a bit," he said.

"All right," Nina said.

"I'm headed down to Mac's Auto Body on Twelfth. Might need you to bring the team out there. I'll call and let you know."

At this Nina looked up. "Why?"

"Just got a message that my car's done," Rosen said as he headed for the elevators.

Nina peered out of the break room after him. "What's that got to do with the team?" she asked.

"Well, for one thing – my car's in the parking garage downstairs," Rosen replied. "And for another, I've never heard of Mac's Auto Body."


Dr. Rosen pulled into the parking lot of Mac's Auto Body and Customizing. It was an unpretentious shop, squat and ugly, the kind of business usually occupied by tough-talking Italian-American grease-monkeys on sitcoms. He parked his car at the far end of the parking lot and headed for the entrance.

Inside the counter was manned by a scruffy young man in a black T-shirt and grease-stained coveralls. Without looking up from the account book he was studying, he said, "Welcome to Mac's Auto Body and Customizing, home of the $29.90 oil change special. How can I be of service today?"

Having noticed the young man's name tag, Dr. Rosen said, "Hello, Tony. I received a call saying my car was finished."

The mechanic looked up. "Oh, yeah. Hi. Rosen, right? With the '98 Taurus station wagon?"

"That's the one," Dr. Rosen said.

"Be right up," the mechanic said, and disappeared into the back, accompanied by the ambient noises of hydraulic wrenches and the pouring of oil.

Rosen took the time to look around the shop. There was nothing that suggested he was being set up for a Candid Camera-esque prank, but there was nothing that suggested the origin of the mysteriously-appearing '98 Taurus station wagon.

Tony reappeared with a sheaf of papers. "Here's the invoice," he said. "Bobby's got the car out in front."

He handed the invoice across the grimy desk to Dr. Rosen. At the top, written in a feminine hand, was his name and office phone number. Rosen surveyed down at the charges, all of which seemed fairly reasonable: oil change, windshield wiper replacement, battery change, headlight repair. At the bottom of the invoice was Tony's big, looping signature, and what looked to be the non sequitur of the invoice – an address. 501 Chapel St., #14.

"That'll be $89.90," Tony said, ringing up the charges on the cash register.

Rosen paid him – after all, he couldn't very well explain that the Taurus wasn't his, not with his name big as day at the top.

In the parking lot adjoining the body shop was a turquoise Taurus station wagon. A portly mechanic in grimy blue coveralls was cleaning the windshield. "Have a great day, sir," he said, finishing up the task as Rosen approached.

"Thank you," Rosen said.

The mechanic nodded once, briskly, and headed back to the garage with his windshield wiper still dripping cleaning fluid onto the ground.

The car was unlocked, with the keys in the ignition. For a moment Rosen just looked the car over. It was empty and spotlessly clean, as though it had just been given a complete overhaul. It looked, for lack of a better or more precise term, new.

After staring at the car for a bit, Rosen went around to the back of the station wagon and opened the car's hatch. Still nothing. He ran his hand under the trunk mat, looking for anything that would give him a bit more information – a receipt, a message, anything.

Nothing.

With that, suddenly conscious that the mechanics' eyes were on him, Rosen slammed the hatch shut, climbed into the driver's seat, and drove out of the parking lot.

When he was sitting at the first traffic light, he called the office. "Gary, it's Dr. Rosen."

"Hello, Dr. Rosen. Today is Monday. We are supposed to have a therapy session this morning, but you are not here."

"I know that, Gary. I'm sorry. I got called away expectedly."

"On Mondays we have a therapy session at ten o'clock."

"Yes, we do, Gary. I'll try to be back soon. Could you do something for me? It might help me get back to the office a bit faster."

"Yes, I can help you, Dr. Rosen."

"Good man, Gary. I'm going to read you an address. Could you tell me what's there?"

"Yes."

Rosen read off the address from the bottom of the invoice. "501 Chapel Street, number fourteen."

"It's a motel," Gary said almost immediately. "Windmill Plaza Motor Lodge. Rooms start at twenty-five-ninety for a king-size bed, one night stay."

"What else, Gary?"

"There's a guy kicking a pop machine outside the manager's office."

"Do you recognize him?"

"No, I don't know anyone at the Windmill Plaza Motor Lodge."

"Thank you for your help, Gary. I'll try to be back soon."

"We have a therapy session at ten o'clock, Dr. Rosen," Gary answered, and hung up.

Ten minutes later Rosen pulled into the parking lot of the Windmill Plaza Motor Lodge. If Mac's Auto Body was unpretentious and a bit ugly, the motor lodge was a dump. A few beat-up cars were parked on the strip of asphalt in front of the long, low-slung building that housed the fifteen rooms for rent and the manager's office. No one was abusing the Pepsi machine out front; apparently the pop machine vigilante Gary had seen had departed.

Rosen parked the car and looked at the door of Number 14. The shades were drawn in the window and there were no signs of life.

He tucked his cell phone into his pocket, locked the Taurus, and crossed the parking strip at a brisk walk. As he drew closer to room fourteen, he could hear screams. Long, loud, heart-breaking screams, in which the screamer barely paused for breath before starting again. The screamer was feminine and young.

Immediately Rosen ran to the door and banged on it. "Hello? Hello? I'm a doctor!"

For a moment, there was nothing but the screams. And then the door flew open, a face appearing in the sudden opening.

Rosen took a step backwards. "Skylar," he said, trying to hide his surprise as the tattooed Alpha stared back at him. She was skinnier than Rosen remembered her. There were dark bruise-colored smears under her eyes, and her bare arms were covered in scratches and wounds. There was a hole in her shirt collar, as though someone had grabbed on and refused to let go, ceding control only when the shirt itself was torn.

"You're a psychiatrist," Skylar said, speaking loudly to be heard over the screams, which were definitely echoing from inside room fourteen. "Some people would say you're not a real doctor."

She opened the door further to admit him, and he was in for an even bigger surprise.

"You're pregnant," Rosen said. The screams were ringing around him and he felt dizzy and unaware; he'd been thrust into a situation he could not even begin to comprehend.

Skylar looked down at her ripped T-shirt, as though seeing her swollen belly for the first time. "Yeah."

"When did…?"

"In time, Dr. Freud," she said. "Get in here before somebody calls the cops again."

She grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into the room, into uncertainty.

And all Rosen could think of was his promise to Gary: "I'll try to be back soon."

It was a statement that he now realized would end up being a complete and total lie.