Tuesday 27 September, 2011
Patience is definitely not a virtue I possess. I jiggle my leg, and lean forward on the couch, unable to stop the irritation from rolling through me. My father is stood just outside the room, talking to a small blonde woman wearing a tailored pant suit and low heels. She's a Federal Agent, and that worries me. Detective Turner's attitude had been bad enough – I dread to think what hers will be like. She hasn't, however, asked to talk to me – and I think that has a lot to do with my dad.
"Honey, calm down." I slide my gaze toward my mom and frown. She looks exhausted. Her eyes are circled with black smudges and her face is drawn. Yet, she has been a rock for me to cling to. For the last hour since she arrived, she has reassured me and supported me.
"I hate just sitting here, doing nothing," I mutter.
"I know it's frustrating, Christian, but you have to let the police and FBI do their job."
I snort. "If they were doing their job, Ana and Mia would be home by now; I don't trust them to find her." I drag my fingers through my hair and close my eyes, wanting nothing more than to shut out the world. But this day just keeps going, and keeps giving me new crap to deal with.
"Taylor and your team are helping with the search; they'll find them both." I'm not sure if she's trying to reassure me or herself. Either way, it doesn't help.
My train of thought is broken as my father walks back over to us. His expression is troubled and a spike of fear races through me.
"What's wrong?" I demand.
"Special Agent Monroe is asking for the key to the locked room down the hallway."
I wince. That room... The playroom... The room full of paddles and sex toys. Turner already thinks I beat the shit out of my wife; all this will do is give him more proof.
"No," I say immediately.
My father raises his brow. "Christian, you have to open it. The FBI and police already think you're a suspect; don't give them anymore ammunition."
"Sweetheart, please, just do as your father says," Grace adds.
I scowl and pinch the bridge of my nose between my finger and thumb. "I can't open that door."
"Why not?" my dad snaps, finally losing his cool. It normally would take a lot to drive him to that point; I guess the evening's events are finally taking its toll on him.
"Because!" I snap back, then soften my voice when my mom recoils. She's got enough to deal with. "I just can't, okay. Trust me on this one."
I don't want to explain the reasons, but my dad is giving me that look – the one he used to give me when I was fifteen and refusing to tell him why I'd been arrested or dragged in front of the principal. It's only a matter of time before I start spilling my guts to him.
"I do trust you, but the police are already suspicious, son. If you don't open that room, they're going to start wondering what you're hiding."
I scrub a hand down my face and scowl. And this is exactly why I didn't want the law involved in this.
"Dad, please," I say pained. "I can't."
"What on earth is in there?" Grace demands.
I'm sure I'm blushing from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes. This is horrific. I'm going to have to come clean about my sexual tendencies, and I don't know if I can do that – not to my parents.
There are some things that should stay private - the fact I like to spank the hell out of my wife definitely being one of those things. But my parents are still staring at me.
"Can I talk to you for a moment – in private?" I ask my dad, but I don't give him a chance to respond. I'm up and out of my chair before he can open his mouth and into the hallway, away from my mom. Admitting this to him will be hard enough – admitting it to my mom is unthinkable. I just can't.
My father raises a brow at me as he follows me, bemused by my actions. I glance up the corridor at the guys in navy blue jackets with FBI stamped on the back, ensuring they're out of ear shot before I turn back to Carrick, but facing him now I can't bring myself to admit my secret – my dirty, sordid secret. I can't stand the way he's going to look at me when he finds out that for years I've dominated women and inflicted pain on them to increase my pleasure – and theirs.
"Christian, you're worrying me. What is it?"
Holy fucking mother of... I take a breath.
"The room... Ana and I, we have..." I break off; I have no idea what to say next. There is nothing I can say that isn't going to make me sound like a pervert.
At my hesitation, my father squeezes my shoulder. "Son, you can tell me anything."
I cringe. I know he's trying to be supportive, but his words fill me with guilt and shame. I go for the band-aid method – rip it off quick and fast.
"It's a playroom."
My dad's expression is laced with confusion. "Like a kids playroom?"
"Not exactly. We..." I pinch the bridge of my nose. This shouldn't be so difficult. I'm an adult; Ana is an adult. So what if we enjoy kinky sex? Except, it's my dad stood in front of me, and I'm about to admit something I've kept a secret since I was 15. "It's a sex playroom," I say quietly. "Ana and I like to... play during sex." My cheeks flame and I want the ground to swallow me up. This is beyond embarrassing.
Carrick blushes as deeply, his lips parting. "Oh," is all he manages.
"There's stuff in there that might help the cops build a case against me." Oh god.
My dad shifts, and I can tell he's as uncomfortable with this conversation as I am. "Well, it's not a crime to play...um, sex games with your wife," he says, clearing his throat.
"Turner is already painting this picture of me as a violent asshole, dad. If he sees the paddles and cuffs in there-"
Carrick raises his hands, his expression pained. "Enough, please. I really don't need to have that image in my head." He lets out a low breath. "Regardless of what is in that room, son, you're going to have to open the door; all you're doing by denying the police access is raising suspicions further. It's not against the law to be adventurous in the bedroom."
"If this gets out, my reputation-"
"Let's just concentrate on getting Ana back safely first. After that we'll worry about the fall out."
I nod, and consider telling him about the fact Ana's pregnant, but I'm not sure I can deal with anymore confessions right now. This conversation is already awkward enough without having to explain why I drove my wife and unborn child into this situation. I have no doubt the truth will come out eventually with the Feds poking around, but I'm not ready to tell my dad what a jerk I've been.
"The keys are in my desk; I'll get them." I start to move, but then stop, turning back to my father. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention this to mom."
He gives me a wry smile. "Of course."
I turn on my heel and wander down the hallway toward my office. There are law enforcement scattered everywhere throughout the apartment. I ignore them, my head down and push into the room.
Surprisingly, it's empty, although there are signs that the Feds have been in here. The papers on my desk are messed up, finger print dust coats most surfaces, and my things have been moved around. I frown and feel sullied by the fact people have been rummaging through my private papers. Then I think of Ana, tied up, alone, possibly hurt and I realize I don't care if they want to tip my life upside down, I don't care if they want to wade through my dirty secrets as long as they find her. All I want is my wife home, safe.
I grab the key from my drawer and walk into the living room, my mind focused on Ana. Taylor is stood talking with Special Agent Monroe, his attention focused on a laptop on the kitchen counter. I haven't seen my security team for a while, but I know Taylor is doing everything in his power to find my wife, and I feel better knowing he is helping the Feds.
"Mr Grey," the agent says, halting her conversation with Taylor.
"Miss Monroe," I acknowledge her politely, although I keep my guard up; I don't trust law enforcement after Turner's interrogation. I'm grateful he's been relegated to door-to-door inquiries since the Feds arrived. "Is there any news?"
"Luke got out of surgery ten minutes ago," Taylor tells me. I feel relief for a moment, but the grim set of his lips quickly douses that.
"Will he make it?" I ask carefully, not sure if I want to know the answer.
"Prescott said the doctors are hopeful."
Hopeful doesn't exactly sound positive. I take a deep breath and try to control my raging emotions. Sawyer can't die. I refuse to believe it is a possibility. I refuse to even consider it. But doubt is a difficult thing and it is creeping through my consciousness, planting seeds as it goes.
"I'm going to check in with Ryan and Reynolds, and then I'll come and update you, Sir," Taylor says. I nod and watch him leave before pulling my gaze back to Monroe.
"Your team is certainly dedicated," she notes.
"They're the best in their fields," I reply stiffly. "I'd advise you to use their expertise."
She gives me a mirthless smile, and I wonder how much she actually hates me. For all her talk, I suspect she thinks I'm just as guilty as Turner does. "Of course."
I let out a long suffering breath. "What about Mia? Any word?"
"Nothing yet," Monroe answers. "I've got a BOLO out on your sister and her security detail. We're scanning traffic cams across Seattle to find her car. If she's out there, Mr Grey, we'll find her."
In time? I want to ask, but I hold my tongue. My relationship with Monroe and her team hasn't exactly been cordial, and I need her to trust me. I'm no good to my wife or my sister if I'm in a jail cell for the next twenty four hours.
"Did you get anything from the email from the kidnappers?" I ask.
"So basically you know nothing more than you did an hour ago." I close my eyes and start counting backwards from ten. My head is close to exploding. How can my wife have been missing for almost three and a half hours and there be no news.
"I assure you we're doing everything we can to find your family."
My eyes fly open and I can't stop the derision in my tone. "If you were doing everything they would be home now."
Monroe pulls her lips into a tight line, but doesn't give any other reaction. I guess she's dealt with thousands of kidnapping cases and thousands of pissed families.
"I know you're frustrated and concerned; I'd feel the same if it was my family, but you have to trust me, Mr Grey. We're doing everything we can."
I snort, but don't bite – as tempting as it is. Instead, I slide the playroom key onto the counter. Monroe raises her gaze to me.
"For the locked room down the hallway."
She stares at it for a moment, before curling her fingers around it and pocketing it. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it."
Monroe pushes her fingers through her blonde hair and lets out a long breath. "I know you didn't get off to a great start with Turner, but I judge on the facts and the evidence, Mr Grey."
I know I should appreciate the olive branch she is holding out, but I don't care about repairing bridges. I just want her to do her fucking job and find my family. I don't want to be her friend. I flash a small smile, but that's all.
"Do you think your father would be okay with you looking at some photographs?" She gives me a wry smile. "I don't want to get on the wrong side of him again."
I scowl. I'm not a child; I can make my own decisions, but Carrick is a formidable force when he's wielding his lawyer powers; I understand her hesitation. "Sure."
She pushes a stack of photographs across the counter at me. They are stills from the garage showing the people who took Ana. Each picture is like a stop-motion flip book of the abduction, each showing a little snippet of what happened.
"We're certain there were two men who took your wife. One grabbed her, the other hung back a little and shot your wife's security detail."
I flick through the images and frown.
"Are their faces covered in all the images?"
I study the two pictures intently, focusing on the only part I can see – the eyes. There is something familiar about them both, but I can't put my finger on why... I tilt my head to the side and try to scratch at the niggling feeling in the depths of my mind.
"You see something?" Monroe asks after a moment.
"I'm not sure," I murmur. What the hell is it about those eyes...?
My concentration is broken as a Federal Agent rushes over to Monroe. He's young – maybe the same age as me – with slightly longer dark hair and a strong jaw. His good looks are marred by a scar running from below his left eye. "Maggie, we found the car!"
I blink. "Mia's car?" I ask, but his attention is locked on Monroe.
"Where?" she demands, moving with him as he leads her over to the group of agents gathered around a load of laptops. To my surprise, Barney is sat smack-bang in the middle of them all. I let myself smile a little.
Barney raises his eyes and meets my gaze with a grin of his own. I give him a small nod. Good work.
"They head across town, nothing unusual, but then the driver moves through the back roads, avoiding traffic cams. It took us a while-" Barney coughs. "It took Barney a while to track the vehicle down, but eventually we found it driving into the port."
"En route. I told them we'd meet them down there. PD are currently at the scene maintaining the chain of evidence so nothing is compromised."
Monroe is slipping her FBI windbreaker on, talking with her colleague as she heads toward to front door.
"Miss Grey?" she asks.
"No sign of her or her driver. A man was in the car; he's been taken to Harborview."
"Can he talk?"
"I'm not sure. They beat the hell out of him."
"Who is he?"
"PD on scene identified him as an Ethan Kavanagh – the vic's boyfriend."
"Why didn't they take him – or kill him?" Monroe questions. "It doesn't make sense."
"Unless this was a message."
I finally lose my temper. I don't like being ignored.
"What the hell is going on?" I snap. "Where the hell is my sister!" Both federal agents stop. They exchange a glance before turning back to me.
"Mr Grey, I'm sorry. We have to move quickly here. The crime scene could give us some indication of where your wife and sister are."
"You think she was definitely taken by the same people then?" My heart is pounding fiercely in my eyes and I feel light headed. This can not be happening.
Her colleague winces. "We know there were three people in that car for sure: your sister, Miss Warner and Ethan Kavanagh. He was the only one left behind."
Monroe scowls at him. "We can't assume anything at this stage."
"Agent Monroe just be straight with me, please. Do you think the two cases are linked?"
She pulls her lip between her teeth, her hands sliding onto her hips. For a moment she looks anywhere but my face. Then she turns and meets my eyes.
"Yes. I think this whole thing is a personal attack against you, Mr Grey. If this was a routine car jacking they wouldn't have left Ethan alive. Whoever took your sister wanted him to tell you what happened."
Nausea rolls through me. "You think Mia's okay?" She can't be dead, she just can't. I think about my sweet, playful sister and feel my emotions building.
"I don't know. But I think whoever orchestrated this planned on taking your wife, sister and your parents."
That shocks me to my core. "What?"
Monroe licks her lips. "The van used to take Ana has been tailing your entire family for the last week."
Bile pools in my mouth, and I feel sick to my stomach. Monroe places a reassuring hand on my arm and it takes all my will power not to tear out of her grip.
"Mr Grey, you need to start thinking about any enemies you have who would want to hurt you and your family."
I laugh bitterly. "Considering my line of work? Most of my clients."
I rake my fingers through my hair and try to concentrate on breathing. How can this be because of me? But when I think about the photograph sent to my phone, I realize this is personal. These assholes are taking the things that are closest to me – my wife, my sister, my parents. Thankfully the latter are safe in my apartment, but my brother is still out there. I make a mental note to have Taylor meet him and Kate at the airport when they manage to get a flight in. Maybe they'd be better staying in Europe until this is finished...
"Have a think; we'll discuss this when we get back." Monroe gives me a reassuring smile that does nothing to assuage my fear. "I'm going to do everything in my power to get your sister and your wife home safely, Mr Grey. I promise."
She turns on her heel and leaves the apartment. I watch her go, my stomach churning. I'm sick of waiting for them to find my family when I have the best team money can buy, and Barney, Taylor, Ryan, Reynolds, Prescott and Skinner are just that: the best. I set my jaw tightly. If anyone is going to save my family, it'll be us, not the Feds and not the cops.
My phone ringing drags me from my reverie. I move over to where Barney is still sat with a couple of FBI guys and go to grab it. Barney stops me.
"Wait, let me set up a trace – in case it's Ana." He doesn't say the kidnappers, which is what he really means. But I wait, jiggling anxiously as it continues to ring. Barney's fingers are flying over the keyboard as he tries to set up the system quickly. He nods finally and indicates for me to pick up.
Hesitantly, I take the phone.
"Hello, Christian." The voice that answers is familiar, and sends a chill racing through me. How...? How is he out of jail? I'd told Ana he was a threat to make her act more responsibly, but as far as I knew that bastard was locked up with no chance of making the ridiculously high bail cost. It takes all my strength to hold it together.
"Jack, you fucking son of a bitch! What the fuck have you done with my wife and my sister?"I'm screaming down the phone, but I don't care. Reason and sense have fled and left something much worse: fear and panic. Jack is a crazy bastard and I have no doubt he'll hurt Ana to get to me, and to exact revenge on her for destroying his career. "Where the fuck are they, Hyde?"
I can practically hear the glee in his voice when he speaks. "Time to play, Baby Bird."
The last thing I hear before the line goes dead is a woman screaming.