A/N: So to follow up a shorter chapter, I give you...my longest chapter yet! I hope you all enjoy!
Bo took a deep breath before clearing his throat as he stepped out of his office, drawing the attention of the officers gathered at his request. "Alright everyone, let's get started," he said quickly, forcing the room to quiet down. "I need you all need to pay attention and if you have any questions, ask them now, not later. We need everyone on the same page with this one, we're working against a very fast clock here."
Bo nodded to the two agents behind him and the woman stepped forward. "Good evening, everyone. I'm Special Agent Grace Sutton, this Special Agent Kyle Thomas."
"Agents Sutton and Thomas are here to assist with the investigation," Bo said. "Now before anyone gets in a jurisdictional fit, let's make one thing clear here - your only priority right now is bringing Natalie Banks home safely. That's it. Now, officially Llanview PD is retaining our jurisdiction in the investigation, but let's be honest - we're not working with much. Agents Sutton and Thomas are our experts here, so I expect each and every one of you to work with them on this case."
"Here's what we know…as some of you may be aware, blood from your suspected assailant was found on Mrs. Banks' car," Agent Sutton said. "That blood is a positive match to the DNA of a man Agent Thomas and I have been investigating for almost a year. I'm afraid that even after that much time, we don't have a whole lot in the way of specifics on our suspect. He's male, approximately 30 to 35 years old. Despite what the circumstances of the abduction might indicate, he is not a law enforcement officer."
"He does want to be one, though," Agent Thomas added. "Our suspect idolized the police. In fact, I guarantee that he's applied to work in law enforcement in the past, probably multiple times. He's been rejected every time, though."
"It won't be immediately apparent upon meeting him, but he's probably got some sort of physical impairment which prevents him from passing an employment physical," Agent Sutton said.
"To date, we've linked him to eight abductions and murders over the past ten months," Agent Thomas explained. "He's mostly been working in the south, but he's been slowly moving north with each case."
"Why haven't we heard about this guy?" an officer called out from the back of the room.
"He moved further than we had anticipated," Agent Thomas said. "When I said he was moving north, I meant incrementally. His last confirmed victim was a little over a month ago, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. We've been expecting his next victim to be in Virginia, maybe in the D.C. area. Nothing in his history would have predicted he'd come this far north."
"Hold on!" another officer shouted. "I read something about a killer down in Florida. Are you talking about the Bleeding Heart Killer?"
Agent Sutton grimaced visibly at the name, but nodded. "We prefer to avoid sensationalizing killers with names like that, but yes, that is who we're talking about here."
"Why do they call him the Bleeding Heart Killer?"
Agent Thomas raised his hand for silence. "That's enough," he said sternly. "The media gave him that name because of how he kills his victims. But before any of you go getting excited about this - and I can already see that in some of your eyes - let's get something straight here, alright? I understand that you all know and work with Natalie Banks. Think about that for a minute. Think about the last time you saw her." Agent Thomas paused and let everyone's minds wander before nodding at Agent Sutton in a move they clearly did quite often.
"While you're sitting here thinking about how great this story is going to go over the next time you're at the bar," she said. "Our killer is out there with that young woman you were just thinking about. As we speak, he's probably transporting Natalie Banks to the spot where he's going to leave her to die."
"He's had her for nearly twenty-four hours," Agent Thomas continued. "He's never kept a victim longer than that. For the twenty-four hours that he's had her, he's been pumping her full of drugs to paralyze her so that she won't be able to move when he leaves her, and to thin her blood so that when he carves a heart in her side - which is his signature - she'll bleed to death in approximately three hours."
"So if you want to get excited, I suggest you think twice," Agent Sutton warned. "Because in less than an hour, Natalie Banks is going to be out there somewhere - alone, scared, unable to move, and fully aware that she's running out of time."
Natalie groaned as her body slammed into the side of the bed of the pickup truck before rolling back to the center. She almost wished that bastard had tied her up like he had at the cabin just so she could have been spared the bruises she knew were sure to form.
As soon as she thought it, she knew it was ridiculous. She'd seen his face. He hadn't worn a mask or disguised his voice or tried in any way to hide his identity. Kidnappers didn't do that. Even Hayes Barber had worn a mask for most of the time he'd had her. Natalie had enough experience to know that the only reason he wouldn't at least make an effort to disguise his identity was that he was certain she'd never live to identify him. He wasn't just planning to kill her, he was cocky enough to have no doubts that he'd be successful.
She didn't know exactly who he was, but Natalie did know one thing - he'd picked the wrong girl to mess with. She wasn't sure how or when she'd get away, but she knew this couldn't be how she died. Not with her parents finally getting married in a few months. Not when Jessica was just starting to recover from everything that happened with Ford. Not with Liam waiting for her at home, depending on her for everything. And certainly not when there was still so much unresolved with John. She knew that no matter what her unknown captor intended, she had far too much to live for.
She took a deep breath and tried moving her hand again. Nothing. She didn't feel injured, so she assumed he'd drugged her to keep her from moving - and whatever it was he'd used, it was working. She couldn't even get her head lifted far enough off the bed of the truck to see where they were headed.
Looking up again, Natalie supposed she should be grateful that at least it was a clear night and she could see the stars. She squinted as she stared upward, trying to remember what the constellations had looked like the last time she'd sat with John on the roof and watched them.
"North," she whispered wearily as she finally began piecing the constellations together. There was something comforting about at least knowing which direction they were headed, even if it did nothing to get her closer to her freedom.
As the truck slowed and veered off the paved road, Natalie cast her eyes up toward the stars and did the only thing she could think of - she prayed.
Angels bless and angels keep/Angels guard me while I sleep/Bless my heart, bless my home/Bless my spirit as I roam…
…Bless my spirit as I roam/Guide and guard me through the night/Wake me in the morning's light.
Rex clenched his fists and let out a breath as he finished the prayer and leaned back against the wall outside the Llanview Police Department. It hadn't taken long for the press to get wind of the FBI's involvement in Natalie's case, and once they had, it had taken a few reporters even less time to figure out exactly who had Natalie, and it had hit the news before Bo or anyone else had the chance to prepare most of the Buchanan family.
They were all inside the station now, probably yelling and shouting to be heard over one another. It seemed to Rex that all they were accomplishing was wasting time, standing around while some psychopath got further away with his sister. He wanted to be out there searching, doing something other than standing there and feeling useless.
With a sigh, he closed his eyes and started again with the only prayer he knew, the one Natalie had taught him all those years ago.
Angels bless and angels keep/Angels guard me while I sleep…
"Talking to yourself, Balsom?"
Rex opened his and rolled them as Joey approached him. "Like you care?"
Joey shook his head and held up his hands defensively. "Geez, no need to bite my head off. Search and rescue is in place and they've finished the grids of the area south of town, so I'm only here to make sure you know the search parties are headed out in about fifteen minutes…and to make sure you're alright."
Rex scoffed. "Somehow I doubt that. You draw the short stick?"
"Not this time," Joey said. "Trust me, I'd rather be here than back at Llanfair telling Mom and Dad that another serial killer's got Natalie."
"Kevin's still not back yet?"
Joey shook his head. "First he's got to convince Mom that she's better off waiting for news at Llanfair, then he's got to convince Dad that his heart isn't up to being part of the search party Bo's organizing. It's an uphill battle."
"He'll have more trouble with Viki," Rex predicted.
"Probably," Joey agreed. "So, what exactly are you doing out here?"
Joey glanced at his younger brother skeptically. "You?"
Rex shrugged. "What? You think God wouldn't listen to me?"
"I didn't say that," Joey said. "You've just never struck me as the praying type."
"I'm not," Rex admitted. "I only know one prayer."
"Well go on," Joey encouraged. "Let's hear it."
Rex shook his head. "Nah. It's stupid."
"Oh come on, Balsom. I'm not going to make fun of a prayer."
Rex hesitated for a moment. "Alright, but if you laugh, I'm decking you and telling everyone tripped on a tree branch when we're out searching the woods," Rex warned. "It goes like this…Angels bless and angels keep/Angles guard me while I sleep…"
Rex's voice trailed off in surprise as Joey picked up the words. "Bless my heart, bless my home/Bless my spirit as I roam…" He shook his head in disbelief before rejoining his brother to finish the verse together. "Guide and guard me through the night/Wake me in the morning's light."
"Where'd you learn that?" Rex asked.
"I think I've always known it," Joey admitted. "I guess Mom taught it to us. Kevin, Jessica and I used to say it together every night before we went to bed. Sometimes we'd say a different one, but that one was Jessica's favorite, so we probably used it more than the others. Where'd you learn it?"
"Natalie?" Joey asked in surprise.
Rex nodded. "I have no idea where she picked it up…I don't even think she knew how she knew it, but yeah, Natalie taught it to me. When we were kids and Roxy was out late at the casinos or passed out drunk in the living room and we were all alone, she'd have me recite it with her, over and over again. She said the angels would keep us safe."