Hey Everyone –
Before we begin I have to say a very sincere Thank You to everyone who reviewed Part One. You should all know that while I may not take your words to heart I do appreciate them because you take the time to actually write them. Anyway, here is Part Two of the Previous Chapter.
Chapter Seven Part Two
The elevator's doorman held the doors open as Isabella put the ringing phone to her ear and waited for an answer. Of course there was none but she had to try. She let out a sigh as she stepped out onto her floor and started toward her suite. Clare would call her back as soon as possible but that was not soon enough. Reports stated that nearly 2400 copies of the paper had been made and were waiting to be delivered. Isabella knew the editor was taking a big risk with printing so early, but having dirt on the business world's cleanest shark was worth it.
She unlocked the door to her suite and took a step into the very cold room. She shivered as she removed her jacket and hit the heat button on the thermostat. It was going to be a long evening of waiting, planning, and eventually, the media fall out. Isabella yawned and looked at the clock, 1:45PM, 4:45 at home and just about time for dinner. At the thought of food, her stomach growled and Isabella had to chuckle as she called room service. After ordering, she sat down on the bed and opened her laptop.
Not fifteen minutes later there was a knock on her door. A naturally cautious person, Isabella was slightly weirded out that the kitchen would tell her twenty minutes only to have it delivered in less than fifteen. But when there was a second series of knocks, she got up off the bed and walked over to the door. She looked through the peep-hole, "Yes?"
"Robert with Very Best Messengers, I have a package for a Ms. –" He pulled the package out of his shoulder bag and continued, "a Ms. Isabella Sinclair."
"From whom?" Being the best brought one a lot of enemies and this case was going to add several.
"No first name, ma'am, just the phrase 'Spies and parents never sleep.' Not to rush you, ma'am, but I have other deliveries and places like this don't like my bike sitting outside –"
Isabella placed the Linda Gerber quote almost immediately and began unbolting the door just as fast. The messenger smiled at her and handed her the package before tipping his hat and running back down the hall. She quickly closed the door, bolted it, and ripped into the yellow envelope.
The size and weight of the envelope was oddly deceiving. Inside the envelope was half a ream of paper. The majority of the information was blacked out just like the information that Isabella had gotten from Homeland Security, but in a greater quantity. Some of it was official government documents from not only the United States, but France and England. Others she could make out as teaching evaluations and emails from nannies. Main details being blacked out made the information hard to read but years in the Federal Office had made it easier for Isabella to read between the lines.
It was not until she was at nearly to the middle of the stack of papers that Isabella noticed something unusual. The paper was that of an email sent in October of the previous year but it was heavier than the computer pages surrounding it and a slightly off-shade of white. Isabella focused in on the page and found several possible messages but she kept coming back to a date, time and activity from the nanny's timetable.
Dance Activity: ADI 800-1 Greenwood 98/1/03 Today 3:00PM : Amelia started with a basic stretch…
Following her gut feeling, Amelia set the stack of paper down on the bedside table, care not to lose the email, and propped herself up on the bed. She pulled her laptop into her lap and punched in 800-1 Greenwood 98/1/03 into Google. Nothing out of the ordinary came up; four links that had nothing to do with any case she was working. It was only when she altered the information that she started to get close. "Greenwood – Neighborhood in Seattle" came up as a suggestion. She clicked the suggestion and followed the first link, Wikipedia, but found no information matching the date or time.
Again she tried "Greenwood" only this time she included 98/1/03 without the slashes. A map of the location was the first thing to pop up along with over 13 million other links. This is taking too much time, she thought. We have a street and zip code but what are we looking for? Think, Isabella, think. Toddler, Toddler Activity. She quickly added this to the search bar and the first link to pop up was American Dance Institute.
She quickly scrolled to the bottom of the page, looking for the address. Seeing nothing but the ideas of the studio, she then noticed the "Contact Us" link on the left hand side of the screen. She clicked it and waited for it to load, praying that the last ten minutes were not waste of her time.
Before the page could fully display, her thoughts were interrupted by the ring of her room phone. She picked it up, slightly, annoyed and said "Suite A, Sinclair speaking."
"Ms. Sinclair, your meal is on its way up."
"You're welcome, Ms. Sinclair. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"No, that will be all."
"If you happen to need anything, Ms. Sinclair, please call the Guest Services."
"I'll do that, thank you."
"Enjoy your meal, Ms. Sinclair."
Isabella hung the phone up and looked back at her computer as the page slowly loaded a bright pink banner. It seemed to be having issues and Isabella could not help but be skeptical about a billionaire's daughter attending a dance school that did not have a working webpage. Before she could close the window and begin her search anew there was another knock on the door. This time she did not look through the peep-hole; instead, she throw open the door wide enough for the cart and held out her hand for the check.
The waiter took in her mood and was quick about his business, placing the plate on the table and wheeling the cart back to the door where Isabella waited with the signed check. He took it with a nod of thanks and continued down the hall without a glance at it. With a huff of impatience, Isabella flopped on the bed and took a look at the website. It had finally loaded and the lawyer was very disappointed to see that it was painfully plain, but as she scrolled through it, she could not help saw that they address was 8001 Greenwood Ave, zip code 98103.
Isabella walked over to the table, grabbed a French fry and let all the clues sink into her mind. Someone was trying to send her a message but who? There is only one way to find out, she thought as she grabbed a few more fries and sat back down at the computer. She needed a time before she started on this wild goose chase. Looking at the message again, she saw the word "today" and scrolled over to the calendar link. Again, as with the pink banner it was plain, but under the heading "Monday" there was a 2PM Toddler's Ballet Basics class.
Taking a moment to collect her thoughts and several items that she might need, including a digital recorder and large amount of cash, she took two large bites out of her hamburger and headed toward the elevator. … The front doorman whistled down a cab and Isabella was on her way to ADI before she swallowed the mouth full of food.
Looking at the map in the back of the cab, Isabella figured that the cab ride would take fifteen minutes with clear streets but this was Seattle at midafternoon on a Monday and she was headed downtown. At the end of it all, twenty-seven minutes later, she had to remark that had she been in New York, it would have taken her an hour to get the 5.6 miles. She thanked the taxi driver with a twenty dollar bill and looked around.
The studio was a brick building with graffiti on the side. Definitely not the place for a billionaire's daughter, Isabella thought as she shook her head. When she turned to the right she caught sightof something very unusual – a black Audi with a guy just sitting behind the wheel. Isabella had never met the man but from the look of the car and the look he was giving her, she knew she was in the right place.
Just as she was about to walk over to the SUV, she heard her name being called. She turned toward the sound and saw a woman in a bright floral print shirt sitting outside a cafe. Isabella did not know the woman but rather than stand in the street like an idiot she headed for the small coffee shop. The woman greeted her with a smile and gestured to the wrought-iron patio seat.
Isabella did not take the chair but instead said, "I'm afraid I do not seat with people I don't know."
"Oh, forgive me, dear, my name is Linda McGregor."
"Mrs. McGregor," Isabella gasped; when Carrick had told her who was caring for the child, Isabella had conjured up the image of a rather old, ugly woman. Isabella had to say that she was surprised to find the caregiver to be a thirty-something blonde, shapely, and of a small stature. "Mrs. McGregor, I can't be talking to you." All the ways that this meeting could be twisted started to whirl in Isabella's mind and she slowly backed away from the table.
"Please, I understand this is a delicate situation but I need to speak with you and I need you to take what I say straight back to your client. Isabella, please, I'm begging. We've such a short time, please!"
Seeing the true fear in the caretaker's eyes, she took the seat.
"Thank you, you have no idea what this means."
"It means my license, probation, violation of international laws, my reputation, oh trust me I know what this means." She looked pointedly at the woman, "No names, no detail."
"You're as smart as they say you are. I knew you'd figure the code out. I had to speak with you. I think I'm being followed." Isabella looked at Mrs. McGregor puzzled, "I mean besides the body guards assigned." Linda took a deep breath and continued, "Last night, Ame- I mean A. and I went on a walk in the park near our hotel. We stopped at the playground and A. was playing with some children but then something changed. She ran back to me and was terrified.
"She'd wet herself and she was shaking. I don't know what happened; she was never out of my sight. I wasn't twenty-five feet from her the whole time. I took her back to the hotel, put her in a bath, and asked her what was wrong." Mrs. McGregor took a deep breath and said, "She wouldn't tell me, she just kept shaking her head and the more I asked, the more upset she got. I stopped asking after a while and ordered some ice cream to help her calm down. When room service knocked to deliver it, I was taking her out of the tub; she grabbed my arm and held on so tight that it left scratches from her nails." Linda pulled her sleeve up and showed Isabella the four long cuts on her arm.
"As soon as I stepped out of the bathroom, she slammed the door shut and locked it. I didn't want to leave her but the bellhop was knocking and calling for me. I was back with her in a matter of moments and I tried to get her to open the door but she wouldn't. I had to call room service to get the key. It was easily explained away to the hotel staff but Ame – A. was between the toilet and the wall, covering her head and ears with her tiny arms.
"I just about died. I had to close the door, lock it, and sit on the floor for twenty minutes before she was even willing to look at me. She'd wet herself again and was crying, I asked her again what was wrong and this time she told me, 'He's out there.'
"I got her back into the bath- tub and got her out using the ice cream but then it was time for bed and she wouldn't settle down. So to prove a point to her, I opened the door and looked up and down the hall and guess what I saw? – Your client's man standing at the end of the hall. I freaked. I'd seen him earlier in the lobby and then I remember that he was at park, too. That's when I called the police, hotel management, Angela, Cooper, everyone. I didn't know what to do and I panicked.
"Last night neither A. nor I slept a wink. She got a nap in at nine this morning but then we had the introduction to Misters Miller and O'Brien and the move to the new hotel and A. wanted to go to dance class and I needed to talk to you."
"I understand that the situation last night was truly troubling but I don't see why you needed to speak with me," Isabella replied.
"Yes, last night was troubling but it was the next revelation that was more so. After the introductions, I sat down with A., wanting to set her mind at ease. You know, let her know that Mr. Miller was a good guy. A. told me that he was still out there. I asked who but she wouldn't tell me. I don't know who and I don't know why but in the ten years that I've been taking children in I've never seen the terror this child is experiencing and I've seen it all. I don't know what to do or who to call. But I figured if your client is going through all this hassle before knowing that she's his – I mean –"
Isabella took a moment and saw the tears starting to form. It had been a long twenty-four hours for Linda McGregor. "Mrs. McGregor, I only have one question for you. Do you honestly believe that your life, and, or the child's life, is in danger?"
"Ms. Sinclair, I'm so scared that I wish I'd brought my husband's service revolver when he offered it. I've even thought about calling him, seeing if he could fly in, take some time off work."
"What does your husband do?" Isabella asked as she processed the information she'd just received. She had her phone out before the question was out of her month and was texting furiously to get it sent before the battery died – and it was too late.
"He's a peace officer in Westchester County."
"That's a nice area; my partner's family lived out that way."
"It's quiet, we like it."
Isabella did not attempt to make further conversation; instead she was working out the puzzle of getting a protection detail of more than two privately hired body-guards as well as why the child had anything to fear. From all the reports, she was secluded to a New England Manor that was close to 300 years old; she had servants, private tutors, and all the freedoms that came with being the only child of a very successful parent. She had never truly been in the outside world and had always been handled with kid gloves.
"The class is about to be let out. I know I've given you enough to think about but if you could do anything, please." Isabella nodded to reassure Linda that she would do everything within her power to help.
Author's Note: I know, I know, people said no more angst but this story needed a twist and a plot and a lot of other things. Just to let you all know now, I do not and will not write of child abuse in any form. Those that commit these actions of violence in my mind have a very special place in hell. Enough said and everyone give a special thank you to my new beta!