Deceit Among The Pack

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Chapter 10

CHAPTER 10-WHAT AM I MISSING

When I got back home it was almost six A.M. and I knew the kids would be up soon so I didn’t bother getting around for a nap, however futile that would be. Instead, I decided to sit on the couch to try to process everything while I had some time to myself since I sent my team home. David was asleep in one of the guy’s room so he wasn’t around either.

As I was sitting there, I replayed what happened over and over in my mind, trying to figure out what I was missing that made Jill see all this coming years ago. Something just wasn’t making sense to me. I never miss this much, so either I’m starting to severely slack or there’s more to this story that my brain didn’t comprehend from the shock of Jill still being a vital member of my team, even after being dead for the past six months. And what the hell is she sending me that she knew I would take care of, but she didn’t trust with anyone else?

I didn’t realize that I was spacing out while I was trying to figure all of this out, but all of a sudden, I was back seven years to when Jill and I went undercover in ADX Prison in Colorado and Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans to try to bust some of the dirty guards, cons and higher ups that were allowing beatings, sexual assaults and even underground fights to happen while they were bringing in Senators and Congressmen to bet on and watch the matches.

They had originally brought Jill and I in on some shit charge that got us a year and we were sent to Orleans Parish Prison to be a couple of the fighters ‘women’ so to speak, but when that didn’t work in their favor, certain influential people started rethinking things. Jill and I dropped their best fighters very quickly after we told them not to touch us and they tried to sexually assault us. After that, when word got around about what Jill and I had done we were put into a few fights with other men, even though we technically weren’t at that Prison. When we continued to dominate we were moved to ADX. Again, we weren’t really there by paperwork standards and people tried using us as some piece of ass for their ‘best fighters’, but when they didn’t succeed that time either, they wizened up and quit trying that and stuck with putting us in the fights.

After four months of being in the cage fights while still fighting daily in extremely outnumbered assaults, we finally started getting closer to the information we were there for. We had already had multiple different guards and upper ranking prison employees filtered through, while some cons had been transferred to other prisons and separated from other cons. Jill and I had a very large list of Government officials that would be taken down once we got out, but one person kept slipping through and avoiding detection which was what kept us undercover.

Jill tried for a while to get more info on this mysterious man that had orchestrated all of the fights and illegal activity that was in most of the prisons, but she could only get so far before she kept hitting the same brick wall. I would try for a while but then I would hit that wall as well. Neither of us knew how to deal with the inability to finish what we started because neither of us were used to this kind of failure or lack of information, though before we got off of that assignment I started digging into an assistant of one of the men we knew to be corrupt because there was something about this man that irked me in a way that I could only describe as overly evil. Whoever this man was, we knew he definitely had to be a very controlled sociopath with extremely violent rage issues.

Since I wasn’t sure who this mystery assistant was, or even looked like in the light, I kept my thoughts to myself, even though Jill could tell there was something that was making me think harder than most things did.

We started thinking that this man may have started putting together the fact that we weren’t the two-bit robbers that we were supposed to be by the way we fought, and that when we spoke to each other in our cells we spoke in a few different languages that we knew the others near us didn’t speak so they didn’t understand what we were saying.

The last night we were at ADX they stuck Jill in one cage and me in another, then they stuck fifteen men in with each of us, shot both of us in the side once, and started the fight. Jill and I made in through the fight, but we were both hurting after that. I ended up getting a shank as well. Once the fight was over and their men were dead the mystery men calling the matches decided we were definitely not who we were supposed to be and sent us back to Arrendale State Prison in Georgia.

That morning we got out and started taking down every corrupt official we knew had been a part of the chaos and madness we saw at the prisons. There were so many men in those prisons that were in for small crimes or non-violent offenses and were stuck in those cage matches as pure entertainment to people while they watched them being beaten to death.

While we were arresting these men I was looking out the window of the Warden’s office as TARU was going through his personal and work computer there, I watched a car pull in but stop when they saw me at the window. The person driving leaned forward and looked up toward the window and the pole light shined on his face momentarily, but because of the distance I wasn’t sure if I recognized this man. Within seconds of him pulling in and stopping, it looked like he waved at me slightly, then backed away and disappeared into the darkness.

I spent the next six months trying to place this man that I saw that night to no avail. I went to every federal, state and local official we had in this country, and delved into their assistants and personal and professional acquaintances, but still had no luck in placing this mystery man. Finally, I let this investigation take a back seat in my life, because things started getting busier with me and I knew I couldn’t be dividing my attention the way I had been doing when I was trying to find a ghost.

Apparently, I was starting to talk and yell in my sleep while I was reliving these memories, because in the back of my head I thought I heard Jesse say, “Don’t do it, Daddy. Mommy is remembering something and she looks mad, so if you get too close to her she might think she’s dreaming and accidently beat you up like she’s doing in her dream. You should throw something at her to wake her so you’re not close enough for her to reach you.”

I thought I was hearing Jesse in the dream while I was dreaming, but I was actually hearing Jesse because right after I heard something incoherent and sensed someone too close to me and reaching for me which was when I reacted and grabbed the person spinning around and pinning them on the couch beneath me, twisting their arm behind their back, yelling something even I didn’t recognize. When I heard Rory screaming ‘Mommy, don’t hurt Daddy’ it brought me back to reality and I looked down noticing I was holding Logan down so tight I was almost breaking his arm and I had been choking him out. Right then the rest of the guys came running out to check the kids and witnessed the scene going down in the living room as they stopped with sheer confusion as to why I was hurting Logan, and especially in front of the kids. I released him quickly, too mortified to even apologize and looking at the kids in terror, because I couldn’t get it out of my mind ‘what if it had been them’. I ran out the back door and took off running towards the woods behind the house to think.

I wasn’t quite sure why I was thinking of this man now, but for some reason, things started falling into place as what had been going on, and the timing of things with Melina getting into planning some scheme against me. The more that I looked at a lot of small things that had been happening in my life since that undercover operation, the more things started making sense as if they had been planned and put into action by a single person.

I didn’t know if I was overthinking things because of the strain the past month has put on me, or if I was starting to piece together some invisible puzzle that I had to feel around for to be able to find the pieces, but either way I knew this was something that I was going to have to start giving my full attention again until I got it figured out, otherwise someone I cared about was going to get hurt, possibly by me, and I was going to make sure I did everything possible to prevent that.

About a half an hour later, Madison came out and sat with me. I was grateful she didn’t say anything about the incident that had happened earlier, though I was sure she knew which was why she was called there to begin with. Instead, she just sat there with me in silence and we looked out at the small duck pond in quiet serenity.

Madison finally looked at me and said, “Here’s a lesson in womanhood: If a week goes by and your man isn’t completely confused, or terrified, then you’re not doing your job. Don’t worry about it honey, Logan knows you’ve been under a lot of stress and that you didn’t mean to hurt him. Besides, men secretly get turned on when women are mean to them. If you want to put your energy into anything, then put it into finding the person responsible for this and bring peace to all of us.”

I thought about what she said for a minute, and then said to her, “Ted Kuntz once said If I am at war with myself, I can bring little peace to my fellow man. Whoever this is, Madison, is better than me. He’s slowly driving me crazy because I can’t figure out who he is, or what he wants with me. Now, I’ve hurt one of the people I love the most. Why would Logan ever want to be around me after I damn near killed him because of some memory mixed with a day dream?”

Madison laughed a little before she answered me. “Rain, you’re being overly dramatic. You didn’t almost kill him. You scared the shit out of him, yeah, but that’s it. Remember this about men; Men are like floor tiles, if you lay them right the first time you can walk all over them for years. And believe me when I tell you, you have that man wrapped around your finger. He’s not going anywhere. He loves you more than you see apparently. He’ll be behind you the whole way as you try to figure this out. Plus, you have the rest of us to help out. Whoever this man is, he’s not better than you; he just has an advantage of no obstacles and anonymity. We’ll fix that, so let us help. Now cheer up, come kiss your husband and fill the rest of us in on what you know about who’s pulling these strings.”

With that she smiled at me. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself the entire walk back at her men comment. Men are like floor tiles…that was hilarious. Madison has always had a comical sense of humor about men, possibly attributed to her beauty, although, however uncharacteristic it is of her, she is very shy and selective of what men she pays attention to.

When we reached the house, the kids were getting ready to leave for school and when I walked in they both looked at me and ran to me. I thought they would be scared of me after that but when they weren’t it almost made me cry. I hugged them both as I stayed crouched down there with them. I apologized to them both about scaring them and told them how much I loved them, and then I sent them to school with Ben, Andrew and Gary.

Once the kids were gone, I stood up and looked around to see where Logan was when Justin nodded down the hall towards where the gym was. I started walking down there as my team, Justin and Eddie started to head towards the kitchen to get breakfast. When I reached the doorway of the gym I stood there watching Logan as he was using the punching bag with surprising skill, speed and accuracy.

About three minutes after I had been standing there he must have felt someone watching him because he said, “Eddie, if Rain isn’t back yet, then I don’t want to know about anything else. I want my wife. I need to know where she is and that she’s okay.”

When I didn’t respond he turned to see why, which was when he noticed it was me, and not Eddie. He started to come to me but then stopped after a couple of steps which made me feel even shittier, because I figured it was because he was scared to come near me now. I wasn’t sure what to say to him then. How do you say ‘I’m sorry for almost killing you’ to the man you love? It wasn’t something I knew how to comprehend and neither was this deep gut wrenching fear I had of him walking away from me.

We stood there staring at each other for a few minutes before he held out his arms to me. That was when I think I felt like a normal woman for the first time in my life as the relief washed all over me and I ran to the man I loved hugging him harder than I thought I ever could. We stood there for probably ten minutes just hugging each other as I had my head on his chest. Finally, I looked up at him and started to say I was sorry, but he stopped me with a kiss.

When Logan finally pulled away from me I was breathless. Logan just shook his head no slightly telling me I didn’t need to apologize, and we walked out of the room towards where the others were in the dining room. Hazel had set a plate for both of us on the stove to keep warm and when we entered she quickly got them and brought them to us. We sat at the table and ate quietly as we listened to the others laughing and talking. I wasn’t sure how I was going to find a ghost that had been evading me for years, but I knew this was the time that I tested everyone’s theory that I was the best that couldn’t be beaten, because if I didn’t, it would surely kill us all.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

I filled everyone in on mine and Jill’s undercover work and what happened before and after. Everyone was speechless at the fact that someone got past us and has been pulling these strings against us all these years, leaving me even more doubtful of how good I actually was that someone else could be that much better when we were supposed to be the best.

I wasn’t sure what to do with all the silence and unknown stares of disbelief, so I went to my room and grabbed a set of keys from my dresser drawer and walked toward the garage telling everyone I would be back in a bit. That didn’t seem to be enough information for everyone though, and they all followed me to the garage to see what I was going to do. When I went to Jill’s 1971 Chevelle SS and got in, Madison and Logan knew instantly what I was doing and why.

I needed time to myself to think, and when I drove Jill’s car around it made me feel closer to her. Seeing as how she’s been working this case for all these years secretly to try to help me when the time came, I thought it is only right that I look to her for help now. An hour later I was flying down a back road outside of Atlanta when a song came on that knocked the wind out of me. I had never heard this song before, yet it fit the situation perfectly. The song was “I drive your truck” by Lee Brice. I cranked that song up and listened to it while crying for the sister that I had lost. I wasn’t sure what to do to get us all through this next ordeal alive and wished Jill was there to help me figure it out.

When the song was over I pulled into some small store I was passing and looked for that CD that was just playing. I found it somehow in the pile of crap CD’s there and bought it. I quickly went back out to the car and put the CD in, playing the track that was the song I wanted, and put it on repeat, playing it as loud as I could the whole way home. Before there, though, I even swung by the site in Canton where the new house was being built to track the progress. I sat in what was to be my driveway and watched the builders thinking about Jill and everything we had been through together, and everything we had been through with this case.

I must’ve been sitting there for longer than I thought because I noticed the sun getting high and I realized it must be about noon. Damn, I had been gone for hours now thinking. I turned the engine over so I can head back home when something clicked into memory. Italy. When Jill and I went to Italy trying to track this guy down, we met a man there that worked in Italian Military Intelligence tracking the same man. I knew he had a thing for Jill and she was a little taken with him as well. I needed to get a hold of this man to find out if he had any new info on my ghost.

I raced home thinking I was going to have to tell the rest of my team about Jill’s secret depending on how this played out, though I really didn’t want to since it wasn’t my secret to tell, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about that. I decided to wait until the time came to worry about that since I had enough to worry about at the moment, but as it turned out, I didn’t have as much time as I thought. There was a black navigator that pulled up to the gate as soon as I walked out of the garage and into the house with a woman yelling into the intercom very quickly in Italian asking for me. Though no one knew how to speak Italian aside from me so no one was able to understand anything she said, aside from my name.

I went to the kitchen quickly to see who this frantic woman was and as soon as I laid eyes on her I knew it was time for everyone to know about Jill’s secret life and for me to get what she sent me so I could keep a promise I made to her long ago. I buzzed the woman in and headed to the front door with everyone else hot on my heels looking curious and confused.

The woman stepped out running up the steps almost before the SUV stopped, and started gushing to me as quickly as she could move her lips. After about three minutes of her explanation the back and forth of the conversation took way between the two of us very quickly while I questioned her about what happened and what she knew. A few minutes passed of this when Logan stepped forward asking if I was going to translate for everyone so they knew what was bothering me and what exactly was going on.

The truth was, I didn’t know where to start with everything. I told everyone to go into the living room and wait for me, while I had Justin and Eddie do something for me. Logan looked more confused than anyone but they all did what I asked, and when the others were gone I told Eddie and Justin to get in the SUV and take it around to the side to check it for trackers or explosives, then bring it into the garage and bring the kids inside to Rory and Jesse’s rooms and the driver to the kitchen to get some lunch. Eddie and Justin looked stunned when I said there were kids in the SUV, making them more curious about what the hell was going on.

I went in the front door with Shayla and asked her if she wanted to get something to eat or drink while I explained to everyone what was going on so we can figure out how to go about the rest of these events. She agreed to food saying she hasn’t eaten in days because her nerves were all over the place after the events that happened a couple days ago. I nodded in understanding and showed her to the kitchen. After, I went to the living room and plopped on the couch trying to figure out how to tell this story.

I sat there for a couple seconds trying to figure out where to start, but knew I had to tell the story, so I needed to get going with it. I wanted to tell it before the kids came through anyway, so it didn’t shock them seeing children coming through the house that wasn’t mine. Also, I knew once they seen the children they would all know who’s kids they were and there would be questions coming at me faster than I wanted to answer so I started slowly but bluntly.

I said, “You all know Jill and I went undercover in those prisons which was when we met our ghost that has been creating all this havoc. Well, what you don’t know is Jill and I went to Italy chasing this ghost about three months after we got out of the prisons trying to find who this man was. We met someone there, a man working with Italian Military Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit. He was also chasing the same man. We began working with this man trying to gather all we could on our ghost, and over time he and Jill started getting closer, though they were smart enough to hide their relationship from everyone to ensure everyone’s safety. Well, after a few months we hit a standstill and couldn’t be away anymore with nothing to show for it, so Jill and I came back and Gabriel went back to his own unit to get back to his assignments. He and Jill kept seeing each other secretly. They both wouldn’t let this case go and kept investigating every chance they got. Every time I sent Jill somewhere on her own, I was actually sending her to Italy or somewhere to look into something about this case with Gabriel.

“Jill didn’t tell you all to protect you, not because she didn’t trust you, just so you know. Well do you remember about three years ago when Jill disappeared for almost three months, and I was running things actively without anyone knowing. Well, she went to Italy to give birth to twins.”

I heard everyone gasp and watched their jaws drop. Madison stuttered a few things here and there but no one was able to put complete thoughts or sentences together. I thought now would be a good time to continue.

I explained, “Jill saw what was happening with me and how my kids were always being threatened and she and I thought it best not to put her children through that, so we kept things quiet and after the six weeks, she put all the legal paperwork together and she left them with their father. She went back every chance she got, and she made sure that she kept me up to date on everything with them, and Gabriel up to date on everything with me so the kids would know me. The woman that came her today, Shayla, is Gabriel’s sister and the children’s nanny. She knew the dangers the kids would be in if anyone found out who their parents were, so she raised them as her own. Shayla was told that if anything ever happened to Gabriel to bring the kids to me right away because I was the only one that could keep them safe.

“Three nights ago Gabriel was murdered leaving UPS. He had overnighted a box to Shayla with instructions to bring the kids and the contents of the box to me right then. Shayla bought the plane tickets and got on the plane, but when they landed there was no record of the box she checked in Italy. She immediately came straight here. Well, almost immediately, she said she thought someone was following her the past few weeks and she thinks they followed her here. She said there was a black sedan parked down the block before she pulled into the gate which was what put her into a panic.”

The minute I finished that statement Jojo and Christiaan got up and went around to the front to head out and go check about the sedan that was parked down the street. About two minutes later Shayla was walking into the room very slowly with Eddie and Justin beside her and a child clinging to the back of each of her legs. When they popped their head out and around her legs I heard Madison and Logan gasp. The girl, Eliana looked just like Jill only with dark brown hair. The boy, Angelo, looked more like Gabriel, but he definitely had a lot of dominant features like Jill. They looked from Madison to Logan but as soon as they saw me they ran to me and climbed onto my lap. Granted they were barely three years old, they spoke almost perfectly when they said Aunt Rain. It was adorable.

Eliana and Angelo were sitting on my lap when Christiaan and Jojo walked back in and the moment they got into the doorway of the living room they stopped dead in their tracks after seeing the kids. I heard one of them whisper something about how it’s like seeing Jill’s ghost while the twins sank into me even closer as they looked at the two big men that just walked in.

I had never before seen Christiaan pale the way he did when he stood there looking at Eliana sitting on my lap. After a few moments of the staring Eliana and Angelo began talking to each other in what I could only presume to be twin talk or some made up language, making me wince slightly from missing my own twins at that moment. A few seconds later, Angelo climbed off my lap and ran to Shayla to get into their little bag she was holding. We were all a little curious as to what he was doing, so we just stood there waiting so we didn’t scare him. He quickly ran and got back on my lap with the book while trying to open it. I steadied the two of them and helped them open the book as they continued babbling in their own little language.

As it turned out, it was a homemade picture book Jill had made for the kids so they would know us when they came. I sat there quietly watching them flip through the pictures and talk to each other as I read the captions of these pictures Jill had wrote, and I noticed the others inching closer to see what the kids were looking through. Eliana noticed everyone slowly inching forward and she froze. She slowly lifted her head the way Jill used to and pointed at them to back up away from them. Though Eliana was only a little over three years old, she was already very intuitive like Jill and had a commanding presence making the others do exactly what she wanted them to do, which was back away. Once they were far enough for her liking, she looked back at the book with Angelo and they finished going through the pictures.

When they came across a group picture of Jill with the rest of us they stopped and Eliana looked up at me and pointed down at me in the picture. I said yes that was me. Then she pointed at Jill and squealed ‘Mommy’. Again, I shook my head and told her yes. That was when she hesitated a little bit and then pointed to Madison and said ‘Aunt Maddy’ while also pointing to her in the picture. Madison lit up like a Christmas tree and I said yes to Eliana again. She looked down at the two remaining people in the picture and up at the big men standing in front of them almost as if they were waiting to see if the kids would recognize them. After a few moments Eliana looked up and pointed to Christiaan while babbling out ‘Uncle Chris’. Christiaan beamed so wide when I told Eliana yes that was Uncle Chris. Finally, she looked at Jojo and said ‘Uncle Joey’. I laughed as he looked a little bewildered, since Jill was the only one that called him Joey but he smiled at Eliana brightly.

Once they recognized everyone Eliana got down and handed me their picture book. She then walked over to Jojo and held her hands up to him to pick her up. When he did, I don’t think I had ever seen a grown man melt as quickly as Jojo did when Eliana wrapped her arms around his neck and nuzzled her nose against his cheek.

We all sat and watched in wonder as this little girl had melted the strongest man that I had ever seen. It was shortly after that that Angelo had walked up to Christian and he did the same thing as his sister; he held his hands up to have Christian pick him up. As soon as Christian had Angelo in his arms, he melted the same way Jojo did when he picked up Eliana. It was clear that these two men had a soft spot for children, not just my own, but for Jill’s children as well.

It was clear on the looks of these two men’s face that they would do anything to protect these children as well as my own. It was obvious to these children as well that they had found their new home, and that they would be safe here. It didn’t take long with these children being held that I think the weight of everything that had happened to them in the past few days had settled in, and they began sleeping in the arms of the men holding them. I believe that the weight of the relief on Shayla was evident as well, as she finally relaxed seeing that these children were well protected and safe in their arms of the people around them, they were with family, finally.

Once Eliana and Angelo were asleep, Jojo and Christian carried them up and put them in Rory and Jesse’s bed, before coming downstairs so we could discuss what needed to be done. Within a matter of a few minutes Shayla was also asleep on the chair that she had been sitting in; instead of waking her Justin carried her to my bedroom and laid her in my bed so she could get some rest. Upon his return we all gathered around the kitchen table and quietly discussed what needed to be done to apprehend this ghost that had been evading us, and what needed to be done to keep, now all four of my children safe from this man that had not only killed their father but was after them as well.

None of us were sure where to go or how to begin with what we knew needed to be done, but the weight of what was to come slammed down on all of our shoulders heavily. Although I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to catch someone that I was unable to find without my attention split, I steeled to my resolve knowing that I had to do what was necessary to keep my promise to Jill and her family; my family.

OUR GREATEST WEAKNESS LIES IN GIVING UP. THE MOST CERTAIN WAY TO SUCCEED IS ALWAYS TO TRY JUST ONE MORE TIME-THOMAS EDISON

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