The Willow Society

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Chapter 53/54

Chapter 54

Faces around him ranged from Izzy's jaw-dropped silent gasp to Winston's twinkle-eyed pride, and Myth's bug-eyed confusion. Lou was a blank slate. Tate had an eyebrow cocked upward and Helen was smiled so her lower lip went under her upper teeth.

“My brother. They haven't seen him since he left for school. They know he's missing now.“ Taylor expected his voice to crack, he certainly felt like cracking. He wondered why his whole body wasn't shaking apart from the effort of holding itself together. Yet it wasn't. He felt strong, which made him smile. But it wasn't a pleasant smile. “And we have to get him back...”

If Taylor had expected quick agreement, he was wrong. Stunned silence greeted his pronouncement. “We?“ Lou said firmly.

But Tate seemed to know what Taylor was thinking, what he had meant. “The note on Taylor's computer. He thinks the Mayor and his people have taken William. They want the device back. And Taylor thinks you all can help him do this,without involving the authorities. Right?“ Tate looked to Taylor.

Taylor's jaw clenched in anger, but he nodded. “Yes.“ he croaked. More stunned silence.

“You want us to give the device back to them.“ Lou said, more firmly this time. “You want us to trade it for William.“ Her tone said all she thought of that. Myth picked up the tone and blinked rapidly. She said, “No! We can't! We can't let them have it!“

“C'mon Myth! You know they have other devices? They made them! We read about it! They don't need it, they just don't want us to have it.“ Winston said. His castigation pushed Myth backwards into her seat. Her mouth closed.

“They won't leave us alone, even if we give it back to them. We could talk, tell people stuff we aren't supposed to know.“ Lou said. “They kidnapped Alexander. They've kidnapped William. They've attacked me in the subway. They kidnapped that guy from Staten Island!They killed that town-car driver. You think they won't kill us?“ She didn't sound afraid, just certain.

Taylor swallowed. He was glad someone else made that final point. It was exactly what he had been thinking, but coming from Lou it wouldn't seem clouded by the disappearance of William.

“This is too much. They've kidnapped T's brother! This isn't a game anymore,“ Winston said, Had it been a game to him before? Likely it had. “We can't just let them do this, we have to tell someone, call the police, the NSA. Right Tate?“

Tate leveled a steady look at Winston. But before he could say anything further Izzy jumped in. “Enough with the NSA, Winnie!“ She used his hated nickname. His face flashed angry. He started to rise out of his seat, fists balled. Lou glared at him and he dialed back. Anger faded. Winston sat huffing, but surprisingly he returned Lou's glare. “You're not going to impress Alexander, Winston, so quit trying! For once, think about someone else! They took William!“ Izzy said, almost spitting. It warmed Taylor a bit, to hear Izzy express such concern. She had never met William, but she was acting as though she had. At the mention of William's name something changed in Winston's face. It was as though he relived playing with Taylor's little brother. His face changed from anger to sadness.

“I'm sorry.“ he said, but not to Izzy or Lou. To Taylor.

Tate cut in, at the mention of Winston's desire for Agent Alexander, Tate had leaned towards the handsome teen, but now leaned back into the sofa. “You kids are in over your heads. Most kidnappings, especially covert ones, they end...

Helen coughed loudly. “Now. Now. None of that, fat man.“ Tate's mouth snapped shut but he mumbled “old bat” under his breath, loud enough to be heard. Yet he also acquiesced to what she wanted.

A moment of silence. Taylor spoke voice dripping with barely controlled frustrated rage. “Don't you all get it?“ A snide sneer, way older than his fourteen years, took over his face.

“People died over this thing, this wiper. People have been kidnapped! Not just my brother. Like Lou said! They have Alexander. They might have even used one of these on her!” Taylor gestured off-handed at the device on the table between the sofas. “Put an implant in her! And the police? They probably own the police! The Mayor could be behind this! Don't you think he controls the police? Once we report this his security guys could be all over us. They aren't afraid of NSA agents. They won't be afraid of us. And they won't stop.

Tate nodded. So did Helen. When they noticed each other nodding they both glared and frowned. “We STOLE from them! We infiltrated private secure networks, stole corporate and government data! Broke into the Mayor's Office! We could go to prison for any of those things, not to mention all of them! And none of it, not a bit of it will get William back. They'll just kill him. Dump his body somewhere, like a bad movie. But if they think we have that device, that we know what it does, how it works... we have value to them. They need us alive. That's our chance. We should take it. Use it to get William back.“ Strangely, by the time he stopped everyone was nodding in agreement.

Myth, breathless, looked around to see how everyone else reacted. Lou spoke up,”He's right.“ It was clear in her tone she didn't like admitting it. Taylor felt a vague sense of what the others must feel. After all, none of their loved ones had been taken yet. I need them. I need them to feel what I feel. It was necessary, otherwise he himself might have faltered, and William was lost. Taylor couldn't wrap his head around that thought. It wasn't real. Couldn't be real.

Izzy sighed. “He's right. We can't rely on anyone else. Even if they believe us, we'll end up in jail. And maybe Sue-Ann and Isabel and Helen as well. This could go deeper than we imagine.“

“And me!“ Tate blurted out. Helen laughed meanly.

“If I thought all we had to do was call the police...” Izzy continued, “I'd say do it. I would!“ She stressed this last when Winston gave her a look which said he didn't believe her. He still looked doubtful, conflicted. “But I don't think that's how it would happen. They'd just kill William, dispose of the body, like Taylor said. We'd be neutralized then, not a threat anymore and they would have their fucking device back. Who knows what they would do next? This is big...“ She leaned forward, “Bigger than us.“ She locked eyes with Taylor. She was trying to layer some emotion into that look just not the emotion Taylor wanted. It felt good, regardless. “Bigger than Alexander or William, or a random murder, even. If we can't go to the police, to the government, we HAVE to fix this ourselves. Regardless of the risk. If we don't then we're just like...”

Taylor knew what she didn't want to say. Like Katherine.

So much of Izzy fit in that place: as a continuous attempt to be not Katherine. Taylor could only vaguely imagine just how much Katherine must have once meant to Izzy. How much she must have looked up to her, wanted to be her. Worshiped her, for Izzy to reject her so utterly. It took that kind of love to foment that kind of hate, something Taylor only understood in that moment. ”..everyone we hate. “ Izzy finished.

Taylor said. “It is bigger than William. If we can save him and stop these people, the Mayor, TwinStar, all of them.. If we can stop them, we have to stop them.“ Taylor was surprised by the steadiness of his voice. It certainly didn't match the frenetic pounding of his heart. His strength bucked the others up. Grim expressions of determination overtook remaining looks of doubt and confusion. Even Winston; a blazing intensity shone in his eyes. Maybe all his latent feelings of anti-government fervor came back from the temporary grave his infatuation with Alexander had created. A predatory curve of his lips showed, followed by a low, thrumming snarl. Almost lighthearted, Winston said, “That's it. I'm in. Whatever it takes.“

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