Chapter 23: M.O.M.
Juliet sat on the Vick’s living room couch, crayons and paper sprawled all over the coffee table and 7-year-old Iris kneeling in front of it putting the finishing touches on her drawing. Juliet anxiously checked her phone messages for the 80th time. Gus had called her earlier to tell her that they found Shawn’s phone and evidence of a car accident. They were certain that Trout and his partners-in-crime had taken him and Avery and that they were still trying to discover where. But that had been almost an hour ago. She needed to know what was happening out there. It was killing her that she couldn’t be out there searching for her fiancé with everyone else. In fact, if Iris wasn’t here, she was sure she would have gone investigating on her own against Karen’s words. But then, she figured her former chief probably knew that, and that was why she didn’t call her husband home from work.
“Look, Juliet!” said Iris proudly, holding up her finished masterpiece. Juliet had instructed Iris to call her by her first name because she figured it was easier for the little girl to pronounce.
“That’s beautiful, Iris,” said Juliet. She might have been more enthusiastic about it if she wasn’t so worried at the moment. “Is that your family?”
“Yup!” said Iris. “This is my daddy, and this is my mommy, this is me – I’m a beautiful princess, this is my kitty Mr. Wiggles, and this is the castle we are going to live in after we move to Disneyland.”
Despite her anxiety, Juliet couldn’t help but giggle. Only a moment later, the doorbell rang. Iris popped up, ready to answer it, but Juliet told her to stay put and cautiously approached the door and peered through the peephole. She was relieved to see a familiar face, though not any of the faces she expected. She opened the door.
“Rachael? What are you doing here?”
Maximus was standing next to her. “I know it’s probably weird,” said Rachael, “but Gus called me and said you were here by yourself and you were worried and suggested I come to keep you company.”
“Oh. Well, that was very thoughtful of him,” Juliet said surprised. “I could definitely use the company. Come in. Please!”
Rachael and Max walked in and Iris lit up. “Max!” she said. Juliet remembered that the two 7-year-olds had met at her barbecue and that they really hit it off. The kids immediately took off up the stairs, Iris promising to show Max all of her favorite toys. Juliet and Rachael took a seat on the couch.
“So, how are you doing?” said Rachael concernedly.
“I’m…I’m really scared,” said Juliet. Tears started forming in her eyes, tears that she just now realized she had been holding in for the past few hours for the benefit of Iris.
“Hey, everything is going to be ok,” said Rachael giving Juliet a comforting pat on her arm. Juliet appreciated Rachael’s attempt to be supportive, but she knew that Rachael couldn’t possibly know whether everything was going to be ok.
“What if…what if it’s not?” Juliet said between tiny sobs. “What if they don’t find him? What if he is already…” she couldn’t bring herself to say the word. “…or Avery. She’s just a kid. She doesn’t deserve this.”
“Juliet, don’t you even think that. They are going to find them.”
Juliet continued as if she hadn’t heard Rachael. “He said he would be here. He promised he would protect me and that I wouldn’t ever be alone, but how can that happen if they take him away from me? I can’t…I can’t do this on my own. I just…can’t!”
Rachael realized that there was nothing she could say to take away Juliet’s pain. She knew what it was like to be a single mom, but she couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to lose her child’s father and love of her life in such an awful way. She only hoped that this situation wouldn’t work out for the worst. So she simply sat there with her hand rubbing Juliet’s back and allowed her to cry.
The storage room door opened and Dave Crofton and Warren Wallace entered. Immediately Shawn shouted frantically through his duct tape while doing a dance like a toddler, indicating he had to use the potty. Wallace ripped the tape from Shawn’s mouth.
“Aaaahhh!” Shawn screamed like a little girl, which woke Avery with a start.
“What?!” exclaimed Wallace.
“You know, it’s rude to hold people hostage and not allow them the common courtesy of a bathroom break!”
“Are you serious?” said Crofton.
“Hells yeah! I’m serious! Now, take me to a bathroom. You really don’t want me to have an accident on this floor do you?”
“Uh…no, I don’t think that would be good Dave,” said Wallace.
“Shut up, Wallace! Well it turns out, today’s your lucky day, mystic.”
“I think you mean, ‘psychic’,” said Shawn.
“Shut it! We are moving you two someplace else where there just happens to be a bathroom, and if you cooperate, we may just let you use it.”
“Sweet! Ooo! Can we stop at Arby’s on the way?! I’ve got a hankering for some roast beef.”
“You do realize we are gonna kill, you right?” piped in Wallace.
“Oh, good point WaWa…let’s see…last meal…I’m gonna have to go with P.F. Chang’s.”
“Seriously, what is wrong with you?” said Crofton shaking his head, while pulling Shawn up onto his feet and untying them just enough so that he could walk to the car. Wallace was doing the same with Avery.
“You’re right, Dave. What was I thinking?! P.F. Chang’s? Pshaw! We might as well go all out. How about the Cracker Barrel?”
“Grrr!” growled Crofton in annoyance while he pushed Shawn out of the storage room and into the back of a van. He put the piece of tape back on his mouth. Avery was pushed into the van behind him. She looked at Shawn, eyes wide with terror and Shawn winked at her to let her know that all would be alright. In his mind, though, he wasn’t so sure. The two men got into the front of the van and pulled away.
As the vehicle was moving along, Shawn chuckled, having realized the tape on his mouth was no longer sticky enough to hold. With some spitting and movements of his jaw he was able to release it completely. “So, uh, Dave,” he spoke up loud enough for the man in the driver’s seat to hear. “You taking us to see Swaggs?”
“What?!” said Crofton, surprised. “I mean…who?”
“You know! The big man. The head honcho. The M-O-M?”
“How did you…?!” said Wallace. Crofton glared at his partner.
“Psychic, remember! Speaking of which, the spirits are still a little unsure of what the M-O-M stands for, can you help us out. What is it? Uh…Mission On Mars? ...No…No…Micky…Octavius…Mouse? ...Uh…Marty Ollivander McFly?!...OOH! MayorOf Mayhem!”
“Who have you been talking to?!” growled Crofton.
“Duh! I just told you! The spirits! … Oh wait? Is that right? Mayor of Mayhem? Really? It sounds like a bad comic book.”
“Actually, no” said Wallace.
“No?” said Shawn, faux sadly. “Well, the spirits are on the right track, right? I mean…come on…mayor…Swaggs.Mayor Swaggerty, right?”
Crofton huffed. “Ok. Enough of your jabbering!” He glared at Wallace who immediately cut off what he was going to say in response. The van came to a stop and the men hastily got out of the car and pulled Shawn and Avery from the back of the vehicle. They were in front of a modest home surrounded by forest. Shawn glanced at the mailbox which read, “Mabel O. Miller.”
“Huh?” his voice echoed in high pitch. “Maybe the spirits were wrong…”
Shawn and Avery were led inside and to the basement.