The Last Word
The campground clubhouse was full to capacity. Plush couches and loveseats lined the walls. Close to a hundred grey, metal fold-out chairs sat in rows facing a big screen, plasma t.v. Fred stood beside an old-fashioned popcorn cart in the corner, handing out large bags of happiness to anyone who desired some. A local station was broadcasting a Lord of the Rings marathon.
Marie and Wiz snuggled next to each other on one of the couches. Stew and Marc sat in the middle of the crowd of folding chairs, as if they were in a movie theater. Goose sat in a chair beside Stew, not wanting to miss whatever everybody else was waiting for.
Not all, however, were so happy to sit and relax.
“I don’t understand,” Carolyn said, sobbing, “how anyone can be so calm, sit back and watch a movie. My daughter is missing.”
“We can worry again in the morning,” James said, taking her by the shoulders. “There is nothing we can do right now. Both Marie and Detective Robles believe Zachary plans to use her as bait. For her to be bait, she has to be alive. I know it’s not the prettiest of pictures, but the only thing we can do is wait for Zachary to make his move. In the meantime, there’s no sense in making ourselves sick with worry. That just wastes energy. And energy is precious. Stew’s been through a lot. He deserves a night off. We all do. I miss my baby girl as much as you do. But we have to hold on to our faith that she will return to us.”
“I know,” Carolyn said, letting her head fall as she let out an exhausted sigh.
James pulled his wife close to him and wrapped his arms around her, cradling her head with one hand. Carolyn was far from okay, but being embraced by her husband gave her a fortress of solitude no one could penetrate.
“I bet you’re really glad you didn’t break my t.v. now, huh?” Marc said without turning his head. “Of course, one of your Super-Friends could just get us another one, right?”
“You’re such an idiot,” Stew shook his head and chuckled. “Remember? Wiz said that’s not how it works. You have to own something in order to conjure it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Stew said, mocking his friend before being on the receiving end of a handful of popcorn. “Hey. Don’t start a food fight in here.”
Just as Frodo was being stabbed by a ring wraith at the top of Weathertop, the screen went black and a reporter at a news desk appeared. “We apologize for the unscheduled interruption,” she said, barely audible over the boos and hisses. “We have breaking news from New Bergen Police. They received an anonymous tip of a video that had been uploaded to YouTube. We do not yet know whether this is a real situation or a hoax, but the police are investigating. Here’s the video.”
“Right now? You want me to start now?” a girl’s voice said, although, all you could see was what appeared to be the corner of a room. “You don’t even have the camera pointed at me. There you go.” Staring at straight at the camera was a girl of about sixteen with strawberry-blonde hair. Her eyes were cold like steel but her cheeks and jaw were shaking.
Most of the group sitting there in the campground clubhouse did not understand the weight of what they were seeing. But there was a handful that did. And one in particular was about to hit the motherlode of hysteria.
“Who’s that?” Carolyn asked. “Is that my baby?”
“Mom, Dad,” the girl continued, “I’m ok.”
“Oh, God. They have my baby,” Carolyn cried, falling to the floor, her words nearly unintelligible.
“I’m being treated well,” Becca continued from the huge rectangle of indifference on the other side of the room. “I have not been hurt in any way. Try not to worry?” she asked someone to the left of the camera. “Really? You’re kidding, right? Try not to worry? You don’t know my mom.”
“Stick to the script,” a low, warbled voice said.
“Whatever. There is no ransom. There are no demands.” Her eyes went back and forth as she read her lines. “There is nothing anyone can do to bring me home any sooner than when my captor intends to release me. Don’t try and look for me. You will not find me. It’s Zachary, Mom. Stew. It’s Za—“
The screen went black. Every whisper in the room ceased. Like a double-aught shotgun shell exploding from a barrel, Carolyn sprinted across the room towards the t.v. “NO! YOU HURT MY BABY AND I WILL KILL YOU! DO YOU HEAR ME?”
Stew stepped in-between her and the television to keep her from hurting herself or anyone else. “Mom! Stop. Zachary is not here. He’s not in the t.v. Okay? Let’s think rationally. You didn’t hear a thump at the end of that video. The person recording probably just turned it off. Now, sit down.”
“We have just received word,” the news reporter said, “that the police have confirmed this as a girl reported missing last month. Her name is Rebecca Kasey. Authorities believe this man, Zachary Di Corvo, is involved.” In the upper right corner of the screen was a blurry, black and white photo of a man getting into a dark van. “If you have any information on the whereabouts of Ms. Kasey or Di Corvo, please contact New Bergen Police immediately. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.”
Marie stood up on a folding chair and got everyone’s attention. “Everybody… listen up. Anybody with a smartphone? Okay, everyone who is able… pull up that video on YouTube. Tear it apart. Every detail you can find out. The clothes she was wearing. What’s on the wall behind her. The username of the person who posted it. What else they’ve posted and anyone who’s left a comment. Any info you find, write it down.”
Detective Robles helped Marie down as everyone else huddled into group of four or five around really small screens.
“I might have given up my badge but not my detective skills,” Marie said, tucking a loose lock of hair behind her ear. “No one can take away your knowledge or ability once you’ve gained it.”
“God can,” Robles replied.
“Okay, smart-aleck. As long as you’re healthy, no one can take it. How about that?”
“I’ll agree with that.
“Good. I’m so glad.”
“I can see now why we never got romantically involved.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Two people who always have to have the last word? In an intimate relationship? We’re lucky we survived as long as we did as partners without killing each other.”
“I don’t have to have the last word.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No. I don’t. Now, we’ve got a YouTube video to break down and a missing girl to find. Let’s get to work. Okay?”
“Go to New Bergen PD and see if they can help you contact YouTube. Get the IP address for the upload.”
“You don’t think they’ll consider that stepping on their toes? The kidnapping did happen here and not in Charlotte.”
“Murder takes precedence. And the murder happened in Charlotte.”
“You’re right… as usual.”
“I’ll see what info we can gather from the video itself. Go. Keep me updated.”
“Alright. I’ll call you in an hour or two.”
“Last word.” He was out the door before she could reply.
“Marie?” Carolyn asked as she gently, timidly, shakily touched Marie’s shoulder. “Are…” Her voice quivered. She unfocused her eyes and took a moment to calm herself with a few deep breaths and then looked at Marie with a courageous heart. “Are they going to hurt my baby?”
“I wish there were a way to tell you for sure, yes or no, but unfortunately, there isn’t. I can, however, give you my opinion… and that is, I don’t think so.”
“You don’t? What do you think he’s planning?”
“Honestly? I think he’s just buying himself some time. Hurting her is not going to benefit him at all. He wants to destroy the Circle of Light. Harming one of its’ member’s family is simply going to make us even more determined to find him. No, he just wants some time to build his… army or whatever. Okay? Be strong…”
“And of good courage,” Fred interjected as he approached them from behind Marie. “The Book of Joshua, chapter one. Pray with me.” He put his arms around both women and bowed his head.
Carolyn closed her eyes and tears overwhelmed the flesh underneath them. What were now flooding her cheeks were not streams of sorrow. They weren’t filled with happiness either, but no, they were beautiful, flowing rivers of love. She let Fred’s prayer wash over her, joining her tears, cleansing her mind… her heart… her soul.
“Let us be strong, Lord, and of good courage. Bring Rebecca back to us, Lord. And when we find Di Corvo, Lord… May he receive the full extent of your justice… and if it’s your will, the fullest extent of your wrath, Lord. In Jesus’ Heavenly name we pray. Amen.”