Morgan jerked awake out of the same old nightmare. Hands where she didn’t want them, a mouth trying to arouse her. No matter how she fought, she couldn’t escape them. He still wouldn’t take no for an answer. What a way to start the day. Three hours before her alarm would normally go off, she was wide awake and knew there was no way she was going back to sleep. She looked at the rumpled sheets and punched her pillow. This isn’t fair, why the hell did a dream have the power to wake her up continually? Every damn night for a week, it was getting old. Rest was out of the question now.
“Might as well review the file then,” she muttered. This new missing person cold case was proving as frustrating as her repeated nightmares. The question was how to find a child who had gone missing more than twenty years ago, vanishing, in a tight knit small town. “Barely more than a baby” she thought. Six years old and oh so innocent. She’d been contacted by Detective Wilcott and asked to help again.
The only thing available to identify the child was an old school picture taken at the beginning of first grade. She sat at the computer and scanned it into her state-of-the-art software and began to age the child from 6 to 26, capturing each year as it morphed by. Pretty little thing. It would have been so much easier if we had a DNA sample and could just let the computer sort out what she looked like. Pipedream…no one will ever perfect it, she thought.
Little Margret Elizabeth McIntosh was an adorable doll like child. She had strawberry blonde hair, pale green eyes and milky white skin with the faintest blush of rose on her cheeks. Short for her age at just over 3 feet with finely shaped fingers on her right hand which rested under her chin. The photographer had done a competent job of fine focus and the details of the little rose bud mouth, and pale eyelashes were there. So was the incredible pale green of her irises.
The computer was estimating her height as a grown woman, at 5 foot 4 inches and giving her a weight of 115 pounds. Not bad. Those eyes were startling in the sharper planes of the aged portrait. She would be almost 26 years old now. I wonder if you survived it all, Morgan thought and ran her hands through her sleep tousled hair. Cut short, it stood up in spikes all over her head dyed all the colors of the rainbow. Her niece had chosen the shades and the daringly short cut, during their last spa day.
Morgan began to pace through her dining room into the kitchen around through the TV area and back to her minuscule home office. Her apartment was roomy by most standards, but when she was restless the walls constricted. Her long legs ate up each leg of her laps in just a few steps. No need for coffee to wake up, Maggie my girl, I’m going to find you and bring you back to your family. It won’t be easy, but I ’m compelled to do this. Darn it all, she has me already, Jimmy knows there’s no way for me to resist. I could kill him for putting me through this again.
She stripped off the thin grey T-shirt and strode into the shower. Hopefully the hot water wouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to kick in or she’d be even more awake. Her eyes closed under the low pressure of the water conserving shower, she grabbed the shampoo and squirted the all-purpose cleanser into her hand. Frugal with her own beauty needs, it doubled for body wash and conditioner. Five minutes later she was out and toweling dry.
Over to her closet, fresh sweats and bright blue T-shirt and she was on her way to the door. After pulling on her high-tech running shoes, she clattered down two floors and out the back entrance, leaning against the wall in the apartment parking lot, she began a quick series of warm up stretches and then took off running. Blank your mind, and just enjoy the sensation of your body adjusting to the pounding speed of your work out. Come on Morgan, let it all go. Just breathe and feel your heart thumping and your lungs working overtime. After her initial sprint she settled into a ground eating jog and would cover the 3-mile run in just over 20 minutes.
At the police station, Detective James Wilcott sat looking at the like crimes files and picked out six more children who had disappeared without a trace in the same two-year period. All of them girls, around six years old. They had come from all over the northern states and Canada. They could have been sisters judging by the similar descriptions coming up in the files. Morgan wasn’t going to be happy when she saw the other files he had culled out. There seemed to be no connection between them except age and the same general description, all of them doll like, blonde and tiny for their age. He felt guilty dragging Morgan in again, but her special talents were just the ticket for getting these cold cases closed.
He leaned back in his ratty old office chair, pressing his fingertips together in front of his chest and pursing his lips. His suit always had a slightly rumpled quality to it, rarely freshly pressed, he preferred to be comfortable. Slate grey eyes half closed, he put the timeline together, and found the children had gone missing on an average of every two months over a twenty-six months’ period starting in 1998. Margret Elizabeth was the first and little Dahlia Anne Grover was the last.
I wonder if there is enough in the budget for us to get to all of them, not one of them is too far from a major city. Small tidbits, but at least it was somewhere to start. He sat up and thought, if this gets put together into one crime spree, going across international borders and interstate as well as inter provincial in Canada, it is going to get really messy. He grimaced, thinking of the inevitable involvement of the FBI. At least he knew the Canadian cops would be far more interested in solving the kidnappings, than getting credit for the arrest.
Parents’ll need to be contacted, and in three of the cases one or the other had passed away. Might as well get down to putting a travel plan together, because knowing Morgan, she would want to get to the homes of the children involved. They could start with the local one. Margret Elizabeth McIntosh had lived in the tiny town of Laurel, Montana. Not too far outside of Billings, it would be a relaxing drive into the country he thought.
“Damn it!” He cursed out loud. One of them was in Quebec, language barrier too. Where the hell would he be able to find a translator on the fly in the middle of nowhere, Canada? He looked up and out across the bull pen, maybe Jackson…New Orleans, French, right? No point in worrying about it yet. First, we need to establish connections between these cases. Time to put the research in. There had to be more in common between them all if he was going to persuade anyone this was an international kidnapping spree. He stood up slowly and made his way toward the Captain’s office. Knocking on the door, he pushed it open.
“Captain, can I have a moment of your time?” he said.
“Make it quick, just got a call on a possible domestic hostage situation,” snapped Captain Grant.
“I have a possible group of like kidnappings which might be connected to the cold case you handed me the other day. Permission to request files from the locals in each case?” asked Jimmy, hoping he would get away without telling the boss about the international nature of what he was looking at.
The Captain waved him away,” Get on with it. Have you called Morgan in on it yet?”
“Good, get it together and start working your way through it. Now scram.” The Captain turned to answer the radio call and waved him out. Jimmy retreated and breathed a sigh of relief. No point in complicating things until he had too.
Margret caught her breath as she climbed up the side of the mountain above the ranch. The hillside was steep, and the path zigzagged up toward the high meadow. It was fall and the meadow was deep green, grasses nodding with heavy seed buds. She could see wild asters budding everywhere. She desperately wanted some time alone, away from her sisters.
She was the oldest and detested the responsibility for keeping the peace and making sure their husband was kept happy. Bloody bastard got mean and she took the beating every time. She barely remembered her parents. She had been raised on the ranch by her husband’s parents. He was one twisted asshole of a father! She knew there had to be some way to rescue them all. Six sisters had joined her over the first two years, and all of them had been told they were incredibly lucky to be chosen for a special mission. They were to be the wives of an important man. He was only 10 when she arrived but spoiled rotten and demanding. She found the log that was her habitual resting place and eased down.
Alone for a change, she sat and breathed slowly, trying to calm herself. She came here to remember the before time. When she went to school and was happy. She had an older brother, and parents who adored both their children.
“God if you can hear me, help me.” There has got to be some way to get away from here and get word to the outside we are trapped before another one of us dies giving birth without any medical aide.
Two of her sisters rested across the meadow beneath the pines with their tiny babies. Their screams still echoed through her mind. One had bled out after giving birth to a perfect baby boy, except he wouldn’t breathe, and the other had been delivered by a crude Caesarian after she had expired trying to push a monster baby through her narrow hips. The child had also been still born but considered more of a loss because she was a girl.