After being stuck in the road longer than expected due to a small crash, Sawyer finally arrived at the school. He was twenty-five minutes late and there were not so many cars in the parking lot anymore so he easily spotted Lizbeth’s.
He parked right beside her car and stopped the engine of his SUV. He got out and made his way to the schoolyard where they were probably waiting for him.
However, when he got there, there were just a few kids playing on the swings but none of them were his. Where the hell have you gone? He thought as he took his phone out of his pocket.
He unlocked it and called Lizbeth. Her phone rang and rang and then sent him to her voice mail. He tried again, but she still didn’t pick up. He waited for a couple of minutes to call back, maybe she was busy with the kids and didn’t listen to it.
He fiddled with his device in his hand for some time, getting anxious with every second. He didn’t want to think the worst, but after everything that had happened during the last few days, he couldn’t help it. He looked at the screen of his phone and dialed her number again. Nothing.
When he called a fourth time and the robotic voice told him the phone was disconnected or no longer in service, all the alarms in his head went off spinning around at a fast speed, deafening him. His breathing hitched and his heart started to hammer in his chest so hard he thought he would pass out.
Sawyer squeezed his eyes shut and put his hands into fists, trying to calm himself down. Hysteria was never a good way to deal with anything. He took a couple of deep breaths and slowly exhaled, focusing on what was the next step to take.
He opened his eyes and moved towards her car. That’s when he realized it was opened, confirming his fears. Lizbeth always checked twice if she had locked it. Something had definitely happened to them.
Sawyer opened the doors and saw Lizbeth’s briefcase under the passenger’s seat. Then he opened the trunk, the kids’ stuff was there.
“Fuck!” he growled, making a couple that was walking to their car with their child look at him.
With his heart tightened in his chest and a combination of wrath and unbearable fear, he reached for his phone and called Jim. His hands were shaking uncontrollably and his breathing was uneven. He nervously ran a hand through his hair. Come on, pick up, pick up, pick up!
“Hey, mister!” Jim greeted him when he finally picked up.
“She’s kidnapped them!” Sawyer cried. His brain was clearly not functioning well.
“What are you talking about?” Jim sounded confused.
“Maggie has kidnapped Liz and the kids!” he repeated, annoyed.
“Sawyer, calm down, please! Breathe, you’re going to pass out! Why do you think she’s kidnapped them?”
“I agreed with Lizbeth I’d meet them at school. Her car is still here with all their stuff but they’re nowhere to be seen! I called her several times and she didn’t pick up, and the last time I tried it said it was disconnected. I tell you, that crazy bitch has taken them!” he shouted, unable to control himself. He had never been that scared in his life.
“Don’t move from there. We’re putting an amber alert right now.” Jim hung up without saying anything else.
Sawyer growled, tugging from his hair and kicking the car tie. “Fuck!”
His palpitations were most likely over two hundred, something that didn’t even happen when he was in the middle of a rescue mission. He couldn’t believe that something like that was happening to them. Didn’t they have enough with Beth’s death?
He didn’t know how much time had passed, but he knew it wasn’t much when Jim arrived at the school with three additional squad cars and a black SUV that probably was from the FBI.
“Sawyer!” Jim called him. “This is special agent Sullivan and Pattinson, they’re with the FBI,” he told him as he pointed to the man in his fifties and the brunette in her late forties.
“Hello, Mr.Cox. I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances,” agent Sullivan said as he held his hand out to him.
“Yeah… Thanks for coming so fast.”
“Nice to meet you,” agent Pattinson said as she shook his hand. Sawyer simply nodded.
“Captain Kook told us about the case already.” Special agent Sullivan stopped talking to open a notebook. “You called him earlier today to tell him that your ex-partner threatened you when you rejected her. What were her exact words?”
Sawyer frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose trying to remember clearly. His mind was so foggy because of the turmoil of emotions he was fighting at the moment, he couldn’t focus on one thing. “She said something like you’ll regret this,” he finally told the FBI agents.
“Why would she say that?”
Sawyer huffed, anxious. “She’s been playing with all of us for a few weeks now. She put her fiancé into jail claiming he had raped her and beat her when he didn’t, and I told her I didn’t want to know anything else about her anymore. She’s toxic and can’t help but lie… She came this morning to my apartment and insisted that she needed me, and obviously I kicked her out.”
“That’s when she said that,” agent Pattinson stated.
“As far as we know, she’s obsessed with you for some reason.”
“Looks like it, but I don’t even know why! We have been nothing for the last three years… And she was the one that cheated on me back then,” Sawyer scoffed.
“It doesn’t matter. Anything could have triggered this new obsession on her,” Pattinson responded.
“From what you’re telling us, she doesn’t seem like a very stable person,” Sullivan added.
“She didn’t have it easy when she was young... Her father left and then her mother put her brother into a mental institution when he was young because he had violent issues. Her mother was very controlling and even told her not to talk about her brother. She wanted to act as if he didn’t exist… Then, she died when Maggie was finishing college, leaving her alone.”
The FBI agents listened to him intently while the police department began the search for evidence in the school area. Sawyer sighed. “She’s always been a little bit of a loner.” He hated talking about her like that because at that moment the only thing he wanted was to rip her head off with his own hands. She had taken Lizbeth and the kids, and only God knew what she was capable of.
“I see…” Agent Sullivan nodded.
“Did you break up because of her cheating or there were any other problems between the two of you?”
Sawyer rubbed the back of his head. “I’m a firefighter and work different —and long— shifts every week, and she hated that when we were together. There was also this thing… She wanted to have kids, but I told her I didn’t want to.”
“But you have kids now,” agent Pattinson pressed.
Why the fuck are they asking me all these questions instead of looking for the kids? Sawyer gritted his teeth, feeling the tension building up in his whole body.
“They’re his sister’s,” Jim spoke. “She died in a car accident three years ago and he adopted them.”
“Is this true?” Agent Sullivan asked Sawyer.
Both FBI agents looked at each other without saying another word and slightly nodded. “Okay, the first thing we’re going to do is search for any proof in Ms.Summers’ room of where she might have gone.”
“We already have her license plate number. She might have taken them off so we can’t track her, but we also know all the details of her car, so unless she changes, we can still locate her,” Jim told them.
“What if she changes the car?” Sawyer asked, scared. If that was everything they had, how would they find them?
“I highly doubt she changes the car,” agent Pattinson stated. “Nothing in this case seems planned, and since she’s probably acting on an impulse the kids must be scared. Going with them anywhere in that state would draw too much attention to them, and with the amber alert on them, she’ll try to drive without stopping until she reaches the places where she’s taking them.”
The special agent’s words should have eased him, but they didn’t. Sawyer’s mind was running a mile a minute in an endless spiral and he was starting to feel sick. “S, you look pale, you should go home… There’s nothing you can do here anymore,” Jim suggested.
“You want me to go home and do nothing? Jim, it’s my woman and my kids who we’re talking about!” Sawyer yelled, pointing with his finger to the road. His chest moving up and down heavily.
“Captain Kook is right, Mr.Cox. You need to go home and clear your mind. We’ll send a couple of officers with you in case she makes a call and to let you know any advances in this case, but you cannot help us here.”
“Fine,” Sawyer grunted. He was angry beyond imagination, frustrated, and powerless.
“They’ll drive you home,” Jim noted as he walked with Sawyer towards one of the police cars. “With the shoulder like that and that nervous state you could have an accident and we already have enough to deal with.”
“Sure,” he said under his breath. He got inside the car without saying a word and a couple of minutes later they were taking him back home.
The pain on his injured shoulder was nothing compared to the dark and empty hollow he was feeling in his chest at that moment. It was as if someone had torn his ribs apart and ripped his heart out of his body.
He didn’t take his eyes off the clock on the screen of his phone, and thirty-nine minutes after sitting in the kitchen, someone knocked at his door.
After walking up and down his apartment like a caged lion, he ran towards the entrance of his house. “Hey,” Jim gave him a small smile. “Can I come in?” he asked.
“Sure.” Sawyer nodded. Noah approached him, wagging her tail at him, but she wasn’t as effusive as she used to be. She was smart and knew something was off. She had been wandering around the house with her tail between her legs the whole afternoon, whining every time she went into the kids' room.
“Hey, girl…” Jim softly said. “How are you holding on?” he asked Sawyer as he patted the dog.
“What do you think?” he retorted, frowning, as he sat on one of the kitchen stools again.
“Yeah…” Jim said as he left the kids backpacks on the counter, making a pang of sorrow wrap around Sawyer’s body.
He put his head between both of his hands and pressed his temples as he clenched his jaw, trying to keep the tears inside. “Do you have any news on the case?”
“Actually… Yeah,” Jim heaved, avoiding eye contact with him.
“What is it?”
“We searched her house and Nicolas’ too and we found dozens of pictures of you, Liz and the kids. She’s been following you for a while...”
“What?” He felt violated. Then, it clicked. The threat Lizbeth received on her phone, the car following them around. “Wait. The car that was following us…” He couldn’t finish the sentence.
Jim nodded. “Now that we’re digging deep into her life, we’ve found out that the car belongs to a coworker. She’s clean,” he said before Sawyer could speak again. “Ms.Carter has a company car and owns another three, she’s kind of loaded… So when Maggie told her she needed one, she borrowed hers.”
“Fuck!” He hit the counter.
“Sawyer, don’t blame yourself,” Jim said in a commanding tone of voice. He knew him so well. “This is not your fault, she’s obsessed, but we’ll find her. I can assure you that much.”
“We’re watching her phone number, her bank account, we’ve located all the people she’s been in contact with for the past three months and we also have the address of an old farm her parents used to have in North Carolina.”
“Yeah,” Jim looked at him, confused.
Sawyer opened his eyes wide. “I thought she had sold it,” he mentioned.
“Apparently not.” Jim shrugged. “It’s far and isolated so she’s probably taking them there.”
“And what are we doing here!” He jumped off the stool.
“A few patrols have gone to check and wait until she shows up. It’s not like we can do whatever we want at the moment. If we’re not careful she could harm them.”
“You don’t need to be subtle with me, say it straight out, she could kill them.” He wasn’t a cop, but he knew how those things worked. He knew that the first forty-eight hours were critical on a missing person case, even more, when there were kids, and if the kidnapper was someone out of their mind it could be anything.
Jim didn’t say anything and just stared at him with a stern expression on his face. “Sawyer… We’re going to find them alive,” he emphasized the last word. “She’s not thinking clearly and that’s when criminals always mess up.”
“I know but—” Jim’s phone rang, startling him. Sawyer’s heart rate accelerated as Jim grabbed it. “Captain Kook.”
Sawyer stared at him with piercing scrutiny, waiting to see any slight reaction on his face, but he just nodded as he listened to whoever was calling him. “Okay… Yeah, sure. Perfect, we’re on our way.”
“What was that?” Sawyer asked.
“We’re going to get them, and I think it’ll be great if they saw their dad there,” Jim told him with a small smile.
“Of course!” he stated as he grabbed his phone and wallet and put them inside his jeans.
“Seems like they had to stop at a gas station out of Dinwiddie and the shop assistant called us,” Jim told him as he motioned the officers to walk out of the apartment.
“Did she hold them there?”
“No, she called us when she read what Liz wrote on a piece of paper she handed her with the money from the gas while Maggie was with them.”
“That’s my girl…” Sawyer said in a low voice, feeling somewhat proud that she could manage to think straight even under that kind of pressure.
“We have access now to the road cameras in the area and they spotted the car driving south. They lost sight of them when she turned into a countryside road, but we know where she’s heading so I’m not worried.”
“Good, but she’s forty-five minutes ahead of us...”
“Yeah, but she’s driving in the countryside roads and she can’t drive as fast as we can if she wants to go unnoticed,” Jim smirked as he got into the driver’s seat of his car. “We’ll contact the state police department of North Carolina and go all the way to Littleton through the highway. Then we can drive north to meet them half-way. There’s only one road down there.”
“Good,” Sawyer nodded as he put on his seatbelt.
“Let’s go get your family back!”