Breaking out of jail was messy and complicated, but Jason rose to the challenge. And without any help from his cellmates. Jason didn't want anyone slowing him down or having too much knowledge of his whereabouts. He was on a mission. The first order of business was getting cash.
He bathed in a creek to throw any dogs off his scent. Afterward he stalked through the woods until he came upon a farm. The family settled down around nightfall and Jason crept into the barn. The horses stirred, unhappy with his presence. Jason calmed them with soft noises and gentle caresses. A truce was formed and he was able to climb into the loft and lay down for the night.
When morning came and the family left, Jason snuck into their house. He glanced briefly at their family photos. Would Keesha and Jacob like living on a farm like this? Would his son enjoy farm chores or was life in the city more to his liking? Jason relaxed for just a moment as he thought about mother and son. Soon, they would reunite and they could learn how to be a family.
He quickly showered and found clothes and boots that fit. After he erased any trace of his actions, he searched for weapons. He found many in the hall closet. Knowing that he needed to travel light, Jason grabbed a handgun and enough ammunition to last him a week. He glanced at the wall clock as he slipped out the kitchen door. Twenty minutes in and out. He needed to move faster if he didn't want to get caught.
Jason returned to the neighboring woods. The forest provided perfect cover as he headed toward New Hampshire and his secret stash of cash.
"I just need to know something—"
"Alex, it is not in your best interest to question me," his cigar smoking superior said. "You are answerable to me. Not vice versa."
Alex ran a hand through his short dark hair. Going in unannounced had been a risk. Normally, he did his job and stayed out of their radar. But when news of Dawn Jensen-Mulder's disappearance leaked out, he had no choice. For Dara's sake, he had to know if he was any way involved with her abduction. His affection for her sister demanded it.
"I understand," Alex said through thin lips.
"Yet, you persist." The man tapped his cigar against the expensive, crystal ashtray. Ashes drifted onto the glass bottom. Smoke permeated the air, stifling every breath Alex inhaled. "Your ability to lose yourself in your cases is impressive. Just don't lose sight of your goal."
"I haven't." He folded his arms across his chest and looked away.
"Your concern for the Jensen woman is genuine. Perhaps your relationship with her sister isn't a ruse. Is it possible that Alex Krycek has fallen in love?"
Alex stiffened. "Don't mock me."
"Never forget who signs your paycheck." The man chewed the cigar. "We have nothing to do with the police detective's disappearance."
"Do you have any information?"
"For you to share with her sister?" The other man released a cold, calculating laugh. "Not on your life. No, I have not wasted any time following the abduction of female detectives. I have more important things, which require my attention. As do you. The trial starts tomorrow. Do not forget what you must do. The jury must not reach a verdict."
Dara paced her living room floor. She clutched her legal pad in her left hand and a pencil in her right. The carefully worded lines of her opening statement covered the yellow pages. She usually memorized the words and gave her full attention to the jury as she recited her speech. By now, she would have had all five pages etched in her brain. But tonight she couldn't focus.
"Sit down," Fox said. His voice sounded hoarse. He looked like death warmed over. "She won't come back that way. Believe me, I've already tried. It doesn't work."
She paused long enough to stare daggers at him. "How can you joke?"
"It's either that or cry like a little girl. Neither will bring her back. Joking keeps me connected to her. She'd pistol whip me if she ever found out I cried. I'd rather make her happy with a joke."
"You think she's still alive?" Dara asked quietly.
"I refuse to believe otherwise." He moved to peer over Jerry's shoulder.
Dara's bodyguard had remained quiet since the news hit. Instead, he worked diligently on his computer, using tracking methods that Dara couldn't comprehend. Each second that ticked by, the lines deepened in his rugged face and increased her fears tenfold.
"What's that?" Fox asked.
"It's a matrix system that I can't begin to explain to you," Jerry answered bluntly and without sarcasm. "Let me do what I do. The first hours are crucial."
"She's been missing over twenty-four," Fox said.
"Why didn't you contact someone?" Dara said, suddenly pouncing on her brother-in-law. "Every minute counts. Do you know how many you wasted?"
"Dara," Jerry said, "don't. It's not his fault. Don't say something you can't take back."
"Don't stop her," Fox said. "I've asked myself the same thing. I should have met Dawn at the station and brought her home."
"Then, it would have been both of you," Jerry said.
"Better me than her. If I'd been with her, at least she wouldn't have been alone—"
"Or you would have been dead."
Dara's knees buckled and she collapsed in a heap on the floor. Jerry quickly swept her into his arms and placed her on the sofa. He grabbed a blanket to cover her. She waved him away. "No, stop. I don't need it. I'm just..." Fox joined her on the sofa. She took his hand. "I'm sorry. I don't blame you."
"It's okay, Dara." He squeezed her hand and closed his eyes.
"Have you told anyone else?"
"I left a message for Damon to call me back. I don’t know how to tell your parents. Telling your brother will be bad enough, but they need to know before the news crews camp out on their doorstep."
"What about your mother?"
Fox frowned. "I hadn't thought about calling her. You know she and Dawn have never gotten along."
"She'll want to know," she said softly. "You can use the phone in my bedroom. If you want, you can stay over. Our families need to stand together right now."
He stood. "Thanks, Dara."
After he left the room, Jerry returned to his laptop. Dara watched him brooding in front of the well-lit screen. His fingers flew over the keyboards. She was surprised that smoke didn't drift from his fingertips. His cold detachment was oddly soothing. How did he do it?
"Dawn's strong," he said, "and she knows that you're all pulling for her. That will help."
"What do you think is happening to her? Why hasn't there been a ransom note?"
"It may not be about money."
He hesitated for a brief moment. "Power, control, revenge. Take your pick. It could be one or all three."
"How do we find out?" She tossed her legal pad and pencil to the floor. The case against Rx Limited didn't mattered right now. "I have never been good at waiting."
"Who is?" he asked. "You don't have much of a choice this time."
She didn't have an answer for that, so she hugged a pillow to her chest. When Fox first arrived and told her what happened, Dara lost her lunch. Right in the doorway to her home. Quick reflexes kept her from hitting his shoes. Almost simultaneously, he jumped a foot and held her in his arms. In that moment, Dara caught a glimpse of the reason why her sister found the heart to forgive him. Despite his drive for the truth, deep down inside he was a good man.
Speaking of good men, she had to call her father. How did she tell Robert Jensen that his darling baby girl was missing? His body couldn't handle another heart attack. She reached for her cell phone and prayed that her mother, Carlotta answered.
"Hey, Dara, what's up?" Damon, the oldest answered. "Fox left a cryptic message on my voicemail. I was about to call him back."
She inhaled a shaky breath. His fast-talking style rather gave anyone a chance to get a word in. That was probably why he and Fox got along. They both shared the gift for gab. Dara's ability kicked in only when required in the court of law. Then, she was just as bold and steadfast as the both of them.
"I'm here," she said. "Listen, are Mama and Dad around?"
"They're in den. I'm in the kitchen. What's going on?"
"Dawn is missing," she said quietly.
He asked more questions and she answered them all. A few minutes into their conversation, Fox returned to the living room. He slumped onto the sofa. When the call ended, he asked about her parents.
"They're scared. I want to go to them, but I think I should stay here."
"Damon will take care of them. What about the trial? Opening statements are tomorrow."
"I'm asking for a continuance—"
"Don't," he said. "She wouldn't want you to."
"Fox, I can't focus on anything but my sister. How am I supposed to stand in court and try a case?"
"Because it will give you something to focus on," he said. "Rx has disabled and murdered so many African-Americans with their lack of research. Focus on proving their negligence and deceit. There's nothing else you can do anyway."
"What are going to do?"
"Write," he said softly, "and investigate."183