“Dude, your hackers really know their stuff.” The patch wearing, one-eyed man strutted around the empty cabin. He ran a hand through his short blonde hair and gave Fox a hard look. “Too bad no one’s here.”
“But they were here,” Fox turned away from Steve Johnson to finish going through the house. The dvd of Dawn showed her locked in a cell. Maybe if he found the cell, he’d find a clue for where she was now.
“From the looks of it,” Steve said, “they’ve been gone for several hours.”
“The web cam shows her in the woods.”
“Man, this whole place is wooded. It’s like a maze out there.”
“You can go back wherever you came from,” Fox said. “I can do this without you.”
Steve chuckled. “Jacks warned you’d say something like that. I’m not leaving until your missus is found. I signed on to get her back. I’m not quitting until that happens.” He reached into his leather jacket and pulled out a PDA. “It’s a good thing I have this handy little do-hickey.”
Fox left the hallway to get a closer look. “What’s that?”
“It reads thermal heat within a fifty mile radius.”
“Well, we can find her!” Fox reached for the device.
Steve swerved away from him. “Not so fast. This thing reads animals as well as humans.”
“So, what now?” Fox refused to believe they’d come this close to finding Dawn to turn back now. “She’s here somewhere. I can feel it. Fifty miles? Damn, that’s a lot.”
“Don’t worry. We have reinforcements.” Steve pulled a cell phone from his pocket and punched in a single number. “We’re here. Move in.”
“Cops?” Fox frowned. As long as he lived, he’d never trust law enforcement again. Well, not counting his wife.
Steve laughed. “Are you kidding me?” He moved to the open front door. The whir of fast moving wings vibrated in the air. “Do you hear that? Back up is moving in. Let’s go! We can catch up with them in the jeep.”
- - -
The sound of helicopters drowned out everything else. Dawn looked up, but the cloudy sky and thick branches made visibility impossible. From the chill in the air, she knew daybreak was only moments away. She and the other women had been forced to run all night long. A sharp pain pierced her side from the exertion. Yet, stopping was not an option. She had to keep going. The promise of freedom was too real to ignore.
Suddenly, the whir of bullets whizzed past her head. She rolled to the ground and crawled behind a tree. Making her run wasn’t good enough now? Shooting at an unarmed woman made them more superior somehow?
Dawn pressed a hand to her pounding heart. What was going on? Why were they hunting her down like an animal? Was the same thing happening to Gwen or was her good friend already gone?
She blinked away the tears that watered her eyes. This was not the time for crying. There had to be a solution for a way out. Her life couldn’t end like this. She and Fox had just reconciled. She wanted to have his baby.
Fresh tears threatened. She rubbed them away with the back of her hand. The choppers continued to whir above and bullets flew past her hiding place behind the wide tree trunk. Maybe the shooter wasn’t aiming at her. There was no way she could find out without risking a bullet.
Footsteps pounded the ground. A twig snapped nearby. Her hunter was getting closer! Dawn looked around for a weapon. A fallen branch lay only a foot away. She grabbed it and held it in both hands. Her gaze stayed glued to the ground. At the first sight of legs, she swung with all her might.
- - -
The flower shop, the home she created for her son, none of it had changed. Keesha looked at the building and beautiful landscape and wondered how she could go back. Her hands gripped the keys in her hand. The ridges dug into her flesh, breaking the skin. The pain was sharp but was nothing compared to the ache in her soul.
The warmth in Jian’s voice stunned her as much as his presence. “What are you doing here? You were supposed to take Jacob and go far away.”
“We didn’t want to leave.” He hurried to her and pulled her into his arms. “I was so worried. Why didn’t you call?”
“You weren’t supposed to be here.” She longed to return his embrace, but she couldn’t move. His love was so strong and pure. She wasn’t worthy.
Dear God, how could she face her son knowing she killed his father?
“Keesha?” He slowly released her and gently held her face in his hands. “What happened? Did you find Jason?”
“He’s not a threat anymore,” she whispered.
“You can tell me what happened.”
She shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Not yet,” he said with understanding, “but you will. Let’s go upstairs. Jacob and I are making chocolate chip fortune cookies.”
“He can’t see me.”
“He loves you, Keesha. Nothing will ever change that.” Jian took her hand and led her upstairs. “We’re a family. Families love each other.”
“No matter what?” she asked as they lingered on the outside of the door.
“No matter what.” He pushed the door open.
“Mommy!” Jacob’s loud cry and outstretched arms filled her with hope and the belief that all was not lost.
- - -
“They found her.”
Dara didn’t think twice about wrapping her arms around Jerry and hugging him tight. Three simple words made her day in court even sweeter. From the jurors’ horrified expressions from hearing her clients’ testimony, she knew that Rx Limited’s days as using people of color as guinea pigs were over. And the news that her sister was safe and sound was icing on the cake.
“Where is she?”
“Fox took her to the local hospital for a full examination, but don’t worry. This is routine.” Jerry rubbed her back in slow circles. “Everything will be okay now, Dara.”
“We have to call my parents.”
“It’s done. Fox called Damon. Your brother told them all is well.”
“What about the other women?”
“They were in surrounding areas and most of them have been found. Steve is looking into the rest, but it doesn’t look good.”
Dara pulled free of Jerry’s hold and moved to the window. The view from her apartment showed an upscale neighborhood. She’d always loved this place. It was hard to believe how much had happened since she moved in.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“You haven’t been able to find Alex.”
“You still care for him,” he accused.
“What I feel doesn’t matter. I need to know where he is.”
“Dara, you may never know that. The world he lives in isn’t like yours. People go underground for years. Sometimes they never resurface.”
“So I’ll never know if he lives or dies.” The words sounded hollow and empty. Jerry accused her of having feelings for Alex, but how could she care about someone she never really knew?
“Can you find out if the threat against me is still active?” She turned away from the window to look at him. “Will I have to dodge bullets the rest of my life?”
“That’s taken care of, too.”
She smiled. “You work fast.”
“It’s my job.”
“Is that the only reason?”
He shook his head. “No, but this isn’t the time for that conversation.”
He didn’t have to say more. She already knew the answer.
- - -
One month later...
“This is nice.”
Fox and Dawn lay together on a hammock. Warm breezes blew, gently swaying them back and forth. The Mulder summer home in upstate New York became their perfect hideaway and a great place for them to decide what to do with the rest of their lives.
“I want to have a baby,” she said.
His arms tightened around her. He pressed his palm against her flat abdomen. He could almost imagine her womb swollen with his child. A smile formed at the thought.
“We could start right now.”
She laughed. “You’re always so eager.”
“Anything to make you happy.”
“Did I ever thank you?” She caressed his fingers, arousing him with an innocent touch.
“Not giving up on me. For finding me. You never gave up.”
“I love you.”
The smile in her voice made him laugh. “Well?”
“Oh, alright. I love you, too.”
She became quiet and Fox wondered if she’d been lulled to sleep. He adjusted his hold and closed his eyes. Resting now would give them energy for making babies later.
One eye popped open. “Yeah?”
“Yates and Harris... They worked at the academy for years. Everyone respected them. I’m usually able to spot a small-minded bigot a mile away. I can’t believe they fooled me.”
“Not just you, Peaches.” He kissed the back of her head. “They fooled everyone. People like that learn how to hide their real feelings until it gets to be too much.”
“And then they completely lose it.” She rolled around to face him. “I never realized how much they hated us. It must have been hell for them to see us get our gold shields and move beyond the academy.”
“For years they got away with their hatred.” He frowned. “With a little investigation, they could have been stopped.”
“Not everyone at the department is bad,” she said.
“They’re not all good either.”
Suddenly, the neighbor’s dog started barking. Cujo only yapped like that when strangers were around. Fox rose from the hammock and Dawn did the same. A moment later, a man and a woman wearing dark, government issue suits entered the back yard.
“Are you Fox and Dawn Mulder?”
Fox folded his arms across his chest. “Who wants to know?”
The couple extended their badges. Dawn took them.
“We’re Special Agents Thomas Hardy and Gina Cates,” the woman said.
“FBI,” Dawn said in an audible whisper.
“What do you want?” Fox asked. His suspicion of law enforcement didn’t stop at the local level. He didn’t trust the Feds either.
“You,” Agent Hardy said, “and your wife to consider a special opportunity.”
“What kind of opportunity?” Dawn asked.
“Your work on uncovering the abduction of black female police officers hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Bureau was extremely impressed. They sent us to—”
“Butter us up,” Fox said. “We’re on vacation.”
“We understand that—”
“Then understand that we’ll get back to you,” Dawn said.
“Maybe,” Fox added. “You can show yourselves out. Or maybe Cujo can help you?”
“No,” Agent Cates said, “That won’t be necessary. We’ll leave our business cards on the porch.”
After they left, Dawn started to laugh. “Can you imagine? Special Agent Fox Mulder at your service!”
He rolled his eyes. “As if.”