“Honey, honey ….” Aimee shook Gene’s shoulder trying to wake him up.
Groaning Gene opened his eyes. Blinking he looked into Aimee’s concerned pink eyes. “What?” he mumbled sitting up.
“You were dreaming about her again,” Aimee commented snuggling close to him.
Aimee lifted a finger up to Gene’s mouth “shh you have no reason to be sorry. I’d be having nightmares too after finding out my torturer was being released due to a technicality….” her voice faded as she felt Gene’s arms tighten around her.
“You don’t think she’ll come here do you?” he asked unable to keep the fear from creeping into his voice. “Maybe we should move.”
“If that would make you feel safe. I’ll put the house up for sale tomorrow.” Aimee said kissing his cheek wishing she could make this better for him. After five years this was the last thing they anticipated having to cope with. They had been informed that his abductor had acquired an over priced lawyer to represent her in her quest to lessen her jail time. They never imagined she’d be released. That same over priced lawyer found an obscure police procedure not documented or followed correctly. Based upon that, the lawyer had grounds to file a case of wrongful imprisonment. The lead investigator called Gene personally to tell him of the verdict apologizing for the error and the injustice that allowed this terrible person to be released from prison.
As much as Aimee appreciated the call and the warning that the media would be camped outside their door waiting for their comments on this travesty of justice. Aimee’s first concern was Gene. How was this going to effect him? After regaining his memory of what happened, followed by his battle to perform with the constant pain he lived with everyday. Gene didn’t need some court to rule that all his suffering was null and void because some stupid cop didn’t follow procedure exactly right…”Should I call Jean Paul and set up an appointment?” Aimee asked knowing that Gene had come to rely upon him during emotionally distressing times.
Aimee’s chin bounced on Gene’s chest as he chuckled with amusement “he already called. You and him must think I’m emotionally unstable ….”
“Aren’t you?” Aimee asked sitting up staring at him intently.
Following her Gene wrapped his arms around her. Breathing in her scent, the scent that somehow had become a part of his soul. He smiled “I should be upset and obviously I am as its effecting my dreams. But I refuse to give her any more power over me. She almost ruined my life once, she’s not going to do it again. I’ll admit the thought has crossed my mind that she’ll show up here but how likely is that? We’re in a totally different country. We’ll need to take precautions because the thought of her finding us petrifies me. I don’t really want to move. I love this house, I love living in Star Light Shores. But I do think we need a change of pace. Since I dislike the idea of traveling for obvious reasons I bought a summer-house in Hidden Springs…”
“You what?” Aimee cried laughing with delight.
“I did” Gene grinned “I thought it would make a good retirement home. Sooner or later I’ll have to retire. I know I can’t continue to perform; especially not on this ankle. I’m already 31….”
“That’s not old,” Aimee protested
“Thank you,” Gene laughed “I don’t feel old but my ankle isn’t going to last that much longer. My physical therapist has already warned me if I continue I might not be able to walk in 10 or 20 years. He suggested a controversial therapy that’s only available in Hidden Springs. While you and kids are having fun I’ll be going in for treatments. When I retire I want to do so at the top of my career.” Looking at Aimee he added “in five years I plan on retiring. I have plenty of offers for commercials and guest appearances so I’ll still be working.”
“Are you sure?” Aimee asked hugging him “I know how hard you worked to get where you are.”
“I’m sure,” Gene leaned in and kissed her holding her close “It’s my decision. I want to be able to enjoy being with the kids. I want to be able to walk my girls down the aisle when they get married…”
“I thought you wanted to be able to chase all the boys away,” Aimee said laughing.
“That too if it’s an option,” he replied grinning.
“I didn’t think so,” Gene pulled Aimee down beside him “Whatever happens we’ll face it together.”
Sighing Aimee asked “should we tell the kids?”
“I think we should,” Gene told her “I don’t want to scare them but they need to be aware of the danger.” Gene sighed “especially Matt. He’s fearless. He thinks everyone is his friend. He’s the one I’m most concerned about. I don’t want to burst that bubble … but if something happens….”
“Don’t think like that?” Aimee lifted her chin up to kiss along Gene’s jar line. “He’s never left alone plus Ian is always with him. Ian is more cautious and less trusting then Matty. Ian will keep his brother from going up to any strangers.”
“If Ian is paying attention,” Gene grumbled “he’s always engrossed in some video game…”
“Hey don’t knock it until you try it.” Aimee pretended to pout “besides he’s going to take over my video commentary when I have to give it up to take care of my feeble husband when he retires.”
“I’ll show you feeble,” Gene said as he rolled her over on the bed. Kissing her deeply with a passion that hadn’t diminished in all the time they’d been together
Two weeks later Ian was busy playing Mario Bros, an old game he found in a cache of older games his mom had. He was determined to beat all the levels, if he was allowed to concentrate that is. Matt, his younger brother was bored and bouncing restlessly on the couch. “Come on Ian let me play.”
Ignoring him Ian continued to zone in on his game, he just had to finish it. “Ian please …. I’m so bored,” Matt complained as he grabbed the game controller from his brothers hands causing Ian to lose a life in the game.
“Matt look what you did…you killed me” Ian shouted grabbing for the controller that Matt was waving around above his head. “Now I have to start all over.”
Dropping the controller Matt grabbed Ian’s hand “Come outside and play with me” he begged tugging on his brother’s arm.
Ian pushed Matt away from him fed up with his annoying little brother. Picking up the controller he reset the game determined to ignore Matt crying on the floor.
Wiping his eyes Matt sat a moment watching Ian engrossed in his game again. He stood up and walked to the door. Looking back at Ian on the couch he muttered “all I wanted to do was play.” He slumped outside sitting on the porch, head in hands wondering why no one ever wanted to play with him. Not his sisters who had locked him out of their room. Not Uncle Michael who was studying for finals whatever those were. Not even his brother wanted him around. Sniffling he stood up and walking towards the backyard.
Sitting in the sandbox Matt tried to amuse himself by building castles for the fire-breathing dragons to destroy. Giant fireballs hurled towards the helpless knights protecting their princesses in the castles. It was no use, nothing they did could protect them against the dragons. The dragons always win because Matt was the dragon but it just wasn’t any fun without someone to play with. If only he had an invisible friend like his friend Ricky did. Ricky was always telling him about all the cool stuff he did with his invisible friend. Ricky wasn’t allowed to bring his invisible friend to school anymore not since Ricky made that huge mess with the glue and blamed it on his invisible friend. Matt sighed he could use an invisible friend right now.
He stood up and walked to the edge of the yard. He knew he wasn’t supposed to leave the yard without permission or without someone with him. Everyone had better things to do then play with him. All his friends were at the park. They always told him how much fun they had playing at the park. Staring across at the open spaces of green grass Matt grinned, today he was going to the park. He was going to have fun today. He started to run laughing to himself until he tripped and fell in the grass. Lying on the ground he frowned as a shadow came over him. Looking up he saw a strange lady staring down at him. “Hey little boy are you ok?” she asked kneeling beside him.
“I’m ok,” he said sitting up. Looking around him he realized he was a long way from the house “I should go home now.”
Reaching out the lady grabbed his arm “do you live around here?” she asked looking towards the nearest house.
Shaking his head Matt pointed in the direction he had come “I need to go now lady.” He tried to pull his arm free from her grip.
“Not so fast little boy,” she smiled at him “what’s your daddy’s name?”
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” Matt said suddenly frightened. The woman propelled him forward by the arm she held as she walked towards a car parked on the side of the road. “Let me go,” Matt yelled pulling as he struggled to free himself. In the distance he heard Ian calling his name…
Ian played for few minutes until his irritation subsided to guilt. He felt bad for pushing Matt down. He had seen the hurt wounded look in his brother’s eyes as he stared up at him in disbelief. Feeling bad, Ian turned the game off and went in search of his brother. Expecting to find him sulking on the porch he went outside. Not finding him there he went to the sandbox and saw Matt running in the distance. Ian looked back at the house knowing he should probably tell his parents that Matt had ran off but if he did that Matt would get in trouble and it was his fault that Matt ran off. He wasn’t too far away Ian reasoned he could catch up to him. Sighing Ian began to run after him yelling his name.
Ian watched in dismay as a lady with red hair grabbed Matty and started to walk towards a car. He started to scream as he saw Matt struggling to get away. Crying Ian ran faster regretting that he hadn’t told his dad, he could really use some help now that his brother was being kidnapped and it was all his fault. If he hadn’t ignored Matt he wouldn’t have run off. “Matt” he screamed again…
Gene and Aimee were enjoying a rare moment of quiet together until Jasmine and Stephanie knocked on their door.
“Mom, dad the boys ran off” they announced relishing the thought of getting their brothers in trouble.
“What do you mean they ran off?” Gene asked instantly on alert.
Stephanie shrugged as her sister explained “they were fighting than Matt stormed outside…”
“They weren’t exactly fighting,” Stephanie inserted “Matt was being his annoying self and Ian pushed him. No big deal except the little cry baby ran out of the house and Ian followed him.”
“We thought you should know,” Jasmine nodded smugly.
“Thank you girls,” Aimee smiled at them while her eyes pleaded with Gene to find her boys.
Throwing his clothes on Gene ran down the stairs yelling for Michael.
Coming out of his room Michael looked at Gene “what’s up?”
“The boys have run off, can you help me find them?” Gene asked trying to remain calm.
Matt increased his struggle and almost got away until he tripped on a gopher hole. Before he was able to get back up the lady had him again. She stood above him laughing as he rubbed his ankle “I bet your daddy’s name is Gene Bennett,” she said as she stooped to pick him up.
“Leave my brother alone,” Ian demanded arms on hips scowling at the lady.
The lady looked up startled facing the little boy. Smiling she said “looks like I get a two for one deal.” She moved quick and grabbed Ian’s arm before he was able to react. Putting Matt down she grabbed his wrist in her other hand and ran for the parked car.
Unable to keep up with the lady’s faster strides Matt was dragged most of the way to the car. He heard Ian screaming and crying for help. Matt was so scared he couldn’t find his voice to scream. All he could think was this was all his fault. He should never have run off. It was his fault that he and Ian were going to become missing children with their pictures hanging in Wal-Mart’s everywhere.
Upon reaching the car the lady tossed them into the backseat. Matt grabbed for the door handle but it wouldn’t open no matter how hard he yanked on it. He turned to his brother with fear and desperation in his eyes. He felt Ian put his arm around him as he burst into tears. Matt clung to his brother as they cried in each others arms.
Gene couldn’t believe his eyes as he drove slowly along the road. Glad that he let Michael convince him to drive along the road instead of attempting to follow the boys on foot. He watched as the lady tossed his boys into the backseat of a car. “Oh god,” he breathed as adrenaline pumped through his body. Without thinking he rammed the car into park in front of her car. Jumping out he approached the her feeling as if he were living in his worst nightmare.
She smiled up at him as she blocked his efforts to get to the boys.
“Out of my way woman,” Gene snapped. He could see the boys crying. He had to get them out. Reaching around the woman as she pressed her body against the door refusing to budge. Frantic with undisguised fear for his children Gene took an incautious step backwards causing his ankle to give out beneath him. He landed on his back looking up at the girl. She smiled licking her lips in anticipation as she reached down and grabbed his ankle.
For a split second Gene was inside the tomb, unable to see with his screams echoing off the walls. He felt her fingers pressing into his ankle as he shook his head to clear it of the memories of the past. Looking up he saw his boys, faces pressed against the window watching in horror. Mustering what strength he had as he felt her begin to twist his ankle he kicked out with his other leg. It connected sending her flying backwards, head hitting the ground with a dull thud.
Scrambling to his feet he limped to the car to release his boys. Matt jumped into his arms as Ian wrapped his arms around his waist. Briefly he squeezed his boys tight. Gene moved cautiously around the prone body of his worst nightmare he hoped to get his boys to safety before she recovered. Encumbered by the boys he wasn’t fast enough as he felt her grab his ankle, tripping he dropped Matt as he fell to the ground yelling for the boys to run.
Once Gene was down she crawled onto his back grabbing a fistful of hair she began to pound his face into the ground. Stunned Gene struggled to free his arms that had been pinned beneath him when he fell. From the repeated impact with the ground Gene was finding it difficult to remain conscious. He could only hope to keep her occupied long enough for the boys to reach safety. In the distance he could hear sirens and he was aware of flashes of light as the lady screamed as one flash went off close above him. Gene took the opportunity that afforded him to roll out from beneath her. Strong arms grabbed him helping him to his feet. He smiled as he recognized the paparazzi man who was usually camped outside his house. Gene was never more thankful to see anyone in his life. “Are you alright?” the man asked snapping a picture of Gene’s distraught and bloodied face.
Nodding Gene gasped “thank you,” as he watched his the lady glare at them.
“My pleasure,” the paparazzi said with a smile “thanks to your boys I have the story of the century.”
“I’m too thankful to be annoyed at that comment,” Gene said as he put a hand to his face to inspect the damage.
Laughing the man said “sit down before you pass-out. The cops should be here any moment.”