RELEASING: MARCH 4, 2014
*Don’t read this if you haven’t finished Forgiving Lies yet*
“YOU GOOD?” I asked Mason as we headed back toward the elevators.
He shrugged and punched at the buttons on the wall. “There’s only so much you can do to get them to go in a different direction. He wanted to follow his brother.”
The call from last night ended up being a drive-by involving a newer gang that we’d come across recently, and one of the two victims had been L’il Tay, a thirteen-year-old Mason had been trying to get off the streets over the last few months. And though Mason was acting like this was just another case, I knew this was harder for him than the rest.
Knowing there was nothing I could say, I clapped his shoulder and let him be alone withhis thoughts. Grabbing my phone, I smiled when I was finally able to open Rachel’s text from last night.
Sour Patch: Just so you know … cleaning up from a whipped cream war without you isn’t nearly as fun. See you when you get home. Love you.
We just finished up, be home soon babe. Love you too.
The doors to the elevator opened and we stepped in. As they were closing, someone started yelling my name from down the hall, and Mason caught the door just in time.
“Ryan! Gates!” Sergeant Ramirez ran toward us, and as soon as he was in the elevator
started pounding on the CLOSE DOORS button.
I suppressed a groan. All I wanted to do was get home to Rachel and Trip.
“We already have three units at the scene, and I’ll be following you there.”
Ramirez was a K-9 unit, why were they wanting his dog, Crush, there … and what scene?
“I know you’re anxious to get there, but you know we’re doing everything we can for
this.” The elevator was already moving, but Ramirez kept stabbing at the ground level button.
“How are you holding up? You look really calm, are you in shock? Maybe you should let Gates drive.”
That seemed to snap Mason out of his thoughts. His hand jerked away from his mouth andhis eyes widened. “Why would I need to drive?”
“And why would I be in shock?” My heart started racing as Ramirez started hitting theOPEN DOORS button.
Ramirez shot us a strained, sympathetic look before ushering us out to the undergroundparking lot. “You weren’t informed?”
“Of what?” I was supposed to be the one in shock. So it had something to do with me.
Everyone close to me starting flipping through my mind until a sinking feeling hit my chest and stomach. Oh God … Rachel. “What happened?”
“I’m sorry, I thought someone already told you, you were supposed to be informedalready,” he mumbled to himself as he kept walking toward the lot. “Look, I’m sorry I’m the one that has to tell you this.” He stopped walking abruptly and turned to look at me. His expression was one I had seen so many times, and had even had to use myself. It felt like time slowed as I waited for him to tell me one of fifty scenarios that were speeding through my mind. “A call came in to dispatch about an hour ago. It was your fiancée, Ryan. The only thing that came from her end of the call was her saying her name, someone had broken in—”
I didn’t wait to hear the rest, I took off running for my truck and had just gotten to the
driver’s door when Mason slammed me into the side and ripped the keys from my hand. After barking at me to get in the passenger seat, he fired up the engine and peeled out of the lot.
“This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening, Mase, tell me this isn’t fucking happening!”
“Damn it!” I roared and punched at the dashboard. “I don’t even know if she’s okay,
Mason! What was Ramirez saying, did he say if she’s okay? Is she—oh God. Rach, baby, please be alive,” I whispered and slumped into my seat, raking my hands over my face.
I heard Mason on the phone calling into dispatch and asking questions about whathappened, but I couldn’t focus on his exact words or the muffled response coming from the dispatcher. I just kept praying over and over again that she was okay. I could deal with our place being broken into. I could replace all that. But I couldn’t replace Rachel.
Mason nudged my arm and I snapped my head to the left to look at him. “Sorry, you
weren’t responding. They don’t know if she’s alive, but there’s no blood. So just focus on that, Kash.”
“W-what? No … what do you mean?”
He took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel. “From what units at the scene—uh, your place—are saying, whoever broke in … they uh, they took Rachel.”
Mason was saying something else, but I couldn’t hear anything past the blood rushing
through my ears. When we got to the house, the front door was hanging like it had been kicked in, but the rest of the front looked completely normal. Save for the dozens of officers and detectives that were walking in and out of it. Remembering the faux-wall in the closet, I prayed like hell that Rachel was using it and took off for the large closet in the bathroom.
When I flipped on the light in the closet, dread filled me when I saw the drag marks on the carpet. I called one of the officers that had been taking pictures of the bedroom to get a few pictures of the carpet before I walked in, and all hope left me when all I found behind that wall was our puppy. I grabbed him and pulled him into my chest as I fell back against the wall, and the tears that had been threatening, started spilling over.
“Kash, you need to see this,” Mason said softly from the doorway to the closet. I lookedover at him, rolled to my knees and stood. “Give me Trip. Go into the bedroom and look at the wall. We’ll find her, okay? I swear to you we’ll find her.”
I handed him the golden retriever and rushed into the bedroom that looked like a hurricane had hit it. My eyes widened when they finally landed on the wall opposite our bed. A roar filled the room, and before I could realize it came from me, two officers were holding me back and trying to get me to sit down on the bed.
On the wall in red spray paint were the words DID YOU THINK WE WOULD FORGET?
Underneath was a symbol. One both Mason and I’d had tattooed on our left forearms during our last undercover narcotics assignment with Juarez’s gang.
“How?” Mason was asking a detective that was in the room with us. And that was a damn good question. Juarez had put a hit on Mase and me before we could take down his gang, but it had died when the guys hired were thrown in prison for another murder. And I knew for a fact Juarez and his boys were all in prison. “Recruiting people from the inside who got out? Or just using people he trusts? Set up questioning with each of them separately.”
I looked up when Detective Byson’s cell rang. His mouth snapped shut from answering
Mason and he answered the call. “Byson.” His eyes shot over to me and a grim look crossed his face as he listened. “Mmhm … Yeah. Set up something with Juarez and his attorney immediately. I’m on my way.” He turned to face me and slid his phone back in the holder on his belt. “Rachel is alive.”
“Thank God,” I breathed and tried to stand, but the officers were still holding me there.
“A call was placed about fifteen minutes ago, demanding that every charge against Juarez’s gang be dropped. Before the dispatcher could ask anything, the caller said they would call back in two days and expected progress on the charges being dropped, and would continue to call every two days until every member of the gang was released. If there isn’t progress, there will be consequences, and if they aren’t released within the month … she dies.”
“Kash, Kash, Kash calm down. Come on, man. Calm down. I know.”
Mason gripped my shoulders and I tried to focus on him. The other two officers were now struggling to keep me down as I thrashed against them. Where I was going to go when I got away from them, I didn’t know, I just needed to go. They had my girl. I needed to find out who they were, and I needed to get her back.
“I know this is hard. But we’ll find her. I swear.” Mason looked just as panicked as I felt,and it was then I noticed the wetness in his eyes he was trying to keep back.
When I finally stopped struggling, the officers let me go at Mason’s request, but he kept
me seated on the bed. “I need to get her back, Mason. I have to.”
“I’ll do anything.”
A determined look settled over his face and he whispered low enough that only I couldhear him. “Anything to bring the fuckers down, right?”
I slammed my fist against his and swore, “Always.”
I WALKED INTO Mason’s apartment that evening with a bag slung over one shoulder, and Trip in my arms. Our bedroom was still being considered a crime scene, and I was asked to stay out of it for the night as they processed more and continued to take fingerprints. Not that I thought I would be able to stay there even after they were done anyway, without Rachel … I didn’t know how I would handle being there.
After dropping the bag in the room I’d occupied for years when Mason and I’d shared anapartment, I fell heavily onto the bed and kept Trip secured tightly to my chest as I stared at nothing.
A fear unlike anything I’d ever known had coursed through my body the moment I’drealized Rachel was at a murderer’s home last fall, and that I’d let her walk away with him. When the call between us had been dropped after I’d heard her scream, I hadn’t even let myself believe I wouldn’t find her and bring her back alive.
But the fear I’d experienced that early morning could never be compared to the fear thathad been crippling me all day. At least when she was with Blake, I’d had an underlying
knowledge of what Blake was capable of. Now, though, I didn’t know who had her, what they were doing to her, and what they could do. I just knew what they’d threatened to do.
For close to ten hours, a handful of detectives had questioned every member of Juarez’sgang, the two men hired to kill Mason and me last year, and family members as well. No one was talking, and the only living extended family of Juarez and his boys that we could track down had either turned their backs on the members of the gang, or were afraid of them. I hadn’t been allowed in any of the interviews since I was too close to the case—again—so I’d spent hours seeing if anyone on the street had heard anything, and looking for Rachel’s cell phone which we’d later found ten miles away from the house in a trash can at a gas station. A gas station whose indoor and outdoor cameras just happened to be down.
There’d been nothing to go off from the anonymous call placed regarding their demandsand threats for Rachel’s safety, and although they said they’d call back every two days, I’d hoped like hell they would’ve called back again. But there was nothing. We had leads that weren’t talking, and didn’t have a reason to talk, and nothing else.
And my girl was gone.
Pain seared my chest and I prayed to God that He would keep her safe. He could dowhatever He wanted with me … as long as she came back alive.
There was a shuffling near the other side of the room, and I looked over to see Masonstanding in the doorway.
“How are you holding up?”
I sucked hard on my lip ring when my chin started shaking, and looked back to the wall.
How the hell does he think I’m holding up? Rachel’s gone and probably being tortured, and I can’t do anything!
“We’ll find her, Kash.”
Unable to speak yet without breaking down, I nodded my head hard, once. We have to find her, and we have to do it tomorrow. I didn’t care if they’d given her a month to live or not. They also said there would be consequences if there wasn’t progress in two days, and I wasn’t willing to let her find out what those consequences were. Seeing how the possibility of giving the takers what they wanted was slim, finding her was the only other option.
“I love her too, I’ll do anything to get her back.”
“Do you mean that?” I choked out when he turned to leave.
He turned back and gave me an odd look. “Of course I do.”
“They aren’t going to release Juarez.”
“I know,” he said on a sigh.
“Chief told me tonight before I left that I was off this case.”
“Know that too. What are you getting at, Kash?”
I swallowed past the tightness in my throat and shook my head quickly. “We had to do alot of things in the years that we were in undercover narcotics that I wish I could erase from my memory. But you and I agreed before we ever started, we would do anything to take the fuckers down.”
“And I’ll do anything—anything, Mase—to bring these fuckers down too.”
He stared at me for a few tense moments before responding, “I know what we agreed on,and we’ll do what we always do. But don’t do something stupid. There are a lot of people
looking for her. We’ll find her.”
Fear was quickly turning to rage and determination. “Yeah, we will.”
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