Monday at school everyone was talking about the kidnapping of Jeremy and Lacey at the dance and Lacey's subsequent rescue. The newscasts on Sunday were filled with the story. Jake had asked the Oxnard Police to keep their names out of the paper, so there was no mention of the family's involvement in the rescue. A big part of the story talked about the rescue of all the kids and the exposure of a child porn operation. The brothers' story about being taken from their family in Montana was at the heart of the story. The news story told of the boys' escape from the warehouse and the accident, the discovery of Lacey at the warehouse, and the information about the other kids. The story talked about how the kids were kept drugged to keep them compliant. The mug shots of Wayne, Mason and the other two men were printed with the story. The ages and gender of the kids involved were mentioned, but no names because of their ages. Because the story was all over the news, it was of course all over the school. At school their friends came up to them and asked about Jeremy. They told Trevor how sorry they were that Jeremy was still missing. At lunch Allison, Julie and Susan came and sat down with the boys. They hugged the boys when they saw them. Allison leaned close to Trevor.
"Trevor, could we go somewhere and talk for a little bit?"
"Sure... I'll see you guys in a little bit."
The others nodded. He and Allison walked away from the lunch area. They walked in silence until Allison pointed at a raised planter and got a nod in agreement from Trevor. They sat in silence for a few moments. Trevor glanced at her as she seemed to be trying to gather her thoughts about what she wanted to say. Trevor could feel her nervousness so he waited until she was ready.
"Trevor... I talked to Lacey last night, she told me about what you, well, you and your family... did for her. I wanted to thank you. Lacey has been one of my best friends for a long time. I was miserable all day Saturday. Then she called me last night when she got home. She told me it was you and your family that rescued her. They didn't say anything about you guys in the news, how come?"
"My dad asked the police to keep our names out of it."
"How did you know where to find her?"
"Well, uh, one of the boys who was rescued called into the tip line set up by my Dad's company. They thought it was a joke, so they didn't tell my dad until later in the day. He used to be a Sheriff and he wanted to make sure it was real before we called in the police, so we went out to the area and the accident happened right in front of us and we basically lucked out and found her."
"I'm sorry you didn't find Jeremy too. She said that the last thing she could remember before she woke up in the hospital was Jeremy yelling at one of the men who had them. She saw them give him a shot and he went to sleep."
"I'm glad she's all right. Could I ask you a favor? Could you keep it to yourself about us being there; my dad doesn't want that to be known."
She looked at him for a few moments. He could see that she had tears in her eyes. She smiled at him and then leaned forward quickly and gave him a quick kiss.
"You know this really sucks. You're such a great guy who I thought I had a chance with, but I guess I never really did, did I?"
"I'm sorry if you thought I was interested. That was never my intention. As soon as I thought you might be thinking like that, I would have told you."
"Well, I think Zach is pretty lucky to have found you."
"No, I'm the lucky one. Thanks, Allison."
They stood up and Allison hugged Trevor again. They walked back to join the others just as the bell rang announcing that it was time to go back to class.
Tuesday afternoon when the boys got home to Jake's, they saw that he was home early. When they went in, they saw he was working in the kitchen.
"Hi, Dad, you're home early."
"Yeah, I came home early to get started on a pan of lasagna. Tom and Terry are coming over for dinner this evening."
"Cool. So is there a reason or..."
"No, just the family getting together."
"Oh, sounds good. Need any help?"
"No, you boys go and get started on homework."
The boys went up to Trevor's room and got to work. A couple of hours later, as they finished what they needed to do, they heard a knock on the front door and then some voices downstairs. They put everything away and went downstairs. They saw that Tom and Terry had arrived, so the boys exchanged hugs with them. They went into the dining room to eat. Tom and Terry asked the twins how things were going at school and how they were doing with the living arrangements, and reminded all of them that they were going to be over at their house for the next several days. The boys let them know that they knew and were prepared. The boys cleaned up after dinner, while the adults sat at the table and had a glass of wine. Jake sent the boys out to the security guys with some dinner, which was gratefully accepted. The men on duty this evening were Larry and Jim.
The boys went upstairs to the bedroom to play some video games. An hour later they heard the doorbell ring. The all went downstairs to see who it was and were surprised to see Lacey and her parents standing just inside the front door talking to Jake. When Lacey saw them, she went over to Trevor and hugged him. He was surprised at first and wasn't sure what to do, but quickly recovered and put his arms around her to hug her back. She whispered in his ear. "Thank you for what you did."
"What I did?"
"Yeah, I don't know what you did, but I know you did something. The police told me that you, Zach, Jared and your dad are the ones who found me."
"Yeah, but it was the other guy Derek who told us about you."
"I know, but I wanted to thank you and Zach."
"We only did what anyone else would do, but you're welcome."
She pulled back from Trevor and there were tears in her eyes. She went to Zach and gave him a hug as well before going over to Jake as she thanked him in the same way. When she finished, they all went to sit down in the living room.
"Can I get you folks anything?"
"No, we won't be long. Lacey said that she wanted to come here to thank you. Also to talk to you about your son."
Everyone stiffened a little bit when Mr. Phillips said that. They turned to Lacey expectantly.
"I, uh... wanted to say that when we were awake, Jeremy yelled at them to leave me alone, even though there was nothing he could do to stop the two of them from doing whatever they wanted to do."
"Lacey, we're just glad you're all right."
"Thanks, I know it was because of you guys that I'm all right."
"Lacey, you said two men, did you hear any names."
"The, the black guy was called Dion. I heard the blond haired guy call him that. I don't think I ever heard the other guy's name... but... Jeremy seemed to know who he was. Because he suddenly got real mad when he started talking to us when we first woke up, and started cussing at him and saying something about him killing Jeremy's mom or something like that. I was scared and wasn't sure I heard him real well. When I told the police about what I thought Jeremy was saying, my parents remembered hearing about Jeremy's mom earlier this year, and assumed that since Jeremy knew who it was, this was the same guy. The guy knew Jeremy, so I guess he was the same guy."
"Can you wait just a moment? I need to grab something from my office."
Jake went into the office and came back with a folder. He opened it and took out the picture of James Harvey and showed it to Lacey. She took it and studied it for a few moments before she handed it back. She had a puzzled look.
"That might be him, but he doesn't really look quite like that. He looks related to him, but something's not quite the same."
"We heard a rumor that he may have changed his appearance with possible plastic surgery and dyeing his hair."
"Yeah, the guy had dyed his hair; I could see the darker roots in the blond hair. I'm not real sure though."
She handed the photo back to Jake and he returned it to the folder before placing it down on the coffee table.
"So Jake, do you think this is the person who killed Jeremy's mother?"
"This is a picture of the man who we know killed her. What we've been afraid of is him returning to try to hurt the boys. When we first heard he might be back in the area and may have had some work done to disguise himself, we were a little worried and were looking into it, along with the Sheriffs trying to track him down, but we never found anything. So we dismissed it as possible rumor until we could get something concrete."
"I noticed the men out front. Do you think he might be planning anything more?"
"Yeah, they work for our security company. If this is the same person and after hearing what you just said, I firmly believe it is, then that confirms what we suspected. They are here to keep an eye on the boys. Jeremy and Trevor may both be in danger from the guy. He has Jeremy and he may want to grab Trevor as well. Anyway we met him late last year; he was dating Jeremy's mother at the time. He seemed okay at first, but in talking to Jeremy and the boys after she was killed, there was something about him that started to bother Jeremy. Call it a sleaze factor or creep factor that guy kept hidden from everyone. Jeremy thought he was okay at first, but that creep factor started to manifest itself and he started to get nervous about him. Jeremy couldn't really put his finger on it, but it was there nonetheless. The guy introduced himself as Roger Smith.
"At that time, my company, which has private investigators as well as security people and security consultants, had a client from back East who had us investigating someone named James Harvey. We were working blind, as we did not have a picture or anything more than a general description of the man. After Denise was killed, our investigator finally got a hold of a picture of James Harvey. It turned out to be the same person we knew as Roger Smith. Our client had us looking for him, because Harvey was suspected in the disappearance of his daughter, who this Harvey guy was dating at the time, but the police had no evidence of foul play, so they had to let him go. Our client heard he may have been headed out our way and so he contacted us and had us start looking for him. If only we could have gotten that picture a week or two earlier, we might have stopped everything that has happened since then concerning Harvey. And to tell the truth, we don't even know if James Harvey is his real name. All our searches for the name James Harvey have been dead ends. Either they are not him or they are dead. So unless we catch him, we may never know who he really is."
"That's quite a story. None of that of course came out in the news reports."
"Yeah, that is some of the stuff that the Sheriffs are keeping under wraps along with some other things, but I figured you should be told because of what happened."
"Well, we appreciate everything you've done for us, and we're real sorry about Jeremy. I hope you find him soon. Our prayers are with you."
"Thank you, I'm glad to see you're all right, Lacey."
"Oh, Mr. MacLaren, I just remembered something else. The blond guy, Harvey, said something to Jeremy about them taking him to someone else."
"Thanks, did you tell the police this when they talked to you?"
"No I just remembered it."
"Okay, I'll let them know."
Everyone stood up. Lacey went over to the boys and hugged them all again.
"Allison told me about you guys last night when she came over to see me. Jeremy's the same way, huh?"
"Yeah, Jared and he are together."
"So the two cute brothers are with the cute twins."
"Yep, for about a year now."
"Yeah, I kinda remember how you guys were at the assembly last year after Zach got hurt."
"A couple of our friends figured it out after that and we came out to them. We've tried to keep it from being obvious, but we'll admit it if we're asked."
"Jared, I'm real sorry about Jeremy. I can't imagine how you feel."
"S'okay. I've got my brothers to be there for me, and I know we'll find him. Uncle Tom and my dad won't rest until they find him and get him back."
"Yeah, I bet they'll find him soon."
"Well, take care, Lacey. Will you be in school tomorrow?"
"No, I'm taking the rest of the week off. Allison is bringing my homework so I don't get behind, but I'll see you guys next Monday."
She went to rejoin her parents and they left. The family sat down once again.
"Well that last bit was new, about another person involved. I wonder who and where he or she is?"
"You know, Jake, we need to talk to Jeff tomorrow. Remember that phone that you asked him to get the records for? It's been a couple of days, maybe he has something now."
"Yeah, remind me tomorrow and we'll talk to him. I'll contact the Sheriffs and the Oxnard police about what she said."
"Well, I think it's time to get home. Boys, we'll see you after school?"
"Yeah, Dad, we'll come by here and get our bags and be there when you guys get home."
"Okay, see you guys tomorrow."
The boys went back up to the bedroom and made sure they had their bags packed for the next few days at the other house.
Jeremy opened his eyes. He blinked a few times and looked around. He saw that he had been sleeping in a fairly comfortable queen size bed. As he looked around, blinked and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, he took in his surroundings. The walls appeared to be of bare concrete. There were no windows and only one door that looked like it was made of some kind of metal with no doorknob on it, only a metal plate where a doorknob normally would be. The room was bigger than his bedroom back home. To his left there was a plain wooden table with a couple of chairs in the room. There was a small chest at the foot of the bed. Lying on top was a small stack of clothes with tennis shoes sitting on top of them. Everything looked brand new. On the wall past the small chest was what looked like a flat screen TV. To the right against one of the walls were a sink with a small trash can beside it and a toilet. Next to the sink in a small alcove was a shower with a couple of towels sitting on a shelf built into the wall.
He started to move and felt a pull against his left arm. He looked down and saw that there was an IV line in his arm with a bag of something that looked like water hanging on a pole with wheels, like he had seen in the hospital. He changed direction and started to get out on the side of the bed next to the pole. He stopped when he realized that he was naked under the covers. He shrugged and got out of bed and shivered a little when his bare feet hit the concrete floor. When he stood up he was a little wobbly, so he sat back against the bed for a moment and then stood up again. He padded across the floor in his bare feet. He went over to the toilet and peed. When he finished, he took a wad of toilet paper and put it on top of the toilet. He then started to remove the tape holding the IV to his arm, and then picking up the wad of toilet paper, he quickly pulled the IV line out and pressed the paper against the spot, holding pressure on it. He noticed that the line continued to drip onto the floor, so he dropped the end into the toilet and let it drip there.
He walked around the room looking at everything while he held the pressure. He pushed the on button on the TV, and when it came up, he only got snow on the screen. He pushed the channel button but snow was all he got. He went up to the door and tried to push on it. It was definitely locked. He checked his arm and saw that it had stopped bleeding, so he threw the paper in the toilet. He went into the alcove and turned on the shower. When the temperature felt right, he got in and pulled the curtain shut to keep the water from spraying out into the room. While he was in the shower, he felt a sore spot on his neck that caused him to wince when he touched it. He finished cleaning up and turned the water off. He looked at his reflection in the mirror above the sink and saw what looked like a red spot on his the side of his neck. He felt it a little and it was tender as if it was a sunburn. He finished drying off and started to hang the towel on the rack when he heard the door open behind him.
In the study upstairs on the main floor of the estate, Ian and his son William watched Jeremy's exploration of the room. When Jeremy went into the shower, William turned to his father.
"He looks perfect, just ripe for plucking. He could easily pass for my son. His hair and eyes are a similar shade. I can't wait to meet him."
"Well, why don't we go and meet our guest? Good work, James, my son is pleased."
"Glad to be of service, Mr. Stanhope."
"Come along, everyone."
The group that walked through the house and then down some stairs to the basement of the house consisted of Ian and William Stanhope, Kevin Racine, Greg Matrick, the red-haired boy Cameron, James Harvey and Dion. They came to a locked door under the staircase, and Kevin took out some keys and unlocked the door. They went down into the basement. As they walked through the room, they walked past some workbenches. There were also some tall safes of some kind in the room. Kevin led them to a strong looking metal door. He put the key in the lock and unlocked the door. He pulled it open for everyone to enter the room.
Jeremy looked up from where he was just hanging the towel as he heard the sound of the door opening. He saw the six men and the boy about his age walk in. He frowned when he saw James and Dion standing with them. Then he realized he was standing naked in front of everyone. He quickly grabbed the towel from the rack and wrapped it around his waist. He did not move from the spot as he studied the people in the room. Two of the men looked very muscular and powerful; they looked like bodyguards or something. He frowned when his eyes went to James and Dion. When his eyes rested on the red-headed boy, he saw that the boy appeared to be a little older than Jeremy was, and he had a look of sadness and resignation on his face. There was also sympathy on the boy's face that was directed toward Jeremy. Jeremy felt sorry for him immediately when their eyes met.
He came to the final two people in the room. The younger of the men looked at him with a small smile on his face. When Jeremy's eyes met his, he saw that the eyes looked back at him hungrily. He had seen that look before on James Harvey, back when Harvey had attacked him. He looked at the older man. He could see the resemblance between him and the younger man next to him. When Jeremy met the eyes of the older man he could see cruelty there. He could also see power there, the kind that came from getting what he wanted when he wanted it. The older man walked over to the table, sat down and gestured toward the clothes.
"Good morning, Jeremy. Why don't you get dressed? We'll wait. The clothes on the chest are all in your size."
"N... no, I'm fine as I am."
"That was not a request, Jeremy. Get dressed now."
The man stressed the word "now" and Jeremy flinched. The man glared at him until Jeremy started forward. He went to the chest and, still holding the towel, he sorted through the clothes until he found the underwear, and they were white briefs. He made sure the towel was secured and slipped them on underneath the towel and pulled them up. He grabbed the jeans next, and hesitating a second, he let the towel drop and put the jeans on. Once he had the polo shirt on, he grabbed the shoes and socks and went over to the bed and sat down to put them on. He kept glancing at the two men near the table. Once he had his shoes on, he sat on the bed without saying anything.
"Well now, Jeremy. Let me introduce you to those that you don't know. You of course know Mr. Harvey and his compatriot Dion. The two men behind them are Greg and Kevin; you could call them bodyguards. Kevin is my bodyguard, Greg is my son's. This man is my son William, and you may call me Mr. Stanhope. We have wanted to meet you for some time now, ever since James here sent me your picture several months ago."
Jeremy looked at James with hate. Ian noticed the look and smiled.
"Yes, I can understand your feelings about James. I don't blame you much, but it was necessary. It was the only way to get you here. Sometimes sacrifices must be made."
The thought of what sacrifice he was talking about caused his eyes to fill. He gritted his teeth and looked at James, and the anger he felt helped him keep from crying. Ian smiled again.
"As I said, sometimes sacrifices have to be made. Kevin!"
There was the sound of a sword being quickly drawn, followed by the wet sound of a sword going into a body. Everyone but Ian looked toward where the sound originated. Ian continued to study Jeremy with a cold smile on his face. Dion was standing there with what looked like three feet of steel sticking out of the middle of his belly. He had a shocked look on his face as he looked at everyone staring at him before he looked down and saw the steel of the sword sticking out of him. His hands went down to grab the blade in a vain attempt to get it out of his body. His scrabbling hands were cut on the sharp edges of the sword as he grabbed at it. Within moments the light died from his eyes and he slumped forward.
Kevin, who was standing behind him, tilted the sword so that Dion's now lifeless body slid forward. He helped the body's downward journey with a push to its back with his foot. The body now lay slumped in a heap, with a pool of blood starting to spread. Jeremy looked at Kevin with shock on his face. Kevin bent down and wiped the sword clean on the back of the dead body. When he stood up, he carefully grounded the point of the two-handed sword and rested his hands on the pommel. He looked at Jeremy with a hard gaze. James was standing there in shock looking between Kevin and Dion's body and back again. Kevin slowly turned his head and looked at James. James slowly sank to his knees and a dark stain appeared on the front of his pants. Kevin looked down and smirked at the pitiful sight before him. He smiled at Greg and they both chuckled a little. Ian had studied Jeremy during the whole event with that same cold unfeeling smile. Cameron had turned away from the sight with his hands over his eyes. Ian finally turned his attention to Harvey.
"James, let that be a lesson to you. The next time you fuck up, it will be you on the point of Kevin's blade."
"You have failed me three times in acquiring young Master Jeremy here."
"Three times, sir?"
"You allowed him to get away from you, because you had to "try" him out and were caught literally with your pants down. Because of this, you did not clean up after yourself and the police became involved. You failed me a second time when you not only botched the grab, but only succeeded in killing the Indian's wife, his dog and wounding his other son. If you had not succeeded in bringing the boy here this time, you would have most definitely joined your compatriot on the floor."
Jeremy quickly turned his attention to Ian. Ian noticed and smiled at Jeremy once again.
"Yes, that little home invasion was James. Too bad the Indian and the other boy survived."
Ian directed his attention back to James before continuing.
"And third, your lack of attention caused the Oxnard operation to be found out and taken down and the girl was saved. I thought you told me that you had taken care of her, James. Luckily there is no way for the authorities to find out that the operation belonged to me. As William told you... How did you say it, son? Oh, yes. Your free fuck-up cards have all been used up. You are on your last chance with me. You make one more mistake, and Kevin and Greg both will be visiting you, and I assure you it will not be even slightly pleasant. They can keep you alive and in pain for some time. So James, I'm sure even you can manage to clean up this mess without screwing that up. Greg, if you don't mind, could you supervise and make sure he gets everything up? We wouldn't want young Master Jeremy to be upset by having to look at the bloody floor for the next few days while we prepare for the ceremony."
Greg escorted James out of the room and then back in a few moments later with a mop, bucket and some rags and cleaning supplies in a small tray. They left once again; when they returned James was carrying a long roll of plastic. He laid it down next to Dion's body and unrolled it. He rolled the body onto the plastic sheet and they used some twine that Greg handed him. He covered the body with the rest of the plastic and used the twine to tie up the body inside the plastic. Once he was done, he dragged it outside the room. He started to clean up the pool of blood on his return. Ian got up and walked over to where Jeremy sat on the bed. Jeremy's eyes followed him as he neared. Ian put his hand under Jeremy's chin and caressed it. William stood next to him and reached out to stroke Jeremy's long hair back from his forehead. The sound of a sword being sheathed drew Jeremy's eyes. He saw Kevin point the sword behind his back and make the motion of sheathing it. A dark bluish purple point of light seemed to swallow the sword up. Jeremy's mouth dropped when he saw that. When Kevin finished, the sword was gone as if it had never been. Jeremy's eyes flashed back to Ian's. Ian was smiling.
"Yes, there are a good many unusual things that you will see in the coming weeks and months. But enough of that for now. We will take our leave of you now. We have much to do in the next few days to prepare for the ceremony. First though, I have a small question that I would like you to answer."
Ian reached into his pocket and pulled something out. In his hand was Jeremy's necklace that Trevor had made for him. Jeremy's hand involuntarily flew to his neck as if to confirm that it was indeed gone. Ian smirked at him. The necklace looked like it had been burned a little. It looked like it had been partially burned as it was blackened.
"Where did you get this?"
"What... . hey, that's my necklace. It looks burnt, how did it get burnt?"
Ian looked at him with a calculating gaze.
"Hmmm... . you haven't answered my question. Who gave it to you?"
"Grandfather MacLaren did."
"MacLaren. I take it that he is the father of the Indian?"
"Ye... yes. He gave one to each of us."
"Did you see him make the necklaces?"
"N... no, he ma... made them one day when were out riding the horses on his ranch this summer."
"He did, did he?"
He gazed silently at Jeremy for a few more moments. Jeremy looked down at his hands in his lap.
"Well, no matter. It is of no matter for now. Kevin?"
Kevin walked forward and removed a TV remote from out of his inner coat pocket and handed it to Ian. Ian smiled his thanks and presented it to Jeremy. Jeremy was still in shock, so Ian tossed it on the bed.
"If you wish, you may use this to watch the TV. It will not be like most TVs as there are not the usual channels for you to watch. You'll be able to figure it out. I will have a small brunch brought in soon. Other than that, I want you to rest for a few days. We'll see you later, Jeremy."
He and William left the room. Kevin and Cameron followed behind. Jeremy silently watched James finish cleaning up the mess. Greg escorted him out once he finished and the door closed behind them with a certain finality. Jeremy threw himself down on the bed and let go of everything he had been holding in. He buried his face into the pillow and cried for what seemed like a long time. He cried himself asleep. He woke up when he heard the door open. He looked up through his reddened eyes and saw the red-headed boy come in pushing a trolley with some covered trays and a couple of metal carafes on it. Behind him standing at the door was the man called Greg. The boy gave him a kind of shy smile as he stopped the trolley by the table and started to transfer things from the trolley to the table. When he finished, the boy walked over to the side of the bed and held out his hand.
"Hi, Jeremy, my name's Cameron; you can call me Cam if you want."
Jeremy sat up and after a moment's hesitation, he took Cameron's hand and shook it.
"C'mon and have some food. There are some eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, milk and orange juice."
Jeremy got off the bed and followed him to the table and sat down. Cam started uncovering dishes showing Jeremy what he could have.
"Do you mind if I sit with you while you eat?"
"Do I have a choice?"
Cam gave Jeremy a little sad look at the harshness of his tone and started to back away. "That's okay, I can wait outside until you finish. Greg will let me know when you are done so I can clear the dishes away."
Jeremy heard the unhappiness in the boy's tone and regretted the harshness of his words. "No, you can sit with me, I guess. Do you want anything? There seems to be more than I can eat."
"If you don't mind, I'll take have some of the bacon and the toast. Thanks."
Jeremy ate for a few minutes, looking up at Cam from time to time. He noticed the boy was definitely at least a little older than he was. He looked him over and took in his red hair and then his blue eyes. When he got to the eyes, Jeremy could see the haunted look in them. It was a look of someone without much hope. Jeremy realized that Cam was a prisoner just like him. He smiled at Cam; when the answering smile came, it also gave some life to his eyes as well. Jeremy glanced over to Greg before turning back to Cam.
"How old are you, Cam?"
"Have you been here long?"
"For a few years now."
"Are you a servant?"
"What do you mean, sorta?"
"I am Master William's personal servant."
"Oh... oooohhh, sorry."
Cam shrugged. Jeremy could see tears start to fill Cam's eyes, but he quickly blinked them away. Jeremy went back to his food. The two boys sat in silence until Jeremy was finished. Once he was done, Cam got up and started reloading everything onto the trolley. Once everything was loaded, he waved to Jeremy and pushed the trolley back out the door. Greg followed close behind and locked the door behind them. Jeremy got back onto the bed and lay back with his hands entwined behind his head.
'Trevor!? Trevor! Trev, I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm scared. I need your help. I think something real bad is going to happen to me, unless you can hear me. Please hear me. I don't know where I am, but please find me.
At work that morning, Tom and Jake were sitting in Tom's office, when Jeff Gant knocked on the door and Tom waved for him to come in.
"Morning, Jeff, what do you have for us?"
"I've been working on the phone number list as you requested. Luckily there were not a lot of calls. There were calls to local businesses, mostly things like pizza parlors. There were some to a house a few miles away, I assume they were probably to the house where you found those kids. There were a couple of calls to a cell phone. I have been trying to find out whose number it is, but no luck. There are also calls to another number, but I can't trace it exactly to a location. Someone has set it up so that it routes through several locations and its terminus is hidden. Someone real good with computers has set up the routing software to keep it hidden. I am still trying to track it down, no idea when I will be able to track it to its location. The routing is pretty complicated."
Jake's cell phone went off. Jake held up his hand to have Jeff hold that thought. He looked at the caller ID; it was Trevor. Jake frowned as he answered the phone.
"Trevor? What's the matter... speak up, I can't hear you... he did what?... you're kidding... no, no right away... I'll call the office... yeah, get your stuff... I'll make sure they call the twins... okay... yeah, me too... see you soon."
Tom was looking at Jake with some concern.
"What happened? Are one of the boys hurt?"
"No, nothing really, the boys are fine. Jeff, uh, thanks for your work; let us know if you get any more info."
Jake escorted Jeff out of the office and closed the door behind him. He went back to Tom's desk.
"Okay buddy, what gives?"
"Trevor heard Jeremy call for him."
"Just a little bit ago. He was in class when he heard him. He got excused from class to go to the restroom and called me from there. According to Trevor, Jeremy is scared. I told him to go to the office and we'll get the twins out too. This might be the break we need."
"Okay, I'll call the school."
Tom made the call. A few moments later at the school: "Trevor MacLaren... Zachary Browning... Jared Browning, please report to the office."
Trevor had just walked back into the classroom when the announcement was made. Zach and Trevor looked at him with raised eyebrows. He walked over to his seat and he and the twins got all their stuff and left the room. Some of their friends watched as the three boys left the room. Allison and Julie glanced at each other with worried looks. Once the boys left the room, the twins started asking questions.
"What's going on, Trev?"
"I heard Jeremy."
"Chill, dude, keep it down. We gotta go to the office; one of our dads are going to pick us up."
"Do you know where he is?"
"No, I just heard him call for me."
"Well, at least he's able to do that."
They walked into the office and saw Jed standing at the counter. The secretary was just hanging up the phone. She nodded and Jed thanked her and turned around just as the boys entered. He smiled.
"Your dad's asked me to pick you guys up and take you to the office."
"Cool, thanks, Jed."
"Well, I guess you boys do know Mr. Gleason. So we'll sign you out. Have a nice day, boys."
The boys followed Jed out to the Tahoe and got in back. They greeted Phil as they got in and put on their seat belts. Within fifteen minutes they were pulling into the parking lot of Spirit Wolf. The boys got out of the Tahoe and went inside, followed by Jed and Phil. They headed toward the offices and saw Jake poke his head out of his office. He smiled when he saw the boys and waved them over. Trevor gave him a quick hug, followed by the twins. Jake thanked Jed and Phil and closed the door. Inside, Tom was waiting for them, and they greeted him with hugs as well.
"Okay, Trev, tell us what you know."
"I was in Social Studies and I heard Jeremy call me."
"What did he say or whatever?"
"He was saying that he was scared because he was worried something would happen to him soon, I think. He wants me to find him."
"No, he was pretty far away though, but that's mostly what I could get."
"Okay, now we have to figure out how to track him down. Do you think you can try to get back to him?"
"I don't know. I can try."
"Give it a try."
Trevor nodded and closed his eyes, questing outward for Jeremy. He concentrated on his memory of the feel of Jeremy's spirit. He pushed his senses outward.
'Zach, I need you.'
'I'm here Tigger.'
Trevor felt a surge of power enter him and he felt Zach's spirit join with his. To those who watched from outside, they saw Trevor with his brow furrowed. Sweat broke out on his face and his brow furrowed more like he was working on a hard problem, then suddenly they saw his face relax a little and a faint smile appeared on his face. They noticed at that time that Zach, who was sitting next to Trevor, had closed his eyes as well, and there was a similar smile on his face. Trevor pushed farther;, his face did not change as he went.
'Jeremy! Jeremy! Can you hear me? Jeremy answer me if you can.'
Jeremy's eyes shot open and he sat up looking at the closed door.
Jeremy started to shout Trevor's name, but stopped himself and calmed himself down when he realized that Trevor was not coming through the door. When he realized that, he had a hard time to keep a grin off of his face and lay back down, closing his eyes.
'Trevor? Is it you?'
'Jeremy? Jeremy, do you hear me?'
'Yeah, I do. I can hear you. Oh, thank you, god. I can hear you.'
'Awesome. Hang on, I need to let 'em know.' "I've got him."
Trevor could hear everyone in the room cheering as if from behind a closed door.
'Jeremy, do you know where you are?'
'Not really. Who did you have to let know?'
'Dad, Uncle Tom, Jared...'
'Zach, is that you?'
'Yep, it's me.'
'So you're all there?
'Yeah. I was in Social Studies when I heard you call. I called Dad and he had us brought to the office. We're in his office right now.'
'Oh my god, thank you. You heard me this time. I tried to call you before, but I guess you didn't hear me.'
'Oh, I did hear you, but we didn't get there in time. We found Lacey though.'
'You did? That's cool. Is she all right?'
'Yeah, she came by the house on Monday, to thank us.'
'Monday? What day is it?'
'Oh... I didn't know.'
'You said you didn't know exactly where you are. What did you mean?'
'So far all I've seen is the room I'm being held in. There are no windows, so I can't see outside.'
'That sucks. So do you know anything that might help us find you?'
'I don't know, but you know who is here?'
'Let me guess, Roger Smith or as we've come to know him, James Harvey.'
'How'd you know?'
'Dad said that he suspected that he was involved and Lacey said that you seemed to know him, so we figured it must be him. She also said something about a black guy named Dion.'
'Yeah they were both here, well, Roger or James, or whoever he is, is still here, Dion's gone.'
'Gone, do you know where? Could he be coming back here to hurt us or kidnap us or anything like that?'
'No, he's not going to be hurting anyone anymore.'
'What do you me...'
'Trev, bro, I gotta go. Someone's coming.'
'Okay, bro. Contact me again when you can. We'll talk some more. Try and find our more.'
'Gotcha. Luv you, bro, and tell Jared, I miss him so much, give him my love.'
Trevor opened his eyes and looked around to everyone.
"He's okay. He told me to tell you he misses you, Jared. We were interrupted, but he's going to try again later."
"Okay, does he know where he is?"
"No. He only knows that he is being held in a room that has no windows. He said that Roger, I mean James, and the black guy, Dion, are there or were there. I was going to ask him more, but he said someone was coming."
"Well, at least we know he's okay now. That gives us some time to plan."
Jake stood up and started pacing around the office thinking hard. The others watched him for a few minutes. Tom got up and left the office. He returned a few moments later with sodas for him and the boys and an ice tea for Jake. He gave the boys their drinks and intercepted Jake. He held out the ice tea and Jake took it. He resumed his pacing. After a few more minutes, he stopped and looked at the others. There was a determination in his eyes.
"Tom, I'm going to ask you to trust me. I'm not going to tell the police about this. Anyway, what would we tell them? My son is a mage and he has been able to telepathically talk to his kidnapped brother? My Dad said that we have to keep the existence of magic a secret. I can understand what he means, so we're going to go after him."
Tom looked at him for a few moments.
"I agree. It seems to be the only way. We need a plan."
"Boys, why don't you get to work on some homework? You can go in the conference room. Tom and I need to plan how we're going to do it. Trev, if Jeremy contacts you, let us know right away. I'm going to order some pizza; sound good?"
The boys went into the conference room and started to work, while Jake and Tom started to put a plan together.
Jeremy opened his eyes and looked at the opening door. He saw Greg walk in, followed by William and Cameron. William smiled at Jeremy as he came in. Jeremy swung his legs over the edge of the bed. William held up his hand.
"Oh, don't get up on my account. You're fine right where you are."
William walked over to the bed and sat next to Jeremy. Jeremy scooted over to put some distance between them. William reached out and smoothed Jeremy's hair back and then rested his hand on Jeremy's shoulder. Greg stayed by the door with Cameron. Jeremy shuddered a little at his touch.
"Well, Jeremy. I'm sure you have a lot of questions, and they will all be answered soon. I will tell you one thing, my father has brought you here for a very important reason. You are to be my companion. You don't know what that means, but you will. You only have to stay here in this room for a few more days. After Saturday, everything will be clear and you will want for nothing."
"There's only one thing I want... my family. Just let me go home."
"This is your family now; you might as well get used to it. Anyway after Saturday, this is all the family you'll want or need."
Jeremy scowled at him. William noticed it and smiled.
"You're so cute when you scowl. You should do it more often."
He squeezed Jeremy's shoulder before he stood up and walked over to the door.
"Make yourself comfortable, Jeremy. If you would like a snack or something, just push that blue button on the remote control and we'll bring something in for you. You really are perfect, you know. I can't wait. Bye now."
William walked over and put his arm around Cameron's shoulders as he led him out of the room. Greg closed the door behind them. Jeremy stared at the door for a few moments. He sat back against the headboard of the bed and picked up the remote. He looked at it and saw that it looked like most universal remotes, but had some different buttons on it. He pushed the on button and a menu came on. He looked through the menu list: Movies, Sports, Cartoons, Games, TV. He chose TV, hoping to get some news. Another menu came up: Comedy, Drama, Reality, Kids. There were no news channels. He went back to the Games choice and saw that there were many games that he was familiar with, but he didn't see any controllers anywhere. He went back to the main menu and chose Movies. He scrolled through the movies and found one to watch. He settled in to watch. After a few minutes of the movie, he found the pause key and pushed on the blue button. A short time later, Greg opened the door and Cameron came in.
"Is there something you need, Jeremy?"
"Can I get some popcorn and coke, Cam?"
"Sure, I'll be right back."
He and Greg left the room for a few minutes. Jeremy continued the movie until the door opened once again. Cameron pushed in the trolley again. On it was a large bowl of popcorn and a couple of cokes. He pushed it over to the side of the bed and turned to leave.
"Cam, can you stay?"
"No, I have things I have to do, sorry."
Jeremy reached over and grabbed the bowl of popcorn and turned the movie back on. Once the movie was finished, he went searching for another movie and turned it on. Partway into the movie he started to get drowsy, and soon fell asleep.
Tom and Jake continued their planning. On the table in his office, Jake had the employee list of the company's security personnel. He and Tom looked over the list and Tom made notes on a yellow legal pad.
"How big a team do you think we will need?"
"Not sure yet, hopefully Trevor can get more information the next time he connects with Jeremy."
"We have six so far and I noticed that they are all former SEALS."
"Well, you think I want to trust the life of my son to some Green Beanies? Maybe if we had some former Delta Force guys I'd choose them too, but I trust my shipmates implicitly. My only worry is how they are going to handle Trevor. I talked to Dad and he understands what we plan to do and supports my decision to go after Jeremy ourselves, because Trevor has to be involved in finding him."
"So that's eight of us, with the three boys, and I don't believe we could talk Terry into staying behind, so we are twelve. Do you think we need more?"
"If this is just an elaborate child porn ring, then it should be enough. We can only wait until we get more information from Jeremy."
"Yeah, let's go see if the boy's left us any pizza."
The sound of the opening door woke Jeremy up from his nap. He turned over and looked toward the door. He noticed the popcorn bowl was gone. Cameron had come into the room and was pushing the trolley into the room filled with food. Greg once again stood at the door. Cameron stopped at the table and started transferring the food from the trolley to the table. Jeremy watched him and was surprised when he set up two place settings. He got off the bed and walked over to the table. Jeremy looked at Greg, who then looked at the two boys and then turned and left the room, closing and locking the door behind him.
"I asked if I might eat dinner with you and William said that it was okay."
"Thanks, Cam. I was tired of being alone. Can you stay longer than just dinner; maybe we could watch a movie or something?"
"I only asked if I could eat dinner, sorry. I'll talk to William tonight and maybe I can spend some time with you tomorrow. That is, if you want me to."
"Sure, I guess that would be okay. Thanks for being a friend, Cam."
"Thanks for not hating me. I know you're not happy here, but I don't think you have a choice. I didn't have a choice about being here."
"Do you know what's going to happen on Saturday?"
"I... I can't talk about it. If I do I'll get in trouble"
"Oh, I don't want that, so forget it. I won't ask about it anymore."
The dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, with salad and garlic bread. It was very good, and by the end of the meal, both boys were smiling and enjoying each other's company. When they finished, Cameron cleaned everything up and put it back on the trolley. He walked over to the bed, picked up the remote and pushed the blue button. The door was opened quickly and Greg stepped in once again. Cam waved goodbye to Jeremy and pushed the trolley out the door. Greg closed the door as he followed Cameron out of the door. Jeremy let out a sigh when they left and went back to lie on the bed. He turned on the TV again and found a movie to watch. He watched for a little bit and then he closed his eyes.
'Trevor? Can you hear me Trevor?'
The boys were putting things away in the conference room. Jake and Tom were waiting at the door. The boys started to file out when Trevor paused and held his hand up. Jake looked up and saw Trevor pause. Jake put his hand down in front of Zach as he started to leave the room. Zach looked up and Jake motioned with his head toward Trevor. Zach turned around and almost ran to Trevor, tossing his backpack on the conference table. He put his hand on Trevor's arm.
"Dad, it's Jeremy."
"Tom... go... no, wait, Jared, get some paper and a pen out of your backpack and let me have it. Tom, close the door."
Jared got the paper and pen out and handed them to Jake, who sat down ready to make some notes. Trevor sat down with Zach right next to him. Jake nodded to Trevor, and Trevor closed his eyes.
_'Jeremy. Jeremy, keep calling, I hear you, hang on.' _
'Trevor? Trevor can you hear me?'
'I hear you Jeremy.'
'Hey, Jer, how are you doing?'
'Okay, I just had dinner a little while ago.'
'Jer, do you think you're going to be interrupted soon?'
'I don't think so, at least until the morning.'
'Okay, we're at the office still. When we were talking before, you started to say something about the black guy, Dion. What was it?'
'Oh, some guy named Kevin killed him.'
'Killed him, why?'
'From what I heard the older guy say, I think it had something to do with what happened in Oxnard. The older guy said that, before he told that Kevin dude to kill him. Then he made Roger clean it up.'
"Dion's dead, guys." 'Jer, you've mentioned some different people. Do you know who any of them are besides Harvey?'
'No. I don't know any of them. But they know about us or mostly me.'
'Who are they?'
'I don't know exactly, but there are two guys that look like bodyguards, Kevin is one of them, and the other is called Greg. There are two others that are here, and they seem to be in charge. One is the older guy, I don't know what his name is, he said to call him Mr. Stanhope. The other is his son, William.'
'Is William a kid?'
'No, he's older, like in his twenties. The kid that's here is Cameron. I think he's a prisoner or something like that here. He's a personal servant for William.'
'Nope, that's all the people I've seen so far.'
"Dad, he says that he's seen only a few people. Harvey, two bodyguard guys named Kevin and Greg, a kid named Cameron, a guy in his twenties named William and some older guy who told Jeremy to call him Mr. Stanhope." 'I just told dad what you said.'
'Okay, Trevor, there are some other things you guys need to know. Rog... James was behind the attack on the house, when you and Jake were hurt and your mom was killed. That was him and I think Dion too.'
'Shit. I never would have thought it was him.' "Harvey is the one who killed Mom and shot us."
"That son of a bitch. He is so fucking dead when I find him."
'I told them, Jer, Dad's royally pissed.'
'There's something else that is real important. When Kevin killed Dion, you know how he did it, with a huge sword.'
'A sword?' "Dad, Dion was killed with a sword."
"What!? Trevor, find out what you can."
'Jer, what else?'
'After he killed him, he put the sword away... into thin air... like Jake.'
'Oh, shit. There's a mage there.'
'Yeah, I think it's the older guy. All he said was 'Kevin' and there was the sound of sword being taken out, and then I saw the blade sticking out of Dion.'
'Double shit.' "Dad, the older guy is a mage, and Kevin is his guardian."
"Oh, that really sucks. Tom, we might take a look at some of the Green Beanies."
'Trev, there's something else. I don't know if I'm right, but I think so. I think William is a mage too. He told me that his father got me to be his companion.'
'His companion! Oh, oh.' "Dad, William is a mage too. Jeremy is supposed to be his companion."
'Trev, something is going to happen on Saturday. I don't know what, but I don't think I'm going to like it. They've mentioned a ceremony of some sort, but I can't get any details. So if you guys are going to do something, you need to do it fast.'
'Okay, Is there anything else you can think of?'
'Bro, I love you, I'm going to tell everyone what you said and we're going to make some plans. I'll try to find you later.'
'Bye, bro, talk to you later.'
Trevor broke the connection and came back to the room.
"Dad, there are two mages. The old guy who told Jeremy to call him Mr. Stanhope and his son William."
"Tom, I guess we may really need to look at the Green Beanies, we may need them"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Jeremy was brought there to be a Companion for William."
"Okay, we know that these guys are Dark Mages."
"Jeremy said that something's going to happen on Saturday."
"That means we don't have much time. Tom, you and I need to look over the lists of the men again. Also have Jeff Gant look for what he can find on any men called Stanhope, one may be William Stanhope. I can only assume he has the same last name as his father. I'm going to try to see if my Dad is back from whatever he was doing and see if he has anything to add. Boys, I'm going to call Terry and have her come and pick you guys up and take you home. We're going to be a little busy tonight. I'll stop by tonight and say goodnight. Tom, let's go into my office. Guys, you can watch TV until Terry comes."
Jake and Tom left for Jake's office while the boys turned on the TV. Half an hour later, Terry arrived to take the boys home. Back in the office, Jake had just hung up the phone and he shook his head.
"No one's home."
"Okay, so who else do we choose?"
"Let's go over their records."
They got back to work. Later that evening, Jake and Tom came home. They greeted everyone and Jake sat down next to Trevor. Tom came in from the kitchen with a couple of beers. Terry joined them.
"I guess the boys have told you the news, Terry."
"Yep, so what is the plan?"
"First, Trev, do you think you can do that same thing in hunting for Jeremy, like you did this weekend?"
"I think so. So far I can only tell that he's pretty far away and he's in the north."
"Okay, we know we have a time limit, Saturday. We know that there are two mages with their guardians there. There may also be guards, but since Jeremy doesn't even know where he is, we don't know too much other than that. Tom and I have chosen who from the company that we're going to have go with us. One of them won't be back until later tonight, but we want him here for this, so we're going to wait until he is available. All of them are ex-SEALS. After we heard what Trevor had to tell us, we were thinking about choosing some of the others, but these guys I know and trust, so we have chosen the six of them. So it is going to be the six of us and the six of them. One of the people on duty will contact him tonight and tell him that we're going to have a meeting at the office. Trevor, because of the methods that we are going to use to find Jeremy, we're going to have to let the team in on what you can do. I can't think of any other way."
"If you're sure, Dad. I'm all for doing whatever I need to do get my brother back. If you want me to go on Oprah and do magic tricks, I'll do it."
"I don't think we need to go that far."
"So I guess that means we won't be going to school tomorrow?"
"Yeah, that's what it means. You can sleep in tomorrow. Terry can bring you into the office later in the morning. We'll call her in the morning and let her know when."
"So are we leaving tomorrow?"
"Probably. First we're going to have to see how the team reacts to you, and then if it works out, we'll leave by tomorrow afternoon."
"Cool, Dad, the sooner the better."
"I'll see you guys tomorrow morning."
Jake leaned over and gave Trevor a kiss on the forehead and hugged him before he left for home.
The next day Terry loaded the boys into the Suburban about ten in the morning and took them to the office. When they got there, Jake met them and took them to his office.
"Wait here for a little while. Tom and I are going to talk to the team in the conference room. We'll call in there when it's time for you guys to join us."
Jake left the room and walked down the hall to the conference room. When he walked in, he was greeted by Tom and the six team members. They were Jed, Phil, Larry, Jim, Daryl, and Kent. They were standing around the room and talking; Tom was sitting down. Jake waved everyone to seats around the room. Once they were all seated, he started the briefing.
"Thanks for coming in, everyone. Glad to have you back, Daryl."
"Glad to be back, Skipper. So what's this all about? We have some big client?"
"Yeah, you could say that. It's me or rather Tom and I."
"Can you afford us?"
All of the team chuckled.
"I think we can probably handle it, Jed."
"Oh, maybe we need to ask for raises?"
"Okay, settle guys, we have some real important things to discuss."
"To start with, we are serious about being your client. You all know about my son Jeremy."
"Well, if you will notice, all of you were SEALS. That's because we trust you guys to do what we need and you can handle anything that is thrown at you. We're going after Jeremy."
All of them sat up and started throwing questions out at Jake. He held his hands up until they stopped. He now had their attention.
"So Skipper, you found out where he is?"
"Not exactly, Phil, but we believe we have a way to find him."
"All right, lead us on, Skip. Tell us what's the plan?"
"Well, we are going into this locked and loaded."
"Yeah, that's the way to handle people that do this kind of thing. So when do we go?"
"Well, that depends on what happens next. We're going to introduce you to the rest of the team."
Jake pushed the intercom button.
"C'mon in, guys."
A few moments later the door opened and the three boys, followed by Terry, came in the room. Terry closed the door behind her. Jake motioned for her to lock the door. The team had incredulous looks on their faces and several had grins.
"This is a joke, right? You said the rest of the team? I see three boys and a... your wife."
"Trust me, they are the rest of the team."
"Skip, no offense, but you know that we'll follow you and Tom, and we will do everything you need us to do to help you get your son back and take those assholes out, but these are you guys' kids. We'd be so worried they would get hurt that some of us might get hurt or worse. I don't know, Skip."
"I know, and if I didn't know certain things that you don't know, I would feel exactly the same; however, there are some things that you don't know. Could you guys come over here on this side of the table? Trevor. you and the boys stay over there, Terry, over here too, please. Just trust me, guys, everything will be explained."
The guys got up, and with "What the hell?" looks on their faces, moved to the side of the table opposite the boys. Terry stood next to Tom. Jake drew a silenced pistol from under his jacket. The guys on the team gave him concerned looks.
"What the fuck, Skip?"
"Trevor, all three of you."
Trevor nodded, Zach put his hand on Trevor's shoulder. Trevor closed his eyes for second before he looked at Jake and gave a quick nod. Jake brought the gun up quickly and aimed it at the boys. Terry clenched Tom's hand, the men stood there in shock, not believing what they were seeing. Jake fired and emptied the magazine at the three boys. Because it was silenced, there was almost no noise. The men of the team were frozen in shock and horror, which quickly changed to just shock as they saw the three boys standing there. Then they turned to Jake and there were some angry and confused looks.
"Not funny, Skip. Shooting blanks at your kids is not impressive."
"Daryl, those weren't blanks."
"What do you mean, they weren't blanks? None of us would have missed at that range. Hell, the kids couldn't miss at that range, so they have to be blanks."
"Boys, could you pick those up?"
Trevor relaxed and the boys bent down and started picking up the spent bullets from the floor.
"Ohh, ooo, ow, they're hot."
They quickly tossed them onto the table and blew on their hands a little. As the spent bullets landed on the table, the men stared back and forth between the boys, Jake and the gun.
"Trevor, would you show them, please?"
Trevor nodded and he slowly began to glow, increasing it until he shone fairly bright, not blinding, but enough so that there was no mistaking that fact that he was glowing. Jake nodded after a few moments and Trevor let the glow fade away. He gave Zach a kiss on the cheek and then made his way over to Jake's side. The men parted before him. When he got to Jake, he put his hands around his waist and Jake hugged him tightly before looking at the men surrounding them.
"What you just witnessed is only one of the things Trevor can do. The short answer is that: Magic is Real."
"What do you mean, magic is real?"
"What I mean is that there are really people out there who can do real magic. Not like makes things disappear, or can you?"
"Didn't think so. Anyway it is more like being able to take forces from nature and manipulate them in different ways. Trevor is a mage and I am his guardian. He just used his power to... what do you call it?"
"I made the air around the three of us very hard. The bullets hit the hard air and fell to the floor."
"The mark of a guardian is his weapon, usually a sword of some kind, and I carry mine everywhere I go."
Jake let go of Trevor and stepped back a little, he reached to his side and pulled his katana out. There were surprised exclamations of "Whoah", "Shit", "Fuck", from the men as they looked in wonder at the slightly glowing blade. After a few seconds he returned it to its scabbard, and all the men saw it disappear into thin air. They all started to move back to their seats and looked at Jake and Trevor with awe.
"I don't have time to go into the whole thing about it, but we just discovered this at the beginning of summer. What I need right now, is a commitment from each of you that you will go along with us. I need you to be ready to act as if it's an op, and Tom and I are your officers. You do what I say and we will take care of those people who took my son. What do you say?"
"Skip, you said earlier that you had a way to find your son. I'm guessing Trevor is the one that can do that."
"Yeah, Jed, Trevor has a way to do that. He has already been in contact with Jeremy."
"That's why we were in Oxnard on the weekend."
"Yep, Trevor heard Jeremy calling for help, and he was able to lead us. We just missed Jeremy by minutes. He says that Jeremy is somewhere up north and he thinks he can lead us there again. From talking to Jeremy, we know we need to get to wherever he is no later than Saturday. Any later, and it may be too late to save Jeremy. So we gotta go now. There is one other thing you guys need to know, so that you go in knowing about it. There are two men there who are the ones holding Jeremy. They are father and son and they are mages too and they each have their guardians. Trevor is what is known as a White Mage, or as my father says, White Spirit. These guys we're going against are Dark Mages or Dark Spirits. As you can expect it means good guys, us, and bad guys, them."
"So there are people around who can do some kind of magic? They can fight with it and all that? What do the guardians do, if these people can protect themselves like he just did?"
"Well, they do protect the mage; sometimes they are all there is between another mage or his guardian. They have the ability to hurt another mage."
"So a few shots and down they go."
"Not exactly. A few shots and down they go, yes, but they get back up. Just as if you had never shot them."
"So they can't be killed?"
"No, they can be, but it is usually at the hands of another guardian's weapon. A mortal wound by another guardian's weapon and they're dead. We'll leave you guys in here for a little bit to talk it over. Just call into my office on the intercom when you make your decision. But you need to let us know fast. I want your help, but don't think your employment depends on doing this for me. We know we are asking a lot of you and showing you something that you would never have believed any other way. So you guys talk about it and let us know."
Jake gathered the family and ushered them out of the conference room and back to his office. They went into the office. Tom sat on the edge of Jake's desk while Jake paced back and forth slowly. Zach and Trevor were cuddled up on the couch. Everyone was silent as they waited for the decision of the team. Fifteen minutes later the intercom squawked.
"Skip, y'all can come back in."
They got up and left the office. When they entered the room, the men looked up as they filed in. Zach and Trevor stood near Jake; Tom and Terry stood behind Jared with their hands on his shoulders. Jed stood up and faced Jake at attention.
"Sir, the team is formed and ready for your orders."
"Excellent, thanks, men."
"What are your orders, sirs?"
"For now the plan is simple, because we don't have enough information. We're going to grab equipment, load the SUVs and start heading north. We will be following Trevor's directions. Once we find the location, then we will put together the final assault plan. We'll take three vehicles. All of you should have your vests and personal sidearms with you. When we finish here, get them and load them in the two vehicles. Any questions?"
Jake looked around and saw only shaking heads.
"All right, one final thing and then let's go to the armory and load up. I must have your sworn oath in whatever you hold dear that you will not reveal the existence of people like Trevor. If word got out, it would open a whole can of worms."
The men all answered with "Yes, sir." The group left the room. Terry and the boys followed along behind them. Tom took the keys to the armory out and unlocked the door. He and Jake went inside the room followed by the others. The men started getting the tactical equipment set out, while Jake went to the back and unlocked another door. On racks inside were several different assault weapons, AR-15's and MP5's. On the shelves below were boxes of ammunition and magazines for the assault weapons. In the main room the men were grabbing other tactical gear and setting it on the center table, such as night vision goggles and tactical radios. Jed went into the back room, grabbed nylon assault bags and put them out on the table. Phil took the weapons that Jake handed him and brought them back into the main room.
They continued this until they had all the gear laid out on the table. The weapons were checked, the magazines were loaded and all the gear was prepared. They loaded all the equipment and weapons into the bags and the men started carrying them out to the vehicles. Once the vehicles were loaded, it was time to go. Jake stopped by the secretary's desk and talked to Joyce for a few moments before he left the office. Out in the parking lot, Jake gathered everyone together.
"Let's load 'em up and get going. We'll stop and get something to eat at a fast food joint and then start north. We will be the lead vehicle and we'll radio instructions and direction changes to you. Jed, Phil, Larry, you're in the next. Phil, Daryl and Jim, you're in the last vehicle. Let's go."
The vehicles were loaded up. The caravan left the lot and drove a short distance to In and Out Burger. After everyone had something to eat they headed north. They followed the same basic directions that they had followed on the first trip to find Jeremy. This time instead of taking the 101 Freeway, they stayed on the 5 Freeway. They soon left the LA basin behind as they climbed over the mountains and dropped down into the San Joaquin Valley. When the junction between the 5 Freeway and Highway 99 neared, Jake asked Trevor if one road was better than the other. Trevor closed his eyes and concentrated while Zach gave strength to him. He opened his eyes after a few moments and shook his head. Jake called instructions to the other vehicles to take 99. They pulled off the highway in Fresno to stretch their legs, get something to eat, gas up and change drivers. They returned to the highway and continued north. As they traveled north, Jake would ask Trevor for directions. They went through Merced, Modesto, Stockton and soon they neared Sacramento. They pulled off the highway to gas up and change drivers. Jake gassed up in the car while Tom, Terry and Jared went into the mini mart to grab some snacks. After stretching their legs and going to the restroom, Trevor and Zach got back inside the Suburban and sat in the back seat. Trevor leaned his head back and closed his eyes; Zach leaned against him and entwined their hands. Trevor opened his eyes and looked at Zach with tired eyes. He leaned over and they kissed. They held it for several moments until Trevor suddenly pulled back.