Consumed Pt. 09bymyoregon©
Another note: Oh! My! God! Have you guys read some of the public comments I got on the last chapter. Wow! You guys are so awesome. I think some of those comments were better written than my story. Thank you so much. Keep up the good work and I'll keep up the writing. Deal? I just wish I could personally respond to all the anonymous people giving me feedback. I know some of you anonymous people are regularly sending feedback. Like Anonymous in Australia, Anonymous in USA, Anonymous in Canada, Anonymous in France, and just plain Anonymous. So, please consider this a personal thank you.
My one comment would be that I've got an average of 1700 people reading each chapter of my story, but I only receive about a total of 20 comments (some public and some private) and only about 50-60 votes. If you're reading the story and enjoying it, please at least vote. It's the only form of payment I receive for writing this story.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one. Sorry it's late in coming. Had a lot of trouble with it. I'm still self-conscious about it. But, I do love the ending. Should make you all smile. I hope.
Liam had just pulled the car off to the side of the road when two police cruiser's pulled up in front of his parent's house.
"Mitch, are you still there?" He asked into the phone.
"Yeah, I'm still here. Everything okay?" Mitch asked.
"The police are here. What should I do?" Liam asked.
"Just stay where you are. I'm almost there. I'll go ahead and let you hang up now and I'll come get you as soon as I get there." Mitch said.
"Okay." Liam said, hanging up the phone.
Liam watched as two more cruiser's pulled up. The officers gathered together, and he watched as they had an animated discussion, and then started working their way towards the house, guns drawn. Liam didn't have a clear view of the house, so he couldn't see what was going on beyond the sidewalk.
"Uncle Liam, what's happening? I'm scared." Chris's voice coming from the back seat startled Liam out of his vigilance.
"Oh, Chris, I thought you had gone back to sleep. Why don't you climb into the front seat with me? You don't have to be scared. Everything's going to be fine." Liam said.
Chris, happy to have the security of his uncle close by, readily climbed into the front seat.
"How come we are sitting out here in the car?" He asked.
Liam had just opened his mouth to respond, when, thankfully, he was saved from answering by Mitch's knock on the car window.
"Chris, listen, we'll talk in a little bit, okay? I need to talk to Mitch right now. I'll just be right outside the car, okay?" Liam said.
After getting Chris's nod of approval, Liam stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. Turning his attention to Mitch, Liam frantically started in with a slew of questions. "Are they inside? Did they find my parents? Are they okay?"
"I don't know yet, Liam. They are still trying to secure the place. I've got my radio and they are going to call me as soon as the house…" Mitch started patiently answering, but was interrupted by his radio. "Uh, just a second Liam, I'll be right back with you." Mitch said, walking away from Liam.
Liam could hear him talking on the radio, but couldn't make out enough to piece together anything substantial. Liam glanced back into the car to see Chris watching both him and Mitch. He smiled reassuringly at Chris and then turned his attention back to Mitch, who was walking back towards Liam.
"Good news, we found your parents and they appear to be fine. Scared, but fine." Mitch said. "The house is secure, so why don't you get the kids and you can go see your parents." Mitch finished.
"Oh, god, that's… god…" Liam started, then stopped, his relief palpable. He really didn't know how to express his relief or his gratitude without breaking down. He rubbed his palms over his eyes, trying to force back the tears. Once he felt he had them under control, he continued. "Thank you, Mitch."
"Hey, don't worry about it, let's just go see your mom and dad. I'm sure they are pretty worried about you and the kids too."
"Yeah, okay." Liam said, nodding vigorously while turning to get the kids.
Liam started out walking towards the house, Cassie on his hip and Chris tagging along and holding his hand. Getting impatient, he slowly started speeding up until Chris was struggling to keep up.
"Come on, Chris." He said, bending down and hefting Chris into his arms as well, and then rushing down the street.
Liam found his parents sitting on the couch in the living room, talking to the police. They both looked up simultaneously to see him and the kids in the entry way.
"Oh, god, Liam." His mom exclaimed, as both his parents practically leapt from the couch.
Liam met them half way, his mom and dad enveloping him and the kids in their arms.
"We were so worried about you." His mom said, while she was frantically kissing both Liam and the kids. Everyone had tears streaming down their faces, even Cassie, who had now woken up and, Liam was pretty sure, had no idea what was going on.
"Mom, Dad, I was so scared, I thought… I was… I… God, I was so scared I'd lost you guys too." Liam said, as he was hugging his mom and dad back. Poor Chris and Cassie were sandwiched tightly between them.
"Mr. and Mrs. Strickland, I'm really sorry to interrupt, but the paramedics are here to check Mr. Strickland over and we really need to finish getting your statement." One of the detectives interrupted.
Liam's stepped back from his parents and his eyes automatically shot up to his dad. "Dad, are you okay?" He asked, fear gripping him again.
"Yeah, Liam, I'm fine. Your mom insisted I get checked out, but don't worry, I feel fine. My blood pressure might be a little high, but I'm pretty sure I'm fine." He said, and then turned to the paramedics.
"Okay, let's get this over with." He said, as he followed them over to the couch, Rebecca following close behind.
Liam hovered close by with the kids, wanting to make sure his dad was okay. Once the paramedics gave him a clean bill of health, Liam left them to finish their statement, while he took the kids into his room to put them to bed.
Once in the room, Chris started asking questions, wanting to know what had happened. Liam finally settled for telling him a watered down version of the truth. "A couple of bad men came into the house and started breaking things. But your grandma and grandpa are okay and that's what's important. The police are here so they can try to find the bad men." Liam said. He hoped that it would be enough information to keep Chris happy. He could practically see the questions swirling around in Chris's head, but he kept silent.
"Now, you and Cassie need to go to sleep. It's way past your bedtime." Liam said.
"Okay." They both said in unison. Cassie's eyes were already getting heavy. Liam stayed with them for a little longer, just to make sure they settled down.
Back in the living room, he found his parents still talking to the detective. Mitch was just outside the house talking to another officer. When he saw Liam, he motioned him over.
"The kids asleep?" He asked.
"Yeah, Chris was a little worried. He was asking a lot of questions and I'm not sure how to answer them, but I did the best I could. He's scared and just wants to know what's going on. I think Cassie's just feeding off of our emotions right now and going with the flow, but is scared too." Liam said.
"They've been through a lot these past couple of weeks. They are really lucky to have you." Mitch said.
"Thanks." Liam said, and then proceeded to question Mitch about what he knew.
"First, Liam, let me tell you that they were looking for the kids. They specifically came here looking for the kids." Mitch said.
Liam's heart skipped a beat for the second time that night. "The kids?" He was confused. Why were these people after the kids? It just didn't make any sense.
"Yes, the kids. According to what your parents have told us, they were relaxing and watching television at about eight o'clock tonight, when the doorbell rang. When your mom answered the door, two armed men forced their way in. Both men were wearing all black from head to toe. They had gloves and ski masks on." Mitch said, pausing for a few seconds to let what he said sink in.
"One of the men grabbed your mother, threatening to shoot them both if they caused any trouble. While your mom and dad sat on the couch at gun point, the second man headed down the hall to the bedrooms, searching for the kids." He paused again.
"When they realized the kids weren't here, they started arguing about what to do. They apparently discussed several options. In the end, they tied up, gagged and blindfolded your parents and then closed them up in the bedroom closet. They then proceeded to trash the place, we're not sure why, except that they were probably angry."
"Your parents told us that they had heard the phone ring on two separate occasions during this time. We think, in the end, that's what probably scared them off. They had disabled the fire alarms and there is evidence that they had attempted to start a fire in a couple of locations."
"It turns out that one of the neighbors was out walking their dog and heard the raucaus the men were making. The neighbor was concerned and called the house, twice. When he didn't get an answer, he got even more concerned. He debated back and forth for a few minutes, before finally calling the police. The call came in shortly before your call to me. We already had one cruiser en route when you called me." Mitch finally finished.
"So, it was the same people that started the fire at my sister's?" Liam asked.
"It would seem so. The M.O. appears to be identical." Mitch said.
"Shit, Mitch, what am I supposed to do. How am I supposed to keep Chris and Cassie safe?" Liam asked.
"Well, first, lets not panic. We are going to do everything in our power to make sure you and your family stay safe. Secondly, we've still got a lot of work to do here. We've got to finish going over the house for evidence. We've also got to finish questioning your parents. I've got several officers going through the neighborhood to question the neighbors. Maybe one of your neighbors saw something suspicious. Plus, I've got a few questions for you too." Mitch said.
"For me? What would I possibly be able to tell you that would help?" Liam asked.
"Well, you've only been at your parents for one night so far. Is that correct?
"Yeah, we came over last night. Why?"
"Well, who knew that you were staying here? Who ever is after the kids knew you were here. That the kids were here." Mitch said.
"Shit, you're right. Well, unless they had just followed me from the loft." Liam suggested.
"Yeah, you could be right, but I'm thinking that if they followed you from the loft, then they would have been watching you and would have seen you leave with the kids earlier this evening." Mitch responded.
"Well, I guess there were maybe only a handful of people who knew. Jack obviously knew and then Rick and Stacey knew. Liam said, thinking back over the last couple of days and who he might have told. "Oh, and Robert, crap, Robert knew. Robert Townsend is… was, one of Adam's law partners." Liam said.
"Bingo." Mitch said, triumphantly. "We've just got our first good lead."
"So, what happens now?" Liam asked.
"Well, we'll have a couple of detectives go question Robert and see where that leads. We'll also start looking into their partnership to see if we can find some kind of motive. We've actually spoken to Robert a few times during the course of the investigation. He's been very helpful in providing access to client files and answering questions regarding Adam's cases. In the meantime, we'll need to find someplace else for you and the kids to stay. You obviously can't stay here. I worry that once we start questioning the right people, they might just get a little more aggressive and we don't want your parents in the middle of it again." He said, pausing for a moment to let all he'd said sink in before he continued.
"I'm going to go make some phone calls and see if I can get a place lined up tonight." He said, glancing at his watch momentarily and then correcting himself. "Or today rather. The police are still going to be in and out for the next several hours, so I'll see if we can't get something lined up and get you and the kids settled in before we wrap this up." He said.
"Now, I think we're done questioning your parents. Do they have someplace they can stay tonight, a friend they can call? I imagine they wouldn't want to stay here. Besides, like I said, the police are going to be in and out all morning." Mitch said.
"Oh, yeah, that's a good idea. I can call my mom's friend, Laura." Liam said, before he went to find his parents.
After talking with his parents for a little bit, Liam called Laura to make arrangements for his mom and dad to stay with her for a couple of days. She had the room and she was actually happy to have the company. Liam helped them get a few things packed, said his goodbyes and then watched as they left. Mitch had a police officer follow them to make sure they made it okay.
Once they were gone, Liam turned his attention to his surroundings. The number of officers and detectives had dwindled considerably over the last couple of hours and daylight was just starting to stream through the windows. He caught the scent of freshly brewed coffee permeating from the kitchen.
"Coffee would definitely hit the spot right about now." He thought to himself as he headed straight for the kitchen.
Thankfully, the kitchen had been left untouched. They had mostly focused their anger on the living room and Frank and Rebecca's bedroom.
When Liam entered the kitchen, he found Mitch standing at the sink, talking on his cell phone and another detective sitting at the kitchen table. He walked over, grabbed a cup and filled it with coffee. Taking a large drink, he let out a huge sigh of satisfaction from that first drink.
"Well, I've finally got it all worked out." Mitch said, as he disconnected his phone call. "Rick has agreed to have you and the kids stay with him."
Liam's eyes snapped up from his cup of coffee to look Mitch in the eye. "Rick! No, I don't want to drag Rick into the middle of this. No, that's not a good idea." Liam said, emphatically shaking his head.
"Liam, it's our best option. No one would have any idea that you are staying there, he's got more than enough room to accommodate all of you, his place is on the outskirts of town and there are only two roads in and out. We'll have a couple of officer's posted out front twenty-four seven, so you and the kids have nothing to worry about." Mitch said.
"Mitch, I don't like it. I've already put my parents in danger. We're just lucky that things turned out the way they did. I don't want to put anyone else at risk." Liam said.
"It's our best option. Rick really doesn't mind and besides, with his work schedule, he won't be home after Sunday anyway." Mitch countered.
"Shit… Mitch, fine, but I don't like it. I just want this all to end." Liam said.
"I know and we're working on it. Don't worry, we'll keep you and the kids safe." Mitch said, while placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Oh and I think it would be best to keep the kids home from school next week. I want you and the kids to lie low for a few days while we work on this lead." Mitch finished.
"Great, the kids won't like that. Oh, well, I'll go get what few things we have here together and get the kids up." Liam said, as he finished the last of his coffee.
To Liam's surprise, the kids were really excited about going out to Rick's place for a few days. They liked the idea of seeing Rick and the dog again, not to mention the swimming pool and all the games Rick had for his game system. Chris didn't like the idea of missing more school though, and he got really scared that he wouldn't be able to go to the birthday party next Friday, but Liam assured him that he would still be able to go.
When they arrived at Rick's, he and the dog were already outside waiting for them.
"Rick, thanks so much for letting us stay here. I hope it's not too much trouble for you." Liam said, as he proceeded to get Cassie out of her car seat while Rick automatically went to help Chris.
"Hey, it's not a problem. Besides, it will be nice to have some company around here. I get Stacey's kids once in a while, but usually, it's just me." He said, before he greeted Chris.
"Ciao piccolo. I'm so glad to have you here." Rick said, picking Chris up and easily tossing him on his shoulder.
"Look Uncle Liam, I'm taller than you." Chris said, excitedly, as a grin spread across his face from ear to ear.
"Yep, you sure are." Liam said, as he picked up Cassie.
"Where's your stuff?" Rick asked.
"It's in the trunk. There isn't much right now. I still need to head back over to the loft and get some more of our things. When I left, we only had a chance to grab a few things. I'll go back over on Monday, while Jack is at work, and pick up some more of our stuff." Liam said, as he popped the trunk.
Rick grabbed Chris's backpack while Liam grabbed his duffle.
"Well come on in and I'll give you another quick tour. I have a room that's set up for Stacy's kids when they stay over. I figure the kids can have that room. There are toys in there and even some clothes that would probably fit them too, if they need them." Rick said, as he escorted them to the bedroom.
The bedroom was fairly large and contained two twin beds, a large dresser, a bookshelf, a large toy box, and a small kid's table. The book shelf was stocked with books and puzzles and other miscellaneous toys. The table was actually a Lego table and on it, there was, what looked like a space station being erected.
"I have another guest bedroom that you can stay in. It's nothing fancy, but the bed is comfortable enough. Come on, I'll show you where it is." He said, motioning Liam to follow him.
"Chris, Cassie, you guys coming, or are you staying here?" Liam asked. Both Chris and Cassie had already found something to interest them. Cassie had found the puzzles and Chris was in awe of the Lego set.
"Wow, Rick, this is cool. Can I play with this?" Chris asked.
"Oh, yeah Chris, you and Cassie can play with anything in this room. Consider it your room while you are here." He said.
"Cool." Was Chris's only response.
"Well, I guess they're fine." Liam said, as he followed Rick out the door and down the hall.
"There are three rooms right next to each other. My room is the first door we passed. The kid's room was the second and the third is the room you'll be staying in. The bathroom is directly across from your room." Rick said, as he opened the door to the room, Liam following close behind.
"The closet is mostly empty and the dresser is completely empty. Feel free to put your things away and make yourself at home." Rick said.
"Thank you." Liam said, as he dropped is duffel on the bed.
"You should have everything you need in the bathroom. Extra towels are in the linen closet just outside your door at the end of the hall, top shelf. Have you guys had lunch yet? Are you hungry? I haven't eaten and was just getting ready to fix some soup and sandwiches." Rick offered.
"No, we haven't eaten yet. I'd imagine the kids are getting pretty hungry by now. We didn't really get a chance to eat breakfast." Liam said.
"Well, I'll get lunch started. You go ahead and settle in. I'll be in the kitchen if you need anything." Rick said, as he left Liam.
Liam sat down on the bed and let out a huge sigh. Sitting forward slightly, he propped his elbows up on his knees and rested his face in the palms of his hands.