The Williamsons and the Widow
“Well, Alexander, I don’t think there will be a major problem with arranging this,” Mark Williamson said as he looked over the papers. “How is your father, by the way?”
“Recovering – it was a scare, thank God, but he’s a fighter.”
“So I hear,” Mark said as he closed his case. “I’ll have the papers drawn up and delivered to your office in the morning.”
“Thank you,” Alexander Holderness said as he stood up and shook Mark’s hand. “Allow me to show you out.”
He opened the door of the library at Holderness Manor, and allowed Mark to walk through before he closed the door. As they stood in the hallway, a tall short haired man came down the stairs, taking to a slim woman with long blonde hair.
“She needs a few more weeks rest, but honestly Brian, she’s doing fine – oh hello Alexander,” the woman said as they came to the bottom of the stairs.
“Mark, I believe you met Brian at the wedding, but this is Dr Kayla Smith, a friend of his and Sarah’s.”
“Of course,” Mark said as he extended his hand, “I hear congratulations are in order?”
“Thank you,” Brian said as he gripped Mark’s hand firmly, “mother and babies doing fine. Kayla came over from the States to be with us for the birth.”
Mark smiled as he nodded to the young woman. “Well, I must be going, but I hope you find fatherhood as exciting and satisfying as I do.”
“Oh I think I can guarantee that,” Brian said as he watched Alexander walk Mark out of the manor house.
“Nice man,” Kayla said as she looked at him.
“Yeah,” Brian said quietly, “I just wish I knew why he puts me on edge a bit.”
“You’re naturally suspicious,” Kayla said with a smile.
“Yeah – that’s probably it, with a healthy dash of fear about them,” he said as he looked up the stairs.
As he pulled up outside his home, Mark looked in the rear view mirror to see John and Jennifer Craig fetching the twins from their car. They were growing up so fast now, and as for Cassie and Jenny, their older daughters, they too were looking a lot older.
He remembered the first time her had met both of them, when as Jay Edwards he had spent the night with them, much against his better judgement, while one of his associates made John make a large withdrawal from one of his firm’s overseas accounts. It had been one of only two times he had broken his own rule about no friends or family – that second time being both an educational and a difficult time for him and the three men he had picked to help them. All three had been arrested, and convicted of kidnapping and extortion, but they had kept him out of the picture.
He selected those he worked with very carefully, and the compensation he offered was more than sufficient to ensure their silence. All three would have a large account waiting for them when they served their sentence.
As he walked into the house, he could hear Lisa and Charlie talking in the kitchen, while his wife Yvonne came and gave him a kiss.
“Long day,” she said as he picked up the letters from the small table.
“Not really, just up to Holderness Manor and back,” he said as he looked at one in particular, addressed to him by hand and with a London postmark. Putting the others down, he opened it and took out a single sheet of paper, on which he read the following message.
“We need to talk, Mister Edwards. Call.”
There was a number underneath, which Mark showed to Yvonne. “What the…” she said, “who talked?”
“I don’t know,” Mark said as they walked into the kitchen, and he switched on the ring on the gas hob, setting the paper and envelope alight and then depositing the burning ashes into the sink, “but I will find out.”
Mark looked up from his desk as his secretary stood at the door.
“Your three o’clock appointment is here.”
Looking at his desk diary, Mark saw “John Smith, new client” pencilled in.
“Who made this appointment,” he said as he looked at his secretary.
“I’m not sure – but they’re here now. I can find out while you talk to them?”
“Very well,” Mark said as he stood up and put his jacket on. His secretary showed in a very tall and very well built man, his suit obviously tailored to suit his body shape. He had close cropped brown hair, and his eyes darted around the room as he shook Mark’s hand.
“Forgive me, Mister Smith,” he said as he indicated the chair at the other side of his desk, “normally if I have a new client I prefer to talk on the phone before I meet face to face, but this appointment was obviously made at the last minute.”
“That’s perfectly all right,” Mister Smith said as he sat down, “you are a busy man, Mister Williamson, and it can be difficult to find time in your diary to have a meeting.”
“Indeed,” Mark said as he looked at the client. Something, he wasn’t quite sure what, was putting him on edge about him.
“So, what can I do for you?”
“We wish to arrange the safe and secure transfer of funds from one account to another, and my contacts tell me you are the perfect man for the job.”
“Well, I would also normally ask for references as well,” Mark said quietly, “but exactly how much are we talking about.”
“Several hundred thousand pounds.”
“In that case, I definitely do need details of your company and references before I can proceed.”
“That might be problematic,” Mister Smith said as he leaned forward, “Jay.”
Mark Williamson looked across his desk at the man, before he said “I’m sorry, who is Jay? As you are aware, Mister Smith, my name is Mark Williamson.”
“That’s all right, you can be your public face if you want, but I know you are also Jay Edwards,” Mister Smith said as he sat back in his chair, “In fact, we’ve been keeping an eye on you for quite some considerable time.”
“Mister Smith,” Mark said as he stood up, “I have no idea who you think I am, but I assure you, I am a director of this accountancy firm. Nothing more, nothing less. I have only heard the name Jay Edwards in conversation with friends.”
“Oh we know how good you are,” Mister Smith said quietly. “Sit down, Mister Williamson – at least listen to what I have to say.”
“Mister Smith, unless you have a genuine piece of business to discuss…”
“I said sit down, Mister Williamson.”
Mark could see a steely look in the eyes of Mister Smith, so he said “Well, if you insist on wasting my time, my bill is still the same. Go on.”
Mister Smith smiled, a smile that would not look out of place on Shere Khan. “You are very, very careful, and very, very successful and I applaud that. Jay Edwards is a rare commodity – a bank robber who never hurts anyone, never leaves a trail, and has never been seen without the mask. But we have a lot of contacts, and a lot of patience, and we have been watching you for some considerable time.
“We particularly liked your last visit – getting both parents to make large extractions from the accounts of their business shows the planning mind of a genius. We followed you from the time you left your home and your children in the care of their friend’s parents, to the return the next morning. From the collection of your associates and right through to the day after. Very, very impressive.”
“Mister Smith,” Mark said as he looked directly at him. “I am not this Jay Edwards. In fact, I can prove I’m not this character.”
“Oh,” Mister Smith said quietly, “how?”
“Because I have been a victim of him and his associates,” I said quietly. “They visited me some months ago, held my wife, my children and some friends of theirs hostage, and forced me to make some quite substantial withdrawals of my own from this company’s accounts. It is not a night I care to remember – especially as I ended up in the A&E department of the local hospital that night.”
Mister Smith looked on impassively as Mark quietly continued. “If I was this Jay Edwards character, as you seem to believe I am, would I seriously place my own family in danger, as well as that of a close friend? Would I allow myself to be beaten up and assaulted? Would I really have robbed myself? You can look at police records, ask my family, ask my neighbours – they will all tell you I am not this man. Now, unless you have any further business you wish to discuss?”
Mister Smith looked again round the office, before he stood up. “No, I think you have made your view perfectly clear, Mister Williamson. We shall, I am sure, discuss this further at some point. I think I can find the way out.”
Mark watched as he left the office, shaking his head before he heard the telephone ringing.
“Oh hi Yvonne – everything all right at home?
“Well, it should be all right, but remember I have to come into the office on Saturday morning to sort out the fun day. After that, however, I think we’re fine.
“I’ll see you in an hour or two,” he said before he put the phone down. Mark considered for a moment whether or not to tell his wife about his last meeting, but shook his head.
“No,” he thought to himself, “I don’t think there is any need to.”
“Hey Cassie – you’re staying for the weekend I hear.”
Lisa Williamson embraced her friend Cassie Craig in her arms as she and her sister Jenny came into the house.
“Thanks for having us,” the young girl said as she looked round. “Where’s Charlie?”
“In his room, doing his homework, and under instructions not to disturb any of you this morning,” Mark said as he came down the stairs, wearing a blue v-necked pullover on top of a blue shirt, dark trousers and casual shoes.
“Mark, I can’t thank you enough for doing this,” John Craig said as he stood in the doorway, “Mum has no problem with the twins, but all three of them would have been a handful given she spends a lot of her time at the manor house just now.”
“Like I said, not a problem. When are you heading off?”
“Now,” John said as he turned round.
“I need to get going too,” Mark said to Lisa. Yvonne came through and said “all right – you’ll be back for lunch?”
“Should be – see you all later,” he said as he went out of the front door, closing it behind him. He waved to Jennifer Craig in their car as John got behind the wheel and set off, before getting into his own car and heading to the office.
“Come on upstairs with me,” Lisa said as she took Cassie’s hand, “I’ve got something to show you.” The two younger girls went up the staircase as Jenny said “I hope you don’t mind, but I have an essay to finish.”
“You can use the kitchen table if you don’t mind me doing the washing,” Yvonne said as they went into the kitchen. Yvonne was dressed casually, in a pair of black jogging pants and an old Great North Run shirt, as well as a pair of sneakers. Jenny was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a grey sweatshirt.
“So what is the essay on,” Yvonne said as Jenny took out a pad of paper, and set it on the table.
“D H Lawrence – great author or dirty story teller?”
“Depends on your viewpoint,” Yvonne said as she picked up a pile of clothes. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
She carried the clothes up the staircase and went into Charlie’s room. “Working hard or hardly working,” she said as she saw her young son on his computer.
“Hardy har har,” he said as he turned round and smiled. “I’m designing a poster for the sports day – what do you think?”
Yvonne looked over the shoulder of Charlie and smiled. “Not bad – you’ll be an artist yet.”
“Why thank you,” he said as he went back to work. The ten year old boy had a blue and white striped t-shirt on with a pair of khaki shorts, socks and trainers, as he kicked his legs to and fro under the chair.
Yvonne then took the pile through to twelve year old Lisa’s room. She and Cassie were lying on the bed, kicking their legs up and down as they watched a DVD. Cassie had a pair of pink and white striped leggings on with a pink t-shirt, while Lisa had a pair of black leggings under her denim shorts and a black polo neck shirt.
Going to her bedroom, Yvonne collected the dirty shirts from the laundry basket, and then carried them down to the kitchen. Jenny was concentrating on her essay, as she opened the door that led to the garage and the washing machine.
“Not a fucking word – get in and face down on the floor, bitch!”
Jenny looked up as four armed men ran into the kitchen, one of them forcing Yvonne to the floor as another said “Keep that trap of yours shut girlie,” a sawn off shotgun aimed at her head. They were all dressed in black jackets and trousers, and none of them were masked.
“Please, don’t hurt us,” Yvonne cried out as she heard the screams from up the stairs, and the rasping sound as a plastic zip tie was used to force her wrists together behind her back.
Jenny was having her wrists secured with one as well, as they both heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Cassie, Lisa and Charlie were marched through the kitchen, their hands behind their backs and strips of brown plaster pressed down over their mouths, as Yvonne and Jenny were forced to their feet.
“Who the hell are you,” Yvonne screamed, only to feel the sting of a gloved hand as it was brought down on her cheek, and then the pull on her skin as she was gagged with a strip of plaster.
She looked to the door as a tall well built man with close cropped brown hair came in. “Get them out of here,” he said as Jenny, now also silenced with plaster over her mouth, and Yvonne were dragged out. “I’ll wait to speak to Mark Williamson.”
The two were pushed into the back of a van, looking at the three younger children as the door was slammed shut and they drove off at speed. Jenny and Cassie looked at each other, as Yvonne started shaking.
Brian turned to see his wife sit bolt upright in her chair.
“Hey – are you all right,” he said as he looked at her, “I thought you were just having a catnap.”
“I… I’m not sure,” Sarah said as she looked at the two seats in front of her. “I had a dream…”
“A dream? What sort of dream?”
“The worst kind,” Sarah said as she looked at the green glow of her watch.
“Oh no,” Brian said in a whisper, “did you make out any details?”
“No – but can you get Kayla? We need to know what I can and cannot do, just in case.”
Jenny glared at the two men as they were pushed into a cellar, turning to look at them as the five stood in a line.
“Your little home from home,” one of the men said as he grabbed several lengths of rope, “so who’s going to be first.”
Cassie looked at Lisa and Charlie, who were standing next to their mother and shaking, before she stepped forward and mumbled “mfrst” through the tape gag.
“Ndm” Jenny said as she stood next to her sister, before turning and saying “Kpclm” to the other three.
“Brave kids,” the second man said as he took a length of rope from his partner, “wonder if they know what’s going to happen?”
“Less talk – I want them unable to move so that we can go and get some coffee,” the first man said as they doubled over the rope, and started to tightly bind their arms to their sides, the two girls looking at each other.
Yvonne watched, marvelling again at the courage of the Craig children as the men passed more ropes under their arms and around the back of their necks. In all the times she had visited families as Mrs McPhee, she had always treated the families as if they were their own children, and here these two were, as the zipties were cut away and their wrists re-tied with the rope, not showing any fear as this was done to them.
“Lktthtm,” she whispered to Charlie and Lisa, “fllwwtheecsmpl, llrt?”
The two children nodded as Jenny and Cassie were pushed onto two dirty mattresses, and their legs bound tightly at the ankles, below the knees and round their thighs.
The two men smiled, an evil smile as they looked at the Williamson family. “Your turn,” the man said as they picked up more rope, “who’s going to be first?”
Yvonne looked at the children and then stepped forward, looking at Jenny and Cassie as the men began to bind her. She was then pushed onto another mattress, forced to watch as her legs were bound tightly, the coarse rope biting into her flesh and rubbing against her skin as she watched Lisa and Charlie being bound in the same way.
“Right – they’re not going anywhere,” the man said as they walked to the door.”
“Plsssdsmfngfrs,” Jenny said as she looked at them.
“What do you want,” the man said as he turned and looked at her.
“Nobody’s going to hear them,” the second man said as he pointed to a camera in the wall. “We’re watching everything you do, understand?”
Jenny nodded as the plaster was pulled away from her mouth, the others wincing as they too were ungagged.
“Can we get some water,” Yvonne panted.
“Later,” the man said, “when Mister Smith gets back from talking to your husband. Now behave – or we do something worse.” The two men walked out, slamming the door shut behind them as Cassie heard a lock turn.
“Well,” she said as she looked at Jenny, “this is another fine mess you’ve got us into.”
“How can you joke,” Yvonne said as she looked at them.
“Defence mechanism,” Jenny said as she looked round the room, “until we find out what’s going on here.”
“Kids, Yvonne, I’m home,” Mark Williamson said as he came into the house.
When there was no reply, Mark walked into the kitchen – stopping as he saw Mister Smith sitting at the kitchen table, stirring a mug of coffee.
“Hello Mister Williamson,” he said as he looked up, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“What are you doing in my house,” Mark said as he reached for his mobile phone.
“I wouldn’t do that – if you do, you will have five deaths on your conscience.”
Mark stopped with his phone in his hand, and looked at the man.
“Where is my wife and the children?”
“Safe – for now. Sit down Jay – or if you insist, Mark – and listen to what I have to say.”
“What have you done to them,” Mark said as he stepped forward.
“I said sit down,” Mister Smith said, firmly, as he looked at him. “I told you, we have been watching you for a very long time.”
“And I told you, I’m not this Jay Edwards character. I’ve been robbed by him, why would I do that to myself?”
“To cover your tracks when your associates tried to do something by themselves,” Mister Smith said as he sipped his coffee. “Tell me, did it ever occur to you as strange that no matter how firm your instructions are, this one time they did not bind the wrists of the target as they took them to their place of work?”
Mark looked at the man, sitting down as he did so. “I would not know – as I said, I only know of the one time he held my family hostage, and he warned me on the telephone what would happen if I did not return.”
“Quite,” Mister Smith said as he took another drink and put the mug down. “I also know you very politely, and very firmly, fired the man who beat you up. Did you know it was actually his idea to hit your family?”
“I would not know – I only remember his fist and the pistol whipping that man gave me, whoever he was.”
“He works for me – in fact, he always worked for me.” Mister Smith looked at Mark, before saying “and unless you do exactly what I say, he will be the one who kills your wife, your children, and the Craig children.”
“You bastard,” Mark said as he stood up suddenly.
“Sit down,” Mister Smith said as he took out his cell phone and showed Mark a picture of the five hostages in a cellar. “Now, we want you to force Alexander Holderness to transfer one million pounds from Red Ribbon Shipping to the account on this stick. You will do it tonight – you will assemble your team, but one of them will be my man. When the transaction is successfully completed, your family and the other girls were will be released.”
He put the memory stick on the table, and said “I’ll be waiting” before he walked out, Mark staring at the little white stick as the door closed.
“No – I’m sorry, Sarah, no way are you fit enough yet to go back on active duty.”
Sarah and Brian looked at Kayla, as she said “Do you want me to call Anne, get her and Chloe over here?”
“Not yet – hopefully it’s just my hormones,” Sarah said quietly. “I’m going to have a lie down.”
As she left the room, Brian looked at Kayla. “It’s not her hormones, is it?”
Kayla slowly shook her head. “No it’s not. I’m calling Anne.”
Mark stared at the stick for what seemed like an eternity, but was really only ten minutes before he stood up and went quickly up the stairs to his home office. Unlocking a filing cabinet, he took out a mobile phone and dialled a number, thinking hard as he did so.
“This is Jay Edwards,” he said in his Geordie accent, “I need some information from you. What do you know of a tall, well built man in our fraternity called Mister Smith – Mister John Smith?”
He listened on the phone for a few minutes, nodding as his contact told him what he knew. “Yeah – yeah I got that,” he finally said, “not a man you would business with either, by the sound of things.
“No, no it’s all right, but I appreciate the offer – I had heard of him in passing, and was curious. Thanks.”
Ending the call, Mark sat back and put his hands over his face. He had to come up with a plan that would enable him to look as if he was playing along, but give him time to get the upper hand and find out where they were being held hostage.
Eventually, he picked up a mobile phone and consulted a little black book before dialling
“This is Jay,” he said into the phone. “Rendezvous point 4, 6 tonight – and if your friend harms a hair on their heads, I’ll kill you.”
“How are they?”
The two men looked round as Mister Smith came into the room, and looked at the monitor screens. He could see the five of them seated on the mattresses, talking to each other.
“Wonder what they’re saying?”
“Doesn’t matter – I’m not interested, and they’re not going to tell anyone, are they? Have they asked for anything?”
“Well, let’s give them water.”
Yvonne looked up as the two men walked in, the tall one who had spoken to her in the house following them in.
“I hope your husband is being a good boy, Mrs Williamson,” he said as he looked at all five of them, “for all of your sakes.”
“Please, what’s this all about? You’re scaring the children – and me.”
“Oh I think you know, Mrs Williamson – but that’s not why we’re here. Get them ready.”
Yvonne gasped as she was pulled off the mattress and made to lie face down on the floor, one of the men pulling her ankles back so that her heels almost touched her bottom as the other used a length of rope to bind them tightly to her chest ropes. She watched as they did the same to the four children, Lisa yelping with pain while Charlie bit his bottom lip to stop himself saying something. Only Cassie and Jenny said nothing, as they faced each other in a circle on the floor.
“You wanted some water,” the tall man said, “give them some water.”
They watched as the two guards left the room, returning with a dog bowl in each hand. They placed one of the bowls in front of each of the children, before one was placed in front of Yvonne.
“What the hell is this about,” Yvonne said as she looked at the tall man, “You expect us to lap the water like dogs.”
“Why not – you’re all that is to me and my associates. A family of dogs that serve only one purpose – to get your husband to do what we want.”
“And what happens after that?”
The man looked at her and the children, before he said “What do you think?” He turned and left the room with the other two, Yvonne staring at the door in shock as she heard the lock turn.
“No,” she finally whispered, “oh sweet Jesus no….”
“Mum? Mum, what’s wrong,” Lisa said as Yvonne started to cry and shake, saying “no” repeatedly under her breath.
Yvonne looked over at Jenny, her eyes red as tears started to flow.
“Mrs Williamson,” Jenny said calmly, “I know this is a frightening thing, but Cassie and I have been through something like this before several times, and we have survived. Trust me, we will get through this.”
“How can you say that, Jenny dear,” Yvonne sobbed, “You heard what he said.”
“Yes I did,” Jenny said quietly, “and I think I need to tell you a secret. This time, they have picked completely the wrong family to try and do this to.”
“Mum, what is going on,” Charlie said as she tried to move his legs.
“All of you,” Jenny said as she looked at Cassie, “the first thing is not to show them we’re afraid, that is exactly what they want. Drink the water, no matter how much you don’t want to do it this way – I’m going to tell you a very big secret. One not even Cassie really knows…”
She was walking up the driveway to Wissenden Hall, the darkening sky illuminated by the lights shining through the curtains. As she opened the door, she could hear muffled cries coming from the main room to the left, so she went in to see what was happening.
She could see Suzanne and Susan Holderness, and a woman she recognised as their housekeeper, Mrs Boyle, sat in a row on the couch. All three were ready for bed – Suzie in her pink pyjamas, Susan in a light blue nightdress, and Mrs Boyle in a pair of white silk pyjamas. All three were bound, bands of rope holidng their arms tightly to their sides, as well as their ankles and legs below the knees. Bands of white tape went around their heads, covering their mouths, but it was obvious there was something else under them.
A masked man, dressed in blue overalls, was watching over them, a black balaclava allowing her to see only his eyes and lips. She placed her hand on his shoulder and pulled him round, but was surprised to see tears in his eyes, and a quiver as he spoke in a sing song accent.
“Please – help my family, I’m doing this for them.”
She could hear the sincerity, the concern, the fear in his voice, but then the scene changed, and she stood outside an old two storey building made of red brick. She pushed open the front door, to see three men walking towards her from a room on the other side. One was tall, well built and well dressed, and the other two were thugs, but they were laughing as they walked away.
She started to walk towards the door, afraid of what she might see, but inexorably drawn to it. Looking in, she saw three girls, a boy and an older woman, lying on mattresses. She thought she knew the woman, but she could also see her lifeless eyes, and the single bullet hole in the side of her skull.
They all had been shot, and as she turned the oldest girl towards her, she saw the lifeless eyes of Jenny Craig looking straight at her…
Brian and Kayla turned as Sarah woke up, screaming and shaking as she looked at her watch.
“I know what’s going to happen – we have to stop it.”
“When,” Brian said as he looked at her.
“Tonight – now.”
“Then we have a problem,” Kayla said, “Anne can’t get here with Chloe for twenty four hours, and you are in no state to go back to active duty.”
“We don’t have a choice – we’ll just have to find a different way. What time is it?”
Brian looked at his watch. “Five in the afternoon – why?”
“Get me a phone, the first thing we need to do is call Alexander.”
Jenny looked at the four others, and took a deep breath. She knew this was sharing a great secret, but she also knew she had to keep them all calm.
“Cassie and I have a very good friend who you have met, Mrs Williamson – her name is Sarah.”
“Yes – I met her at the Manor house a few weeks ago. Mark told me that she had just given birth to twins.”
Jenny nodded, and then lapped some water from the bowl. “Do the same – we can’t let them see us not doing it, or there may be more trouble.”
“How much more trouble could we be in – they’re going to k…”
“No,” Cassie said quietly, “they’re not.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because Sarah is a very special woman. Cassie, remember when we first met her at Aunt Jessie’s house?”
Cassie nodded and said “Yeah – that man with the scarf round his face came in, and she just looked at him. He went all pale and ran off.”
Jenny nodded and said “that’s right. You see, Mrs Williamson, Sarah has a very special talent that means if she wants, she can frighten someone so much they give up what they are doing. She used it that day to scare someone away who was threatening us – and she uses it to help people who are in very real and dangerous trouble.”
“I don’t understand,” Yvonne said as she looked at Charlie and Lisa, “what can one woman do?”
Jenny looked at Cassie, and then said quietly “she can save the lives of my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, and the Holderness women all at the same time.”
Jenny looked at Cassie, and said quietly “I’m sorry, Cass – I’ll explain everything later.”
Yvonne looked hard at Jenny for a few minutes. She had heard rumours on the grapevine of an incident at Holderness Manor a year or two ago. A gang she and Mark despised, called the Scorpions, had tried to rob Holderness Manor, before something happened and they were all caught.
One of their associates had heard a story that they had all been driven insane when a woman dressed in pink leather appeared from nowhere. She had never believed it, but was it possible…
Yvonne shook her head and said “sorry – are you saying that Sarah is some sort of secret agent?”
“I’m saying,” Jenny said, “that whoever this bunch are, they have picked the wrong family to mess with – and I am saying if we all stay calm, I do believe we will come through all this. Charlie, Lisa, trust me when I say this.
“Someone will come and rescue us.”
In the room, Mister Smith watched as they talked. Hearing his mobile phone, he took it out and said “Yeah?
“All right – keep me informed.” Ending the call, he said “Jay is going to do it, now we sit back and wait.”
Sarah leaned over and gently kissed the sleeping boy and girl on their foreheads.
“Mummy will be home real soon,” she said as she zipped up the pink fleece she was wearing, and walked out of the nursery, joining Brian and Kayla at the bottom of the stairs.
“Mrs Bridges, please – not a word to Lady Holderness. She has enough to worry about.”
The housekeeper nodded as they walked out and climbed into a car, heading off down the driveway.
The car park was emptying as the grey van drove in and stopped near the far corner. The driver looked round nervously as three men in overalls got out of their cars and walked over, then took a deep breath and climbed into the back as they came in.
“Evening Jay,” one of them said as he came in, “This a last minute decision?”
“An unexpected opportunity came up,” Jay Edwards said in his Geordie accent. “We will be moving in high society here, so on your best behaviour boys.”
“Mrs McPhee not joining us,” one of them said, as Jay looked hard at him.
“No – she’s a bit tied up with other things,” Jay said quietly. “Now, I know the place we’re going to, so as always, follow orders, and do what I tell you to do. Let’s go.”
An hour later, the grey van pulled up outside the front door of Wissenden Hall, Jay looking at the large front doors.
“All right, all three of you ready?”
The men nodded as they picked up their guns and bags, Jay stepping out and taking the lead as they walked up to the front door. Knocking hard, he took a deep breath and then smiled as the door was opened by Alexander Holderness.
“Yes, can I help…”
“Forgive the intrusion Mister Holderness,” Jay said as he walked in, the three men following, “but we have some business that we need to discuss. Where are your family?”
“My… My wife and daughter are in there,” he said as he pointed to the front room.
“Well then, we need to talk to them,” Jay said as they walked in with Alexander, who was wearing a v-necked sweater over a white t-shirt and jeans. Suzie was sitting on the couch, in a white smock top, blue leggings and white socks, while her mother was in the armchair, wearing a pair of jeans and a grey sweatshirt.
“OH my god,” Suzie said as she looked up, “you!”
“Hello again Suzie,” Jay said quietly, “Forgive the intrusion, but I am afraid I need to do some business with your father. Remember last time?”
Suzie nodded as she said “So you’re going to tie us up now?”
“With deep regret, yes,” Jay said as one of the men produced some rope and pulled Alexander’s hands behind his back. “Don’t worry – you know I won’t let you or your family come to any harm.”
He watched as the other two men used rope to secure Susan and Suzie’s upper bodies, ankles and legs with rope. “Shall we gag them as well Jay,” one of them said as he stood up.
“No – Suzie knows to be quiet,” Jay said as he took Alexander’s arm. “Show me to your office – you watch the ladies, and you two,” he said to the other masked men, “check to see if anyone else is home. If they are, bring them here.”
They nodded and headed up the stairs as Alexander said “This way” and he indicated the far side of the hallway. The two men walked over, and Jay opened the office door, Alexander going in before him.
As he closed the door, he heard a man with an Australian accent say “So this is Jay Edwards?” He turned to see Brian standing behind him, his finger to his lips as he said “We know what’s going on – and we want to help.”
Jay stared at the tall Australian, before looking at Alexander and saying “Who is this, Mister Holderness? Doesn’t he appreciate the situation you are in?”
“He does,” a female voice said, and Jay turned to see a dark haired woman sitting on the other side of the office, wearing a pink fleece and leggings, “but I don’t think you appreciate your situation, Mr Edwards.”
“Who the hell are you two,” Jay said in his soft accent as he looked at them, and started to draw his gun.
“Not a good idea,” Brian said as he put his hand on Jay’s shoulder, a feeling like an electric shock passing through Jay that made him drop the gun. Looking at Sarah, she saw him stare over his shoulder and say “Brian?”
“Nothing,” Brian said as she let go of Jay’s shoulder, and pulled his hands behind him, securing his wrists with a zip tie. “You, sit there and don’t move while I take care of your friends, and then we’ll talk.”
“But you don’t…”
“If I was you,” Sarah said as she untied Alexander’s arms, and then picked up the gun, “I’d do what he says.” Brian nodded as he left them, and slipped quietly into the hallway.
He stopped and listened, before heading quietly over to the front room, where Susan and Suzie were sitting watching the man standing in front of them. He silently walked up to him and pressed his fingers to the side of his neck, smiling as he slowly crumpled to the ground unconscious.
“All right,” Brian said to the two bound captives, “Alexander is safe – Sarah is with him and this Jay Edwards. Keep quiet while I take care of the other two.”
“All right – you three keep quiet while I take care of these two.”
“Just don’t hurt them,” Yvonne said as Charlie and Lisa were dragged away to a toilet. The five of them had eventually been untied and allowed to eat and drink, before Yvonne, then Jenny and Cassie, were taken to a toilet and allowed to take care of themselves.
Mister Smith was standing in the corner, his arms folded as he looked at them.
“Tell the truth,” Yvonne said as she stared back, “even if my husband does the things you ask him to do, are you going to let us go free?”
The tall man smiled – an evil smile, as he said “I think you already know the answer to that, don’t you Mrs Williamson?”
Yvonne blanched, as she said “But they’re just children – please…”
“If I was you,” he said as he straightened up and looked over, “I’d not let that fear show. Don’t want to scare the kiddies, do we?”
“You’re the one who needs to be scared,” Jenny said quietly, “you have no idea what you are doing, or what you have unleashed.”
“Really, little girl,” Mister Smith said as he grabbed Jenny’s shoulder, and looked into her eyes. “Then you can be first – turn round.” He forced Jenny to face the others and yanked her arms behind her back, arranging them in a box before he started to tie her wrists to her elbows.
“Remember – be brave,” Jenny said with a grunt as he pulled one rope tight, “we’ll be all right…”
“There’s nobody else here Jay,” one of the two masked men said as he came into the front room. Susan and Suzanne were both still sitting there, but there was no sign of the third guard.
“I’ll stay here,” he said to the other man, “you go and see if he’s in the other room with Jay.”
The masked intruder nodded as he walked across the hallway – only to collapse as Brian grabbed him and pinched the nerve endings in his neck, and lowered him gently to the floor.
“Hey – who the hell are you,” the third man said as he walked into the hallway, and aimed his gun at Brian. He watched as the tall Australian walked forward, a smile on his lips as he said “Now, from what I have read of Mr Edwards and his associates, you never use force unless you have to. Do yourself a very big favour – don’t try it in this case.”
The man stared at him, before lowering his gun. “Night night,” Brian said as he pinched his neck, and then carried both men down to the cellar.
Walking back up, he opened the office door and said “All right – the threat is neutralized. You can come out now.”
Alexander came out, his hand on Jay’s arm as Sarah followed them, and they walked into the front room.
“Thanks to both of you for playing along,” Sarah said as Alexander untied his wife and daughter. “Don’t worry – nothing else will happen to you tonight.”
“I’m really sorry, Mr Edwards,” Suzie said as she looked at him, “but I can’t let you hurt my daddy.”
“That’s all right, Suzie,” Jay said with a smile, “you did the right thing.”
“Alexander,” Brian said quietly, “I want you to take Susan and Suzie out for an hour or two – I’ll call you when we are done here.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” Brian said as he looked at Jay and Sarah. “We’ll be fine – on you go.”
“Let’s go, girls,” Alexander said as they left the room, and Sarah stood next to Jay.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on here?” Sarah said with a raised eyebrow.
Sarah slowly walked forward and touched Jay’s arm, and then retreated slightly.
“Oh my god,” she said quietly, “I know you.”
“There are only two people in the whole world Sarah and I have had this feeling from touching,” Brian said as he removed the balaclava from Jay’s head, “and when I held you earlier tonight, I got the same feeling. So this is who Jay Edwards is.”
Mark looked at both of them, the panic clear in his eyes, as he said “You stupid idiots, I’m not Jay Edwards – this madman had forced me to…”
“Mark,” Sarah said quietly, “I know your family is being held hostage with the Craig girls. I know what is going to happen if you do not do exactly what he asks you to do. I also know what you have done in the past, to the Craigs and the Holderness family.”
“I told you, I’m not…”
“We’ll table this discussion for later – do you know where they are being held?”
Mark shook his head as Brian produced a penknife, and cut his wrists free.
“We three need to have a serious talk later – for now, you need our help, and we need yours. Put that mask back on, and then we’re going to have a little chat with your three friends.”
Mark looked at the couple, before saying “Why should I trust you?”
“Because right now, Mark or Jay or whoever, we are the only thing that can save your family. Will you trust us?”
“I don’t have a choice,” Mark said as he pulled the balaclava back on, and then spoke as Jay. “What do you want me to do?”
“The three men with you – which of them was assigned by the man holding your family?”
“I’ll show you,” he said as they walked down to the cellar. Three chairs were lined up, each of the masked men tied to the chairs with zip ties as they looked at the trio.
“Good evening Gentlemen,” Brian said with a smile, “As you can see, the plans for this evening have been altered somewhat. Your employer has agreed to help my wife and I with a little experiment. Relax, and simply answer the questions.”
“Your watch,” Jay whispered to Sarah, “is it my imagination or is the face changing colour?”
Sarah looked at the watch, which was changing from green to a light yellow.
“Watch and ask the questions,” she whispered back as Brian put his hands on the shoulders of the first masked man.
“Did you rob the house of Mark Williamson and hold his family hostage?”
Brian pressed lightly with his fingers on the shoulders of the man as he said “No, you know I did not Jay.” He looked at Jay for a moment, before he moved over and placed his hands on the shoulders of the second man.
“No I did not.”
Brian moved to the third man as Jay asked the same question, before he nodded to him.
“Do you know my real name?”
The masked man shook his head, and then his head slumped to the side as Brian gently pressed on his neck. Moving to the other end of the row, he nodded as Jay asked the same question, and then knocked him out.
“Now then,” Jay said as he stood in front of the man sat in the middle, “where are my family?”
“Go to hell EDwAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” The man screamed in pain as Brian pressed down on his nerves, sending an electric shock shooting through his nervous system as he pulled the balaclava off.
“Let me explain something,” Brian whispered into his ear, “I could not care less what your grievance is with this man, or what you hope to get out of this. My one concern is to see the children and the mother returned safely to the bosom of their family.”
“You mean hEEEEEEEEEEEE” the man said as Brian pressed again. “So I’m asking you nicely now – where are they?”
“Go to hell. That’s where they’re going.”
“Brian, step back.”
Jay looked at the dial of Sarah’s watch, which was now glowing yellow, as she stepped forward, and Brian came to stand behind Jay. The man looked at Sarah, his face paling as he said “Oh my god – what are you?”
“Me? I’m a mother who is very, very concerned about her children, and you, my dear friend, are threatening them. So I’m asking you very, very nicely – where are they?”
“No – no, I can’t tell you…” Jay was watching as the man started sweating, and tried to push himself back into the chair.
“Well, we have a problem,” Sarah said quietly, “because if you don’t tell me, I may get – hungry.”
“No – oh dear mother of heaven no,” he said as Jay saw a damp patch between his associate’s legs. “Don’t… Don’t eat me!”
“Then tell me where they are.”
“ALL RIGHT – There’s a warehouse, the old industrial estate on the far side of town. Benton’s Furniture.”
Brian looked at Sarah, who leaned forward and placed her hand on the man’s cheek, saying “thank you.”
“NO – no, oh dear god no, don’t, I’m begging you don’t….” He let out a silent scream and then his head slumped forward. Jay watched, horrified as the watch face slowly changed from yellow to green.
Brian checked his pulse and slowly nodded. “Now, Jay, we need to talk about what we’re going to do next.”
“No – we need to talk about what your wife just did. Who the hell are you?”
“Have you heard of Project Pink Widow?”
Jay looked at both of them, before he whispered “Sweet Jesus…”
“Your reaction says it all,” Sarah said quietly. “Brian, we need to dispose of him.”
The tall man nodded as he cut the dead body from the chair and lifted it in his arms, carrying it up the stairs. “It may sound macabre,” Sarah said as she sat and rubbed her forehead, “but it will be neater if he is found somewhere else.”
“I… I don’t understand,” Jay said, “why are you helping me?”
“As crazy as this is going to sound,” Sarah said as she looked at him, “you’re different from the people we meet in our line of work. More importantly, however, your family is in danger, so we know you had no choice – this time.”
“Kayla has him in a body bag outside,” Brian said as he came back in, “ready for wherever we end up. Now, we know where they are.”
“How do you know he told the truth?”
“Trust me – I knew,” Brian said quietly. “So, Jay, your other two friends – what are you going to do about them?”
“They have no part in this except that I employed them to come with me tonight. I can’t ask them to risk their lives for what we’re going to have to do.”
“So you know this is going to be dangerous?”
Jay slowly nodded. “How long are they going to be out for?”
“Not relevant – I can wake them as easily as I put them to sleep. Want me to wake them up?”
“Untie them first – and can we do this outside this house?”
Brian nodded as he cut the two unconscious men free and hoisted one on each of his shoulders, Sarah and Jay following him out of the house.
As they went out of the door, Jay saw a woman waiting in a car behind his van.
“Help Brian put them into the van,” Sarah said to Jay, “I’ll go and talk to her.” As he and Brian put the men in, Sarah walked over to Kayla, waiting as she let the window drop.
“You’re sure this is all right?”
“With one exception, nobody got hurt – and he is genuinely scared for Jenny and the other hostages. I think we continue to play this our way. Can I borrow your phone for a moment?”
She took the iPhone and dialled a number.
“Alexander? We’re finished – you can come home now, and thanks for doing this for us. Trust us – he won’t bother you again.”
Handing the phone back, Sarah said “Follow us – and be ready.”
Walking back to the van, Sarah got in as Brian gently massaged the shoulder of each of the two men. They slowly opened their eyes and looked round, unsure of what was going on.
“I need you both to listen very carefully to me,” Jay said quietly. “This job tonight was not my choice – I was forced to do it by someone else, someone I abhor. You know me, and you know what I do and why I do it – can I trust you to accept what I am saying, without asking for more details?”
The two men looked at each other, then at Brian and Sarah.
“I know you do not trust them, but I do – and if you trust me, I ask you to trust them as well.”
As they both nodded, Brian listened to the way Jay spoke, the body language as he addressed them.
“Thank you – we’re going to go and deal with them, but I need to ask you two to do one more thing for me before you leave.”
“What’s that Jay,” one of them said.
“We’re going to go to a particular building – all I ask is that you wait outside in the van until the three of us come back. If you see anything – anything - sound the horn, and then get out of there. I’ll make sure you get the usual payments for tonight, no matter what.”
They looked at each other, and then slowly nodded in agreement.
“Thank you,” Jay said quietly. “Truly, thank you. Stay in here and rest – we will move off shortly.”
“For the love of God, they’re just children…”
“I thought I told you to be quiet, Mrs Williamson,” one of the two men said as he tugged on the ropes, pulling her ankles even further back before he tied it to the ropes that encircled her chest. She raised her head to look at Cassie and Jenny, who were lying on their stomachs facing her.
Lisa and Charlie were either side of her, crying softly at the tightness of the ropes that held their arms to their side, their forearms to each other, and their legs tightly together, their ankles pulled right back and tied to their chest ropes.
“I don’t care,” Yvonne screamed, “you’re scaring them to death.”
“Good analogy,” Mister Smith said as he stood in the doorway, “gag them.”
“Don’t you dare hurt my moffrrrrrr” Charlie shouted out as one of the men shoved a wet rag into his mouth, and then pulled a length of towelling between his lips, cutting into the corners of his mouth as he tied it round the young boy’s head.
“You still have one last chance,” Jenny said as she watched the man then gag Lisa in the same way, “do the smart thing and leave us before you discover how big a mistake you have made.”
“I don’t think you are in a position to say or do anything, little one,” Mister Smith said with a sneer as Jenny was gagged, then Cassie, and finally Yvonne. Duct tape was then wrapped tightly round their heads, before black cloths were tied over the eyes of Lisa, Charlie and Cassie.
“You two talked too much,” Mister Smith said, “so you get to watch the endgame.”
The three men left as Yvonne looked at Jenny, shaking her head to try and free the tight silver band.
“Svurstrnf,” Jenny said as she looked at the others, “frthrrseeks.”
In the room, the three men looked at the five struggling bodies on the monitor.
“When do you expect to hear from Edwards?”
Mister Smith looked at his watch. “In fifty minutes. Set the timer for sixty minutes, then take it in and lay it between mummy and the oldest girl.”
One of the men turned and pressed a button on the timer, the red display showing sixty before he carried it, and the explosives the timer were attached to, out of the room.
Mister Smith and the other man watched as he laid it between Jenny and Yvonne, the older woman struggling like mad as she watched him press a button and walk out.
Jay stopped the van a short distance from the warehouse, looking at it as Brian and Sarah sat next to him.
“That’s it,” he said quietly, “but I’m coming in with you.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Brian said quietly.
“No offence, but I could care less about what you think,” Jay said quietly. “I’m going in.”
Brian and Sarah looked at each other, and nodded as they got out. Jay looked over his shoulder and said “it’s over to you now – stay alert, and good luck.”
Getting out of the van, he walked over and joined Brian and Sarah, walking in line with them as they approached the warehouse. Once he was satisfied he was out of sight of the two men in the van, he reached up and pulled the balaclava from his head.
“IT’s my family in there,” Mark said in his usual Bristol burr, “so I’m going in with you as their father.”
Brian nodded. “Yeah – I can understand that.”
“No you don’t – yet. But you will. So do we just walk in and say hi?”
“Tempting,” Brian said as he stood a few feet back from the front door and examined it, “but if we do that, an alarm is going to go off.”
“How do you know?”
Brian turned and smiled at Mark, saying “I know – let’s see if there is a back door.”
The trio made their way slowly round the building, looking up at the fire escape that ran in a zig zag pattern up the rear wall.
“Quietly as you can,” Brian said as they walked up the metal staircase, stopping by a window. Mark watched as Brian carefully ran his hand around the rim, concentrating as he did so.
“What’s he doing,” Mark whispered to Sarah as they watched.
“Checking for wires and traps,” Sarah whispered back, “Brian has a sense for these things.”
“Clean,” Brian said as he took a knife out of his pocket, and gently forced the window open, slowly lifting it and holding it as the other two climbed through. Lowering it down again, they found themselves in a corridor, Sarah and Brian looking up and down before they started to walk to the end.
As they approached a door, Brian held his hand up, the three of them pressing themselves against the wall as Mister Smith and one of the men came out of a door.
Mark looked at him, the anger in his eyes clear to Sarah as they heard the tall man say “Watch them – but we need to be out of here in ten minutes if we are going to get away.”
“Got it,” a voice from the other side of the door said as Mister Smith and the other man walked along the corridor and through a door. Brian signalled for the trio to walk forward and then stopped as he slowly looked into the room.
“One man, in front of some monitors,” he said as he turned round.
“What about the other two?”
“First rule of our line of business, Mark – divide and conquer. Besides – we may be able to see where they are on that monitor.” Motioning with his hand, the three of them walked silently back into the room.
There was indeed one man there, sitting with his feet up on a desk as he watched a monitor.
“Back already boss,” he said without looking round, only to be pulled back as Brian clamped a hand over his mouth, and put the knife next to his neck.
“You’re going to be a good little boy and stay nice and quiet, aren’t you?”
The man looked over as Mark and Sarah came into view, the watch on Sarah’s wrist slowly shifting again from pink to yellow.
“Hthhhllru,” he mumbled under the hand as he looked at the, and then stared at Mark.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “I’m the man you bastards kidnapped the family and friends of. Nice to finally meet you.”
Mark’s attention was then shifted as he looked at the monitor, and the five figures struggling on the floor. As he did so, Brian moved his hand off the hand of the man, and instead pressed down on his neck.
“Hello,” Sarah said as she looked at the man, her watch glowing yellow. He started to shake as she looked down at him, and simply said “Where are they?”
“Oh fuck – no, please don’t…”
“She won’t,” Brian whispered into his ear, “if you tell us where they are.”
“But he’ll kill me if…”
“And what do you think I’m going to do if you don’t,” Sarah said softly as she looked into his eyes. He started to shake before saying “Down… Downstairs, second room along after the door on the left. Now please, in the name of all that’s merciful…”
“Good boy,” Brian said as he pressed on the side of his neck, the man’s eyes rolling into the back of his head as he slipped into unconsciousness.
“Oh my god,” Mark whispered, “I think there’s a bomb in the room with them.”
Brian and Sarah joined him as they stared at the monitor screen. They could see Jenny and Yvonne looking at each other, the three younger children blindfolded, and the box between them, the display blinking red.
“I’ve got to go to them,” Mark said as he turned, only to stop as Brian put his hand on his shoulder.
“No – if this is a bomb, this is in my bulwark.” Turning Mark round, he said “trust me – stay here with Sarah, and if they come back…”
He picked up the gun that was on the table, and handed it to him. “Will you be all right,” Brian said as he looked at Sarah, who was leaning against the desk.
“I’ll be fine – go, they need you,” Sarah said, as Brian nodded to both of them and then headed out of the door.
“I’ll watch the door,” Mark said quietly as Sarah looked at the monitor.
The red timer blinked at ten minutes, and then continued the countdown as Yvonne looked at Jenny.
“Msssrreee,” she said through the tight gag as Jenny nodded, and then tried to turn her head as she heard a soft sound in the doorway.
Yvonne looked to the door, her eyes widening as she saw a man put his fingers to his lips, and then get onto his belly as he slithered like a snake across the floor. He was dressed in black, and it took a few minutes for her to recognise him as he got closer.
“Hey Jenny,” Brian whispered as he looked at her, and then at Yvonne, “Sorry it took us a while to get here – had a few distractions on the way.”
“Hstthrr,” Charlie whispered as he turned his head in the direction of the sound.
“All right,” Brian whispered as he looked at all of them. “I know you are all petrified, and that’s a natural thing to be, but I am here now, and I am going to make sure you all get out of here. Right now, I need you all to be very very still for me, and as quiet as you can.”
Jenny and Yvonne nodded and watched as Brian looked at the bomb between them, running his hand over the top and sides of the device. “Hmmm – looks straight forward enough,” he whispered, “but I need to be sure.” Reaching into his pocket, he took out a small fan and started it off, watching the device as the air blew over it.
“What the hell’s he doing,” Mark said as he glanced at the monitor.
“Figuring out the best way to stop the bomb,” Sarah whispered back as she watched her husband at work. Mark turned back towards the door, and then stepped inside quickly, putting his finger to his lip as he indicated Sarah should move as well.
He went and stood at the other side of the door, rubbing her hand as the dial glowed yellow, and they heard the approaching footsteps.
“Right – we need to get going,” Mister Smith said as he and the other man came in. They stopped as they looked at the sleeping third man, and then Mister Smith stepped further in and looked at the monitor.
“Who the fuck is that,” he said as he saw the man on his stomach in the room, looking at the bomb. Mister Smith turned round, only to see Mark as he stepped forward, his gun levelled at Mister Smith’s head.
“Well, well, I guess you decided to play hero,” Mister Smith said as he looked at Mark, “bad move on your part. Get him.”
Mister Smith looked over to see the other man staring into Sarah’s eyes, as she reached forward and took hold of his arm. His mouth opened in a silent scream before he dropped to the floor, and Sarah turned to look at Mister Smith.
“No,” Mark said quietly, “he’s mine.”
“Don’t – he doesn’t deserve it, and your family need you.”
“That’s right Jay,” Mister Smith said with a sneer, “your family needs you. Listen to the little lady.”
“Sarah, stay out of this…”
“Mark, leave him to me…”
“Take this,” Mark said as he handed the gun to Sarah, Mister Smith laughing as he said “What are you going to do, beat me to death?”
“It crossed my mind,” Mark said before he ran forward and piled into Mister Smith’s stomach, sending him against the wall before he started to punch him.
“Right,” Brian said as the clock reached four minutes, “Here we go.”
Taking the penknife from his pocket, he gently eased the blade between the top and the side of the timer, and then gently eased the front cover off, Jenny and Yvonne watching him as he looked at the wires.
He then removed a small pair of wire clippers, and looked at both women before he smiled and said “What do you think, red or blue?”
“Only joking,” he said quietly, “it’s actually green.” He snipped the green wire, as the timer stopped at two minutes, and then disconnected it from the explosive.
“Be right back,” he said as he picked up the package and left the room, Yvonne closing her eyes and saying every prayer she could before he returned and cut the tape away from her head, then the towelling, before he removed the sponge from her mouth.
“Oh thank god, thank you,” she said quietly, “please, the children first.”
Brian nodded as he winked at Jenny, and then started to untie Charlie.
“I hope that made you feel better Jay – that was your last chance,” Smith said as he caught Jay with a right cross, sending him across the room before he grabbed Sarah’s covered arm and tried to wrest the gun free from her.
“Go to hell,” Sarah growled, the watch face glowing yellow as she stared into Mister Smith’s eyes.
“No you go first,” Smith said as Mark stood up, and then dived to the floor as Mister Smith forced Sarah to squeeze the trigger, the bullet hitting the unconscious guard in the heart.
“No,” Sarah gasped – giving Mister Smith the opportunity to hit Sarah across the face, and pull the gun away from her.
“I can’t decide which of you to kill first,” Mister Smith said as he looked at them, “want to choose for me?”
“Is it… Is it over,” Lisa whispered as Brian put his large hands gently on her arms.
“Yes, it’s over,” Brian said quietly as he looked at her. “Now, you both need to come with me and your mother – I have a friend outside who is going to take care of you, and take you home. Jenny, Cassie, you both ready?”
Cassie nodded as she slipped her hand into Jenny’s, and they followed Brian to the front entrance of the warehouse. Jenny opened the door, to find Kayla waiting on the other side.
“Where’s Sarah,” she said as Brian made the children go out first.
“I’m going to get her next – they need your attention now.”
Kayla looked at them, and said “Come with me, I’ve got blankets and drinks in the car.”
Brian looked into the distance as he heard two doors opening and closing.
“You don’t want to do that,” Sarah said as she stepped forward, her watch glowing yellow, “you’ve already caused so much harm to those I love – do not add to it.”
Mister Smith stared into Sarah’s eyes, as his hand holding the gun started to shake. “What… What are you doing to me,” he said as his eyes moved from Mark to Sarah.
“Don’t worry about him,” Sarah said as she stepped forward, the gun slowly slipping from his hand and falling to the ground. “Worry instead about how tasty you are going to be to me…”
“Oh sweet Jesus – no I won’t let you eat me…”
“Be quiet, little man – you’ll be good food for my babies…”
Mister Smith closed his eyes and lashed out, his fist connecting with Sarah’s jaw as she fell dazed against Mark. Mister Smith shook his head as Mark looked at him, and then he started to stoop down to pick up the gun.
Looking down, he saw the yellow glow on Sarah’s watch dial, and lowered her to the floor as he pulled his gloves off.
“What are you going to do, Edwards – beat me to death?”
“No – but you’re toast,” he said as he grabbed Sarah’s hand in his right hand, and reached over, grabbing Mister Smith’s arm with his left hand.
A series of images swamped his mind, as he saw Sarah transform into a giant spider, the mandibles working as she scuttled over, intent on devouring him. As he looked into Mister Smith’s eyes, he saw the fear and panic in his eyes, before the images overwhelmed his own mind and he opened his mouth.
“What the hell was that,” Yvonne said as the scream of terror was heard outside.
“Stay here,” Brian said as he ran back into the warehouse, taking the stairs two at time and running into the monitor room. He glanced down at the dead thug at his feet, and saw the red stain on the chest of the second one, before he looked in front of the monitors and said “Oh my god…”
The three of them were sitting on the floor. On the left as he looked at them, Sarah was shaking her head and rubbing her chin. He knelt in front of her and said “What happened?”
“He got a lucky punch in,” Sarah said, “but I think he’s…” She followed Brian’s line of sight and saw the man Mark had called Mister Smith looking straight ahead, his mask contorted into a mask of terror.
She saw the hand holding Mister Smith’s arm, and then looked down at the one holding her wrist, before they both looked at Mark. He was sat between them, his lips moving but no sound coming out as he stared ahead, his mouth showing a lopsided grin.
“Oh dear god,” Sarah said as she looked at Mark, “what did he do?”
Brian looked into the eyes of Mister Smith, and checked for any signs of life, before saying “he’s dead – when you were hit, what were you doing?”
“I was doing what I…” Sarah gently removed Mark’s hand from hers and knelt in front of him, looking at him. “He… He must have become a conduit, which means he saw what the other man saw. That should not work – oh lord, if he’s…”
“Sarah,” Brian said as he held her, “calm down. Can we bring him back?”
Sarah took several deep breaths, and then looked at her watch, the colour changing from yellow to pink.
“Lord, if you’re there, I really could use your help now,” she said quietly as she took Mark’s hands in hers and said quietly “Mark? Mark, look at me.”
Mark slowly turned his head, the grin fixed as he looked into Sarah’s eyes…
The forest he was running through was thick, and several times Mark stumbled, but the one thought in his mind was that he had to get away, he had to flee from the creature he was sure was following him.
Suddenly, he found himself in a clearing, and in the centre of that clearing was a cottage, a welcoming light burning in the window. He knew somehow there was safety there, so he ran to the door and started pounding on it.
The door was opened by a woman with long dark hair, and a strangely familiar face. “Can I help you,” she said as she stood there in a long linen dress.
“Please, I need shelter,” Mark said, and as the woman stepped aside he ran in, the door closing behind him.
“What happened to you,” the woman said as she took Mark’s arm, and led him to a chair in front of the fire. “Sit, rest – I will bring you some water.”
“Thank you,” Mark said as the fear slowly subsided. Even the memory of what had chased him started to fade, as the woman returned and handed him a stone cup. The cool water revived him and he said “where am I?”
“Where? Now that’s a very good question,” the woman said as she smiled. “Where do you think you are?”
“I… I remember I was rescuing my family, and there was a woman with me, helping me. I remember she was hurt by someone I wanted to kill, and then…”
“Then there was this horrific creature, like a giant spider, and I was running – until I came here.”
“Do we have a visitor?”
Mark turned to see a grey haired woman come in, dressed in a grey silk blouse and a tweed skirt.
“We do indeed, Sara,” the first woman said, “a most unusual visitor.”
“Sarah – the woman’s name was Sarah. Please, tell me where I am? I need to get back to my family.”
“You’re different,” Sara said as she sat down, “Many who pass through here never find this place, but you have. This speaks much of you.”
“Mark? Mark can you hear me?”
“That’s her voice,” Mark said as he looked at the other two women, “do you hear it?”
“We do,” the tall woman said, “which means you are indeed a most unusual and blessed man.”
“What do you mean?”
Sara walked to the door and opened it. “Go now – you will be safe, and back with your family soon. All we ask is that you take a message for us to her.”
Standing up, Mark looked at the two women, nodding as he stepped into the bright light…
“Mark? Come back now, it is safe, all is well…”
Sarah watched as the grin faded from Mark’s face, and he turned to look at both of them. “What… Is it…”
“It’s over,” Brian said as he looked at him, “can you stand up?”
Taking Brian’s hand, Mark stood up, and looked at the dead bodies around him. “I saw you,” he said as he turned to Sarah, “I saw you as they see you, but I’m back. Why?”
“I don’t know – yet,” Sarah said, “but for now, your family are waiting outside. I think you should join them. And one more thing.”
Mark turned to Sarah as she said “thank you – and we won’t forget.”
Nodding, Mark followed Sarah and Brian out of the warehouse.
“MARK!” Yvonne ran over and embraced her husband, tears flowing as she said “Thank god you’re all right.”
“Where are the children?”
Mark walked over and dropped to his knees, embracing and kissing Charlie and Lisa as Jenny and Cassie watched on.
“I’m so sorry you went through that,” Mark said as he looked at them, “so so sorry…”
“Can we go home Daddy?”
Mark looked at Brian and Sarah, wondering what they were going to do.
“I think that is a very good idea,” Sarah said, “and if you don’t mind, Brian and I would like to come and see you tomorrow, and talk to you about what happened today. It might help you feel better.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Brian said. “Kayla, can you get them into the car and take them home?”
Brian walked to the back of the car and removed a black sack.
“You probably won’t want to sleep tonight, and that’s fine, but go home, have some food, and don’t worry – it’s over. Kayla can take care of any cuts and bruises – stay with them please.”
Kayla nodded as she opened the doors and let the children get in first. Mark nodded as he got in with Yvonne, and they drove off.
“Now to clear this mess up,” Barry said as he took out a phone and dialled a number.
“Cassie? It’s Brian Holderness-Carter. Sarah and I need a favour from you and Jo…”
Mark opened the door to his house, squinting slightly as he saw Brian and Sarah standing there. Brian was wearing a blue denim shirt and jeans, while Sarah had on a pink jumper and knee length skirt.
“Come in,” he said as he opened the door, and the couple came into the house.
“How are you,” Brian said as he looked at him.
“Do you want an honest answer to that,” Mark said quietly.
“No – not yet,” Sarah said with a smile as they went into the front room. Yvonne looked up and said “Hello – the kids are sleeping, but…”
“It’s all right,” Sarah said quietly as she sat down, “I want to talk to them, but first I want to talk to you about yesterday.”
Yvonne looked at Sarah, her watch glowing pink as she said “Take my hands, and tell me what happened from the beginning…”
“We’ll make some coffee,” Brian said as he took Mark by the arm and led him to the kitchen…
“I guess I should thank you as well,” Mark said as he put the kettle on.
“Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are,” Brian said as he sat down, “I don’t think Sarah and I have come across someone quite like you.”
“I could say the same thing,” Mark said as he turned and leaned against the work surface, before sighing. “Cards on the table?”
“I think that would be wise – you are this Jay Edwards, aren’t you?”
Mark nodded slowly, and said “I am, and yes I know what I do is wrong, but I never hurt those I and my associates visit. We may scare them a little, but we keep the situation under control.”
“Yeah,” Brian said as he accepted the coffee, “and I think that’s one of the reasons Sarah and I were not sure what to do about you – or why we felt a little uncomfortable when we first met you. You and Yvonne are a very unique couple, Mark – in more ways than one.”
“Yvonne? What about her?”
“Cards on the table, Mark – sit down. As I said, we need to have a little talk.”
Sitting down, Mark looked at Brian and said quietly “what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that Jay Edwards usually has a few associates, and at times one of them is a woman known as Mrs McPhee, especially when the family he visits has younger children. The reports always say she focuses on them, looks after them, calms them and keeps talking to them, even reading bedtime stories to them. Now, I could be wide of the mark, but…”
Mark looked up to see Yvonne standing in the doorway, Sarah behind her. “It’s all right, Mark,” Yvonne said as she walked over and hugged him, “Sarah told me so much I could not deny it. What you did last night…”
“What he did was what any husband and parent would do,” Brian said as he held Sarah’s hand.
“How are you,” Mark said as he looked up at Yvonne.
“Much better than last night,” she said as she made two mugs of coffee, and handed one to Sarah before they both sat down, “It’s as if talking to Sarah took all the fear away, and I felt so much better.”
“Still, I put you and the children in the worst possible danger…”
“What happened happened,” Sarah said quietly, “Leave it be for now.”
“But what about you two,” Mark finally said, “you mentioned Project Pink Widow – even I have heard of that.”
“Yesterday, Jenny kept saying she had a friend who saved her family before, and who would save us again,” Yvonne said quietly, “but she said it was a woman. You’re a team, aren’t you?”
Sarah nodded slowly. “It’s a long story, and for another time, but yes – when a hostage situation that could be fatal comes around, they call for us. I’ve been out of active duty since I fell pregnant, but – well, my talents changed.”
She held up her watch, the dial glowing green, and said “The colour depicts what I can do. Pink, I can take the fears of others and help them to be released. Yellow, I can transmit fear. Red… Let’s not talk about red just now.”
“I think I can guess,” Mark said quietly, “given what I saw yesterday.”
“Why did you do that?”
He looked at Sarah, and said “To make him pay, and to save you. Funny - now I guess it’s all over – for both of us.”
Yvonne and Mark looked at each other, and then at Brian and Sarah.
Yvonne turned to see Lisa and Charlie walk in, hand in hand.
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing Honey – how are you both,” she said as she squatted in front of Lisa.
“I had nightmares – bad ones.”
“Listen,” Sarah said as she stood up, her watch glowing pink, “why don’t you and Charlie come with me and your mother, and you can tell me all about them. We’ll hold hands – make it like a camp fire.”
As they went out, Mark looked at Brian.
“Physical contact – when Sarah holds their hands, it calms them and helps them to share. Somehow, when you held her yesterday, you became a conduit for the message she sends to flow through you. What did you see?”
Mark shook his head as he held his mug. “I’m not sure – There was a massive spider, scuttling towards me, and I heard Smith screaming, and then I was running for my life through some sort of thick wood. I could sense the creature following me…”
Brian nodded as he sipped the coffee. “I have seen Sarah when the power overwhelms her – it can be a most disconcerting experience. But what happened next?”
“That was the strange thing. I came into a clearing, and there were two women in a cottage there. One was young, thin, wearing an old style dress, but the other was older and in more modern clothing. They gave me water, and then said I was the only one to ever find them. The next thing I heard was your wife calling, and then I woke up – but not before…”
He heard Charlie and Lisa crying in the front room, and started to stand up, but Brian said “leave them – what happened before you saw us?”
“The older woman gave me a message to give to Sarah – she said Mummy loves you, and she loves the children too.”
Brian sat back and looked at Mark, as the front door bell rang. “Will you excuse me a minute,” Mark said as he stood up, and went to the front door.
“Thanks,” he heard Mark say, and then he brought an envelope back to the kitchen, handing it to Brian. He opened it, and read it, before saying “I’ll explain this when Sarah comes back in.”
Mark watched as Yvonne and Sarah came back in. “They’re sleeping, and smiling,” Yvonne said, “whatever gift you have, it has helped them.”
“I’ll go over and see Jenny and Cassie later – but something tells me they are coping just fine. It’s not the first time they have been in this position. Now, Mark, Yvonne, we know Mister Smith took you and the children hostage to force Mark, as Jay, to rob Alexander Holderness. I had a dream that told me that – part of the gift I have. We asked Alexander if he, Susan and Suzie would act as bait, and told them we would make sure they would never be threatened again.”
“Funny as it may sound,” Mark said quietly, “I try never to visit friends. I’ve done it twice, and never really liked either time.”
Brian nodded. “You seem to have some sort of talent for keeping people calm when you visit them – a natural talent. Yvonne I suspect has a similar talent, but to a lesser degree – not that that is a bad thing, but you seem to take the lead in it Mark. At any rate, when you arrived, we took control.”
Mark took Yvonne’s hand and said “The one who beat me up when we were robbed – he worked for Smith. He was one of the ones who went with me last night. He was a plant, and it was him that suggested taking you captive that day.”
“Oh god,” Yvonne whispered, “who else…”
“Smith, the man, the two who took you – they’re all dead. Last night, after Kayla left, I asked a favour of a couple of friends. You’ll see a report later of a fire at a warehouse, and four dead men found inside. Don’t worry – we told them it was a different case.”
“So,” Yvonne said as she gripped Mark’s hand, “Now what?”
“Normally, we’d turn you in without a moment’s hesitation – and we would have the first time we met, but somehow we decided not to. I suspect that was for a reason. Mark, tell Sarah what you told me of what you saw.”
Sarah sat and listened to Mark, and when she heard the message she looked at Brian. “Mother?”
“I think so – last year, in Maine, you saw her with Sara and the Shadow. They brought you back – and now they’ve brought you back Mark for some reason. The question is, why?”
“Well, whatever you decide, I think the work of Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee is over.”
They looked at Sarah, who was drying her eyes.
“The women,” she said quietly, “were my mother and my ancestor – the first Sara. If they helped you back, then it was for a purpose. And if it is as Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee, then so be it – we will not hand you over, but there will be a price. First, no more attacks on the Holderness and Craig families – they are under our protection.”
“Don’t worry – that is never going to happen again,” Mark said. “What else?”
“Pick your targets more carefully – and always take care of them. Lose the weapons as well – I don’t really think you need them.”
“Also,” Brian said as Sarah looked at her, “You can help out me or some colleagues of mine from time to time. We can suggest targets that deserve to be taken down a peg or two – and you keep the earnings, but in return, you put some software on their systems, allow those who need to do their work to do it.”
“In a way, yes. We like you – we’d like to be your friends. Do that, and in return, we keep our mouths shut about you.”
Yvonne and Mark looked at each other, and then said “All right – deal. It’s far more than we deserve.”
“I’m not so sure,” Sarah said with a smile. “There is one other thing – your son.”
“Charlie? What about him?”
“When he took my hand, I got the same feeling from him I got from you, Mark. He has your talent – I think you need to start steering him in ways that he can develop that talent. Perhaps, one day, he can be as much of a force for good as I feel you two are going to be.”
“Charlie? Yvonne, he’s started am dram, hasn’t he?”
“Oh lord so he has,” Yvonne said, and they both burst out laughing, Brain and Sarah joining in.
A week later, Mark and Yvonne were sitting with the children when the phone rang. He stood up and went into the hallway, picking it up and saying “Williamson.”
“Mark, it’s Brian – we need you to go to work. Sarah and I will call in the morning.”