The next morning, Luis went into Sam’s office to talk to him in private about both missing person cases. He shut the door behind him.
“I don’t know what we’re missing,” Luis said. “But I’m sure we’re right about Julian Crane not being in that car when it went over the cliff.”
“There’s just got to be some piece of evidence that will back up our theory, something we aren’t seeing,” Sam stated. “Let’s go over the facts in this case again.”
Luis sat down in the chair opposite of Sam’s desk. “Well, we have the missing person’s report that Rebecca Hotchkiss filed on Julian Crane the day before the accident. She actually had not seen Crane since the day before that. The last time she saw him, he was watching a video in his bedroom, and apparently not a G-rated video, if you get my drift.” Luis let out a laugh.
“Figures,” Sam said, shaking his head. Then becoming serious once more he said, “Go on.”
“We know that Julian Crane’s car was missing from in front of the mansion. His cell phone was apparently on him at the time, but he didn’t answer any of Rebecca’s calls. He wasn’t seen by anyone from 3:00 that afternoon on. I checked all the hotels in the area, the airport, the bus station, everywhere. There was no report of Julian Crane being in the area. None. He didn’t take the Crane jet, and you know he doesn’t fly without it.”
“So Julian wasn’t off having fun,” Sam deduced.
“He even missed several important business meetings during this time. Alistair was really ticked off at him, according to someone who works at Crane Industries. Just today, Alistair called the station and urged us to find Julian.”
“You’re kidding!” Sam said, his eyes wide in surprise. “I never thought I’d see the day when Alistair Crane would be begging us for help.”
“Steve talked to him,” Luis said. “I guess he didn’t want to speak to me – the bastard. He knew I would get on him about his lack of interest in Sheridan’s disappearance, not to mention what he had Antonio do to me and Sheridan. I’m sure my bastard of a brother already informed the Crane patriarch about what he told me.”
“If he did, he’d be putting his life in danger,” Sam said. “Alistair doesn’t take kindly to people betraying him.”
“I don’t really care about that,” Luis admitted. “Let Alistair go after him. He deserves whatever he gets.”
Sam looked at Luis sympathetically. “Maybe someday you and Antonio will be able to straighten out your differences, but right now let’s focus on the case before us. We’ve gone over the background information. How about the physical evidence?”
Luis opened the file and reviewed his notes. “We have a witness who says they saw a dark-colored sports car go over the side of the cliff just outside of town at around ten p.m. on the night of the accident. The witness called police. Several officers arrived on the scene within minutes, including myself. We were able to call divers in almost immediately. No body was found, but the sports car was recovered. It suffered heavy damage in the wreck. There was nothing unusual found within the car, except for a piece of driftwood…”
“Driftwood!” Sam exclaimed, sitting up suddenly in his seat. “That’s it!”
“What’s it?” Luis asked. “I thought the driftwood simply floated in the open window…”
“No!” Sam said, “That’s what we were led to believe. The driftwood’s the key to this whole thing. It’s our missing puzzle piece!”
“Another day in this damn sinkhole,” Julian said when he awoke the next morning and began stretching. “This makes five for me, and what? Nineteen for you?” he asked Sheridan.
His sister nodded. “Almost three weeks. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” She tried to stand up, but was finding it more and more difficult to do this late in her pregnancy.
“Here, let me help you,” Julian said. He got up as quickly as his injured ribs would allow and made his way over to where Sheridan was sitting. He helped pull her up by her arms.
“It feels good just to stand up,” Sheridan said. “We really do need to exercise more, Julian. Why don’t we walk around the pit in circles for a little bit?”
“Just what I’ve always wanted to do,” Julian said sarcastically. Then seeing that she was serious, he agreed. “Sure, why not? It’s not like there is anything better to do.”
The two walked around the edge of their confine until they felt they could not go any farther. “That was a good work-out,” Sheridan admitted. “It’s important for me to stay in shape for the baby’s sake.”
“Then by all means, I shall join you everyday in this endeavor,” Julian joked. “I think I need to wash up now, however.” He walked over to the side of the pit where there was a bowl filled with water and a bar of soap.
Julian eased out of his unbuttoned shirt and washed off with the water and soap. The water felt like ice to his skin, but he continued to wash up. He was careful not to get the bandage wet. When he had done a satisfactory job of washing the upper half of his body, he brushed his teeth. “A guy could get used to all the amenities in this hotel,” he quipped.
“They do make sure we have the basics,” Sheridan agreed. “I think it’s because they knew they would be keeping us for a long time – or me for a long time. They probably didn’t want me to have to see a dentist down here!”
“If they were so concerned about your oral health, you would think they would be concerned about your mental health too – and let you go! This place would drive anyone bonkers. I’m surprised you haven’t snapped.”
“I’m sure I would have if you hadn’t arrived, Julian,” Sheridan admitted, walking over to wash up. Washing her face, she turned to add, “I’ve told you this before – you keep me sane down here.”
“I don’t know how you lasted so long alone in this hellhole,” Julian said. “Lord knows, I wouldn’t.”
“I guess I just have so much faith in Luis,” she said. “I knew he wouldn’t give up. And if he didn’t, how could I?” She went on to brush her teeth as well.
Sheridan and Julian then went to sit on the cushion, which during the day had become a sort of couch for them, and at night was Sheridan’s bed. Crossing her legs in front of her, Sheridan leaned back against the wall and sighed. “I have been so tired lately. I just really want to go home.”
“And we will, Sheridan – soon,” said Julian, placing his hand on her arm. “I just feel so helpless not knowing what these people are after. I’m used to knowing everybody’s angle in the business world, but here, I have no clue as to what is really going on. It’s hard to fight when you don’t know what the game plan is.”
“Well, it’s not money they’re after,” Sheridan said. “We already know that. They don’t seem to be sadistic serial killers either – at least they haven’t tried to kill us yet. We know it’s me they were after. What do I have that they could possibly want?”
Julian shrugged, “I don’t really know.” As he said it, a thought suddenly crept into his head – a thought that had been simmering down in his subconscious for quite sometime. He knew one thing that Sheridan had – something invaluable – something that these evil women in clown garb might actually be after. “Dear Lord, please don’t let it be that,” he thought, “Anything but that.”
Outwardly he smiled and patted her arm. “No matter what, Sheridan, we’ll
get through this together.” While inside, Julian tried to shrug off the
chill that had suddenly come over him. What was he going to do if they
tried to take Sheridan’s baby? How was he going to be able to protect his
sister and her child? He made a silent vow right then to do anything he
could to prevent such a travesty from happening.