Luis looked at Sam, completely taken aback at his response. “What’s so important about the driftwood, Sam? I don’t get it.”
“Luis, it’s the missing clue we were searching for. The one that proves the whole accident was rigged!”
“OK, you lost me there,” said Luis, looking down at his notes. It just says there was a piece of driftwood in the car…Everyone thought it floated in there.”
"That’s what they wanted us to think!” Sam said enthusiastically. “Luis, if you’re going to send a car over a cliff – with nobody inside it – what do you need?”
Luis thought for a second and then smiled in excitement. “Something to hold the accelerator down!”
“That’s right!” Sam cried. “Our piece of driftwood!”
“My, my,” Luis said, rubbing his chin with his hand. “Whoever’s behind this sure was crafty there. A piece of driftwood is the last thing we would expect to be hard evidence.”
“Exactly! Because it’s natural in the setting,” Sam agreed. “They simply rolled the window down and let everyone think the piece of wood floated into the car.”
“And to think our biggest piece of evidence could easily have been lost, or disregarded,” Luis realized.
“Which I’m sure the kidnappers wanted,” Sam said. “Thank goodness you and the boys were thorough on this, Luis.”
“That’s got to be it, Sam. We both expected that this was staged – now we know how it was physically possible.”
“We just need to decide who was behind this,” Luis continued, looking intently at his boss. “Was it Julian, trying to fake his own death, or was it some kidnappers, who are holding him?”
“I vote for the kidnapper theory,” Sam said. “There is too much that doesn’t seem right about Julian being behind this. It just seems like he disappeared for no reason.”
“Well, you know I wouldn’t put it past him,” Luis said, an angry look creeping onto his face. “But I think I’m inclined to agree with you here. There’s too much else going on that points to him being kidnapped.”
“Are you talking about Sheridan?” Sam asked.
Luis nodded sadly. “Two Cranes missing at the same time – it’s just too weird. I think someone has them both – someone who found it was easier to take Sheridan, but later got their hands on Julian as well.”
“So now all we need to figure out is who is behind this,” Sam said slowly. “That’s going to be tough.”
“The Cranes have so many enemies,” Luis said. “Alistair and Julian are such bastards when it comes to business. So help me if anything happens to Sheridan because of those two…” He stopped, getting choked up over the thought of something bad befalling the woman he loves.
“We’ll find her, Luis,” Sam said soothingly. “We’ll get her back.”
“She’s pregnant though, Sam,” Luis said, tears forming in his eyes. “What if she, God forbid, goes into labor? What if she has the baby while she’s being held?”
Sam got up from his seat, walked over to Luis, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll find her before that happens. I promise.”
Luis put his head in his hands and sobbed. “If anything happens to Sheridan or our baby…”
Julian grabbed hold of Sheridan’s arm with his hands. She was still doubled over in pain. “Are all right, dear? You have me scared.”
Sheridan slowly stood up, grimacing. “It…it had to be a contraction. I’m in labor, Julian!”
“Are you sure?” her brother asked, concern all over his face. “Maybe it was just the fear of that blasted rifle that did it. Maybe you’re not really in labor.”
Sheridan shook her head. “The pain was too intense. It has to be it. What am I going to do?” Tears flowed down her cheeks.
“Maybe you should sit down,” Julian said kindly. “Here, let me help you over to the cushion.” He led her slowly by the hand and gently helped her sit down.
Sheridan carefully eased herself back against the wall and leaned there with her legs bent at the knees.
“Is that better?” Julian asked nervously. “Do you think you’re all right now?”
“I don’t feel any more pain at the moment,” Sheridan said. “But then labor pains come and go in the beginning. They’re not supposed to be real frequent.”
“Let’s hope it wasn’t really labor,” Julian said, kneeling down beside his sister. “Isn’t there some kind of false labor pains that women have?”
Sheridan nodded. “It’s called Braxton-Hicks. It could have been that, I guess. It was just so intense…”
Julian let out a sigh. “I bet that was it then. You’re going to be OK.”
“I sure hope so,” Sheridan said, her eyes still revealing her fear at the idea of possibly being in labor. “It’s too soon for me to have this baby. Four weeks too soon!”
“You’ll have this child when it’s due, in a hospital, with Luis at your side,” Julian promised. “Don’t think otherwise.” Silently, he prayed that that would be the case.
“I can’t have my baby down here!” Sheridan cried. “Not in this horrible pit, without medical care. My gosh, what would happen if I really was in labor? Who would deliver this baby – you?!”
Julian took a deep breath. “Please God, don’t let it come to that,” he thought. To Sheridan he said in a comforting tone, “We Cranes are good at just about anything. If it comes to that, I’m ready. But it won’t. That baby of yours is going to wait until the right time. You’ll see.”
“I hope you’re right about that, Julian,” she said. “Maybe I was just upset about the rifle, and about what that woman said…” her mind drifted back to Charlie’s sinister words. “Julian, what did she mean when she said that I am only here because I am pregnant? She …she doesn’t want to do anything to my baby…she can’t!” Sheridan cried.
“I won’t let anything happen to your baby, Sheridan,” Julian said softly, placing his arm around her shoulder. “I promise you that.”
Sheridan’s worried look lifted a little, and she smiled at her brother. “That’s so sweet of you, Julian.”
“I mean every word of it,” he swore.
“I can tell you do,” she said warmly. “We’ve come such a long way these past few days…”
“I know,” Julian admitted.
“If someone had told me a month ago that you would be comforting me like this, I would say they were crazy!”
Julian smiled. “I think we both have surprised each other – in a good way.”
“In the best way!” Sheridan agreed. “Julian, I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me since we’ve been down here.”
“It’s not necessary,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. “Anyone would have done what I’m doing.”
“That’s not true,” Sheridan argued. “You’ve gone above and ….Oh no!” Again, a wave of sharp pain hit Sheridan hard in the abdomen. She hunched forward, crying out in agony.
“Sheridan, my God, what is it? Are you having another contraction?”
“Yes!” she screamed in pain. “Julian, this is the real thing! It’s not
false labor. My baby’s coming!”