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They landed on time at the Campbell River airport.  Max immediately pushed out of his seat hopped out the door and was racing across the tarmac.  Maggy preceded Craig who wrapped an arm protectively around her while managing to carry his equipment he’d tucked safely under his other arm.

Max’s cell phone at his ear, they hopped in and the vehicle immediately raced away, lights blazing, toward the outskirts of town and Cassy.  “Yes, we’re on the ground, heading your way.  What’s the status?”

“They’ve entered the grounds, which appear to be guarded by an electric fence with some sort of secondary protocol.  Not sure what, but at a guess I’d say security of some sort controlled from inside.  It won’t be easy getting in.”

“Good to know.  Sit tight, we’re on our way.”

“Craig, we’ll need your expertise here.” Max explained what they’d noted so far.  “Undoubtedly, if he’s got these precautions in place, I’d say the house would be included as well.  It’s not going to make this easy, but challenge is our middle name, right?”

“Right!”  Craig glanced sideways at Maggy.  “We can do this!”

Maggy had pushed back into her seat, wrapping her arms tightly around her body.  ‘Oh god, Craig, be magnificent, be spectacular, be…’ the man I’m falling in love with.  “Save her, Craig!” she whispered every so quietly.

“You can count on it, Maggy.” Her startled eyes opened wide, surprised she’d spoken aloud.

The car remained silent as Craig worked his genius.  “Yeah, yeah, he’s got security up the wazoo!  It’ll take me a few to narrow down the types he’s using and hopefully a work-around.”  Whispering quietly, ‘shit’.  Trying to minitor and haultall of the devices in one go would require a team prepared to repond immediately.  ‘double shit’ he whispered again.

They’d pulled up to the property in question and Max turned to face Craig.  “Anything?”

“Yeah, he’s got everything!  He spent a considerable amount of time and money on securing this location.  I’d say he has every device possible on the open market, maybe a few that aren’t.”

“Give me what you’ve got!”

“He has Cell phone security, Infrared beam sensor, magnetic door sensory alarms as well as magnetic door sensor alarms.  No one is getting in without him being aware, unless we can de-activate from the inside without him becoming aware.”

“I expected some security but this is above and beyond what even I expected.”

“Yeah, overkill.

 

 

 

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“Yes, sir.  The officers are decked out in holiday gear.  He’ll never make them.  They are from Duncan Detachment.”

“Yes, we have eyes on him.  No, we won’t let him out of our sight.”  The officer was standing ramrod stiff.  “Yes, sir, I know this is crucial.”

“I’ll keep you informed, yes sir!”  Officer Stromwell breathed out.  “Holy shit, this was big!” he said aloud.

“Tenant,  don’t lose them but don’t let them know your following.  You got that?”

“Yeah.  He’s four car lengths ahead of us with a logging truck between.  He can’t see us, but we see him.”

“Make sure that you do and NO heroics, got it?”

“Yes Sir.”

“I haven’t ever seen Stromwell this wigged.  This must be more serious than we thought.  All eyes ahead, alert, don’t let them get passed you,” he said to the undercover officers following.  “We may have to turn off, your up if that happens and you heard the man, no heroics.  Eyes only!”

They followed for 1/4 of a mile and witnessed the van turn off onto an unmarked road, makeshift at best.  The logging truck headed on to Gold River but would take up residence at the corner while they continued on past the turn-off making note of the route the van had taken.  From their vantage point they didn’t see a house or any other structures.  He knew foot recon was in their immediate future.

“Cap, they’ve turned off onto an unmarked road, ” explaining the situation.

“Stay put, don’t let him see you. I’ll get back to you.”

Stromwell forwarded the information into his cell.  “Yes sir, everyone is in place.  Looks like we’re on foot from here on out.”

“Yes we’re in place watching.  No, we won’t do anything until you arrive.  Unless there’s movement and they leave, yes, we’ll stay clear.”

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Cassy heard his sigh of relief.  Damn!  The roadblock hadn’t checked the van and she’d had no way of signalling her presence and distress. She couldn’t stop the shudder that wracked her body.  There was no one to blame for her current predicament but herself.  She’d rashly decided to go it alone, the consequences far more dire than she’d expected.

Laying back down, Cassy tried to formulate a working plan to extricate herself from this horrible situation, in tact, in one piece, preferably without bodily harm.  Max was right, it was clear, if he couldn’t have her no one would.  He’d make good on that bet.

Almost as though he sensed her frustration he said, “We’re a stones throw away from home, Cassy.  I’m sure you’ll love the surroundings.  Somewhat secluded, ranchland, privacy and our very own pool.  I know you love swimming so I had the pool repaired.  It’s glassed in and heated so you can swim as you see fit without interruption by inclement weather.”

This was supposed to make her happy?  She wasn’t sure how to respond.  He knew a great deal about her tastes, likes, dislikes, living conditions.  She wouldn’t be surprised if he knew her dress size either.  He’d obviously made knowing her his life’s work.  Horror coated her throat and had her stomach protesting.

How was she going to pull this off – pretending even remotely she liked him and could tolerate his presense when he filled her with vile, disgust, contempt and hatred.

“You’re right, I love swimming.  I haven’t done so since the accident. I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to in case I get something in my eyes.  It never came up.”

“You’re fine, it’s salt water.  I double checked.  It won’t harm your eyes, it’s natural.  It means the water is crisp though.”

Cassy thought, “Oh yay me!”

“I’ll have to give it a try then.”

“Can you tell me more about the house?”

“It’s a four bedroom 2 1/2 bath split.  The bedrooms and one bath up and the main living area down.  You’ll like it.  It’s been redecorated with you in mind, colours you like, welcome fabrics and furniture to sink into. “

Meanwhile, the officer on the roadblock radioed in.  “We just sighted the perp.  He’s heading south on Duncan Bay Road.  My guy just radioed in, he’s headed along Quinsom Rd. heading toward Gold River. “

The officer listened, “No sir, we’re not crowding him.  We have two trucks following and an empty logging truck set to head to Gold River should he turn that direction.”

 

 

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Max rushed through the door with Craig in hot pursuit.  “What is is Maggy, what did you find?”

She was nearly jumping up and down with glee.  “Look!  Look!  Look!” the staccato words flew out of her mouth, her excitement contagious.

Max drew the photo from her unresisting hand and stared.  “Holy shit!”

“Yeah, right?”

Craig peered between the two.  “What the hell!”

“He’s in a cop uniform and he’s not one of ours!”

“Hell no, he isn’t!  And I’d bet my right nut he’s not from around here either.  I vetted all the cops for this job, especially considering Cassy’s sight issues.  I’ve never seen this ass before, but he’s wearing the uniform and he’s in an unmarked car!”

Maggy added, “And, what’s more he’s sitting out front!  In full view, watching the entire time!  No wonder he had easy access to us, what and where we go, getting inside.  Holy jumping shit!”

“Craig, if he’s connected, there’s got to be a file.  You don’t work for the department without preliminaries.  Find him!”  Max instructed with glee, their first major breakthrough and a good solid lead!”

“Doesn’t mean he’s a Mounty, just means he works alongside or with the department, maybe in another capacity, but it would give him access!”

“He planted himself in the investigation.  Damn it!  I should have thought of that.  I thought I had.”

“Max, that makes me think he’s got access to records, data.  I wonder…”  Craig shot to the desk and opening his lap top, fingers racing across the keys, he added, “Data.  Behind the scenes.  I think we’re onto something.  He could have fixed all the data, erased added, whatever, but there’s always something left behind…I’ll find it!  Guaranteed!”

“Somehow it struck me odd.  That dude hadn’t introduced himself.  All the others working the case made sure to do so.  We knew up front each shift change and all involved.  I didn’t know this guy!  It made me suspicious.”

“He familiar at all otherwise?”

“Nope, never saw him before!  I wonder if Cassy has?”

“Blow up that picture, Craig.  Send it to OUR crew, and only our crew.  Limited access in case he gets wind of it.  I’d rather not spook him.  As long as he doesn’t know we’ve got a pic, he’ll be relaxed, might pull him out of the shadows.  He finds out we know, he’ll go to ground!”

Turning to Maggy he whipped his arms around her, “Maggy!  You angel!”  Max danced her in circles holding her off the ground.

“This is good, right?!”

“Yeah, better than good, this is gold!”

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Max asked Maggy to stay put at Cassy’s for if she could reach anyone, it would be Maggy she’d call and she’d agreed even though, she’d rather have gone with them.  Surrounded by Cassy’s things she found heart warming and poignant, confronted by the yin and yang of it all.  Either she was coming home in one piece or she’d be lost to her forever.

She caught herself pacing and finally decided to put her excessive energy to good use clearing, cleaning,  and every other chore she could think of until there was nothing left to do.

Showered she dressed and hustled to the kitchen table to Cassy’s lap top to poke around, find out if he’d sent or left any messages.  She searched diligently but found nothing useful.  It was a long shot at best but worth the effort.

She was about to give up when something caught her eye  abruptly haulting her.  There!  There it was, plain as day!  “OMG”  she yelled jumping to her feet.  Her hands shook with excitement as she dialled Max’s number.  He’d barely answered the phone when she was shouting, “Max, Max  I found something, on Cassy’s computer it’s important .  How do I send it to you?”

“We’re not far, we’ll double back!”

“What is it?”

“I think seeing is believing and I don’t think I could do this justice,” she promised.

“There in a flash!”

He hung up and looked at Craig, “God I hope it’s something!  We could use a break, a big one.”

“Maggy’s great at spotting details so I figure she’s probably found an important piece of the puzzle!”

Even as he spoke, Max hit the lights and dialed it up speeding back to Cassy’s all the while hoping against hope she’d found something useful!

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They’d been traveling down gravel roads, off the radar.  She hoped Max remembered the incident with Gold River and was looking at every possibility. Ok, it wasn’t a great idea she admitted, taking off like that, and unfortunately it worked better than she’d hoped.  What were the freaking odds he’d be at that exact place at that exact freaking time! 

She wondered if Max had alerted her parents yet.  She sighed, they’d be frantic she knew.  Maggy.  Maggy would be furious.  She could probably gauge Max’s reaction and flinched.

“You look stiff, perhaps we could take a break and have some lunch. I’ll pull off soon enough.”

The roads were practically a washout due to heavy storms so the going was slow, Cassy couldn’t even tell how far they’d managed to travel.  Damn!  She was at this point more annoyed than afraid.  She regarded him suspiciously.

He caught the look and said, “I know, I know, it’ll take time for you to see me in a better light, but it will come!”  He reached out and patted her head again.  Again she cringed.

“I’m not a touchy feely type.  I’d rather you didn’t do that!”

“Ok.”  He watched her as if she’d grown two heads.  “I seem to recall you getting all touchy feely with Max and you hug Maggy all the time.”

“Maggy, yeah, we’re old friends, go back a long way.  Max, well, I was drawn in as if I had no will of my own.”

“I knew it!” He pumped his fist in the air.  “I knew you were taken over.  That will change, that will change.  Just as soon as we have him out of your system, you’ll be free again, free to love…me!”

 

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Cassy sat subdued in the seat beside Jason Bards quietly observing.  He’d obviously done some body building since his youth.  Muscles bulged beneath the black tee he wore.  His hair was styled and his movements relaxed. He’d changed his image and he would fit in anywhere from a gym to a classy restaurant.  His mannerisms were deceptively slow, relaxed, as though he hadn’t a care in the world and the world was his oyster.

At first glance you wouldn’t notice the fanatic gleam in his eye that she saw when he looked at her.  As if sensing her interest, he reached across the space between them and patted her hair as though she were a dog.  It was all she could do not to cringe and slap his hand away.  It felt perverted somehow and she felt almost defiled.

“You’re quiet, dear heart.  What’s up?”

“Nothing.  It’s difficult to travel.  The movement makes me feel seasick and nauseous.”

“I’m sorry, Cassy.  I never meant for this to happen.”

“What do you mean?” she asked suddenly alert.

“I,” he sighed,” I didn’t intend for this to happen.  When I doctored your contact solution, I was so exact…it was to be a momentary set back…”

“You did this to me?” her voice contained shock revulsion and horror.

“I know your upset now, dear heart, but I knew I had to get your attention.  I didn’t mean you any harm.  I wanted, expected to incapacitate you, that’s all, I swear it!”  When he reached toward her, she slapped his hands away.

Withdrawing his hand he continued, “I know it will take time to come to terms with what I’ve done.  I also know our love will sustain us through this difficult time.  And I’m sorry for the outcome.”

“I could have lost my eyesight completely.  I nearly did!  How is that love?  How am I supposed to come to terms with this?”

“As I said, it will take time, and I’ll facilitate your recovery every way I can.”

Cassy continued to stare at him in disbelief.  Max was right.  He’d been right from the get go.  The lunatic was responsible for everything.  Worst of all, he expected her forgiveness!  HA!

 

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Max paced the room, cell phone glued to his ear as he called each post for an update to find out whether she and her captor had been spotted.  Maggy watched him drag his hand relentlessly through his hair at each call and could only assume the answer was a resounding no.

She wondered about timing.  She’d heard the first 24 hours were crucial.  How would this play out she wondered.  It was a small island with only one highway but it split and there were several possibilities if you included the numerous backroads available. It was a massive manhunt and Max was pulling every string leaving no stone unturned and Maggy couldn’t help but smile in delight he was on their side.  If anyone could find this perverted creep, she figured Max could and would.  She wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that anger.  Although restrained, she felt the anger eminating from him.  It took on a life of it’s own.

Craig was busy contacting every precint on the Island and forwarding pictures of Cassy urging discretion but left no doubt about the urgency of the situation and how the perp might and probably would respond if captured and the danger to Cassy.

She watched hopefully yet impotently then got up and cleaned as she’d never cleaned before.  It was something, she’d do anything to keep the feeling of dread and terror at bay.  She’d never felt this vulnerable and frightened in her life.  Mixed feelings including anger coursed through her veins.  Although she understood the desire to end this, she was durious that Cassy had done this.  She too wanted her life back, but not at the expense of her dearest friend in the world.

Covering her mouth with her fingers, she stared outside.  Her mind busy conjuring up a hundred different scenarios that all ended badly.  Needing the feel of his warmth and assurance, she walked to Craig and wrapped an around around his waist.  He stopped a moment to drop a kiss on her upturned mouth then whispered, “It will be ok.”  Maggy prayed with every fiber in her body it would be so.

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“Jason Bards.”

“See you do remember me!”  He grinned broadly.

While thinking, ‘yeah, freak who scared me half to death’, she replied, “How could I forget?” A memory instantly flashed of a pencil thin youth with slightly greasy dirty blond hair, in geeky clothes holding a wilted bouquet of flowers toward her and her dad pushing her behind him as he dealt with the unwanted guest.

“We were meant to be together.  Your parents kept us apart.  I knew it wasn’t you.  I didn’t mind you got on with your life, you were supposed to.  You did, and you’re wonderful.  I know, because I followed you closely.”

Changing the subject, hoping to learn more she asked, “What did you do with your life?”

“I became a tech, a damn good one I might add.  It was a passion that proved invaluable for keeping tabs on where you were, what you were doing and involved in.  Then I really lucked out and got a job with the cops in Victoria.  Since this was where you were living … what can I say?”  His smile, although intended to reflec adoration, instead struck Cassy as completely creepy,  a leer that gave her instant goose bumps as a chill ran the length of her spine.

“You obviously know quite a bit more about me than I do you.  Why don’t you fill me in on … everything.”

“I could, but I’m not as interesting as you are my dear.”

“I wouldn’t say that.  I’d like to know the type of skills you’ve managed to acquire.  Tech stuff is completely beyond me.  Like a car, it starts, yay!  We’re good.  My computer turns on, yay! good stuff, but when it acts up or something goes wrong, I’m lost.”

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“I see you watching me.  You’re trying to remember when we met.  It’s ok, I wasn’t sure whether you would.  It was years ago that we first met.”

“You going to give me a clue?”

“Not yet.  It’s really immaterial.  We’re together now, that’s what counts.”

“Where to now?”

“A little island, Helmcken Island, not far but well stocked and easily accessible but still out of the way, a quick stop on our journey to make sure we aren’t being followed.”

“Is all this subterfuge really necessary?”

“It wouldn’t have been until Max and Craig moved in.  I could have dealt with Maggy.”

“Why now then?  We haven’t had any contact in years.”

“I couldn’t wait any longer.  We connected, I followed you everywhere … …attended the same events, enjoyed the same music, the same political outlook.  You turned and smiled and my world flipped upside down.  We spoke, you touched my arm and said thank you for…”

“It must have been a long time ago…I have a good memory, I’m sure I would have remembered our … connection.” Cassy’s mind raced through time, to any encounter she could think of, but still he didn’t come to mind in any of the scenarios she considered.

Ill give you a hint … your father didn’t like me and threw me off the front steps, told me never to come back again.”

Shocked, the incident came front and center.  She’d been 16.  This random guy showed up on her doorstep with flowers proclaiming his love for her.  When her father had asked if she knew him, she’d hung onto his arm and shook her head, for indeed, she didn’t.  She recalled seeing him around school, but that was all.  They hadn’t exchanged but a few words.

 

 

 

Blindsided 245

Making her way to the kitchen, she smelled coffee first, then the delicious scent of pine and cedar along with the damp fresh air of the forest through the half opened window.  Spotting her, he said, “Help yourself. Breakfast choices are meager since I wasn’t expecting company.  There are bananas, some fresh strawberries and bagels.”

Cassy murmured a subdued thanks and pouring coffee added cream then reached for a bagel and strawberries.  Settling on the edge of the seat placed diagonally in front of a small wrought iron breakfast table, the sudden isolation of her situation settled over her. The vermin even knew what her favourite breakfast was. 

Imprisoned in this makeshift abode alongside a lunatic, she wasn’t sure she could stomach food, half afraid she might choke. Although she hadn’t looked directly at him since entering the minute kitchen, she felt him watching her intently and made a show of nibbling on the bagel and sipping her coffee.  It was important to hide the extent of her discomfiture. She must guard her emotions and act carefully.

As she munched, he cleared away their used cutlery.  When she’d finished, he washed and stored her used dishes.

“You have enough time for a quick shower before we go. We have a small journey to undertake.”  Cassy said nothing in response, simply rose and returned to the bedroom to retrieve what she required. 

Although the towels were lush, it made her skin crawl, thinking of using them.  She scrubbed her body quickly then rubbed vigorously trying to bring warmth to her chilled body.  It didn’t work.  For the chill came from within.

Brushing her hair and sliding on the clip attached to the overnight bag, she brushed a modicum of make up on and packed her previous clothes into the bag.

When she’d finished, she found him standing at the end of the hall, still masked.  Quietly informing him she needed her drops, he held out a hand indicating she precede him to the kitchen.  Opening the fridge she gathered up her drops and after using them, stomped once.  It wasn’t as painful as before, thankfully.

He took them from her and placed them in a small insulated bag.  Grabbing the handle of her suitcase, she opened the door and moved outside.  “The van is parked out back,” he gestured to the far corner. “It’s not as comfortable and spacious as the RV, but it has plenty of amenities so I’m sure you’ll enjoy for the short term.”

After ushering her into the passenger seat, he tucked her gear in the trunk, alongside his own, climbed in started the car and reversed.  She waited patiently.  He had to take the mask off!  He’d create attention dressed as he was. 

Upon reaching the highway he removed the mask and low slung hat.  She peered at him, but didn’t recognize him, at all.  Now that was frustration!  If he was known to her, it might make some sense, the pieces might fall into place, but they didn’t.  She sat quietly staring out the front window, unsure of her next move.  Would he welcome or be affronted by this fact.  Whenever their encounter had occurred, it was considerably long ago. He’d obviously changed.  At least that’s what she told herself.

 

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He returned momentarily, “I’ll put the drops in the fridge for the night since you won’t require them and make more ice for the trip tomorrow.”  He’d picked up the drops and was walking away when she asked, “Where are we heading?”

“Down island.  I won’t disclose our destination quite yet.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it since it has all the conveniences of home and more.”

Realizing he wasn’t going to give her any clues, there was no incentive to remain awake and she burrowed down under the covers and watched his shadow move away then disappear.

She would have to play the game with finesse and stealth.  Max intimated he was crazy, not stupid, practicing great skill thus far, so she knew this to be true.  Foiling him was going to require some dedicated thinking.  Since she’d escaped quietly into the night, it was doubtful the others would find her quickly, if at all.  They had to be searching by now.  She desperately hoped that someone had witnessed her abduction and alerted the police.  If not, she was on her own.  She’d never felt more desperately alone and frightened. 

She thought she’d covered all contingencies when she’d made her rash decision.  The one thing she hadn’t counted on, was him capturing her.  In her vision, she’d reached her parents where other constables were waiting and she was able to formulate a plan to tease him out of hiding. 

When she woke the following morning she was stiff having laid in one position all night.  She rarely slept on her back. 

She eased into a sitting position and ran her hand through her hair, then across her face.  Time for the drops.  At some point he’d entered and placed them on the nightstand.  She applied them, waiting for the sting to stop.

He must have the ears of a cat because she’d barely moved, the bed hadn’t squeaked and yet he was standing outside the door.  “Coffee’s made as soon as you’re ready.  I figured you might want the bathroom facilities first.”  He slithered closer and unlocked her chains.

“Please join me when you’re ready.  The rooms are secured so I wouldn’t bother attempting an escape,” he notified her.  “We’ll decide on breakfast and then we need to move.”

Cassy heard but didn’t want to believe him, and after washing her face, brushing her hair and teeth, she inspected the tiny window, hopeful that although small it may provide a possible escape.  It was secure alright, there was no budging it.  

 

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Her knees were about to give out on her so she plunked her ass on a chair and leaning forward dropped her head in her hands.  “I feel so helpless!”

“I got work, Maggy, you mind making us some coffee?  Pretty sure we could both use a cup right about now.”

Rising she responded, “Yeah, sure.”  Like an automation, she moved stiffly across the room and into the kitchen.  Even the Elixir of life couldn’t lift her spirits high enough on this night.  But it was something to do, it filled time.

That done, she pulled up a chair close to Craig and watched as he worked.  His movements were quick, precise as he whipped from one screen to the next, speaking quickly, answering every question directed his way.

Max returned with an offering from Dubs and they ate automatically, the food tasteless, their thoughts elsewhere.  They ate for fuel for energy, nothing more.

Cassy finished her coffee and looking cautiously at her captor said, “I’m tired, I’d like to get some sleep.  I need my drops throughout the day.  I can’t afford to sleep in.”

Walking her back to the bedroom he said, “I’ll give you ten minutes preparation time.  You usually shower at night I believe, but I think we can forgo that pleasure for another night.”

He walked to the end of the hallway and she collected her pajamas, grateful she’d packed actual pajamas and not a nightgown as she’d intended.  Brushing her teeth then her hair, she donned the pj’s and opened the bathroom door and carefully peeked out.  He was standing in the same spot prior to her entry.  He motioned for her to enter the bedroom, and walked behind her.

A chill ran down her body at his closeness and she couldn’t hide it.  “You cold, Cassy?  I can add more fuel to the furnace, it has a blower attached.”

“No, I’m fine, I appreciate the bedroom being cooler at night.  I sleep better.”

When she sat on the bed, he walked up to her and re-clasped the cuff.  “It may make sleeping a little difficult, but it is what it is.”

Waiting until he retreated, Cassy lifted the blankets and crawled into the cool sheets.  She wondered if she’d ever feel warm again.  Pulling the covers up to her chin, she laid on her side hoping she’d sleep.

Blindsided 242

 

“Does she know what’s been going on?”  Maggy asked hopefully.

“Cassy didn’t tell her much, other than she was trying to lay low and get to her parents in Victoria.”

Craig asked, “Does she remember anything about the vehicles parked around them, seeing anyone suspicious?”

“Only that there were motor homes parked on either side of them.  She didn’t see anyone lurking about.”

“A car is driving her back as we speak, and we’ll go over this again, see if we can jog her memory.”

“That means he got to her.  More, he’s got her!”  Maggy’s voice shook.

Craig cast a sympathetically look at Maggy, “Yeah, I’m afraid it does.”  Maggy turned to Craig and buried her face and sobbed.

“They’ll be at the office in less than fifteen minutes.  I have to go.  I’ll let you know if there’s anything new to report.”

“In the meantime, Craig, get ahold of all detachments from Sayward to Gold River – all the way to Victoria.  Update them.  Let them know, she’s now with the perp, and should they come in contact, approach with extreme care, get all pertinent data, but do not let on!  Let them go. Note the direction, vehicle and every last bit of information they can get.  You know the drill.  Make sure they do!”

After he left Magg asked, “Why?  Why not apprehend him?”

Craig didn’t want to explain, but knew he had to. ”Our overriding concern is he’ll kill both of them before he’d let her go.” He stared at her taking in the look of horror in her eyes, the quivering chin, shaking hands and wished he could spare her.  “You deserve to know.  Its better you know what we’re up against.  That’s worst case scenario Mags.  Hopefully, god willing, it won’t come to that!”

Maggie dropped her head in her hands. “I’m terrified at what he might do, could do.  Do you think she was remotely prepared for these consequences?”

“I’m pretty sure she was willing to risk it.”

 

 

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“We don’t know that he has her, Mags.”  He rubbed his hands up and down her arms reassuringly.  “It’s possible she elicited help elsewhere.  She wouldn’t want to involve you as her best friend simply because it puts you in an extremely difficult and unenviable position.  By supporting her and remaining silent you’d be obstructing justice.  The only other option you’d have had was giving up the game, knowing full well we would stop this.  She fully intended to ensure that didn’t happen.”

“Craig, I don’t know what to do.  If I go home, I’ll be edgy panicky and freaked out.  At least if I’m here, I’m in the know and t . . . “

“Stay Mags.  We continue on as before.  Your being here is a good thing.  She may try to get a message through and you may be the only one capable of deciphering it.”  Peering up at him she smiled through her tears.

“Thanks Craig, for understanding.”

Early morning found Mags asleep on the floor curled in a blanket she’d brought downstairs.  Max and Craig were on the horn contacting the new teams brought in at the beginning of their shift. They’d all been alerted to the possibility it was a perp that had her.

His phone rang and Max answered and was up and out of his chair.  “When?  Where?  Does she know anything?  Ok, slow down, run the scenario by me again.”  Mags was up and standing nervously beside him listening intently.   They exchanged wary glances waiting impatiently for Max to explain.

When he hung up, he looked half stunned half relieved.  “We found the woman who drove the car.  She’s in quite a state.  She saw officers roaming around and flagged one down.  Her name’s Eileen Miller.”  He looked expectantly at Maggy.

“I know her, she’s one of the good ones.  Lots of volunteer work and she owns a daycare.”

“She told the officers Cassy picked her up at the highway and asked her to drive her to Victoria.  They got as far as Sayward.  Since they were both fading, she went into the gas station to get them some coffee, something to eat.”

“It took her longer than expected.  It was busy and there were line ups of vehicles coming and going.  By the time she returned to the car, Cassy was nowhere in sight. After a thorough search, she realized she was missing.”

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Noting the consternation on Craig’s face, he added, “It’s not your fault, Craig.  She planned this.  I should have known it, there was a look in her eye when she was discussing the idea of becoming the soul target.  I messed up.  It’s on me.”

“No more you than me.  I figured something was amiss but I didn’t follow up on it.  I knew she was tired, and I wanted to give her the time.  Ya know?”

“I get it.  It’s ok.”

“Hopefully the roadblocks will catch her before she gets too far and places herself in even more immediate danger,” Max added.

“Any patrols checked in yet?”

“Just Hatfield in McNeill, but I expected that.  She’d have long since passed McNeill before roadblocks were in place.”

With furrowed brow Max said, “Considering her lack of sight, what the hell did she think she was doing?  How far did she think she could get? She couldn’t see more than a few feet.  I can’t believe she’d put herself or anyone else at risk!”

“If she were going to ask anyone for help, I would expect she’d ask Maggy.”

“She wouldn’t, Craig.  She wouldn’t involve her in this.  Besides, with both of them together, we’de have noticed sooner.”

“Then she’s found another driver, she had to.  The question is who!” Max stated.

“And when!  When did she have an opportunity?”  Craig added.

“Get back on that BOLO, add an unknown in the vehicle with Cassy.  I only hope to god it’s not the perp!” he said vehemently.

It became an all-night vigil, as they monitored all incoming calls from each roadblock located up and down the island from outside Port McNeil in case she double backed to Victoria including all offshoot roads.”

Maggy was beside herself.  She paced back and forth, round the room and back again, biting her nails.  She hadn’t bitten her nails since she was a teenager.  She felt betrayed.  That Cassy would take this task on alone, or at the very least, not tell her her plans cut her deeply.

On her umpteenth circle around the room, Craig stopped her and pulled her close.  She tried to struggle free at first then wound herself around him as tears fell.  “I don’t know whether to kill her or applaud her!” she said between hiccups.  “I’m so angry she did this!  This is so damn dangerous!  What if he hurts her or worse, or what if we never see her again?  What if he holds her captive somewhere and she can’t see well enough to get away?  What about her eyes?”  She cried silently into his shirt while he held on tightly.

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“You must realize, I would not have acted rashly if it weren’t for Max Myerson.  He has no right to treat you like you belong to him!  You don’t!”  He began pacing the room in anger.  Calming himself he continued,  “Be that as it may, we can rectify that situation.  We will rectify the situation.”

“Now we are on our own, you can relax, no pretense is necessary.  He isn’t here to sway your emotions.  You’re free to be you, to get to know me as originally planned.”

Wrapping the blanket closer more for protection than warmth, she asked, “Where do you see this “relationship’ going?”

“With time, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know me, understand me and we can progress onward to something more meaningful.”

Smiling, he added, “I know everything about you.  Your likes, dislikes, what makes you happy, and sad.  I can please you Cassy in every possible way.”

“I love you unconditionally.  As you come to know the depths of my love, I am sure you’ll love me in return.  Our life can truly begin.”

Sipping her coffee silently she considered.  Her actions would have ramifications and she couldn’t risk setting him off.  Her extreme disgust for this vile man must remain her secret.  Although his closeness was repelant to her she must not let it show.  Still her actions must seem realistic considering the circumstances. 

From his perspective, she had been brainwashed by Max and his actions.  So that transformation from affection for Max to him would take time.  He would be skeptical of her motives should she moved too quickly. 

When she was finished he accompanied her back to the bedroom,  “For now, rest.  We leave at first light.”

Max rushed to Cassy’s the instant Craig called.  Fear gripped his stomach twisting it in knots.  He flew through the door stopping dead when he nearly ran into Craig. “What happened?  When did you notice she was gone?”

Craig was sick.  “I checked on her about an hour after you left.  She was sleeping quietly.  I didn’t check on her again for another hour give or take.  She was gone.  I checked the house, the grounds, and when I hustled out front to the undercover, he didn’t notice the car was gone until I went looking for it.”

“What the hell!”  Max roared!

Calming himself down he continued, “So she’s been gone over two hours?” he estimated. “You put out a bolo?”

“Immediately, then I called you.”

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From what she was able to ascertain, she was in a cabin.  Obviously old, but well maintained even though it smelled musty from lack of use.

She had no idea how or when she got here and could only assume her stalker had finally caught up with her.  The thought filled her first with concern, and then rage.

She was about to find out who her captor was. The battle had just begun. It would clearly take stealth and conniving to outwit him.  She admonished herself with Max’s words, reminding herself how essential she not react to them. 

Hearing movement from the other room and then footsteps growing louder coming closer, she thought, time’s up. 

He placed a hat on his head and a mask on his face before entering the bedroom he’d designated for her.

She wasn’t startled exactly, she’d expected his arrival but still her heart pounded.  She blinked then blinked again, taking in the disguise.

Her first word was, “Why?”

“Isn’t that obvious?  Haven’t I explained endlessly?  My love for you holds no bounds. I’ve loved you always!  I’ve watched and waited, hoping for some sign but nothing came since that first connection.  I’ve devotedly followed you through college, university and then work.”

“I have a collage of your accomplishments.  I must show you sometime.  I think you’ll be impressed at how extensive it is.  It does you justice.”

“What else have you been doing with your life?”

“I graduated, completed university and got a job with the R.C.M.P. located in Victoria.”

Omg, Max had been partially right.  He didn’t have an insider, he was the insider offering him the perfect opportunity to infiltrate and sabotage their efforts, to mislead them into other avenues. 

He walked closer, assessing her emotional state.  He couldn’t quite tell if it was surprise.  He hoped so.  It augured well for their future. He wouldn’t expect otherwise. 

“Your parents are to blame.  I know that.  I knew that from the first moment.  They deliberately kept us apart.  You never received any of the letters birthday wishes or presents I sent, did you?”

“I couldn’t say.  I was caught up in university, my new job and travel.”

“I figured.  I knew it wasn’t you.  I knew you weren’t that heartless, that you felt something.  I always suspected that was the truth.”

Blindsided 235

Having stashed another vehicle behind the cabin was fortuitous and he hurriedly prepped it for use.  Too bad he had to ditch the mini home, it would have made traveling far easier.  Still the van contained nearly all the required amenities.

Back inside the cabin, adding some finishing touches, he heard movement from the bedroom.  Time to reintroduce himself?  Not quite yet, there was more to do.  Since she had her drops and something to drink, she’d be fine for the time being.

He built and stoked a fire in the small wood burning stove, the ambiance cozy and warm to ward off the slight chill due to the damp forest surrounding them.

It was a stroke of genius, obtaining this out of the way cabin.  It was a safe distance from the road, unmarked and surrounded by 100 year old trees that speared upward and outward.  He’d stayed here often in the past, but this was his second sojourn here in three years.  He’d obtained the property outright in his dead uncle’s name.  The inheritance he’d received covered it and updates. 

Cassy woke feeling dazed and confused.  Her eyes hurt and her vision was worse than usual.  She raised her forearm and rested it on her forehead and lay with her eyes closed regrouping as her mind cleared.

When she tried to move her left arm and couldn’t, panic moved in and took over.  Trying to sit she was pulled backward.  Her immediate response was to yank, harder with her captive wrist.  The sudden pain stopped her in her tracks.

Only then did she survey the room, taking stock of the situation and her current circumstances.  Suddenly it all came back in a rush.

She recalled the drive and stopping for a coffee and something to eat.  Instantly her mind returned to the moment when someone grabbed her from behind, her struggle, then sudden complete darkness enveloping her.

Turning her head to the left, she spotted her medicine and squirmed and slithered until she could reach it.  The bedside clock indicated it was just after 2 am.

Pinching the bottle between her fingers, she managed to twist the top to loosen it off before carefully dropping it on the nightstand.  Lifting her head up and back, she administered the usual two drops in each eye before setting the vial down and just as carefully replacing it and turning the lid until it was tightly closed.

Then as her eyes cleared, she spotted her belongings at the far end of the bed.

The room was dark except for a meagre lamp sitting beside her spewing broken rays of light a few feet into the room.

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He’d known their moves before they did.  Little tweaks here and there, delays, skewed data, and he was in the loop.  Not only in, but directing it.  Although he worked in the basement of the same building housing their main HQ, he knew everyone’s face involved in Cassy’s case.

That they would DARE keep his beloved from him infuriated him anew, filling him with renewed rage.  Calming himself, he breathed deeply, in and out, in and out. 

No sense wasting his anger at a situation that had righted itself.  Here he was, with his beloved and on their way to a deliriously perfect life together.

Of course, he had to make some revisions to ensure their safe journey, but that was easily rectified.  Most of what he’d planned would fit into the current scenario anyway.

He travelled on for some time before taking a sharp right and turning off onto an unmarked road.  He slowed as the ascent was steep and he hadn’t planned on attempting to take an RV up this road or to this location, but with careful maneuvering, he managed nicely.

Pulling alongside the cabin, he shut the motor off and hurried to the cabin and reaching inside, turned the outer light on.  He sniffed, the place smelled a little stale considering he hadn’t used it in several months he expected that.  Quickly turning on lights,  in preparation he headed back outside to retrieve what he deemed his most precious possession.

Since it seemed she’d aligned herself with the cops, he’d have to take precautions until he knew where she really stood, and he’d won her affection.  Only then could he relax.

As he walked up to her he noted she was still under the effects of the knock out drugs.  Bundling her in a blanket, he lifted her and carefully carried her down the narrow aisle out of the motorhome and through the open cabin door.  He stopped at the first of two bedrooms, small but adequate, and gently lay her on the bed.  Precautions being what they were for the moment, he took a pair of handcuffs and cuffed her left arm to the metal headboard.  Taking one last look at her sleeping form, he returned to the motor home to retrieve what clothing she’d brought with her to deposit it at the end of the bed.

He searched through her purse and retrieved her drops, which he set in a glass of cold water and large chunks of ice.  He added a second glass to quench her thirst should she require it. 

Now to finish the arrangements for their unscheduled stay.

Although he figured he had plenty of time to accomplish all the changes he must make, he moved methodically from one job to the next.   

 

Blindsided 233

He pulled her into his arms and lifted her into the motorhome to carry her to the back bed.

Smoothly returning for her luggage, he closed and locked the car door.

Sliding her stuff into a closet in front of the bedroom, he turned the RV on and steadily wended his way alongside the other vehicles.  He swung around to the far entrance and onto the connector road then up the short distance to the highway.  Turning right, he smiled.  Piece of cake!

After cranking the music, he let it play out in his mind.  Yep, gotta love trackers.  Greatest invention since sliced bread.

Luckily he’d intercepted the photo the Cretans had managed to get through.  Damn incredible likeness.  They’de nearly caught him.  He couldn’t quite figure how he’d managed to skate through, luckily he had. He’d sweat bullets when he recognized the two men from the undercover squad enter the premises.  He’d managed to sneak out through a side door and was gone before they caught up with him.

And here, only a couple hours ago he’d vowed vengeance on all of them unless he found his dearest and was reunited with her, coming up with enterprising ways to make them all pay – all of them.  He’d bring a reign of terror down on their heads like they’d never seen before.  They’d rue the day they dared interfere and separate him from the light of his life.

However, since she’d inadvertently played right into his hands, the whole scenario he’d worked out in his mind wasn’t necessary.

Thinking back to the start of it all, he was still furious with her misguided and over protective parents; they were responsible for the separation between Cassy and himself.  They’d started all this.  God knows he’d tried to make them understand how deep his love and devotion for Cassy went.  He’d never waver.  His soul purpose in life was bringing her joy and sharing his vision of joint happiness and fulfilment with her.

Thanks to his thoroughness, he’d once again outwitted the brain-e-acks.  Not so hard really when you had a dedicated loyal and unfailing inside source, namely, himself.

It was true that Max was a perfect chess player and made the game fun – managing to up the ante.

He’d worked as a tech, lower level, contracted out by the RCMP.  It enabled him to infiltrate, place listening devices and monitor all movements.  He’d sent an echo along a text Cassy had received and the rest, was history.  He could send the echo both directions thanks to a device he’d created himself and which was undetectable therefore couldn’t be monitored.  He’d neglected to tell the bosses about his inspired design, smirking delightedly.

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Eileen didn’t ask any questions so Cassy let it go sat back and relaxed into the passenger seat.  When Eileen chose some music and plugged a cd into the machine, she hummed along with an old familiar tune.

They chatted sporadically about upcoming events in Hardy as well as a bit of local gossip and fell into a comfortable silence.

Cassy’s thoughts returned to her parents.  When a special task force led by one of the most brilliant men she’d had the good fortune to meet, using high tech equipment hadn’t managed to stop this venomous snake, how would she?  However, this obvious deduction wouldn’t strike her until much later.

Her cogitations were so intense, she didn’t notice the traffic heading up island, the cool evening air, or how brightly the stars shone overhead through from a cloudless sky.

When exhaustion threatened to overtake them both, she opened a window and allowed the cool breeze to wash over her.  Finally, she had to admit she required a hit of caffeine and since Sayward was just ahead, asked Eileen to pull into the gas station so she could buy them a coffee or an energy drink to sustain them.

The circular drive into the little gas station/convenience store was filled to capacity by massive motor homes semi-trucks and various other vehicles.

Eileen crept slowly forward, avoiding the milling group of people either conversing, heading into the store or simply stopping to stretch their legs.  Spotting an open slot between two large RV’s, at the far corner, she pulled in and turned the engine off.

Cassy handed her what cash she had on her and asked if she’d do the honours and Eileen quickly obliged before asking whether she wanted something to eat as well.  “No, I’m fine, but if you’re hungry, please feel free.”

Remembering the cell in the glove box, she reached in, pulled it out and slid it into her bra strap.  Keys in hand, she stretched across the seat for the sweater she’d left in the car earlier.

Nodding absent-mindedly at those coming and going, she was half way in and half way out when a voice called from behind her, “Be out of your way in a minute.  Not much parking room.  Just need to check the air.”

Cassy didn’t give it another thought.  The extra time would help refresh her and from the look of the line-ups, it was going to be a several minutes, noting the line that stretched from the cashier to the front door and on outside.

Opening the rear door, she clasped the handle of her lopsided luggage intent on stowing it in the trunk.  Without warning, a vice-like grip suddenly tightened around her waist as a hand with a foul smelling cloth was pressed across her nose.  She fought violently kicking her assailant but her flailing came to an abrupt end as she folded limply, half in and half out of the car as the world faded to black.

Blindsided 231

Her timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.  Glancing at the undercover car parked at the far end of the block she watched a couple of very drunk men and a woman creating a scene.  The officer hopped out of his car to investigate.

Quickly hustling across the lawn, she stuck close to the fence moving quickly, grabbing her gear she dashed to the rental parked on the road.  Flipping her purse open, she searched for the keys.  Instead of using the automatic door selection, slid the key into the lock.  Half afraid they’d spot her before she made good her getaway, she threw her gear in the back seat and started the engine and gunning it, sped down the street.

Since the car was fully fueled she wouldn’t have to stop any time soon.  There was only one road out of town, Highway 19.  She’d have to take an alternate route and soon because they’d soon become aware she’d skipped out on them.  Added to that, her vision was miserably limited.  Every light contained two huge and very blurred halo’s that basically blinded her.  Oncoming traffic was a nightmare, but at this time of night, hopefully there wouldn’t be much.

Spotting a hitchhiker, she slowed and pulled over.  It was Eileen Miller, a woman she’d known through friends. A pretty red head about 24 she figured with a lively sense of humour and adventure if the stories she’d heard were half true.  “Hey, where you headed?” she asked when the woman reached the door.

“Victoria.  I missed the bus and was hoping a good samaritan would show up.”

“You drive, Eileen?”

A questioning look was followed by, “Yeah, I do.  My car’s in the shop.”

Opening the driver’s door, Cassy said, “Good, because you’re driving.  All the way to Victoria.” Then added, “Are you on a time constraint?”

“Not really.”

“Ok, then we’ll take the back roads, because I’m trying to lay low.  You good with that?”

“Sure.  I’m game for a little adventure.”

“Hop in.”  Cassy popped into the passenger seat and when Eileen had herself situated, they headed out.

Conversation was sparse at first. “I’m not at liberty to say much, I just need to remain incognito for a few hours. The cops will come looking for me as soon as they realize I’m gone.”

At the other woman’s startled sideways glance, she quickly assured her, “No no, nothing like that, I’m not in any trouble with the law.  I’m in protective custody.  I needed to get out for a bit.  Can’t catch my breath with the cops always breathing down my throat. They’ll be looking for me so I need to keep a low profile.”

“Oh, even more adventure.  I like that!”

“The radio works, and if your into music, there’s some in the glove box.  Can’t guarantee what it is, I haven’t looked, but I know it’s there.  Probably jazz and such.”

“Sure.”

Thoughtfully, Cassy added, “Look, I need a driver because I’ve had an accident and I can’t see well enough to drive.  You won’t be in any trouble, I’ll make the situation clear once we’ve arrived in Victoria.”

 

Blindsided 230

“Max told us to check every couple hours and we have and it’s put our minds at ease.  Although I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”

“Everything ok at your end?” she asked with growing concern before adding, “You’re not hurt are you?”

“No, mom, I’m fine.  Business as usual.”

“Ok, then.”

“Sorry, I have another call, dear.  If everything is alright with you, I really need to take this.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Sure thing, mom.”

Breathing a sigh of relief she told the others what she’d learned.

“So, he was in Victoria last night,” Craig observed. “He’s moving around, a lot.  With so many irons in the fire, he’s gotta be getting damn tired trying to balance them all.”

“I’m going to check in, I need to make sure everything is still in place.  I won’t be long, Craig.  Keep your eyes peeled.”

That’s when Cassy decided to make her move.  Feigning a desire to rest, she headed to her bedroom leaving the other two alone.

Grabbing her overnight bag, she quickly filled it with pjs, underwear and enough clothes to last a couple of days.  She opened her bedroom window just enough to fit the purse and overnight bag through and dropped them into the shadows below.

She freshened her makeup more to fill time than anything, waited another twenty minutes before heading down to join the others.  It seemed they had packed it in, opting to crash for a few hours thinking she was still resting.

Cassy hurried to the fridge, retrieved her drops and threw some ice in several small baggies and tiptoed quietly across the room, opened the glass door slipping out unnoticed.

 

Blindsided 229

Max immediately said, “No grand standing Cassy!  We have this! He’s narrowed his options considerably.  It’s not a matter of dominance.  I’m confident that he’ll slip up and soon and we’ll nab him!”

Later, after dinner was eaten and the dishes cleared, things took an unexpected turn.  A parcel was delivered that surprised Cassy since she wasn’t expecting a delivery. Max motioned everyone back and cautiously opened the package. Spotting a picture inside, he upended the package and it fell face up on the table.

Cassy gasped.  The bottom of the picture had a note scribbled in now familiar print.  It said, “Winners?  Losers?”

The picture was taken from a distance and clearly depicted her parent’s enjoyment at a restaurant they habitually frequented.  Racing to the phone she dialed their number, waiting anxiously.  “Pick up, pick up!”  She fervently prayed aloud.

“Hello, Cassy.”

“Oh, thank god!”

“Cassy, honey, what’s wrong?”

“Mom, do you still have a car out front?”

“I don’t know dear, it was here last I looked.  Give me a second and I’ll go check.”

She carried the cell phone with her, “Yes, it’s still there.”

“Mom, when did you and dad eat out at Rendezvous last?”

“Why yes, last night.  Jim and Mavis were supposed to join us, but Jim had an emergency and they couldn’t make it, so we decided to go anyway.  Why?”

“Ok.  It’s alright.  Just checking.”

“How did you know we went to Rendezvous?”

“It’s ok.  I was just checking up on you.  I know it’s your favourite restaurant and just wondered if you were enjoying life as usual is all.”

“Is everything ok, Cassy?”

“Yeah, all things considered.”

“Mom, keep your eyes peeled, ok?  This guy’s on the loose.  It’s got me worried, that’s all.  I love you.”