Ben sat with Luke out on the dock; he didn’t want the little boy to see what was happening any more than he already had. Luke swung his feet off the end of the dock.
“Detective Carter” one of the uniformed officers came off the porch.
Ben got up, “Luke, you stay right here, buddy. I am going to go talk to the other police officer. I will stay where you can see me, okay?”
Ben walked up the lawn, thirty feet away from Luke.
“Detective we have found the black SUV and the boys, but we don’t have Mrs Lawson or the men who took her. We think they got into another vehicle.”
“Where are the boys?” Are they okay?”
“They don’t appear to be hurt, they’re upset but not hurt. They are in Lakeridge.”
“I am going to go to the boys. Her sister is on her way here, but I don’t want the boys to be alone right now.” Ben turned back towards Luke. “Come on, buddy we are going to go see your brothers.”
Luke bounded up and reached up for Ben to carry him. Ben lifted him, forgetting Luke’s shoes on the dock.
“Detective would you like an escort?”
“Yes, please. Luke, you will like this.” Ben said as he buckled the little boy into his seat.
“Are we going to go fast?”
“Yes, and the police are going to come with us to get your brothers.”
Ben took off down the road, and the local squad car got in front of him to escort him. Luke loved the squad car in front. They made it to Lakeridge on the Michigan – Indiana state line in forty-five minutes. The boys were at the hospital for check-ups. They had been left at a gas station. Ben grabbed Luke out of the SUV and ran into the hospital.
The local police chief was waiting for him outside Tommy and Evan’s room.
“Yes. How are the boys? Is there any news about Rachel?”
“No I’m sorry, we have video of the car though, she’s in a blue infinity sedan with Illinois plates. We will find her. We ‘ve called in the Indiana state police and FBI. We will find her. The boys are really shaken up. We haven’t been able to get too much out of them. The older boy has a black eye and split lip. Someone roughed him up pretty good, why don’t you leave this little guy with me and you go in to see his big brothers?”
“No. I want to stay with Ben!” Luke shouted.
“Buddy, you need to stay with this nice police officer while I talk to your brothers, okay? I will only be a minute.”
“We can stay right outside the door, alright?” The police chief said.
“No, no, I want to stay with Ben!” Luke screamed as he began to cry.
The door to the room cracked open, and Evan peeked outside. He was in a hospital gown.
“Evan!” Luke pushed out of Ben’s arms.
Evan turned back around, “Tommy, it’s Ben and Luke.”
Luke ran to his big brother and hugged him. Evan wrapped his arms around his little brother.
“Is Mommy in there?” Luke asked.
Evan looked up at Ben, not sure what to say.
“No, I’m sorry buddy, she isn’t.”
“Do you know where our mom is?” Evan asked.
“We’re looking for her son. We have every police officer in the state of Michigan and Indiana looking for her.” the chief said.
“I should go in and see Tommy,” Ben said.
“Me too.” Luke sad, very sternly.
“Um why don’t you hang out here with me buddy,” Evan said to his little brother.
Evan’s statement scared Ben, who nodded to the chief and stepped inside.
Tommy was laying in the hospital bed with his back turned towards the door. Ben could see an I.V. running. He walked around the bed to see Tommy; he didn’t want to scare the boy. Ben pulled a stool close to Tommy and sat. Tommy was awake but didn’t say anything. His left eye was almost swollen shut, and his bottom lip had split. Inside Ben seethed with rage, whoever had done this to Tommy would pay dearly for it. Ben reached out for Tommy’s hand and the boy took it.
“Did they find mom yet?” Tommy asked.
“Not yet, but we will I promise. Can I ask you a few questions about what happened?”
“Why not? It will help us find your mom sooner,” Ben said softly. “Did they threaten to hurt you if you said anything?”
“There is an armed police officer outside of your door, and I have my gun right here. NO one will hurt you, Tommy; you have my word. I need your help, you and Evan both. Do you trust me?”
“Who hit you?”
“A friend of Grandpa Andrew’s.”
“How do you know it was one of your grandpa’s friends?”
“Because Grandpa Andrew was there. He got really mad at the man who hit me.”
“Did your grandpa say he would hurt you?”
“No, the other guys did.”
“How many guys were there?”
“Three plus Grandpa.”
“Do you know where they were taking you and your mom?”
“You are doing well bud. Do you know why they left you at a gas station?”
“Mom woke up, and she went crazy. They told her if she didn’t stop they’d hurt us. Grandpa called dad and told him to come get us, that they were going to leave us. I think they’re going to kill my mom.” Tommy sobbed.
Ben stood up and kissed Tommy’s head.
“I promise you I am going to do everything in my power to see that that doesn’t happen.”
“Did they talk about anything in the car?”
“They kept talking about this game, and about dad, and how this guy won mom in the poker game. Like she belonged to him. I didn’t understand it. Grandpa kept saying, that is how the game worked.”
“Did they say where they were going?”
“No. They just kept hitting mom.”
“I told them to stop, and that’s when the guy in the back seat hit me. Grandpa got really mad and said they were dropping us off, leaving us for dad to pick us up. The guy in the back seat said he’d kill us all if I said anything.”
“Tommy, they won’t. They’d have to come through me to get to you and your brothers; I would never let that happen. You are doing so well. One last question, did you see them get into another car?”
“No, they just drove off and left us. They told mom it was her choice, we could go with them, and they’d kill us, or they could leave us for my dad.”
“Did you know any of the other men besides your grandpa, or hear any names?”
“No. Ben, I think they are going to kill mom. They were so mad at her.” Tommy cried.
“Why were they so mad? Do you know?”
“Something about that card game and some guy named Derek. He wasn’t in the car. It was confusing.”
“Tommy, you did so well. I am so, so proud of you. You and Evan are safe. I have to step outside to check on your brother’s I will be right back.”
“No, don’t leave!”
“I am just going to go to the door then; I won’t leave the room, okay?”
Ben signalled to the chief to come closer to the door. He relayed all of the information Tommy had given so far, making sure to tell him that Rhett would be at the gas station where the boys had been left. Evan and Luke walked back into the room with cups of jello. Luke brought a cup of jello to Tommy and was scared when Tommy rolled over.
“It’s okay, Luke. I just got an owie like you get on your knees.” Tommy said, trying to calm his little brother. “Here come see.” Tommy sat up and patted the bed.
Luke tried to climb up but couldn’t quite make it. Evan walked over and helped him up. Luke inspected Tommy’s face, completely forgetting about the jello. Ben nodded to the chief and stepped outside, leaving the door open so the boys could see him.
“I need to call their aunt and let her know they’re here, and the boys are safe. Can you please step inside with them. The eldest is afraid the guys who took them are going to hurt him.”
The chief nodded while Ben stepped further away from the door to call Becky. Her husband answered, and Ben relayed all of the information he had. He gave them the address to the hospital. They suggested calling Rhett, but when Ben shared that Rhett was most likely involved, it wasn’t mentioned again. It was painful not to have good news about Rachel yet. Ben hung up the phone and went back and waited with the boys. It made his skin crawl that he was not out looking for Rachel, but he knew he was needed to be with the boys. It is what Rachel would have wanted.
Forty minutes later, Becky and her husband, Jack, arrived. Ben stepped out of the room to prepare them to see Tommy. The boy’s face had bruised substantially, and it looked worse than it actually was. Becky took a deep breath and entered to see the boys. Ben waited outside to give them some time together. A minute later, Becky’s husband stepped back out.
“So I hear you are to be family. The boys said you asked Rachel to marry you last night?”
“ The boys are crazy about you. Do you have any new information on Rachel?”
“Not yet. I will go check back in with the chief; I haven’t wanted to stray far from the boys. They’re terrified.”
“Hey, I know you can’t go on a hunch, but I wasn’t exactly surprised when Rhett’s name came up in this. He’s a real piece of shit.”
“I know. Believe me, he’ll get what is coming to him. I’ll be right back.”
“I hope so,” Jack called out, “because if you don’t, I will. That son of a bitch is involved in this somehow. He could never deal with Rachel moving on.”
“I understand what you are saying, but as a detective, I am going to pretend I never heard you say that.” Ben looked at him.
The chief came walking down the hallway, like a man who had something to say. Ben braced himself for the worst.
“Chief Sanders, this is Jack Cline, the boy’s uncle. Do you have news?”
“I do. We have Rhett Lawson in custody. I am sorry we do not have Rachel yet.”
“He isn’t talking.”
“I want to talk to him,” Ben said.
“I don’t know if that is such a good idea.”
“The man is a loose cannon, with the right enticement, he’s explosive. I am the right enticement. Please let me try.” Ben said.
“Chief, Ben’s right. Rhett is a maniac. Nothing would get under his skin like Rachel’s finance and a cop questioning him.”
The chief scratched the top of his head.
“You are way out of jurisdiction here. But it can’t hurt. Come on.”
“Give me a second to say goodbye to the boys. Can I ask another favor? I know I am racking them up?”
The chief’s face, signalling for Ben to ask.
“Can you please leave an armed officer here with the boys. We all know they are safe, but it will make them feel safer.”
“Of course. I will send in Bill Tearny; he has sons too. He’s good with kids.”