“Ben go home. Go see the boys. You haven’t been home in days.” Marty said, looking at Ben who had not left the station since he had got back into the city.
“I am not going home until she comes home too. I already told you.”
“Ben, you’ve been here for two days when was the last time you showered, ate, or slept. You aren’t any good to her like this.”
Ben knew this speech; he had given it many times himself to anxious family members of victims. To make matters worse his chief had heard about the interrogation in Michigan with Rhett and Ben had been placed on leave. He couldn’t work in an official capacity. Ben looked up at Marty, staring right through the bullshit.
“A nap at least? You can crash in the break room. I am not going anywhere; I will wake you if we hear anything. You have to get some sleep before you collapse.”
Ben nodded, he was so tired his vision was blurry, and his hand hurt like hell. He had it cast back at the hospital when he went to check in with the boys before heading back into the city. Becky had taken the boys back to Rachel’s and was staying with them. He could not go home and face the boys without the news that their mother had been found. Ben wanted to be where he had resources actually to help Rachel. He laid down on the old tweed couch in the break room. The sofa smelled, but Ben didn’t care, he was too tired to care. He closed his eyes and saying a silent prayer that Rachel was still alive and fighting. He fought off sleep but it overcame him and he slept deeply.
“Ben, wake up,” Marty said, shaking him awake.
Ben’s eyes shot open; it was completely dark outside. He had been out since evening.
“Did we find her?”
“We have the car. A traffic stop, they have the driver over at the 10th. He gave them an address.”
Ben shot upoff of the sofa.
“The FBI is the lead on this; we need to hang back, their orders.”
“What the fuck is the address, Marty?”
“413 Polk. Ben, we can’t go.” Marty shouted as Ben ran out of the office.
“Stephen Duke’s address.” Ben shouted back “Son of a bitch!”
Marty ran to follow Ben and caught up to him as Ben slid into the driver’s seat of their unmarked car.
“Maybe you should let me drive, man,” Marty said, as he got in on the passenger’s side.
Ben stepped on the gas and flipped the sirens before Marty had even finished closing the door.
“Slow down. You aren’t going to be any help to her if you’re wrapped around a pole. Ben, we don’t know if she’s even there.”
“How do you know?”
“She has to be.”
They rode in silence through the loop.
“Ben, I know you want to be there and you need to be there, but you are going to have to let the FBI run this. You go running in there like a crazed teenager; you are going to get people killed, lose your badge or get Rachel killed. You have got to calm down, man. I know..”
“You don’t have a fucking clue what this has been like. I promised her I would protect her.” Ben said as he cut Marty off.
“Ben, I would be a terrible friend and a worse partner if I didn’t bring this up. You know there is a chance that..” Marty paused.
“Stop. She is alive. I know she is. She’s a fighter. She’s strong.”
Ben switched off the siren when he got a few blocks away. The street looked erily quiet, the FBI had to be staking out the house. Ben drove two blocks past Polk street and parked the car on the street. Marty grabbed Ben’s arm.
“I can’t leave her in there, while the FBI sits around with their thumbs up their asses.”
“Ben.” Marty didn’t know what to say; he knew he’d be in the same position if it were his wife in that house. “Shit this is going to cost me my badge too, damn it.” Marty rubbed his forehead. “How do you want to play this?”
Ben patted his partner on the shoulder.
“Go, make sure the feds don’t shoot me but give me a head start okay?”
Marty let out a deep breath.
“Be careful; you can’t help her if you aren’t here anymore.”
Ben nodded. He got out of the car and shut the door quietly. It was around 11:30 pm and Ben was grateful for the darkness. He slipped through the abandoned lot and the yards behind the house as he crossed into to the back yard behind the Duke’s house. The house was dark. Ben walked up and pulled his gun as he walked to the back door. He expected it to be locked. He spun the knob, and to his surprise, it opened. People in this neighborhood did not leave their back door’s open. Ben stepped inside and left the lights off. He was still and listened for any signs of life in the house.
Meanwhile, Marty pulled around and spotted two undercover agents. He got out of this car and walked up to the driver’s window and introduced himself. He explained that Ben was in the house, which set off a flurry of phone calls.
“Just don’t shoot him, okay?”
Agent Yee came around the block on foot, “Are you guys fucking kidding me?”
“It’s his fiancé.”
“I don’t care if it was the Pope himself,” Yee said.
Ben continued to make his way through the house as quietly as he could. He checked the rooms on the ground floor and then went to the back of the house to take the stairs up to the second floor. He stopped when he thought he heard a whimper. He froze and listened for it again. In his gut, he knew it was Rachel. It sounded like it was coming from below the kitchen. Ben opened the basement door. There was a dim light coming from somewhere in the basement. Ben crept down the stairs, careful to not make a sound. He stepped onto the poured cement floor and saw a door to a room in the back corner. The basement looked like your typical old, unfinished basement, complete with a washer and dryer and a workbench. Ben followed the noise. He walked up to the door, seeing a dim light coming from underneath. He bent down and got on all fours to see if he could see anyone standing in the room. There was only a mattress.
“Rachel?” Ben whispered. “Rachel, are you in there?”
Ben didn’t wait for her to answer. He stood up and opened the door slowly.
Rachel laid naked on a dirty mattress with her hands tied behind her back. She had bruises and cuts all over her. The sight of her took the air out of Ben’s lungs. He ran over to her and bent down. She recoiled, not realizing it was Ben.
“Rachel, it’s me, it’s Ben. You’re safe now. Look at me, honey.”
Ben reached out for her and she pulled further back, pressing her body tightly against the wall. He took off his flannel shirt and covered her with it.
“Rachel, honey, we have to out of here. Come on. Please give me your hand.”
As soon as Ben said, it a hail of gunfire broke out in the floors above. Rachel screamed, and Ben laid over her to protect her. Ben could hear footsteps above. They were going to have to get out of the basement if they stood a chance.
“Rachel, look at me. We have to get out of here now.”
“Ben?” Rachel asked, finally recognizing him.
“Yes, it’s me. Rachel, I am so sorry, I am so, so sorry!” Ben kissed her forehead repeated as he said it. “We have to go now. Do you think you can walk?”
“Untie me, please.” Ben could hear her trying to hold onto her sanity. He reached into his pocket and cut the zip-ties on her wrists. He pulled her hand up to his mouth and pressed a kiss into the center. She reached out and clung to him, as she began to sob. He held her tightly against him, she felt so small and frail in his arms. He never wanted to let go of her again but he knew that they had to get out of the basement, they were trapped down there.
“You’re safe. Come on, we have to go now. You’ve been so strong; I need you to be strong for a little while longer. Come on; I know you can do this.” Ben said softly, as he looked into her deep brown eyes.
Ben stood and helped Rachel to her feet. She was so weak her legs gave out from underneath her. Ben caught her before she fell. He lifted her up into his arms and carried her out of the room, keeping his back close to the wall. He stayed close to the wall, as gunfire was still roaring up above. He walked up the stairs with his back along the wall. Rachel clung to him tightly.
“Honey, I have to put you down to check if the kitchen is clear. I will keep ahold of you, but you have to stay behind me. I won’t let you fall.”
Rachel nodded as Ben set her down, her feet landing on the top step of the basement stairs. The kitchen miraculously seemed to be clear. Ben took a deep breath as he scooped Rachel back up into his arms and walked quickly across the kitchen. He opened the back door, which was tricky with Rachel in his arms and his casted hand. He stepped out onto the back porch, Rachel hands dug into his shoulders as she clung to him. He pressed a kiss onto the top of her head as he started down the stairs. He heard a loud noise he couldn’t place and Rachel scream. Ben felt Rachel fall from his arms. The world went black.
The morning Rachel was to be discharged, Ben slept on a couch in her room. It was still early when she slipped out of bed and shuffled across the linoleum floor. She bent down and wiped the hair from Ben’s forehead. His eyes shot open.
“Why are you out of bed?”
“Because you are over here. Come climb in with me.”
“I’m okay. Come on I’ll tuck you back in.” Ben said as he sat up.
She stood back up, a little shaky on her feet. She held his hand as he helped her back into her bed and pulled his hand gently.
“Climb in with me.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t, look there’s enough room.” She patted the space in the bed next to her.
Ben climbed in and Rachel rolled onto her side to face him.
He pulled her body in close to him and nestled her head under his chin. He kissed the top of her head.
“Ben, I want to do something a crazy little today when we leave.”
“We can do whatever you want.”
“I want to marry you today.”
“What? Why today? Wouldn’t you rather wait until you are more healed?”
“No, today is the first day I will be strong enough to marry you. Just the boys, and me, and you, and a preacher. I just held onto that while I was captive and promised myself that I would marry you as soon as I was able. That is what I was fighting for, to be with you.”
“Rachel, will you marry me today, at the farmhouse, with our boys there?”
Rachel began to cry, this time, happy tears.
“Yes, Ben Carter I will marry you at your farmhouse today.”
Suddenly, it was afternoon as Rachel walked out onto the back porch with Tommy at her side to give her away. The air was crisp, and the leaves just began to change, on a beautiful autumn day as the sun started to set She walked the ten feet where Ben stood next to the local reverend, as a small group of family and friends had gathered to see Ben and Rachel marry. They exchanged vows as the boys looked on happily.
Rachel shot up in bed, in a pool of sweat, her nightdress soaked through. It was cruel to dream things like that, and she hated herself for it. To be so happy and then to wake up to reality, alone. Everything in her body craved Ben’s touch, his presence, but he had died that night, the night he came to rescued her. A bullet had hit him in the head and had killed him instantly. Six months had passed since that awful night. Rachel put her hand over her mouth; she didn’t want the boys to hear her sobbing. Felix, Ben’s cat, jumped up onto the bed and nudged her. She grabbed ahold of the cat and held onto him. This was going to be another sleepless night for Rachel, just one of many she cried through since Ben had died.
Life had changed drastically for Rachel, with Rhett and Andrew behind bars. The FBI had busted the poker game. There were 104 arrests; two prostitution rings broken up, an illegal trafficking operation stopped and the largest drug bust in Chicago history, all as a result of the poker game in Jim Danwood’s garage. Everyone was shocked by the ways the poker game weaved a web of crime through the city. The city had awarded Ben the Police Medal, the Chicago Police Department’s highest honor. While Rachel began to work through all of the trauma she had endured.
Rachel sold her house on Lilac Lane; she couldn’t live across the street from Ben’s house. His brothers had sold his house as well. It was too painful to stay there for her. She had rented a townhouse out near Becky in Oswego, and had set to making a new life for her and the boys. They took Ben’s death hard too. Rachel had found a good family therapist, and they were all working through Ben’s death, and her kidnapping. Ben’s death was a broken promise of happiness for them as well.
Rachel got up out of bed and walked over to the record player it, and the one record she kept were the only things of Ben’s that she had asked for. The boys insiseted the they take Felix and Ben’s older brother Joel was happy to let the boys have the cat. The one record she had asked for was the one they had danced to in Ben’s office. She turned the knob as the turntable began to spin and she gently picked up the needle setting it in the right spot. The music begain, but she kept the volume low, not to wake the boys. The warm voice radiated from the player as sat on the bed listening to the song waft through the room, instantly transported back to Ben’s office. If she focused really hard she could almost smell him.
Startled she heard a knock at the door, she perked up and wiped the tears off of her cheeks.
“Come in.” She cleared her throat.
Evan walked in.
“Why are you up, buddy?” She asked as she reached out for him.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Are you missing Ben again, Mom?”
“I am sweetie. How about you?”
“Yeah, I was thinking about how he took care of us in the hospital when you were gone. He was really nice to us.”
“He loved you, boys, very much.”
“Mom are we going to be okay?”
“What do you mean sweetie?”
“Will the bad guys ever come back?”
“No, they won’t ever come back. Ben may have left, but he did what he promised you boys, he made sure those bad men would never come back to hurt any of us.”
Evan reached out and hugged Rachel.
“You need to get back to bed sweetie, it’s late, and you have school in the morning. Come on; I’ll tuck you back in.”
Rachel stood to walk Evan back to bed. She took two steps but didn’t hear him behind her, so she turned around to look at him.
“Mom want to dance?” Evan held out his hand. “We have this good music.”
Rachel let out a little chuckle as she took Evan’s hand. She gave him his first slow dance in her bedroom, to the Etta James song that had meant so much to her.
Jonathan W Thomas says
Unbelievable. Can’t believe you did that.
I am glad you felt so deeply for the characters and their story
Grace Frazier says
Jacqueline, This reminded me of why I never read Nicholas Sparks anymore. No negative feelings toward you, but I had assumed this to be a romance, rather than only that which typically happens in life. For that I would only read the headlines. There is an aspect I have placed upon romance novels – that they at least have a resolution that keeps the lives of the couple in the equation. This one took the floor out from under me. Not interested in another such experience. My fault for having expectations about the genre. This was more like my vision of a novel, rather than a romance. Your writing is compelling to the ‘nth’ – so much so that it hurts too much. Thank you for the privilege of reading your work. Blessings.
Hi Grace. I want to start by thanking you from the bottom of my heart that you stuck through and read the entire work, it means the world to me. I am so sorry that you are so heartbroken. Even as the author, I was as well. This was not the original ending, I had written a happy ending for Ben and Rachel’s story but in my gut, the characters were telling me that was not how the story was supposed to end. I sat on the “happy ending” for a week after I wrote it, wrestling with what to do do. So I finally sat down and rewrote the ending, and as I reread my work, I knew in my gut this was how their story ended. Ben might not have made it but he left Rachel in a safer world for her and the boys. He also showed her that she was capable of loving again.
Thank you so very much for reading all the way through!