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Jesse’s resistance sickeningly only seemed to encourage Karl to continue with his plans, his grip tightening, and his invasion of space becoming more and more. If Baxter and Byrn didn’t act when they did, Jesse was once again only moments away from ending up with the same fate as many other of her fellow Street Brat’s. As Baxter ripped her away, and her foot connected with Karl’s leg, an enraged howl of pain climbed out of his lungs. His anger translated as he grabbed the baseball bat, swinging straight for Baxter with all the force he had. He’d kill the little shit, just like he should have days before, and grab the girl and finish what he started! Despite being injured and writhing in his own pain, Karl had a lot of strength and the weight of the bat was adding extra pressure on Baxter’s arms! Usually Baxter wouldn’t have hesitated in slamming his blade into the bastards heart. Unlike most, he didn’t have the fear of taking a life, but he wouldn’t get the opportunity since he was trapped in a deadlock!
As he shouted his orders to Jesse, much like she never expected him to come running back to save her, he never expected her to have the will to fight. In fact he was almost expecting that he got himself and Byrn into a death trap and that Jesse would run while she could! She ran away from Logan, so what would be the difference? Why would she try and save someone who tried to kill her in the past?
Of course it seemed this night would be filled with surprises. Feeling the blade ripped from his belt, he was almost caught off guard in surprise that Karl nearly got the advantage! Unable to see what Jesse was up to and having to focus on keeping his strength, Baxter growled and tightened his shaking arms, feeling the strength they had quickly draining with each passing second. He wouldn’t have been able to hold on much longer, but as Jesse slammed that blade into Karl’s shoulder, it was enough for Bax to make his move.
He ripped the baseball bat from Karl’s hands and with Chrissy’s yelp from the arrow, and the pitch black darkness that took over, his next actions were invisible to be seen by even those next to him. Instead there was the sound of bone cracking, and wood colliding with solid human mass. It repeated, with the sound of gargling blood and the only hint of how brutally Baxter was attacking Karl, was the wet liquid that was spraying around, spraying so far it hit Jesse’s side... the beating continued for a few more moments, before the bat could be heard clanking against the floor and Karl’s gargling and blood filled breaths ceased...
Grabbing Jesse’s wrist, Baxter sprinted away from the scene, trusting that Byrn would follow closely behind. He didn’t hesitate to run in the direction that the traders had informed them the kids were, but as soon as they broke through the darkness and returned to some makeshift lights within the Underground, he grabbed Jesse and slammed her against the wall.
The light revealed Karl’s blood covering Baxter from head to toe. His chest was heaving up and down trying to catch a breath from using everything he had to kill Karl, but also the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He looked insane and it was all directed to Jesse!
[+blue “We told you we weren’t your fucking babysitter! Why did you let him do that!? You don’t have my brother to keep you safe all the time, he’s made you weak! YOU CAN’T BASTARDS LIKE KARL DO THAT!”] Baxter yelled at Jesse. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but there was one thing he was forgetting... Jesse was a reader...
He didn’t even realise it himself, but there was an instinctive desire to protect Jesse. He was still feeling that shaky feeling in his gut and when Karl reached forward and grabbed her, he saw red... his body was shaking and he didn’t even know that he was scared for Jesse’s fate. Shaking his head, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blood hair clip, which Jesse had stabbed into her attackers wrist just moments before. With gritted teeth he pulled away from her, throwing the clip as he did and turning to Byrn to make sure she hadn’t received any injuries. He was grateful for her smart and quick thinking, but he was never one to express his gratitude.
[+blue “If what they said was true, they’ll only be down that path if we follow it straight down. We stick together. No more acts. I suggest Jesse, you keep hold of that blade of mine and you don’t let anyone get too close again... “] Baxter warned, finally feeling the adrenaline falling from him and he turned back to face the Silvertongue.
[+blue “Don’t think I did it because you’re anything special... come on...Byrn, let’s go.”] He instructed both as he did, he stormed ahead, keeping his distance towards Jesse. Perhaps it was partially due to his own nature, but perhaps it was also due to this new protective feeling he had washing over him which he didn’t like.
Sure enough, close by, the sound of metal clashing against rock could be heard. The rustling of chains and the groaning of starving and exhausted children also added to the chorus... down below was exactly what Karl had described. Children, all chained together, forced to work to their death. Some had already collapsed; unconscious or dead, being dragged by their peers. Slavers, all armed with leather whips and heavy batons, paced up and down the work chain, attacking those who didn’t match the pace they were expected to work. The conditions were foul, with the stench of death and disease taking over the already dank surroundings of the underground. It would be a surprise even if they did rescue the living, if they would live for much longer... what was more terrifying however was that were they where digging was heading straight to the chemical site, with toxic liquid already breaking through the walls...
[+brown “I get that they made a deal but man, why didn’t he just talk to us!? We could have made them believe he was acting! We could have done something, bought time to actually go and save the kid or something... he’s an idiot who runs in head first!”] Larry huffed out in exhaustion of his brother. Why did he have to be such a reckless fool? He never did learn, even when he was sober! At least sober Jack could be reasoned with once his emotions were in check, it was just getting him to that point. Though as Seth warned him about how bad Jack had fallen, Larry leaned forward on his desk and felt himself gripping the arms of his computer chair a little too tightly.
[+brown “Whatever you do, don’t let him drink Seth. I mean it man, don’t let him drink. It’s dangerous, but it’s more if he has the time to touch the bottle. Prison will destroy him if he can’t see his family, but he’ll want to go down in fire as some sort of weird punishment to himself. He’ll try and touch the bottle, I know it. Don’t let him. If he does, call me.”] Larry insisted, not willing to take any risks. If he had to leave the safety of his computer, he would. Anything for his brother.
[+brown “I’ll work my magic. I’ll keep you guys on track with time too. Just keep the comms up with us and stay safe man, we don’t need the old days creeping back on us. Let’s get this nightmare over with.”] Letting Seth go, Larry connected to the first bank desperate to see his brother. He was already watching the cameras, seeing Jack in action and he felt a pit in his stomach. Whilst Jack was incredible good at what he did, Larry was almost waiting for the reckless act that would lead him into danger. If he couldn’t stop this madness of following these plans from happening, he would do everything in his power to make sure he didn’t get hurt or worse whilst doing it!
As Seth’s phone line dropped he turned to see the messages from Caleb, having his own camera pointing down on him so his friend and mentor could see his reactions. It also helped if he ever got stuck that Caleb could see his set-up and help him out!
[+brown “I’m just pulling up the records of that place. Shit, man, Caleb have you seen the records? Old enemies who tried to kill us. If Martyn can’t work his magic, maybe we need a secondary plan. We need to have access to the technology in that place to keep him safe.”] Larry preempted, knowing it might be over planning but those prisons were hard to crack and watching his brother already, he didn’t want to take anymore risks.
The stress was visible on his face, but he could always count on Caleb for easing the tone.
[+brown “Modesty was never your finest skill. Cocky bast-... shit, what’s happening Caleb? The hospital? I... whoa man, wait, wait...I... Caleb, Lily Sanders has just popped up on the Police National Computer. She’s on her way to lock-up...”]
[+red “HE’S MY SON! I decide when we give up! I decide when enough is enough! NO! Don’t you dare! DON’T!”] Elliot’s pain could be heard across the operating theatre, his eyes wide and already filling with tears as the doctor called the time of death. If Lynn didn’t come in when she did, the Evenwood father would have climbed over his own son’s body and launched for the doctors!
There was an instant relief, falling back in his chair as the best Street Brat medic entered the scene. He fell back in his chair, looking at his hands and seeing his son’s blood all over him. He had followed Hayden’s advice, closing his eyes and allowing himself to re-focus when needed, attempting to block out the fear and remember exactly why he was doing this but now he was hating himself! What if all those times he did that was the reason his son crashed? Maybe if he worked quicker, his son’s strength could focus less on his arm and more on his heart. Yet as he heard heart transplant, he selfishness couldn’t help but take in a deep breath of fear. It was as if his lungs were making him take deep breaths, but each one was fuelled by terror to the point he felt his lungs were going to pop!
It was selfish, but it had already been hours and he didn’t seem any closer to fixing his son’s arm. There was no one in the OR who understood Elliot’s trauma, but as Lynn snapped back his focus and he heard that maternal tone that almost reminded him of his own mothers, he blinked away his tears and choked back the fear that was building up.
[+red “You said you will get him off this table. Do you mean that Lynn?”] Elliot asked, nodding at her request but begging for an answer in return.
Putting his attention back on his son’s arm, hoping that Lynn could work another one of her own miracles, he started to work to actually make it something. He had already pulled out some of the broken bits of useful metal, and parts of the debris that had gotten inside but Rylan’s arm was going to be different. Where Elliot could detach his, Rylan’s was so infused into his bone he would need a permanent attachment. Elliot had to work in infusing the new construction to the bone, giving Rylan a permanent robotic arm. Grabbing a screw, Elliot started to create a new metal forearm by attaching a metal bar into his sons bone...
[+red “Does he need anything else? Does he need my blood whilst this is happening? Does he need Hayden, or Alex? They will be here. If he needs it Lynn, then call them. I am NOT losing my son!”]
Lily looked at Eleanor with an empty and hopeless expression. She wanted to argue. She wanted to say that she had always been the enemy and that the moment she appeared, she ruined the Sanders. Eleanor never wanted to protect the children, she wanted to rip the family apart and Lily couldn’t help but see some enjoyment in the woman’s eyes.
Hearing the Officer and listening to Eleanor explain the circumstances, Lily turned to the approaching man whose handcuffs was already leaving his belt to slap on her wrists.
[+orange “If you really believe her, if you believe I would do that to my own child, then you go ahead. I want you to remember...”]
[i “Remember that you’re mother and father were both respected officers? They were indeed ma’am. I highly respected your father, he’s who made me want to become an officer or the law and your mother made a real difference. However, you and your husband have been causing problems since you moved in. We have reports of drunk and disorderly behaviour, breach of the peace recorded by neighbours with high noise, shouting, the missing person reports of your son... I have to take these allegations seriously and your parents would be turning in their grave to hear what has happened today.”] The officer commented, which seemed to act like a punch in the gut to Lily! The shock was enough for the Officer to apply the handcuffs on Lily.
[i “Lily Sanders, I am arresting you on suspicion of child cruelty, child abduction, obstruction of police in relation to failing to report a missing child, and assault. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence, if you do not mention when questioned something which you may later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”] The officer stated, pulling Lily away from her house and towards the car, giving Miss. Carrow a sympathetic look.
[i “All files will be sent to you ma’am in respect to Lily’s case and in relation to Logan’s protection. I’ll have Jack Sanders warrant issued and an area search by patrols. I’m sorry this happened to you, you do great work for our community.”]
And with that, Lily was thrown into the back of the police car and the call was made over the radio for Jack Sanders arrest. Available officers would start actively searching for the thief and no doubt his bank robberies would soon attract more attention...
[+green “Lisa, what do we say? Do we get every court case right? No. Far from it. What we do is we adjust, we manage the situation. We reassess. Jesse isn’t with the kidnappers, she’s a smart girl. We have to trust her too. We also have to somehow trust Logan not to be anymore reckless than his father. As much as he’s injured, he’s alive.”] Martyn spoke up, seeing the stress in his partners eyes. He too was carrying a stress which she would be able to read, but he wanted to provide her with a perspective which could keep them both thinking logically and stop the stress from blocking them from planning forward. It was rare the two got emotional, or allowed a situation to play on their mind, so the fact they were nothing feeling the pressure made Martyn realise how much they had to take a step back from their own emotions.
[#00BFFF “You just said they’ll kill him anyway! They probably already have an idea we are acting on them, Whether we plan or not, you’re saying it’ll be lucky if Logan is alive anyway by the time we get to him! I know you want to prevent anything worse from happening but what is your actual plan? Go there, negotiate, hope for the best? I think you know that won’t work.”] Tigan challenged but it wasn’t from a malicious place, it was just out of concern for Logan and Jesse! Beside’s after what he heard about Jack, he needed something for his best friend to fight for and if they got Logan out, as much as he thought he let the boy down Jack would always be there for him!
[#00BFFF “I won’t be reckless. Am I ever reckless?”] Tigan asked, seeing the corner eye from Martyn who almost actually let out a sarcastic laugh that his brother had the tenacity to ask that question!
[#00BFFF “Alright, alright yeah I am but I know how important this is. I follow your orders. I’m here to keep you safe and jump in if things get messy. If you guys really want to plan, you plan.”]
[+green “You’re finally learning. It’s about time.”] Martyn responded, nodding for them all to get in the car and he started to drive towards the coordinates given. As Jesse had started running away from the house, it didn’t plant them right outside of where Logan was being held, but it was enough distance for them to see the house in the distance as they started to arrive.
[+green “What do you think Lisa? Tigan is right, they won’t negotiate Or, actually, they will but they won’t let us win. All the cards are in their hands. How about I go in? I’ll act I’ am betraying the family, I’m done. I can play the act that I’m broken, I can’t do it anymore and I want to help them deal with Logan. I can do it. My past plays a part. They know I used to give up on the Brat’s and betray them on multiple occasions. I can say I turned my back on you as well...”]
[#00BFFF “And what if they catch on to you lying? Now who is reckless?”] Tigan challenged back, not liking that his brother was prepared to put himself straight into the danger zone without support!
[+green “I do not fail.”] Martyn was just as quick to respond.
[+green “If you trust in my abilities, you know I am very good at what I do. So is Lisa. I’ll have a microphone, she can read the situation, if it goes wrong then we change tactics. She can spread to me through the earpiece. We use it in court all the time...yes, cheating a little but it works. Lisa, you trust I can do this? I can make it work.”] He asked, turning to his wife and looking her in the eyes. It was dangerous. If it went wrong, they could kill Logan and Martyn wasn’t strong enough to fight. No doubt he could die before help would arrive but he needed to get close and assess the situation. Even if they couldn’t save Logan now, if Martyn could at least find out if he was being moved to another location or what their intentions where, it would help them all strategise their next plan!
Jesse felt disgusted just being in this man’s grasp. As he leaned in to smell her hair, a deep chill ran down her spine that her normally perfect mask couldn’t quite contain. The façade was crumbling and despite Jesse’s valiant efforts, she knew she wouldn’t be able to take much more of this invasion of her space. Jesse was never very tolerant of physical affection. With a mother and father who never gave her anything more than a simple hand on her shoulder , the only person who Jesse ever allowed in her space was Logan, and even with him the physical side of their friendship was virtually nonexistent. Jesse was uncomfortable with a simple hug, so to have this vile man holding her close with his lips grazing the delicate skin on her neck, Jesse started to panic!
[#aa0000 “Get off me! LET GO!”] She snapped, trying to keep her tough act, but the desperation was starting to seep into her tone and now it would be quite obvious that Jesse was scared. The scene was far too familiar to her time with Dylan and the scene sent her spiraling into a flashback. She felt nauseous and her chest tightened as if she couldn’t breathe. Her perception was off and she had trouble grasping her surroundings, all she knew was she needed to get away before Dylan… no Karl… went any further!
Bryn was disgusted by what she saw. Maybe instead of cutting off his ear, Baxter should have cut off something below the belt. At least then he wouldn’t go after anymore young girls. But they had their Intel. They had their first real chance at saving the other kids! From what Chrissy and Karl described, it might already be too late, so they had to act quickly. And rushing in there to save Jesse would only risk Bryn and Baxter getting hurt when they were needed to help save the others! They had every reason to leave Jesse behind, and yet…
As Baxter turned on his heels and marched into the trading port, Bryn didn’t hesitate to back him up. As she said, this was his decision and she would have his back no matter what. With Baxter going directly for Jesse and Karl, Bryn moved to intercept one of the gang members that rushed onto the scene. She wasn’t the best fighter, but she was small, fast, determined, at least enough to slow them down.
Jesse was shocked to feel the grip on her shoulders release, but didn’t let her surprise stop her one chance to escape. She slammed her foot into his shin and pulled away, stumbling slightly as she tried to get as far from that creep as possible. Feeling Baxter’s tight and painful grip tugging her forward was another surprise. Jesse had read Baxter before they started this mission. He had meant what he said when he first found her – that if she got into trouble, she was on her own. Everything else about how they’d jump in if there was trouble had been a lie. Jesse knew when she set foot into the trading post that she’d be on her own as soon as she got them the information. So why did he change his mind?
Hearing Baxter’s shout, Jesse reached for the blade in his belt, defying her every instinct to run and hide. She was not a fighter. Like her mom and dad she avoided all conflict if she could, relying on her words instead of her fists, but she couldn’t just leave Bryn and Baxter to fight after they had just saved her life! Jesse turned to stab the blade at Karl, only to have her wrist caught by another gang member. In an uncharacteristically violent motion, Jesse used her broken arm to pull the hidden bladed clip from her hair and jab it into her attacker’s wrist, forcing him to let go. Consequently, she lost her hair clip, but she still had Baxter’s blade. In an attempt to repay Baxter for sparing her Jesse lifted the knife and plunged it downwards towards Karl’s shoulder.
Meanwhile, Bryn had managed to take out her first opponent, but the odds were heavily staked against them and with Chrissy wielding that machete, Bryn didn’t like the fact that their team only had these little pick-sticks! Fortunately, they were in a trading post, meaning there were all kinds of unique items and weapons stashed about. Bryn made a move for the stash, instantly setting her sights on a weapon she had learned to use at summer camp when she was a child. The bow felt heavy in her hands and the string was hard to pull back, but Bryn’s aim was steady. She shot her first arrow towards Chrissy to slow her down before setting her aim a little higher. The second shot took out the lights, casting the entire trading post in darkness. With no natural light, the tunnels were pitch black, making it impossible to fight or see each other in the darkness. Fortunately, Baxter and Bryn knew these tunnels like the backs of their hands, and would be able to slip away.
Seth was used to the miracles concocted by the skills of a computer expert. He had been close friends with Caleb since the beginning of their Street Brats days and had come to learn there as very little a well-caffeinated hacker couldn’t accomplish. Over the years he’d come to have the same faith in Larry, so the relief that came with just the sound of the younger hacker’s voice was welcomed and expected.
[#336699 “Getting caught was part of the gig. The bastards that too Logan threatened to kill the kid if Jack didn’t send himself to prison for all of this which would be bad enough under normal circumstances, but… Larry, Lily’s scared. She warned me that Jack may not think he has anything left to fight for and you know as well as I do that’s a dangerous train of thought to be in that Kid’s head.”] Seth warned him. Larry had seen the brunt of Jack’s depression after losing Lily the first time, so he wanted the kid well informed of what they could be up against.
[#336699 “I’ll text you the banks as well as the accounts we’re breaking into. If you guys could also work your magic to make it look like there’s only one of us robbing the place at a time, that would be wonderful. I don’t want to through this deal if the guards start seeing double.”] Seth asked, knowing he was asking a lot of their multi-tasking friends, but he had the upmost faith in the hackers. Larry wasn’t the only one working a mile a minute. Caleb had been decrypting the coordinates of Jesse’s call, sending over his part to Larry once he was finished. In the meantime, he had accessed the hospital surveillance system to keep an eye on Rylan’s surgery, and hacked the airport’s hub as well to rush Lynn through security once she hit the ground and to make sure she hit every green light on the way to the airport. If Caleb’s skills were good as a teenager, they were incredible now. Between him and Larry, they practically held the keys to this city! Now it was finally time to put it all to good use.
[i “They’ll most likely send Jack to Blackgate Penitentiary. It’s the only high security prison in the province that hasn’t had a Street Brat escape from it. It also holds a lot of our old enemies, but that might help Martyn make the case for Jack to be kept in solitary for his own protection.”] Caleb typed back to Larry, letting his seven fingers fly across the keyboard.
[i “Jack Sanders, outsmart you? Not likely. After all, you were trained by the best :P”] Caleb typed back, proving even being a mute, seven-fingered, introvert didn’t stall Caleb’s sarcastic sense of humour. But all traces of amusement disappeared as one of Caleb’s many sensor’s went off, indicating a crisis at the hospital. Rylan Evenwood had just flatlined.
[#776677 “Mr. Evenwood, I’m sorry… There’s nothing more we can do for your son.”] The doctor explained as their third attempt to resuscitate the boy failed.
[#776677 “We have to call it. Time of death: 11:37pm…”]
[#ff33ff “Get out of my way! Elliot, keep working on his arm. Dr. Tailor, prepare the OR for a transplant. Dr. Mitchells, bring in the Driving Instructor. I’ve already had Caleb run the records, he’s a match for organ donation. I am not giving up on this boy yet.”] Lynn Williams barged into the Operating Room having been fully briefed on her way here. While normally a gentle, motherly soul, anyone who knew Lynn knew better than to mess with her during a medical crisis!
[#776677 “Dr. Williams? You’re retired! Besides, you can’t honestly think this boy is strong enough to survive a heart transplant!”]
[#ff33ff “Retired? Dr. Taylor, I’ll be treating Street Brats from now until the day I die myself, and then probably still from beyond the grave with how much trouble this family gets into. Now stop wasting time and get this done! I’ve been keeping this boy alive since before he was even born, so I can promise you he WILL survive the transplant and he WILL make it off this table! Do what I say and stay out of my way!”] Lynn snapped, immediately diving into her work, literally reaching into the boy’s chest to pump his heart with her own hands just to buy him time for the transplant.
[#ff33ff “Elliot, you were right to call me. You focus on the arm and let me worry about the rest. We’ll get Rylan through this, Ell, you just have to stay focused and keep your chin up, alright Sweetheart?”] Lynn replied in a much softer, more maternal tone as she spoke to a man she practically saw as a son. She knew Elliot’s fears would be complicating this more and more, but in order for Rylan to have a chance, she needed Elliot focused on the arm. Without that, the new heart wouldn’t matter. Rylan’s body wouldn’t be able to take the shock of his damaged limb.
[#ff00ff “Mrs. Sanders, you speak as if I’m your enemy! This isn’t about sides, Lily, this is about doing what’s right for your children! All I have ever wanted was to protect your son: whether that means bringing him into the care of CPS or arresting your husband so that Logan can live safely with you.”] Eleanor tried to reason, expecting Lily to take the deal and lock her husband behind bars. He was headed there anyway, but this would ensure Lily felt it was her own fault! Besides, this wasn’t just custody of Logan on the line, Eleanor had threatened to take her unborn child as well, as soon as it was delivered. She’d be a fool to risk all of that for her husband.
A fool, but a loyal fool. Eleanor hadn’t planned on Lily taking the full blame but it seemed the mother was indeed willing to risk her entire life and freedom to protect the reputation of her husband. Either way, Eleanor got what she wanted.
[#ff00ff “I’m sorry to hear that Lily. It seems you’ve left me with no choice.”] Eleanor said, more for the benefit of the witnesses to play up her role as an innocent public servant. As the officer arrived on seen, Eleanor gave a pitied look towards the mother.
[#ff00ff “Yes, Officer, this woman has just admitted to abusing her child. Logan Sanders has been missing since his altercation at the party last night. His parents have failed to report him missing, and when I confronted this woman about it, she violently assaulted me. CPS will be taking full custody of Logan Sanders, so any further progress on the case or ransom calls can be forwarded directly to me. Although, I’ll admit officer, I do worry for the boy… He disappeared hours after he assaulted his classmate, threatening the pardon that Mrs. Sanders had arranged for her family. His actions got his step father fired and drew the attention of CPS, and I fear… with abusive parents like these, I worry that Lily and Jack Sanders were responsible for their own son’s disappearance. Of course, I would never give up hope for a child, but I’m afraid Logan might already be dead.”] Eleanor admitted, looking genuinely distraught, but all of it was an act. If she convinced the police that looking for Logan was a pointless waste of resources, then they wouldn’t put much time into finding him and Eleanor, Pyke, and Dylan would have nothing to worry about.
[#ff00ff “I would recommend putting out a warrant for the arrest of Jack Sanders as well. And when you do catch him, Office, I think it would be wise to send the two to different prisons. Street Brats like these two have a habit of slipping through police custody when they work together. Personally, I think the only way to keep dear Logan safe would be to ensure Lily Sanders never sees her husband again.”]
Lisa was still fuming when she finally met up with Martyn. Having her partner back at her side was a relief, but with it came the admittance that she had failed in his absence. She wasn’t able to protect their little girl and she had lost the trust of the Sanders as well. Things were looking significantly more bleak than they were before Martyn left.
[+green “Lily and Jack ruined the ransom call. I wasn’t able to get proof of life for Jesse. I did get a reading that she was no longer with the kidnapers and was hoping to use that to buy Logan more times, but Jack opened his big mouth and put them on a clock. He has to steal every penny from the Brats and turn himself over for a life sentence or they’ll kill Logan. Of course, they’ll probably kill the boy anyway…”] Lisa reported, shaking her head. Seeing Tigan step out of the car, Lisa let the harshness of her eyes soften a little at the sight of her brother-in-law. She wasn’t pleased to see the bruises any more than Martyn was, but Lisa knew it was nothing serious. Jack may be an idiot, but he would never purposely cause any real harm to his best friend. Still, it didn’t make her like the reckless thief any more at the moment.
[+green “Going in there without a plan is dangerous Tigan. These kidnappers were capable of catching both Logan and Jesse of guard, so they’re certainly not amateurs. And they’ve demonstrated they’re not afraid to hurt the kids. From Jesse’s voice on the call, I could tell she’d been hurt badly – a broken jaw among other injures and beyond that was a fear I’ve never heard from her before. As for Logan, he was actively tortured on the ransom call. He was shot, beaten, and one of the kidnappers carved his face to resemble Jack. They won’t hesitate to kill their hostages the moment they think we’re on to them.”] Lisa warned from what she had read over the two calls. Fortunately, they had a lead. Larry’s text came through with coordinates that lead out of town. Normally, Lisa would suggest having Jack come along to stealthily break into the base and free the kids while they distracted the kidnappers. They could let Seth continue to rob the banks so it would look like Jack was occupied, freeing up the father to help them rescue the kids safely. However, Lisa wasn’t exactly trusting of the thief at this point. If that call was any indication, Jack’s impulsive attitude could cost them in the field.
[+green “Alright, we have the coordinates of Jesse’s call. I doubt they’ll stay there for long. These Kidnappers seem smart and once they realize Jesse stole one of their phones, no doubt they’ll have plans to move the kids someplace safer. We don’t have a lot of time to waste. Tigan, I know you care about those kids, so I trust you on this. Just don’t make the same reckless mistakes as Jack did.”]
It was no surprise to Chrissy that Dylan had sent someone down. He would never step foot down in the Underground for a matter of his own dignity, seeing it as a place for scum, and probably more likely to stop one of his precious suits from being destroyed... also up on the surface he had a lot more places to hide if things went wrong, and he had a lot more luxuries should everything go to plan. So it wasn’t a surprise, but what was odd was how this girl seemed to know so much. Usually Dylan would give them a simple message, they would pass it on, and if the kid was lucky they would make it back to the city
[#FF7F50 “Then ya better hope he gets unbury pretty soon. He knows we call after every one of his little messengers comes down, we gotta protect ourselves. We gotta reputation and some snivelling little rat might try and claim they are one of Dylan’s. Karl, don’t get too hands on. We might have to sell ‘er after...”] Chrissy warned her partner, watching as his hands were already gripping tightly on her arms but his eyes were scanning her body. He laughed a little, licking his lips as he did and almost getting a kick as Jesse attempted to squirm away!
[#9ACD32 “She’s too pretty to be hurtin’ too much. Looks like Dylan already beat ‘er good, wouldn’t want to ruin that pretty little body...”] Karl’s grip only tightened as Jesse tried to fight, his one hand holding her still while his other grabbed her pony tail and brought it up to his nose, smelling her hair as he had her exactly where he wanted.
[#9ACD32 “I’m sure Dylan has given you a good time, but you’ve got one thing wrong pretty girl... Dylan doesn’t mind sharin’ - thing is he probably already has another girl in his lap already! You know I usually dispose of girls after I’m done with ‘em. We sell ‘em, but you might be a keeper. I’ve never met such a pretty little lady...”] Karl whispered into her ear, bringing his lips to her neck as he spoke and putting Jesse in the exact same position she was in only hours ago with Dylan...
Baxter scowled when Byrn questioned his distraction, giving her one of his ‘classic’ looks which everyone knew too well. It was the ‘you better stop asking questions or you’ll have to watch what happens’. Usually with Baxter, the consequence wasn’t pretty. He did hate the Brat’s, and he particularly hated his family and anyone who put themselves closely to his family. Yet when Jesse changed her appearance and walked with that confidence, he saw a different side to the girl and he couldn’t help but stop and stare in awe! His stomach felt twisted, almost as if something was fluttering but he shook it off the moment Byrn snapped him back to reality. The plan for Jesse was to be disposable; she had her skills, yeah it was impressive... whatever...
[+blue “She has to learn to watch her own back. I’m not a babysitter... she knew what injuries she had before she agreed. She made her choice. Let’s get going...”] Baxter instructed, pushing himself off the shed wall and preparing to sneak away until he took one last glance over his shoulder. Karl’s sickening laugh could be heard and Baxter’s eyes just caught the man putting his lips on Jesse’s neck. Gritting his teeth, Baxter tried to walk away before he let out a frustrated growl of frustration, spinning around and punching the shed wall in his own frustration.
[+blue “I warned that bastard didn’t I? I said he’d have more than a broken leg and a missing ear if he... fuck it.”]
Despite Baxter’s previous warnings about how it was a death trap, and how they were unlikely to get out alive if they headed down, he made no attempt to hide his presence. Storming into the centre of the trading post, he whipped out one of his blades and threw it straight towards Karl’s shoulder which caused the grabby bastard to scream out and release Jesse for a brief few seconds.
[+blue “I warned you!”]
[#FF7F50 “Baxter! That kid’s head has a price on it down here. Damn it Karl it’s just a stupid blade! Kill him!”] Chrissy ordered, pulling a switch on the trading post which turned on a red light. Within moments, other figures started to appear from the shadows, each brandishing their own weapon and each marked with their own tattoo representing their individual gangs.
Ragging Jesse’s arm, not carting too much about her injuries, Baxter pulled her so she was stood behind him as Karl hobbled up to his feet and lifted up his deadly baseball bat.
[#9ACD32 “She wanted it Baxter and when did yer start carin’? Looks like you’re just as sappy as yer pathetic little whore of a mother...”] Karl hissed, lifting up the baseball bat for a fatal strike towards Baxter’s head, all while the other figures were still approaching!
Baxter was able to catch the bat with both his hands, saving himself from a fatal strike but now Chrissy had a machete in her hand, her eyes glaring straight at Jesse.
[+blue “Jesse you either learn to fight or you run! Remember, we’re not your fuckin’ babysitters! Grab a knife from my belt!”]
Larry was sat at his computer, working on multiple screens and with a live feed chat to Caleb. While Caleb couldn’t speak, it was much easier for Larry to ramble away to the other computer geek and if there was any important information that Caleb had to translate back, Larry had a live chat open with his friend. He was surrounded by energy drinks, bleeping machines, and even a clock with a timer above his head reminding him of just how much time they had left. As his phone rang through, it was already connected to a live link to his computer which meant he didn’t even have to waste time answering it! The computer recognised the name and answered on his behalf as he continued to work.
[#CD853F “Hey Seth, man! Long time dude. What’s my jack-ass of a brother done now?”] Larry asked, not expecting a pretty picture but as Seth explained, he let out a heavy sigh.
[#CD853F “I wondered why the city bank alarms have been going crazy! Man, I’ve been trying to crack those cameras but the system has been whack over the last hour! Yeah, he’s definitely going to get himself caught. I’ll get those plans, if you text us what banks you two idiots are planning to break into, I’ll hack the other cameras before they go on lock down. That way we can keep an eye on you. Caleb, I’ll get the plans but maybe try and predict where they’ll get locked up.”] Larry asked his friend, already working on a secondary plan.
[#CD853F “You’ll no doubt want as much heat off you while you’re breaking into the banks. I’m on the Police National Computer now, I’ll take over the control desk and input false information which hopefully the dispatcher will pick up on and communicate to officers on patrol. It won’t stop them from finding you, they’ll catch on eventually, but it’ll buy you guys time. Man, make sure my knuckle head bro doesn’t try and out-smart me.”] Larry warned and with all his multi-tasking, he finally sent Jesse’s last known location to the families.
Lily was so broken she couldn’t shake past the red mist she was seeing. The only other time she had been like this was when Rick had hold of her son and was threatening to hurt him! To her, right now, Eleanor was giving the same level of threat. Lily survived because she had a family she loved with everything she had and now that was threatened to get ripped apart within less than 24 hours! There was still no guarantee they would get Logan back alive! So as Eleanor continued, Lily was biting her lip so hard she grabbed her door to stop herself from throwing another strike. She was ready to slam it in Eleanor’s face until...
Was she showing compassion? Was she actually suddenly acting like she cared?
[+orange “What are you doing? You can’t be so against me one minute, then on my side the next. You’ve just accused me of hurting my own boy! I lover Logan more than anything! No he... “] Lily was about to defend her husband, just as she always had but Eleanor threw an offer which messed with Lily’s broken mind. If she agreed, if she painted Jack to be a monster, then she could protect Logan if he returned alive. Jack was going to get locked up anyway... she had to protect what she had left...
Only the moment the thought came to Lily’s head, was the exact moment the mother gripped his hair and felt her bottom lip tremble. She looked like she was about to have a nervous break down right in front of Eleanor! She was actually ready to give up her husband and for what? She had already ruined so much in her own mind and now she had stooped so low in her head she couldn’t forgive herself.
[+orange “You won’t touch my husband. I have told you my son is missing. I’m the one who hurts my son. I’m the one who has broken this family. My husband is an alcoholic because of me. My son is rebellious because of me. It’s all my fault. Jack has been trying to keep this family together for so long. Now what?”] Lily asked, doing the only thing that was left in her arsenal; give Eleanor what she wanted. She had wanted someone in the family to blame, and she couldn’t turn her husband in. She was going to lose him anyway, but in her messed up mind maybe this was what was best for Logan now! He couldn’t come home to a broken family. Jack would never forgive her, but she wanted the best future for Logan and the new baby. Her hand went to her stomach, already scratched and raw from when she clawed herself just minutes before...
[+orange “It’s all my fault.”]
As the two spoke, multiple of the neighbours had been recording the conversation on their phones since Lily threw the first strike and one or two had called the police. A nearby patrol pulled up opposite the road, and an officer now stood at the end of the garden giving Eleanor a concerned look.
[i “Excuse me ma’am, is everything ok? We’ve been called with a concern for safety. Miss. Carrow, is this the one on file?”] The officer asked, his hand instinctively tickling against his cuffs. He had worked with Miss Carrow previously, and had an instinctive dislike for the majority of people she ended up working with, which didn’t put Lily in good stead...
While the Sanders were facing their own fight to save their son, the Cull’s were about to begin a battle of their own to put an end to all of this... finally arriving back in his home city, Martyn pulled up to meet Lisa. His body was stiff, his face was as stern as always, but there was a hidden relief behind his eyes which showed just how glad he was to be back with his partner. At least until he saw the equal amount of stress in Lisa’s eyes. Whatever happened during that phone call while he was away was clearly enough to set her on edge and as much as he wanted to sit and discuss, time was against them.
[+green “I got here as quick as I could. Has Caleb sent over Jesse’s last known location? I’ve brought him... “] Martyn quickly referenced, nodding to the car just in time for his brother, Tigan, to climb out.
Tigan Steele still resembled the fighters of the Mason family. He was strong, carrying that fierce look in his eyes which carried across the family; that constant stare that was ready to eye up their opponent and prepare for one hell of a fight. Whether that was with words or fists. His hands were the prosthetics that Elliot had made for him, but what stood out was his new injuries across his face. It seemed Jack had got his fair share of a beating back at Tigan! Martyn’s brother was sporting a black eye and a split open cheek. Unlike the rest of the family, Tigan still hadn’t found his lifelong partner. Much like Axel in his early years, Tigan enjoyed his own company, but was always around for his family if he was needed. Jack was the one who utilised that much more than anyone, and sure it might have often resulted in some nasty fights, but it was the strong bond the two had. Tigan had already received the spiel from Martyn the moment the two reunited just an hour before, but Tigan had the skill set of being both a silver-tongue and a fighter! The look in Martyn’s eyes already showed the two had a fair exchange of words regarding Jack’s coping mechanism, but it didn’t seem to get through to Lisa’s brother-in-law.
[#00BFFF “So why am I not kicking Jack’s arse into shape? If he’s being reckless...’]
[+green “You are just as reckless when you want to be Tigan. The two of you together during this mess isn’t the best mixture. Jack has his support, we need you with us. We have no idea what dangers we are running into and as much as I hate to rely on plastic hands, Lisa and I aren’t fighters.”] Martyn interjected, reminding Tigan of the mission they had planned but staying wary of just how impulsive his brother could be. Lisa would have to keep him in check, considering the Mason’s had a long history of acting on their own accord.
[#00BFFF “You’re as bad as Jack. Next you’ll be calling me stumpy... anyway, you mentioned that Jesse had given a clue? Shouldn’t we be acting on that?”]
[+green “We will. We need to plan.”]
[#00BFFF “No Martyn, we need to act. You have 22 hours now and trust me, that time will dwindle quicker and quicker. We can plan as we move. If Caleb hasn’t given you a location, then put the pressure on for him to work quicker. This isn’t the time to be playing nice.”] Tigan challenged, narrowing his eyes at the family of planners.
Pushing Martyn to the side, Tigan stood facing Lisa with a certainty in his eyes that only a Mason and a Steele could carry.
[#00BFFF “I know what you all think. I know I still carry that reputation from our time in Prison. I know you see the bruises on Jack, but I want Jesse home safe. Martyn doesn’t trust he’s made the right decision picking me up, I can hear it in his words and I know you can read it...”] Tigan started, looking at his brother as he did and knowing there was no arguing. Martyn did doubt if he made the right decision bringing Tigan around, but he was running out of options.
[#00BFFF “I’m not the same mess I was. I just want our families to have peace back, alright? You have to trust I’ll help you.”]
The perverted compliments and predatory glances weren’t exactly a surprise to Jesse. She knew she was dealing with scum and if Dylan and Pyke had no reservations of taking advantage of young girls, she couldn’t expect their underground contacts to be any better. But the comments did get under her skin. Just like Bryn’s unintentional touch brough her back to those unpleasant memories, Jesse was struggling to keep her mask in place in light of these threats. Unlike Logan, Jesse had never been forced to watch what her mother had gone through, but she was well aware of the pain Gordon inflicted. Even with Lisa’s perfect composure locking everything away from the world. Jesse could still read the trauma that lay beneath the surface. And it almost seemed like Jesse was destined to live her mother’s trauma all over again. First with Eddie’s threats in the cellar, then Pyke’s hands all over her, Eleanor’s threats to Logan, Pyke holding her down and undoing his belt, and now Karl’s lust… Jesse normally didn’t have this much trouble keeping her act in place, she wasn’t sure what she would do if Karl tried to act on his impulses. Logan wasn’t here to protect her this time and Baxter had already said she was on her own. Thankfully it seemed that Chrissy was inadvertently buying her some time.
[#aa0000 “You’ve been living underground too long if you think killing that old lady will help. It’s not like she’ll just have that much cash lyin’ around the house. She’ll have it in bank accounts or those new digital ‘credit’ things the richest of the rich are starting to buy in to. And since she’s apparently the only one who gives a shit about those kids, killing her will be like flushing all that cash down the drain.”] Jesse argued, giving her story credibility. She could tell that Karl was the more impulsive of the two, but Chrissy certainly wasn’t much for patience either. She had to spin this story quickly if she was going to get the info she needed before they decided she wasn’t worth the trouble.
[#aa0000 “Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t ask you to get ‘em back, isn’t it? All I need is the intel – Dylan’s got people on his payroll who can grab the kids from whoever ya sold ‘em to. And don’t worry, no one’ll know you sold ‘em out. It’s bad for business if your buyers think you’re a snitch.”] Jesse said, trying to ease any concerns the two had. She felt a flicker of hope when Karl rambled on about the kids fate but that hope darkened with every word. So they were chained up with a bunch of other kids working to expand the underground? Exposed to chemicals, dragging along their dead companions, starved and beaten… these kids would be a mess if they were even still alive! But the one good thing is they now knew a location and if these bastards were buying up as many kids as they could then there was a good chance some of the gang’s other siblings would be there as well.
As Karl pointed her in the right direction, Jesse knew she had to start an exit strategy. She had expected Chrissy to be satisfied with Dylan’s voicemail, but as her patience wore thin, Jesse realize this plan wasn’t quite as foolproof as she thought. She had to play this carefully. For all she knew, Baxter and Bryn would simply take the information and run, leaving Jesse to whatever fate these bastards had in mind!
[#aa0000 “I told you he was busy, didn’t I? Dyaln’s been on his other phones makin’ calls all morning trying to fix this mess, that’s why he sent me to talk to you while he tied up the rest. $600,000 on the line, you think he’s just going to be sittin’ around waitin’ for his phone to ring? He’s gathering a team to go in and steal those kids back, since clearly that’s beyond the two if you.”] Jesse said, focussing on their accusations as opposed to the question of who she was. She had an answer for everything and a convincing story, but these creeps were more persistent than she thought. Jesse had hoped their fear of pissing off Dylan would make them more eager to act than to wait around for his approval, but if they were insistent on waiting for a call that would never come, Jesse was in trouble. She had the information so now it was just a matter of escaping this, but with Karl’s grubby hands landing on her shoulders, that didn’t seem too likely.
Jesse didn’t need to be a reader to hear the threats in Karl’s tone. She had no doubt he’d act on whatever fantasy was reeling through his mind and she had no real way to talk her way out of this one. Not to mention, the lust in his eyes and the weight of his hands felt far too familiar to Dylan pinning her to the table and reaching for his belt. She couldn’t properly strategize when her mind kept looping back to that helpless fear of being turned into the same unwilling toy her mother was!
[#aa0000 “Get your slimy hands off of me! I’m one of Dylan’s girls, remember? And I can promise you, he doesn’t like to share!”] Jesse snapped in hopes the threat of lost business would keep them at bay, it was getting harder to keep up her act with those possessive hands keeping her in place. Jesse tried to squirm away from Karl, but pulling her injured shoulder against his tight grip just resulted in a staggering short of pain through her arm. Jesse was now caught between two fears: Escape would mean excruciating pain but surrender would mean meeting the same fate as her mother, Lily, Maddison, and every other Brats unfortunate enough to be forced by a monster.
[#880088 “You ok there Bax? Not like you to get distracted on a mission.”] Bryn asked, shooting her friend an odd look. The way he’s spoken about Jesse, Logan, and the rest of his family before, Bryn thought he hated the lot of them. Jesse was described as a stuck up, privileged, cry-baby who had turned her back on Logan like everyone else had. That was one of the reasons they sent Jesse in instead of taking a chance with one of their other members. Sure, she had the skills, but she was also less of a loss if things went wrong. But the way he was talking now, maybe Jesse wasn’t as disposable as Bryn was led to believe.
With Baxter calling her attention back to the meeting, she cursed under her breath. She knew from the moment Jesse had slapped her hands away that this girl was particularly sensitive to sexual assault. Either something had already happened to her or it was a very close call. Either way, this wouldn’t help her act.
[#880088 “Karl’s a grabby bastard who doesn’t take no for an answer. You know he likes to ‘test out the merchandise’. I think your Silvertongue is in over her head.”] Bryn warned, her hand instantly grabbing for her knife in case things sparked a fight.
[#880088 “I got a good look at her injuries: Bruised back, broken jaw, broken arm, dislocated shoulder. She won’t be able to fight him off and I doubt there’s anything she could say at this point to get Karl to let her go. Looks like we’ve got a choice to make: Save the Silvertongue or take the intel and leave. You brought her in Baxter, it’s your choice. No matter what, I’ll back your play.”] Bryn said, not eager to risk her life and Baxters for a stranger, but having been in Jesse’s exact position before, she wasn’t feeling good about abandoning the girl either.
[#336699 “Lily, I know you don’t see it for yourself, but trust me you are one of the strongest among us. You’ve been through so much… most of us couldn’t have survived it. But you did, you fought for your happy life, and you fought for your family and friends. You practically raised your brother and sister, you brought Kira and Tigan back from the edge after that prison break, you single-handedly helped Maddison work through her own traumas, and you’re the only reason Jack is still alive today. Calling for help isn’t weakness Lily… in fact it’s a strength not many of us Brats actually have.”] Seth assured her honestly. He had a point, in all the history of the Brats, one of the greatest weaknesses was the inability to reach out for help when it was needed. It had split families apart, broken trust, even killed some of their brothers and sisters!
[#336699 “I’ll be fine kid. And I’ll bring Jack home safe.”] With his promise given, Seth hurried to find Jack. By the time he reached the bank, Jack was already inside. Seth could see his point of entry and noted that Jack didn’t bother sneaking around the security cameras. Leaving enough evidence to get caught was part of the deal and Jack wasn’t taking any chances with Logan’s life. Seth could understand the difficult position Jack was in: if he didn’t take the deal, his little brother would be killed, but if he did what he was told there was still no guarantee Logan would be spared and Lily would be left alone! Fortunately, Seth knew there might be a loophole the kidnappers didn’t think of.
Leaving Jack to finish with the first vault, Seth took out his phone and dialed Larry’s number, expecting he and Caleb were likely already working on a way to save the kids.
[#336699 “Hey there geniuses, I know you’ve probably already got your hands full, but I need a favour. Larry, you know how your brother is a reckless, self-destructive idiot, right? Well, it looks like he’s going to get himself locked up once this is over. Fortunately, I know my way around a prison break. Can you hack into the city records and find me some blueprints for local prisons? Maybe Martyn can make a case for Jack being locked away in solitary away from the other prisoners. I might be able to get him out. Making Lily and Jack fugitives again isn’t ideal, but it may be our only shot of keeping them together.”] Seth offered. He had asked Lily to think about whether or not she could forgive Jack and this is why – if she did still want to be with him, Jack might be able to make that happen. If she didn’t… well, Jack knew the risks.
Eleanor would have expected a violent outburst from Jack, but not from Lily. The harsh punch caught her off guard, but fortunately for Eleanor it helped her case for the neighbours to see Lily as violent and crazed. Eleanor stepped back and wiped the blood from her nose, pulling her eyes back to Lily with a shacked and hurt expression once would expect from an innocent victim.
[#ff00ff “Mrs. Sanders, I assure you the only thing I [i want from you] is to keep your children safe! Do you lose your temper like that with your son? Maybe I had it wrong in the beginning. Maybe it isn’t Jack whose been abusing the boy, maybe it’s you!”] Eleanor accused, but her eyes narrowed in on Lily’s face, seeing the puffy eyes and the pain that lingered there. Lily had been crying, no doubt due to listening to her boy being tortured and her husband forced to rob and bank and get arrested. She wanted Lily to suffer as a punishment to Logan and this was perfectly setting the stage.
[#ff00ff “Or maybe you’re just desperate. Mrs. Sanders, I’ve seen a lot of cases in my career and I can tell you that violence is often not just directed at the children. You’ve been crying, haven’t you? Did your husband hit you too? Did he threaten you? Is that why you were so afraid to speak to me earlier?”] Eleanor said, changing her tactic. She was well aware of the neighbours watching her now as this seemingly innocent public servant was willing to forgive being violently attacked just to offer her aid to a potentially battered woman.
[#ff00ff “I can help you, Mrs. Sanders. If you’ll just talk to me, if you’ll just admit that this is all your abusive husband’s doing, then I can protect you! I can have Jack Sanders arrested and locked away for the rest of his life. I can make sure that you and your children never see him again. You don’t have to protect that monster anymore, Mrs. Sanders. Just tell me the truth – Did Jack hurt your son? Did he do something to Logan? No one has seen your son since he returned from the party the night before, but several of your neighbours reported seeing an angry Jack bolt out of the house late that night and return hours later covered in blood and bruises. I know he was furious at the boy and I know that child abuse runs in his bloodline, so tell me Lily, did Jack do something to Logan?”]
Karl and Chrissy were notorious in the Underground scene. They made what was just a pit of sorrow turn into a criminal mastermind’s palace! Sure, a lot of the gangs who decided to take solitude here were far from the organised criminal gangs like Dylan, Pyke, and Eleanor had; but each had something they wanted for price. Whether that was rising to the top for their reputation, being the most powerful, having the most money, the biggest gang, the largest selection of weapons... it was Karl and Chrissy who formed a plan to create a trading post for everyone to link their connections. There wasn’t anything these traders couldn’t get their hands on, of course for a price of their own. However times were beginning to change, they weren’t the only traders on the scene anymore and much like every other gang in the Underground, they wanted to put themselves on top. Working with Dylan, Pyke, and Eleanor was their perfect opportunity.
They weren’t dirt poor like everyone else in the Underground due to the opportunities that had opened, and Dylan’s greed was like a poison. It started to take over Karl and Chrissy’s mind to the point that even though had every dollar in their pocket to leave the Underground and start a new life, they stayed just because they knew this was were they could continue making their pockets grow. With the money in their pockets, it bought them some power within the Underground. So whilst they sat in the middle, completely open to anyone who attacked, there were far more willing to be paid to protect them. It was that very misconception of thinking they were alone that almost got Baxter and Byrn killed last time and it was the very reason why Jesse was potentially walking into a death trap!
The two were sat next to the post, Karl was counting away some coins while Chrissy, with her one remaining hand was ruffling through a bag they had just traded for. Hearing the footsteps, Chrissy didn’t bother to look up, but Karl stared at the newcomer like he was looking at a plate of meat after starving for weeks on end! He sat forward on his chair, revealing by his side was a large baseball bat with nails protruding out of each end of the wood for his own self defence and probably a clear indication that Jesse shouldn’t get too close if things turned bad!
[#9ACD32 “Well you’re a pretty little thing, ain’t ya? Dylan must’ve been in a mood to let you come down here...”] He called flirtatiously, not seeing any impending threat from the girl.
His lust for the girl however, was cut short by his own cry of pain as Chrissy slapped his broken leg with the end of his own baseball bat!
[#FF7F50 “Keep yer head out the gutter, an focus! What do yer want, ya brat? Dylan doesn’t just send anyone!”] Chrissy called, seeing another opportunity here. Perhaps Dylan had another task for them!
Listening to the girl and both fully taken in with the lies Jesse was spinning, the two gave each other a very nervous look. Dylan might be sending the girl down for now, but if they didn’t fix this, who knew who he would be sending next! He always said if they didn’t keep up the good work, he could come back and rip every cent from their cold dead hands. No one in the Underground would fight back and defend them, especially if they could take over the traders place.
[#9ACD32 “How about we get up to that surface, get the ol’ hag, kill ‘er, take the money ourselves and get Ste! Another kid to sell!”]
[#FF7F50 “If Dylan wanted us to do that she would have told us you idiot! $300,000... that’s a lot more than we can imagine...”] Chrissy thought out loud, the greed overcoming her but the two were at a complete loss! They couldn’t go in the Underground, get back their trade, and expect not to be killed for it! They would become a laughing stock! Once a deal was set, there was no turning back. Not trusting her partner, Chrissy picked up a large radio and dialled the number that Jesse provided, giving Karl a warning look to watch the girl.
[#9ACD32 “Looky ‘ere, those kids are long gone! Probably dead, ye hear? This guy, been buyin’ loads of ‘em off us recently. Got this crazy idea to make the Underground bigger! Has ‘em all chained together, knocking down the edges of the walls down ‘ere to make it bigger. He hates the bastards up there. He keeps callin’ it the ‘Surface’ we he’s a crazy bastard... keeps sayin’ one day we’ll be forced down here and won’t be allowed to go back up! Ha! Anyway... he’s slavin’ them. I’ve heard kids die on the work line from exhaustion and starvation, and he just leaves them chained, having their bodies gettin’ dragged along by the others who are still alive and chained up to ‘em. He paid a pretty penny for ‘em but he won’t give them up. Too crazed on needin’ more space. I’m sorry, if they’re alive, they’re barely alive. They’ve been sold to him for weeks!”] Karl explained, picking up his bat and pointing it in the direction they were building.
He turned to see Chrissy nervously pacing up and down, continuing to dial the number with no success and increasingly getting nervous.
[#PACD32 “I think they’ll all be dead soon anyway... he’s chippin’ right towards a chemical dump ground... we ‘av a small river down ‘ere but he breaks that, they’ll all be crushed by the chemical pouring as it goes in the water. Dylan really ain’t gonna be happy...”]
[#FF7F50 “I can’t get through to him! He never has that phone off. If he was desperate he would be waiting for that call. What’s your name girl? If Dylan was so desperate, why didn’t he just phone us himself and save some time? Beside’s, what difference does he think you’ll make?”] Chrissy asked, her suspicion rising with each cut off phone call. Taking a step forward, she grabbed the girls wrist and pulled her close.
[#FF7F50 “Until I get that call, you ain’t goin’ anywhere. Karl, keep an eye on ‘er...”] Chrissy ordered, throwing Jesse towards Karl who grabbed Jesse by her shoulders and allowed a lustful smile to grow on his face.
[#PACD32 “Oh I’ll look after this pretty one...”]
Baxter had been staring at Jesse the entire time since her transformation, perhaps for a little too long... he wasn’t usually the type to overtly watch over someone’s protection. The rule in the gang was whatever mess you got into, you got yourself out of it. No one would risk their necks to save you for your stupid mistakes. Still, he found himself watching the scene with intense detail, his eyes narrowing at Karl’s hands with every move he made until Byrn’s voice snapped him back to reality.
[+blue “Yeah... good... yeah she’s good.”] He replied, shaking his head to get himself back in check.
[+blue “She’s a Street Brat, of course she’s good. Logan and Jesse didn’t survive me almost trying to kill the gang in the past because they weren’t good Byrn. I don’t invite weakness into this gang. She just needs to carry that confidence a bit more and we might actually... shit, Byrn, what are they doing?”] Baxter growled, watching as they grabbed Jesse. If they stormed in, they’d kill her in a heartbeat!
[+blue “Let’s hope she’s strong enough to buy herself time. They have gangs in the shadows waiting to attack... “]
Lily felt a pit in her stomach as Seth talked about Jack and Tigan’s bond. [i “He knows there’s nothing he could do that Tigan won’t forgive.”]
She always thought she was that person. The forgiving kind, who could see past a persons mistakes and see the person for who they truly were. Actually, she was once that person. That was why she married Jack. That was why she forgave him when he drank again. That was why all the way up until Logan was kidnapped she didn’t care about the fact that everything was falling apart! She forgave him and all she wanted was her husband by her side and her family together. Since Logan and Jesse went missing, it was as if everything Lily was experiencing with her own mental wellbeing was now determined to rip everything else away from her. Her partner, her friends, any care that anyone could offer... She should have been happy that her husband had an outlet other than drink, but she was realising from what Seth was saying was that she was actually missing that bond she once had with Jack herself. She bit her lip and felt a few more stray tears fall from her eyes. Maybe it was also because she knew after this she wouldn’t have that bond to repair. Jack would have to surrender himself and she would never get the chance to fix this...
Feeling Seth’s presence grow closer, Lily closed her eyes, almost wanting to hide the shame of everything she was feeling. It was only as he stayed that little bit longer, that she finally opened her eyes and let all the pain echo out towards the person who had always been there for all. Seth had this unwavering comfort and despite all the hell he had been through personally, he had all the time in the world for the rest of his family. Finally surrendering, she let a few more tears fall from her eyes. Everyone kept telling her she had to put herself first, and she wished she could, but she couldn’t do it without her family.
[+orange “I’ll do that once everything is back together Seth. Please, look after yourself too. I don’t want you hurt because I’m not strong enough to protect Jack and I’m having to call you for help...”] Lily finally requested as he left the room.
She still laid down in her bed, frozen on the spot even as there was a firm knock on the door. She knew exactly who that knock belonged to, and just as she felt Seth’s warmth and comfort, it was quickly evaporated with that overriding numbness. It was that breaking point for Lily Sanders...
Throwing her legs off the side of the bed, Lily stormed out her bedroom and towards her front door. While Eleanor was still explaining her reasons for being there, just as quickly as the door opened, Lily’s fist came flying out and straight towards the direction of the woman who had caused her life hell for the last 48 hours.
As her hand made contact, there was an audible gasp that seemed to wave across the entire street! Eleanor’s shouting had attracted some attention alone! All the neighbours were either peering out their windows, leaning against their front doors, or pretending to complete some outside chore just to hear the news. They had seen a lot happening at the Sanders household over the time they moved in, but the one thing they had never seen was Lily lose control! Not just that, in their eyes, she had just attacked an innocent woman who was only trying to protect a child!
Unfortunately for Lily she didn’t see the world around her. Instead she was looking straight towards Eleanor, almost challenging the woman to dare speak another threat against her or her family.
[+orange “What do you want from me!?”] Lily hissed, taking another step from her door.
[+orange “No matter what I say you have already made up your mind. You made up your mind the moment you knocked on the door the first time! You want to rip my children away, you want to destroy my family, so why should I fucking care about the consequences anymore Miss. Carrow!? My son is missing, and you might not have the opportunity to take him away! Now you have everything you need to destroy us, I suggest you leave before things get a lot worse...”]
Jesse followed Baxter’s instructions, watching the two targets for a few minutes in order to get a decent read on them. This would be tricky… normally Jesse could twist her words into whatever the situation called for, but the circumstances were limiting. She was visibly beaten, her cloths she wasn’t smart enough to trick them, 2) she had a reason to be down here asking about the kids, and 3) she shouldn’t be messed with. Finally, she turned to Baxter with the final part of her plan.
[#aa0000 “That phone you took from me, you still have it on you, right? Turn the ringer off and when the call comes through, ignore it. Send it straight to voicemail. I’ll find out where those kids are hidden. I just need to know what their last name is.”] Jesse instructed, looking between Bryn and Baxter for the information.
[#880088 “It’s Weber. What are you going to do?”] Byrn asked with mild curiosity. She had never seen a Silvertongue in action before. Jesse gave an uncharacteristic smirk of confidence before she left the two and approached her targets. She was nervous… rather, she was terrified, but none of her fear showed through her mask. Instead, she walked with an air of false entitlement, as if she had every right to be here.
[#880088 “Hey, you’re Chrissy and Karl, aren’t you? The ones that deal with Dylan? He sent me here to find you. I know he normally calls himself, but trust me, with the mood he’s in you’ll be glad he sent me.”] Jesse said, her bruises on clear display as she implied her recent beatings were from Dylan. It helped that she still had the bloody imprint from Dylan’s many rings on her bruises and battered jawline. Dylan had seemed like the type to crave money and power, but without the drive to deal with situations personally. It wasn’t too far or a stretch to believe that if he found a kid willing to cooperate, he’d get his use out of them before making the final sale. She just had to pretend to be one of his little minions.
[#880088 “You remember a couple kids Dylan sold to ya a while back? Weiver or Weber, or something like that? There were two of ‘em, a boy and a girl. Well, turns out you and Dylan both got screwed!”] Jesse said. She tried to remember back to when she was a kid, how Zach spoke and acted when making his deals. He was raised on the streets and always negotiating with the gangs to keep himself alive. If she could channel that, it would make her act more convincing.
[#880088 “There was a third kid, Ste, who slipped through. He got picked up by some rich hag on the South side of the city. Now, she’s posted a reward for whoever can find the other two. $300,000 each! That’s a hell of a lot more than you paid for ‘em, and I’m willing to bet it’s a lot more than you got when you sold ‘em. Dylan was pissed when he found out, he doesn’t like to be screwed over. He wants me to find out who you sold the kids to so he can get ‘em back and get that ransom. You help me out, and I’ll make sure you get your cut. That’s a lot of money, especially in a place like this. ‘Course, if you don’t want help, I can always tell Dylan you just want the ransom all for yourselves. Good luck seeing anymore business from him though.”] Jesse bargained, wanting it to sound convincing, as if they had something to gain, but also making it worth Dylan’s while to look into a past sale. She let the offer linger for a few minutes before giving a shrug.
[#aa0000 “Look, if you don’t believe me, you can call him yourself. 905-555-8283. Just don’t expect him to be too pleased about wasting his time.”] Jesse offered, rhyming off the number of the phone currently in Baxter’s pocket, knowing that if they called, they’d get Dylan’s voicemail, hopefully enough to convince them she was telling the truth.
Bryn waited in hiding, watching as the girl spun her lies. She could hardly believe that the cocky little shit she saw now was the same timid, fearful girl Baxter first brought in. Even she couldn’t see any doubts in the girl’s story and she knew it was a lie! Now it all came down to whether Chrissy and Karl believed her enough to make the call.
[#880088 “Damn, she’s good. I have to admit, Bax, I had my doubts, but you were right. Maybe we can use her.”]
Seth knew he should respect Lily’s space. He got the hint that she wanted him to leave when she didn’t even bother turning around to look at him. Of course, Seth had never been good at doing as he was told. He had learned over the years that this family had a stubborn habit of bottling everything up inside, letting it eat away at them and refusing to seek help for fear of being a burden on each other. So, he decided to used Caleb’s old strategy of butting in even when he wasn’t wanted. If it could knock sense into someone as stubborn as Martyn, it could work on Lily, right?
Seth stepped into the room and leaned up against the door, giving her space, while making it known he was there when or if she needed him.
[#336699 “Yeah, Jack’s never had the best instincts when it comes to healthy coping strategies. He picks fights with Tigan because he knows there’s nothing he could do that Tigan won’t forgive. There’s not a lot of us, even in the Brats, that can say that.”] Seth commented, assuming the sentiment went both ways. He remembered how frightened the family was years ago when Tigan was on death row. He had lost Jack, Lily, Cole, Axel, Hayden was in the pit, Nola was dying, and he had nearly beaten Kira to death with his own hands! Seth knew that Tigan was on a downward spiral, not even willing to fight against his own execution. But Jack – miraculously back from the dead – somehow manage to get Tigan to see the way forward. Those two boys had always been quick to throw punches at each other, but maybe that’s what they both needed – no blame, no guilt, someone who would have your back no matter what happened between them. Even among the Brats, that was a rare bond the two shared.
[#336699 “You’re not ripping everything apart Lily. You’re doing your best in impossible circumstances. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but… we’re going to get through this. We’ll find Logan. We’ll put your family back together, and I know it’s true because I’ve watched you literally come back from the dead TWICE just to make your family whole again.”] Seth assured her, making up for her doubts with an unwavering confidence of his own. Seth knew there was a lot going on right now. By the sounds of things, Lisa had turned her back and whatever happened between Lily and Jack was worse than he initially thought. But nothing was unfixable. They just needed to find Logan first – then they could focus on fixing the rest.
When Lily turned the topic back to Jack, Seth took a step into her room, approaching the bed and kneeling down so he could meet Lily’s eyes. It broke his heart to see her in this much pain. Seth had always seen Lily like a little sister, ever since the day he’d saved her from the bastard that was blackmailing Chief McCleeve. So instead of defending Jack as some of the other Brats may have done, Seth’s first priority was to make sure Lily was alright, even if that meant pushing Jack a little lower on his priorities. He would, of course, look after the boy just like he promised Lily. But he wasn’t eager to push the couple back together again if that wasn’t what Lily wanted. And by the sounds of things – [i He’s going to feel he has nothing to lose] – maybe it wasn’t?
[#336699 “Does he? I promised I’d keep him safe, Kid, and that’s what I’ll do. But before I bring him back home, I think you should give some thought to whether or not you can forgive Jack for this. And whatever you decide, it should be because you want to, not because you feel you have to. For once in your life, Lily, you need to put yourself first.”] Seth advised. He knew Lily was right, Jack wouldn’t wait. The kid was probably already breaking into the first bank. As challenging as this mission would be, even for a trained thief, it would be even more dangerous if Jack’s head wasn’t in the game.
[#336699 “I’ll watch his back, Lily. I promise.”] Seth assured her before reluctantly taking his leave. Seth didn’t like leaving her like that when she looked so hurt and vulnerable, but it would only get worse if Jack got himself hurt or killed out there because Seth wasn’t there to fulfill his promise. Had he known what would happen next, Seth never would have left. Mere moments after Seth pulled out of the driveway, Eleanor’s CPS van pulled in.
The woman walked with a confident stride towards the front door and gave a firm knock before announcing herself.
[#ff00ff “Mr. and Mrs. Sanders? This is Eleanor Carrow with Child Protective Services. I need to speak to you about the whereabouts of your son.”] Eleanor demanded, knowing full well that Jack would be out robbing the banks, leaving a miserable Lily home alone. She knew there was a good chance the woman wouldn’t even open the door, so she planned on being as convincing as possible.
[#ff00ff “Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, I have evidence that a boy fitting Logan’s description was advertised to be sold to the Underground, yet his disappearance has not been reported to the police. So either I am to believe that you care so little about your son that you’d fail to report he is missing – which to be is child endangerment, since the first 24 hours of a missing child are imperative if the boy is ever to be found alive – or shudder at the thought that you sold the boy yourselves! After all, for him to go missing hours after you were accused of abusing him, with an impending assault case looming overhead, not to mention the fact that he cost Mr. Sanders his job!”] Eleanor accused quite loudly through the door, not really caring that any of the neighbours overheard.
[#ff00ff “I suggest you open this door and explain to me what ifs going on, because if I don’t get a reasonable excuse for failing to report Logan’s disappearance, I won’t have any choice but to file for full custody of Logan AND any future children the two of you may have!”]
It wasn’t often that Baxter was silenced. It was a trait he unknowingly received from Lily. He would argue until he was blue in the face, even getting some enjoyment sometimes out of keeping a dispute going; especially if it tested the patience of those he argued against! Yet as Jesse pointed out his hypocrisy, there was nothing he could throw back. He didn’t give his family a chance ever since he was found from the orphanage. He fought back against Jack, injured many of the Brat’s, spoke badly of his mother and on what evidence did he have the right to act that way? It wasn’t that he regretted the way he thought, but Jesse certainly had her first moment of putting him in his place .
In the orphanage, Baxter was constantly reminded of how alone he was. Those who had a duty of care took great pleasure in reminding the children that they were abandoned, that their family had no intention of looking for them, and specifically loved pointing out the family flaws. Having heard those stories from when he was born, unlike the other children who needed convincing, Baxter was instantly bought into it. Also to him the truth was evident! He was left for years, and ever since he ran away from the Brat’s no one ever gave a second attempt to come looking for him again. He made his mistakes and they seemed to be able to move on with their lives without him in it. He doubt that Lily often begged Jack to go on a search mission for her missing son. Jack had enough experience with Baxter to know how heartless he was. Logan probably didn’t give Baxter a second thought! So he did judge them, and he certainly had no intention of changing those thoughts anytime soon. The further the distance he kept between him and his family the better.
With his eyes staring intently at the campfire and watching his blade change different hues of red and orange, he hardly paid attention to what was happening between Byrn and Jesse. His eyes only shot up as he heard the connection between Jesse’s hands and Byrn’s and instinctively he lifted his blade up and once again had it pointed towards their new guest. Taking a few quick seconds to understand the situation, he looked at Byrn to see that look in her eyes. Seeing that she was safe and Jesse hadn’t crossed the mark, he shook his head at the two and reached for his bag.
[+blue “So now she’s telling us what to do? Fair enough. Let’s see how you hold your own.”] Baxter spoke up, encouraging the way Jesse was speaking her mind. He liked that. She certainly wasn’t acting like the posh, stuck up, defenceless little girl he thought he observed in the woods. However it was also another warning. If she was acting out from Byrn’s first aid, then she would have to develop a back bone quite quickly if she was going to survive a couple of hours in the Underground! It might have only been in its beginnings, but because of that, everyone was fighting for the top spot already! There was no hierarchy yet, no gang who was better than another - just a bunch of heartless outcasts doing anything to survive.
[+blue “I’ve already told her we’re not here to babysit. She gets killed that’s her own problem. Me? You’d be heartbroken leaving me behind.”] Baxter responded with a slight chuckle, shaking his head at the idea. Even though he had a gang, to him he really did believe that it didn’t matter if he was left behind. If he died, it wouldn’t matter. People died all the time and loss was something that Baxter had learned to comprehend.
Leaving the campsite, Baxter followed the long and narrow route and it didn’t take long until the trading post was revealed. It was an intimate space, one that if they got into a fight they would be putting themselves in extreme danger. Fortunately they won the battle last time, and the evidence was shown by a middle-aged woman and man who sat in the centre of the trading area. The woman, who was covered in tattoo’s, had her hand bandaged into a stump after unfortunately losing her fingers to Baxter’s blade. The man was no better, with an ear missing and his leg in a make shift splint of two broken wooden planks.
[+blue “Those two are who you need to talk to Jesse. They are the traders down here. They grab the kids and sell them off again. Usually when Pyke, El, and Dylan are desperate they’ll resort to these freaks. I would have killed them already, but they are the ones who have the answers. If they see me, they’ll say nothing. Don’t underestimate their injuries... they have an army hidden in the shadows. It was lucky me and Byrn got out last time...”] Baxter explained and once they were close enough, he grabbed Jesse by the wrist and hid behind a dilapidated shed.
[+blue “Chrissy and Karl - no doubt they’ll be the ones if Logan does survive to get sold who he will go to. After that... trust me, i don’t have much of a heart but I’d love to slit their throats for what they’ve sold kids for. You’re the one who is going to find the answer. We’ll be here. We’ll be watching if they act out but you’re the one going in first.”]
It took every ounce of Lily’s strength not to spin around on her heels and [i dare] Jack to finish his sentence. She wanted to challenge him, to see what he was actually thinking behind that smile he shined no matter what, or that drunken haze when things got too much. Lily wanted to know the truth in Jack Sanders mind, but she somehow managed to peel herself away. Instead she was answering the question herself. Says the person who didn’t say yes to him straight away. Says the person who forced him to drink. Says the person who constantly pushed him back. Says the person who was just never enough...
As she collapsed on the bed, clawing at her own skin, staring into the distance it resembled the very same stillness she carried after she was brought home after her ordeal with Rick. It took weeks to get Lily to move, even after she attempted to take her own life and despite all her families support! The problem with Lily was she was the optimist; and always looking towards how tomorrow would be better. However when she hit the other end of the spectrum, it was like a train speeding itself to derail, with no intention of stopping. She wanted to believe everything would be ok, but after not communicating for so long with her PTSD, trying to be happy, and the wreck of the last week - she was breaking. Without hope, just like she lost when she was with Rick, all her optimism disappeared.
When Lily finally had the strength to dial Seth’s number and she heard that he had no hesitation in helping, all she wanted to do was hide away. So long as Jack was safe, she might have actually have done something good.
[+orange “No... he’d rather hit Tigan...”] Lily said numbly, wishing she had more energy to speak but instead she was glad Seth cut off. She was silently praying that he wouldn’t come up, but she should have known better. Within the time, Seth was in the bedroom and by her side.
At first Lily didn’t respond. She stayed as still as a rock, her back towards the door where Seth entered and her bloodshot eyes staring straight at the wall ahead. As he offered to bring Kira or Lisa, a small sob broke through her lips which she couldn’t hold back and her hands gripped unexpectedly tighter around her sides.
[+orange “Lisa won’t want to be near me... and... I’ve already risked Kira’s life. She’s got a happy family and a good life. I can’t be the one who destroys that. I used to keep everyone together and now I’m just ripping everything apart. Seth... everything is falling apart...”] Lily whispered between her sobs, not daring to turn around. She was ashamed she was even admitting all of this. Everything she kept away for so long was suddenly spilling out and she was hating herself for being so weak.
[+orange “He’s going to feel he has nothing to lose Seth.”] Lily spoke up about her concerns for Jack, wanting to push the concern for herself away. She still didn’t move from her space, but she dared to turn her head a little to face him. She wished she could have told him that Jack didn’t have everything to lose, she wished she could give Seth some parting words that he could share with Jack to give him some strength. Only this time, she couldn’t,
[+orange “ You better get going Seth. He won’t wait for you.”]
<<Sorry, another half-post. I'm out of town for work, so I'm going to have limited time this week.>>
Jesse awaited whatever consequence her snarky comment might get her. While her father always encouraged her to have confidence in her words and to never fear speaking her mind, Jesse’s past had taught her the opposite. Whenever she had used her cutting tongue against her enemies in the past, they had retorted with violence and pain. So as Baxter flashed her a mile instead and even added his own praise Jesse was pleasantly surprised. It actually felt good for once to shoot back with the words she normally kept hidden behind tight lips. She wasn’t about to push her luck by continuing the banter, but it did raise Jesse’s confidence a little that she could speak her mind in the future. Besides, Baxter and his new gang seemed like a tough bunch of kids, despite their poor circumstances, so if she were to have any hope of fitting in, she’d have to learn to be tough too.
[#aa0000 “And you don’t? You don’t know anything about me or your brother, aside from the preconceived notions you’ve build based on the rest of the Street Brats. We don’t exactly fit the mold. Maybe I do judge people unfairly, but so do you.”] Jesse said, keeping her voice even and calm, though standing her ground. She wasn’t saying this just to be argumentative, but she had a point. From what little she’d seen, Baxter and Logan may have more similarities than either of them thought, but Baxter was more than ready to write him off and judge him based on what he knew of Lily and Jack. Jesse was open to being less judgemental, but it was a two-way street.
Jesse tensed as Bryn began her treatment, wary of this stranger causing her even more pain. Bryn wasn’t exactly gentle as she wrapped the wounds and assessed the damage, and Jesse could hardly surprise the painful shutters as she worked. Bryn was also a little less considerate that Jesse was used to. Once her jaw and arm were looked after, Bryn didn’t hesitate to pull up the back of Jesse’s shirt to assess the dark bruising that littered her back from her tumble through the table. Unfortunately, the exposure hit a nerve and sent Jesse right back to the moment she was pinned beneath Dylan as the man unbuckled his belt. In an uncharacteristic spark of violence, she leaped to her feet and slapped Bryn’s hands away, anxiously tugging her shirt back down into place. Even Jesse took several seconds for her brain to catch up to her reaction and she glanced back at Bryn expecting some kind of retaliation for smacking her. Instead, she saw a chillingly empathetic look cross the girl’s eyes. Apparently Jesse wasn’t the only girl to fall victim to the grabby hands of their captors. The thought that someone else might connect the dots of her reaction and know what almost happened to her in Dylan’s hands was making Jesse more anxious. She could still hear the man’s taunts about how she would [i enjoy] it just like her mother, and she wasn’t willing to face that same judgement from this lot.
[#aa0000 “Then what are we waiting for? If Logan’s life depends on us doing this quickly, then let’s move.”] Jesse said, using the urgency as an excuse to cover her overreaction.
[#880088 “As sick as Dylan, Pyke, and Eleanor are, the people of the underground can be a hell of a lot worse. I hope the red-head is as good as you think she is, Bax. But hey, if she can get us in with those bastards after what you did to ‘em last time, then I’ll believe it.”] Bryn said, catching Jesse’s attempt to change the topic and not pushing any further. She stashed the rest of the bandages and borrowed a small blade off of one of the other kids. Bryn didn’t mind going on these missions. She wasn’t exactly a fighter, but she could hold her own, and it was useful having someone with a bit of first aid experience to help when someone got hurt in the field. She also preferred to go instead of the other kids because she had less to lose. Her sister was already dead and no one besides their rag-tag group of misfits would miss her if things went badly. Besides, she wanted to help watch Baxter’s back. He was the only reason she’d made it out alive after her sister was killed. She owed him her life.
[#880088 “Sure, but I’ve already taken my turn playing nurse today, so if you get yourself stabbed again, you’re on your own.”] Bryn half-heartedly snipped back at Baxter – a smirk playing across her face as she followed him and Jesse away from the campsite.
[i “There isn’t a WE with us Jack. It has never been US.”] The words struck a sore spot in Jack that he didn’t even know he had, and for a brief flickering second, his eyes lit up with a blame he thought he buried years ago.
[#ff6622 “Says the person who…”] Thankfully Jack stopped himself before he could finish that unforgivable line. Lily had survived Raven’s attack, living long enough to give birth to a second child and fake her death yet again, while Jack was living in his own personal hell thinking he was responsible for the death of the girl he loved. Every drop he drank was an attempt to drown out the pain of losing Lily, only to find out that she had been alive that whole time. The doubts that had filled his mind – that Lily didn’t really ever love him, or she’d never have made him suffer that alone – or she obviously didn’t trust him or she’d have wanted him by her side during her recovery. All of those long buried doubts rushed to the surface as Jack snapped his jaws shut and forbid himself from uttering the words aloud.
That wasn’t fair. Jack always knew that Lily was too good for him and that she deserved better. He knew he didn’t deserve her forgiveness or her love after all the pain he’d caused her. It wasn’t Lily’s fault that Jack had been stupid enough to think he’d earned the happy life he’d been living these past few years. He should have known that she would continue to resent him, to blame him, to stay with him only out of pity. So instead of snapping back with a guilt tip of his own, Jack, kept his mouth shut and let her words inflict the pain no physical wounds ever could.
The worse was when she accused him of caring more about the booze than the life of his wife. She had painted a vivid picture of Jack in the same horrific light as his father. Was that really what she saw in him? Did she really just see him as a violent, unloving drunk? The last time Lily had seen him as his father, Jack had carved into his resemblance of the man, wanting to rip out any possible association with Rick Sanders and protect Lily from the monster she fears he would become. But this… he can’t just cut this away. She wasn’t afraid of his looks, it was his actions that she despised. Maybe Logan was right… Jack was a screw up. A disappointment. Doomed to be just as fucked up as his own father.
Jack’s throat was dry and his hands were shaking. He wanted a drink. He NEEDED a drink. And he thanked whatever gods may be that Lily had forbid him from ever keeping alcohol in this house, or he wouldn’t have been able to resist. Instead, he curled up in the corner of the cellar, with his hands in his hair and the endless cutting words running through his mind in more voices than he could count. Rick Sander: [#776677 [i “You’re just a pathetic waste of skin, Jacky-boy!]], Logan [#aa0000 [i “At least I wasn’t found in a ditch, or hurting mum, or failing the family, or messing up like YOU DO!”]], Lisa [+green [i “Thanks to Jack’s big mouth, he doesn’t have a choice!”]], Martyn [+red [i “sometimes I think selling you off would make my life a lot easier and Lily’s…”]], Lily: [#ff00ff [i “Sometimes I wish I died when that blade went into my chest but you wouldn’t care about that would you Jack?”]]…
Seth was already on his bike, speeding down the highway with his phone patched into his helmet , but when Lily said that this wasn’t going to be alright, he pushed his speeds even faster. When Lily was a kid, she was an optimist, always wanting to see the best in people. Sure, her traumas had dampened that positive outlook, but she had always held absolute certainty his in relationship with Jack, as far as Seth could tell. Those two had seemed inseparable since the prison break, even after Jack’s fall from grace a couple years ago. To hear that they weren’t ok and would never be ok was scaring Seth more than he’d like to admit.
[#336699 “Lily, I promise you I’ll watch Jack’s back, but as for him doing something stupid… it sounds like maybe he already has. I’ve never heard you talk like this before, Kid.”] Seth admitted, and even though he didn’t ever want to think it of Jack Sanders, Seth couldn’t help the direction his mind wandered to. Jack was an alcoholic from a long line of violent drunks. It made Seth sick to have to ask, but as Lily’s friend, he couldn’t hold his tongue if she was this upset.
[#336699 “Lily, I gotta ask… Is Jack drinking again? Did he hit you?”] Seth prayed the answer was no, but he couldn’t father what else the boy could have done to elicit this strong of a reaction. Either Jack lost control and lashed out at Lily or he did something just as unforgivable. Either way, Seth was pushing his bike as fast as he could to get there before things got even worse.
[#336699 “I’ll be there in 20 minutes, Kid. I promise, I’ll do whatever I can.”]
Sure enough, 18 minutes later, the roar of Seth’s bike could be heard in the driveway. While he wanted to go straight inside to Lily, Seth paused at the sight of Jack with bloodshot eyes and shaky hands, climbing out of the cellar. Seth wasn’t usually the type to jump to conclusions, but he soon found himself shoving the younger man up against the side of the house with a fierce look in his eyes.
[#336699 “Have you been drinking again?”] Seth demanded, realizing too late that there was no alcohol on Jack’s breath. The bloodshot eyes and shaky hands could have easily been from crying, and although the likelihood of the alcoholic getting waster versus crying in the basement was far greater, Seth realized Jack must be really messed up about all of this for it to be the latter… and being ambushed and accused by yet another family member probably wasn’t helping.
[#ff6622 “Fuck you.”] Jack muttered coldly, shoving Seth back out of his space. Just another voice to add to the chorus in his head.
[#ff6622 “I texted you the details. I’ll start with the Evenwood accounts, you get the Smaulders.”] Jack said, giving the barest of details as he walked past, clearly not in the mood to deal with his fellow thief.
[#336699 “Hang on, Kid. I’m coming with you. Lily wanted me to make sure you didn’t do something stupid.”]
[#ff6622 “Right. Something Stupid. Because she can’t even trust me to rob a fucking bank to save our… [i her] son. I don’t need a babysitter Seth. If you wanna help, then check on Lily and get started on the Smaulders accounts. Otherwise, stay out of my fucking way.”] Jack countered, voice void of any of the carefree, playful humour he usually had. Jack pushed past Seth, pulled on a black hoody and tied a grey bandana around his face – an easily duplicated look so that he and Seth could pass for the same person. Cursing the foul mood of his fellow thief, Seth headed inside to check on Lily before he too had to put his talents to use.
[#336699 “Lily? Hey kid, I’m going to do everything I can out there for Jack, alright? Are you going to be ok here on your own? I can call someone for you. Maybe Kira? Or Lisa? Talk to me Kid.”]
Baxter wasn’t surprised by Jesse’s actions. She was living up to the Street Brat empathy that guaranteed their weakness and so many losses over the years. She was eyeing him up, waiting to see what his next move would be and he almost wanted to test her to see if she had any courage in her! He could risk it, whip out the blade and go for an attack. There was two problems... the first was he didn’t know if she would move out the way or fight back which didn’t help the second problem; if he could stop himself from making it a testing act rather than a deliberate kill. He might have grown more controlled, but his own morals were still damaged. Fortunately for Jesse, as she retaliated with her explanation of her thanks, he turned for a brief second with a slight smile on his face.
[+blue “Should speak with more bravery more often. It suits you. Much better than my blade across your throat.”] He sneered, acknowledging her attempt to be strong but not cutting it down. In his own odd way, he was praising her for answering back!
The moment didn’t last long. When they arrived at the camp and she brought up why their invite wasn’t so welcome, Baxter’s face twisted but he didn’t turn to look at her. Instead he stared intently at Byrn, thinking of how meeting her and the rest of the group had changed his life. When he first came down he was off the rails, causing trouble , attack random gangs and spilling a lot of blood. He was on his way to a death sentence if it wasn’t for the others pulling him in line. It didn’t mean he wasn’t ruthless still, but it kept them alive.
[+blue “So tar everyone with the same brush? That risk didn’t stop Niki and Carlos. This place we call home, will one day be people’s prison, and it’s because people like you live with that cowardly attitude that the original Brat’s didn’t have. Trust me, keep it up, and you won’t have to welcome people in to kill you.”] He snarled back, taking his seat and taking a deep breath to regain his focus.
He brought Jesse down for a reason and he had to remember that. He owed his gang and Jesse was the key to finally getting their families back. After that, they wouldn’t need him. They could go back with their brothers and sisters and live their lives. Baxter didn’t need the attachment, but he spilt enough blood to pull them all into danger. Looking back at Byrn there was no doubt in his eyes, despite his disagreements with Jesse. It was much like Jesse’s first connection with Logan, only with a lot more consequences if they didn’t get along in the long run...
[+blue “Oh trust me, the threat keeps me up at night.”] He whipped back sarcastically, shaking his head with a smile at Byrn as she approached Jesse and started to practice her first aid. Baxter had started to force her to practice more of her medicine, knowing the connection with her twin. She might not have liked it all the time, but to hell with it. They needed a medic and it had some emotional connection or some bullshit... whatever, it worked.
[+blue “Not our problem. Jesse’s problem is working quick enough with us to reduce the chance that Eleanor’s patience runs out and kills my brother. Quicker she works, more chance she has of saving her best friend - or should I say former best friend... “] Baxter pointed out, resting his blade against the open fire and watching the metal burn a bright orange.
[+blue “Here’s the plan. Byrn, you’re coming with me and Jesse. We’re going to go to the new trading post... some of the buyers there might be able to get twisted and Jesse can find out where those kids were sold too. We know they hate us, won’t tell us anything after I err.. well, that incident when that guy lost a few limbs... but anyway, we can change that. Jesse will change that.”] Baxter started to reveal his plan.
[+blue “Then we’ll go and get them. Byrn, your job is to keep Jesse safe. We find Ste’s brother and sister, then we help Jesse with Logan. That’s if she proves herself.”]
[+orange “What do you mean what are you supposed to do!? For once how about you stop rushing into things? For once why don’t you get out your own head of thinking you can save everyone and actually discuss a plan! Logan needs structure to come back to, instead he’s coming back to an even more broken family than we already are! You always rush into things. You always think YOU are doing the best. There isn’t a WE with us Jack. It has never been US. Just you thinking you’re doing right all the time - then making things worse.”] Lily was cut throat with her words, with no intention of holding back. Over the last few days alone she had been abandoned by her husband during a panic attack, which he had caused by throwing the bottle. She had forgiven him for coming back covered in fresh bruises. He almost lost his temper with Logan.
[+orange “Sometimes I wish I died when that blade went into my chest but you wouldn’t care about that would you Jack? So long as you have a bottle in your hand, or something to hit...”] Lily choked, unable to go any further without collapsing in the pain she had been feeling. These were words she would come to regret, and ones she would never be able to take back, but the scariest thing was... she couldn’t even say she was lying.
All the numbness was suddenly gone and she was overwhelmed by an explosion of emotion. Jack’s final words didn’t even reach Lily as she rushed out the room, leaving the man she loved, or perhaps thought she loved, behind. Her ears were ringing, her heart was slamming against her chest, and she was on the fine balance of a full blown panic attack or doing something drastic! The world around her was a blur and the only thing driving her forward was making that phone call to Seth. It was the only way she could protect her family now.
Lily had experienced the same with Rich. Whenever he crossed that line and went to hurt Logan, or abused her too much, or just said that pet name for her which still made her sick; she exploded. She would act out with no fear of retaliation in that moment. She would take the consequences and the further pain. She had also experienced the same however when she wanted to take her own life. Or when she found the drugs in Lynn’s cabinet to take the pain away. It was a dangerous combination with two outcomes; the lack of concern for her own safety, to stop an action or her own pain. Then was the more fatal outcome... the one were it would become too much for her to carry on. As she sat on her bed, staring into the mirror ahead, her hand rested on her stomach for a brief few seconds and for the first time her hand clawed at her top and her flesh; briefly scratching the surface of her skin. She was resenting the life inside. She was resenting she let it happen but she resented the fact that her own life was now attached to another, and whatever outcome she went with, she wouldn’t just be risking her own.
As the phone rang and she heard Seth’s friendly tone, historically it would have soothed Lily and brought her back to reality. She had phoned once or twice before when Lisa wasn’t around, and she desperately needed that voice who wouldn’t judge her or try to fix things; just a voice that would listen. Lily didn’t bother answering his first question. She knew he would be quick to realise she was far from ok, and she didn’t want to waste time on herself. If Jack wouldn’t listen to her, if he wouldn’t keep himself safe, then she needed to make sure that someone would.
[+orange “It’s not going to be ok Seth.”] Lily spoke with certainty.
[+orange “It’s never been ok Seth. He won’t listen to me and every bastard who has tried to take something away, has taken something. We’ve all lost someone Seth. Just look after Jack for me. Promise me you won’t let him do something stupid.”]
She may have been furious with Jack and she knew her words would have pushed him towards the edge, but she never would have wanted him to risk his life because of her.
Hanging up on the phone, Lily laid herself down on the bed with her arms wrapped around her stomach. She was losing her husband, she had lost trust with her best friend, she was pregnant and was going to be alone all over again. Staring at the picture frame of her mother and father, she finally let out a broken sob. If there was ever a time she wished the Brat’s belief that their family was looking down on them wasn’t true, it was now.
Leaning against the table, Dylan was wiping the blood from his hands with a fresh cloth and checking the clock. After making the runt suffer, he didn’t care what was happening to Logan. What he cared about was making sure his plan was executed perfectly. They had 24 hours and as much as his greed wanted them to succeed, he wanted the sheer pleasure of watching Logan get executed because of their failure. As Logan was shaking on his hand and knees, with his other hand cradling his face as the blood dripped on the floorboards, the door opened to reveal the empty handed Eleanor.
[+grey “Don’t you say you lost her? She... do you know how much she was worth!? I have people messaging me with prices triple what we have ever earned before! Damn it Eleanor! She was our fucking... argh!”] Dylan cursed his frustrations, pulling his phone from his belt and flashing up the pinging messages which only showed the price increasing for Jesse Cull.
[+grey “You just lost us thousands because you trusted that little rat!”] He added, having to stop himself from running over and slamming his foot into the kids god forsaken mouth for tricking El! He would kill the Brat himself now if it wasn’t their only remaining bargaining chip.
Logan, despite having his face cut open, couldn’t help but shine a bloody grin as he heard of Jesse’s evasion. If he didn’t get out alive, even if Jesse never forgave him, he got her out. He got her away from this Hell. He saved her from what Dylan was planning to do and gave her a chance. All the risks in school, all his behaviour which was frowned upon for protecting Jesse - despite this being his most destructive, it was worth it. So long as she used that phone and got the help she needed, he didn’t doubt she would get out alive. So as Eleanor admitted her own failings, he laughed, having to hold onto the bullet wound in his ribs to try and ease the pain as he did.
[#8B0000 “Y-You al-already know the... answer... s-should be more careful... f-for professionals, y-you do a shit j-job...”] Logan mused, taking the little opportunity he had to get his own back with some humour. He knew how dire things were with his family. He knew he was probably going to die, but at least he had one over on these monsters. As Eleanor’s foot connected with him, his laughing was cut short and he was forced onto his side, feeling the bullet wound on his side rip open further.
For the man of greed, Dylan didn’t seem to be catching on as quickly as the others. As Eleanor asked the question, he rolled his eyes. Of course he had all his phones on him! Why would she doubt? Reaching into his pocket he pulled out multiple phones, all pinging away with different connections he had, but the more he rummaged, the more his eyes narrowed with fury.
[#8B0000 “Where is it? What the fuck did you do with it!?”] Dylan snapped, running over to Logan and not holding back on his previous threat this time. His foot slammed straight into Logan’s face, breaking multiple bones upon impact.
[#8B0000 “You rat! Why are we bothering with him!? Just kill him, the parents don’t have to know, they have a 24 hour clock and they’ll be too busy running around. He’s caused us too much trouble! And don’t point the finger at me, you’re the one who trusted him! If you kept him down there, I would have been having my fun with his little girlfriend!”] Dylan threw back at Eleanor, not allowing the blame to sit on his shoulders.
[#8B0000 “I’m sending Jack the details now. They have 24 hours a from when I send the message and you...”] Dylan hissed, watching as Logan tried to crawl to his feet as Eleanor threatened Lily. As he did, Dylan shoved his foot on Logan’s back and rolled him towards Pyke.
[#8B0000 “Pyke, do your job and keep your eye on the kid. You’re the one who is supposed to be keeping them in line! Eleanor, make Lily suffer... I’m going to make sure we get that money, one way or another...”]
Jesse made no show of hiding how closely she was watching Baxter. She didn’t trust him and he was well aware of that. Her quick read of the situation showed that Baxter didn’t save her because of any moral obligation, rather he thought she might be useful. Jesse still wasn’t confident in her Readings so close to that traumatic episode with Logan, but she did know that her survival depended on whether or not Baxter thought she was worth his time. From what she remembered of the boy, he didn’t like weakness. He had taken every opportunity in the past to exploit it, so Jesse’s best chance was to bury her vulnerabilities and somehow act a lot stronger than she felt.
[#aa0000 “I wasn’t looking to buy anything. I realize you didn’t have your mother around to teach you ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but just so you’re aware: Thank you comes after a favour, not before one. It acknowledges that I owe you something and that I intend to pay it back… if you don’t kill me before I have that chance.”] Jesse said, trying to keep her words steady and clear, regardless of her aching jaw. She shot a pointed look to his hands tightening around the blade, proving she was well aware of his restraint and how delicate her position here was.
As they neared the campsite, Jesse’s eyes did a quick scan of the others before settling back on Baxter. They seemed to look to him as a ring leader. No others stood up to take over and no one questions him. Instead, they laughed and looked to Baxter to handle the situation. Jesse reacted accordingly, keeping her eyes fixed on Baxter since he was apparently the one in charge of the decision to keep her breathing.
Jesse supressed a shudder as Baxter pointed out her current injuries and how destructive the Street Brat bonds could be. She knew Logan didn’t want to hurt her – that it was all just a plan to get her out, but she still felt betrayed. Logan knew her greatest fear was pain and he still used that against her. Not to mention, he forced her to abandon him just like her mother did years ago with Gordon. Playing a con, forcing Jesse to leave knowing that someone she loved was in danger and trusting her abilities as a Reader to see through their act. When it happened to Lisa, Jesse had been so paralyzed by the fear that it had been months before she had the courage to tell her father the truth and send someone to save her mother. That fear and guilt had never really left Jesse and now Logan was putting her through the same thing! If by some miracle they both survived this, Jesse knew things would change between her and Logan. They wouldn’t ever go back to how they used to be and that thought frightened her almost as much as the knife in Baxter’s hand.
[#aa0000 “Maybe that’s because the people we’ve welcomed in from the outside have tried to kill us.”] Jesse replied pointedly, recalling the numerous times she’d seen murder in Baxter’s eyes as he held her friends captive. He split Alex’s throat, tried to kill Logan, beat Rylan half to death even after the two of them were buried in a cave in! The Street Brats hadn’t have a great track record with welcoming strangers into the family lately, so it wasn’t as if their caution was unwarranted. Then again, Niki and Carlos build the family on taking in strays with nowhere else to turn, so maybe Baxter had a point.
Among the furious glares and judging stares, Bryn wore a very different expression. She barely spared Jesse more than a second glance, instead her eyes were fixed on Baxter wanted to see if he was serious about all of this. He wasn’t the type to have a soft spot for the Street Brats, so if he was willing to bring Jesse in to the gang, he must have a good reason for it. After some careful consideration, Bryn stood from the fire and crossed her arms over her chest with a bitter smirk playing across her lips.
[#880088 “Nah, you know better than that.”] Bryn quipped in response to his question about letting her down. Bryn’s hand snapped out to grab the bandages Baxter had tossed in her direction. She wasn’t the best – her twin sister Becca had always been the natural when it came to tending injuries. Becca seemed to have an instinct for knowing how to treat things despite never having any formal training , but ever since losing her sister, Bryn had done her best to pick up where Becca had left off.
[#880088 “You know Eleanor is going to be pissed when she can’t find the girl. You sure she won’t just kill your brother and start over with some new kids?”] Bryn asked rather callously, not bothered at all that she was casting doubt on whether Jesse’s best friend would survive right in front of the injured girl. Jesse had tentatively stepped closer to Bryn, letting the girl push her to sit down near the fire as she started wrapping the worse of her wounds in the makeshift bandages.
Jack felt as those his heart was in his throat as the call ended and he was left with the lingering echoes of Logan’s screams. Jack didn’t have a lot of experience with pain. Most of the torment he went through with his father was when he was too young to remember, and shortly after, he suffered the brain damage that prevented him from ever feeling that pain again. There was that brief few days while being held in his father’s cellar with Lily at his side and a broken dagger in his skull that caused him to feel every ounce of pain his parents put him through, but that experience was enough to give him perspective. He couldn’t handle the pain of just a few hours of suffering, but his friends and family had been through so much worse over the years! Not only that, but at least Jack knew his suffering was temporary. The knife would be removed and he could go back to not feeling any pain at all. But for others like Lily, Tigan, and Logan, there was no end in site. They were always vulnerable to the pain.
It was that sobering thought that made Jack feel sick to his stomach. His bargain may have bought Logan time, but it didn’t promise a reprieve. Those agonizing screams he heard over the phone would continue long after they hung up and there was no end in sight… not until Logan was returned home. But Jack’s biggest downfall was that, although he couldn’t feel physical pain, he was very in touch with psychological anguish. The brief relief that he had given Logan a chance was instantly crushed by the rage in Lily’s eyes and the bitterness of her tone. He remembered those vows as clearly as she did and Jack meant every word when he swore to fight by her side for the rest of his life. But what other choice did he have? Logan was in pain, what else could Jack have done to save him?! Was there a choice he hadn’t considered? Was there another option? If so, Jack couldn’t see it. In his mind, the decision was down to: lose Logan forever or go to prison. While he couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning Lily and missing the chance to raise his own child, how could he sentence Logan to death just so he could get what he wanted? It wouldn’t only be proving Logan’s greatest fears: that he could easily be replaced by a new perfect family. Jack couldn’t do that to his brother… but what other choice did he have?
[#ff6622 “Lily, I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to steal from our family, I don’t want to be arrested, to leave you, to miss out on our child, to never see Logan again! I want to be here with you like I promised, but… What was I supposed to do? They named their price Lily and if I didn’t agree to pay it… I’ve failed Logan enough already, I can’t just…”] Jack’s defense died as Lily pressed on, not only reminding him of his vows but also of his failures. Jack wasn’t stupid – he knew he had made mistakes and done things he had never expected forgiveness for. But over the years, he thought Lily had put those things in the past. She had always assured him that they could move on, start over… she had always given him a second chance. Now to hear all those mistakes of the past brought up again, Jack felt his whole world shatter. She hadn’t really forgiven him at all. She still harboured those doubts and fears and still held Jack accountable for his failures.
Maybe if Jack and Lily hadn’t spent so many years trying to protect each other from their own weaknesses, they would have realized one fear they had in common: Helplessness. Where Lily was tortured by the thought that she couldn’t do anything to help, Jack was in agony of the fact that every time he tried to help he made the wrong call! Everything from how he reacted to Lily’s crush on Tigan, to his fall into alcoholism, to his decisions in parenting Logan – every choice he made left him feeling like he should have made a different one. Jack was cursed with never picking the right path, despite all his best intentions. When Lily finished by telling him she wouldn’t give him another chance, Jack dropped his eyes to the floor in shame. His face twisted in anguish before settling into an odd, yet familiar expression for the oldest Sanders sibling. It was the same one he wore the day he cut his face, the same one he wore in the hospital after Lily died, and the same damn expression he wore when he realized he couldn’t help Baxter: Jack looked lost, numb, hopeless, as if there was no way out of this mess he’d made for himself. No choice he made now could have a happy ending, but maybe Jack was right from the very beginning: people like him didn’t get happy endings.
[#ff6622 “Sounds like I’m lucky it lasted this long… I’m sorry Lily.”] Jack said, not surprised if his whispered tone would even be heard as his wife stormed off to make her call. Jack turned a glance to Lisa, but if he was searching for reassurance or advice, he wouldn’t find any. Lisa just returned a cold, apathetic glare and swiftly took her leave to contact Martyn. Jack, with nothing more to do until Seth arrived or Larry got back to him with more information. He couldn’t even start planning the heists until the kidnappers sent over the account information, leaving Jack with far too much time and far too little distraction. He felt the pit in his stomach and the longing for something to numb the emotional pain and take this all away, but didn’t dare go anywhere near a bottle and Lily had forbid him from running to Tigan for another fight, so Jack was on his own. For a kid that grew up in an abusive home and learned early on that failures deserve harsh punishment, leaving Jack with a pile of failures and no avenue to work through them was devastating. The stress was stifling and the pressure of knowing he would lose everything either way was making it hard to breath. Jack eventually found himself in the freezing cold, pitch darkness of the cellar , sitting in the corner with his hands gripped tightly in his blonde hair waiting for some miracle to give him a way out.
[#336699 “Lily? Hey kid, are you ok?”] Seth’s friendly tone answered back, instantly recognizing the pain in Lily’s voice. Seth – having been the one to save Lily when she was only a child the very first time she had come in contact with the Street Brats – had always had a soft spot for the girl, just as Lisa said. Having had his own share of turmoil with the Brats over the years, even losing his twin sister to one of the monsters who hunted them, gave Seth a unique perspective on family. He would be there, with no hesitation, to help anyone who needed him. But he of all Brats knew that the Bonds not Blood motto didn’t always come easy.
[#336699 “Not sure it’s possible keeping Jack out of trouble – that kid’s as stubborn and reckless as Tigan. But if you need me, Kid, I’ll be there. Don’t worry about the risk.”] Seth said, already grabbing his bag and supplies as Lily further explained the situation.
[#336699 “Steal from the family? Alright then. I can’t say any of them would blame you with your son’s life on the line. Don’t worry, Lily, I’ll keep an eye on Jack. It’ll be ok, Lily.”] Seth said, jumping on his motorcycle and whipping out of his driveway on his way to Lily and Jack’s house. But something wasn’t sitting well with Seth. He had never heard that cold bitter tone from Lily before, and it was scaring Seth. He had seen firsthand what it was like when someone thought they were going to lose everything: he’d seen Elliot snap and go mad, he watched Nic swallowed by depression, Hayden let herself slip away, and Martyn close himself off from the world – the most severe of course was Sarah. Seth remembered being trapped beneath the floorboards of the apartment, listening to Sarah’s sobs and whispers about how there was no escape and no way to beat Seven. That hopelessness drive Sarah to plunge that dagger through her own heart, costing Seth the live of his own twin sister. He wouldn’t let that happen to anyone else, especially not Lily.
[#336699 “We’ll fight through this, Kid, just like we have for ever other bastard that tried to take something away from our family. Just keep your head up. I’ll be there soon.”]
While the parents were fighting their own battles, Logan was left in the care of three soulless monsters eager to make him suffer for his friend’s escape. Pyke was happy to leave Logan bleeding on the floor after Dylan finished cutting the two deep gashes across his face. He was far more concerned about getting the other brat back in line, but soon Eleanor stepped back through the door with an unimpressed look creasing her brow and no Jesse in tow.
[#776677 “The bitch escaped?”] Pyke growled, ready to storm past and drag the girl back himself.
[#ff00ff “She won’t get far. The sun’s set and it’s already getting too dark to see. There’s supposed to be a bad storm tonight. I doubt the fragile little [i Princess] will be too keen on spending her night in the freezing rain and lightning, not to mention the other hazards out there. In the very least, her injuries will need to be treated. We’re too far from town, she’ll never make it on her own. Her only choice is to come crawling back here or bleed to death out there. Either way, I’m not concerned. I am, however, a little curious about Logan’s master plan. His beating made it infinitely harder for Jesse to make it back to civilization and I doubt he wanted to be left all alone to our mercy. I’m guessing Jesse needed out to find a way to contact help… unless she already had one?”] Eleanor said, watching Logan as she tested her theory. She pulled out her phone, seeing that Pyke’s was already in his hand from the ransom call and Dylan had one clipped to his belt. All accounted for, unless…
[#ff00ff “Dylan, please tell me you didn’t bring more than one phone on this trip? And if so, I damn well home you haven’t lost one.”] Eleanor questioned, turning her eyes to the bleeding mess of a teenager at her feet. She gave Logan a sharp kick to see if he would own up to his own plan.
[#ff00ff “Well, looks like I’ll need to run some interference. I’m going to give Lily Sanders a visit. Failing to report a missing child to the police is a serious crime, after all. Not even the McCleeve family immunity will save Lily from that.”]
Baxter hadn’t changed in a lot of ways... he still had zero respect for his family, or any intention of acknowledging he was a Sanders, McCleeve, Heartly; whatever his supposed family name was he abandoned it. His mother was weak, Jack was equally pathetic in his eyes and Logan... well, at least someone in the family had the guts not want to play by the rules. Baxter wouldn’t hesitate to turn against them again, or cause harm to his family, and he was a true demonstration of the darker side towards ‘Bonds not Blood’. Family didn’t fix anything. Family was weak. However, he wasn’t nearly as twisted as he was as a kid. Somehow some morals had been enforced onto him, which was the only reason Jesse was still alive. If this was years ago, he probably would have just slit Jesse’s throat for the hell of it.
The tunnels they entered might have been a nightmare for the majority, but for Baxter it was his comfort. With no rules meant there was a lot of dangers, but it also meant there was free reign in how he could act, what he could do, and most importantly; how he could survive. Up on the surface bloodshed had its costs. Down here, there was no lawful retaliation, and certainly no judgement. Jesse had no idea exactly what nightmare she was talking into and as she thanked him, his hand instinctively stroked against the handle of his blade in a reaction to spin around and plunge that knife so deeply into her she’d regret those words in a heart beat!
[+blue “Logan might buy your bullshit thanks and that’s what makes you two so close, even though by the looks of you, he’s still messed up in his decision making; down here? You get nothing for thank you. You want to know what you get down here for saying thank you? You get killed. It’s weak. It means nothing. People down here want value, not shitty meaningless words with no action.”] Baxter cut her down just as sharp as the blade he was planning to use. Fortunately for Jesse, she had a use...
At the campsite Baxter sat down on a concrete block by the campfire, reaching for a box as he listened to Jesse’s counter offer and reaching for the few medical supplies they had. It wasn’t much... a few makeshift bandages from bits of fabric they had found, and a bottle of spirit which they could use for disinfection. For people on the surface, it would have been a shock but for Baxter and his gang, it was all they needed. Down in the life they had chosen , they were the privileged ones to even have a place to sleep!
He couldn’t help but flash a cocky grin at his gang as Jesse stood her ground, which got him a laugh from the majority who sat around. There wasn’t many who would dare try and challenge their offer, especially with the reputation they had built for themselves.
[+blue “What’s life without a little bit of mystery Jesse? Another reason I hate you lot... always so playful. Never spontaneous. Yeah, I could kill you. I mean, I already really want to, but I can see you are a goodie-goodie who relies on a safety blanket all the time. I dunno guys, what do you think?”] Baxter asked, watching as each of the gang started to whisper amongst themselves, mockingly playing along to the threat Baxter was building up. Some mimicked that it wasn’t worth their time, others actually stared intently at Jesse for daring to counter but Baxter’s eyes ignored the majority... in fact, he was waiting for Bryn to speak up and without surprise, she did.
[+blue “Of course she’s selfish. She’s a stupid little Street Brat. They protect the people they care about and don’t care about people on the outside. They lost that when Carlos and Tenica died. Instead they stick in their own little bubble, but as we can see, their own little bubble are just as destructive...”] Baxter agreed, referencing to Jesse’s injuries.
[+blue “However, I also know how caring they are. It’s weak, but she’s so damn protective over Logan, her mother, her father. She’ll help and Byrn... we’re going to teach her our way of doing things.”] He stated and instantly the gang went quiet, all turning to Baxter with a look of fury. He was inviting a one of the rich kids who had no survival instinct to save the day!? He looked at Byrn, standing up as he spoke and gave the first sincere look that Jesse would have seen from Bax. He would never admit it, but he was pleading with Byrn to stand by his side on his decision.
[+blue “We can teach an up-tight Brat to hold her own. So how about Byrn, you patch her up, and we finally do something about the bastards. They might not care up there, but have I ever let you down before?”] Baxter asked, addressing the question to his whole gang. He might have been ruthless, uncaring, perhaps harsh on them sometimes but they were together, surviving, with food and supplies. As no one challenged him, he threw the bandages over to Byrn and took a step back.
[+blue “From my side Jesse, it’s a deal. Don’t make me regret not killing you.”]
Lily was always the first by Lisa’s side during the good and the bad. She had challenged her own husband before when he acted against Lisa and even, over the years, had private words with Martyn to try and be more open with his partner and daughter when perhaps his distancing behaviour was getting a bit too much. She was grateful for her best friend and could always rely on approaching her to talk about the horrors of their past, to have someone who could snap her back into reality, and someone who ultimately was just there.
Yet as Lisa hit back with what she had done for the family, particular getting the Sanders out of trouble, Lily felt like she had been punched in the gut. Part of her knew Lisa was just trying to say she was doing everything she could to keep the family safe, and she did truly care, but it felt like all of Lisa’s support was being thrown in her face.
[+orange “Then you better do it again.”] Lily cut back, clashing back against Lisa’s sharp tone with her own.
There was one hidden pressure point for Lily, and it was one she hadn’t discussed with her best friend or her husband. Over the eight years they had been free from the life of the Street Brat’s, even before, she felt she was useless. She had nothing to offer her friend, despite her attempts to be the best friend she could, she had no money, no real skill set , instead only passed on her anxieties. Her husband, despite her getting a job within alcohol therapy, slipped back into an alcoholic state and could now only beat his addiction by being a human punching bag! He couldn’t turn and talk to his wife. He had to run away and come back with new bruises... new scars... Logan continued to be rebellious, despite everything she tried to offer and now? What was she actually doing? She couldn’t bring Jesse home, she couldn’t protect Logan, she once again had nothing to offer and all those thoughts of self-doubt, amongst the sound of her sons torture, and Lisa’s throw back - it was almost the tipping point for Lily... almost...
What tipped her over the edge was listening to her husband sacrifice himself to a deal that was going to rip the family apart. She was going to be a mother to another child, alone and depending on how this all went, she might lose a son and a husband! With her hand on his wrist, Lily stared at him with a betrayal she couldn’t hold back. Her eyes watered but not with her own over-troubled mind; no. It was rage. It was a bursting rage that was exasperated by her tight expression and for how long and intently she stared at Jack for.
[+orange “When you got down on one knee you said I slipped through your fingers too many times. You said you let me down, you hurt me, and you wanted to spend the rest of your life making it up to me. You also said you would do whatever it takes to protect me, keep me safe and happy. Why Jack? Why once again have you broken yet another promise?”] Lily said bitterly, her voice filled with the pain she had kept locked in herself for far too long. The tears started to fall from her eyes and she threw Jack’s wrist away, putting a hand on her stomach as if almost protecting her pregnancy away from him as she took a step back.
[+orange “You drank again. You left me to have an anxiety attack. You went to hurt my son. You lost your job. You bicker with Logan. You don’t talk to me. Now you’re taking a stupid risk, to save our son, and again I have no word in it. Nothing I can do. You’ll leave again without... you know what Jack... I thought I’d actually have a father of my child who would be around and love me and love the baby... you want to follow through with a deal to get yourself arrested and taken away?I’m going to phone Seth, I will get him to help you, but I swear down Jack, if you go through all the way with this and hurt me one more time I won’t give you another chance.”] Lily surprised herself with the truth that came out, and her hand instantly shot over her mouth as if to try and stop herself speaking her buried pain. She wanted to hold him, to take it back, but her anger, rage, fear; it was dragging her back. With her words like daggers, she turned around and stormed out the room and upstairs to make the call.
She had no more words for her best friend or the man she loved. Everything came down to Seth agreeing with this, but even then by what Lisa said, Jack would still have to surrender himself to the police. With tears rolling down her eyes, Lily dialled Seth’s number, not bothering to hide the pain in her voice as it rang through.
[+orange “Seth, I need you. We need you. Jack won’t listen, he’s going to get himself in trouble and... I have to say it bluntly Seth. I’m going to ask you to put yourself in great risk for my family but I’m going to lose my family...”] Lily started, but as she stared at the mirror and looked at herself, she bit her lip and felt her eyes harden. She was tired of being useless. She was tired of not making a real difference in her own eyes. She couldn’t afford to give people a choice anymore. The only time she had an impact that impressed was when she got that creep away from herself and Lisa just hours before. She was stern, and while she had to con him then, she could use the same tone to make sure Seth wouldn’t argue.
[+orange “You’re going to steal from a collection of banks to save my son. You’ll meet Jack in the next hour at our house. I expect you here Seth. I expect you to keep Jack safe. He won’t listen to me, I need you to make sure he doesn’t act reckless.”] Her voice was terrifyingly cold, which was probably the biggest sign of just how much she was breaking!
Martyn knew what his sister wanted... she wanted comfort, she wanted to show her gratitude, but her words were more than enough and with what Martyn was about to hear from Lisa, they would mean a hell of a lot more! As much as he didn’t want to have to resort to all the Brat’s joining in, their time was quickly running out and he was running out of tricks to play.
[+green “What do you mean we don’t have much time? How much time exactly?”] Martyn asked, immediately putting his foot down on the accelerator and breaking the speed limit but as he heard about Jesse, his hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel. Lisa didn’t have to explain any further about the risks against their daughter... her voice told a story that set Martyn’s face like a stone.
[+green “Jack and Lily, despite their foolishness, do they have a plan? If so, Lisa, we leave them for now. We’ve intervened all we can. We need that location, we need to formulate a plan for Jesse. We find Jesse, we have the key to finding Logan. We find Logan, we can fix this mess. You need to back away from the Sanders. I know you care, but we have to remain impartial and rational.”] Martyn didn’t want to leave the Sanders, but if their time was slim he had to trust they could hold their own. Beside’s, they had already buried themselves in trouble, what further damage could they do?
[+green “Rylan is in bad shape. Elliot is supporting his operation but whoever kidnapped our daughter and Logan also planned an attack on Rylan. No one is safe. Whatever they are proposing as a deal, I know this won’t be the end. They kill Logan then they will continue attacking the Brat’s and using that against us. Hayden has said if we need her, she will come fight by our side but with Rylan in danger she won’t be the strongest fighter. Not with her emotions... i hate to recommend this but we need muscle on our side. Especially if Jesse has been physically hurt. I’m going to get Tigan
Jesse was scared. Her perception was off after the trauma of the torture and Logan’s ‘betrayal’, and Jesse knew she wouldn’t be able to rely on her gift as much as usual. She tried to read Baxter’s expression to see whether or not she could trust him, but her eyes kept shifting to the blade and a voice in her mind screamed [i danger!] Another call came from Eleanor, now even closer than before, and Jesse knew she was out of time. She let Baxter guide her down into the underground, fearing what awaited her down in these dark, hellish tunnels.
Jesse wasn’t surprised to feel the cold metal of the knife pressing against her throat, but the speak caught her off guard. She thought Baxter had brought her down her to kill her… or at least to sell her off like Dylan had intended to do. But the way he was talking was as if he was just going to let her go! Before Jesse could even wrap her head around the thought, the knife was gone and Baxter was leading the way – no threats, no restraints, no torture. It took a few seconds for all of that to sink in. Jesse numbly followed behind, now more intrigued than terrified, yet she was still wary of the boy. She knew Baxter could over power her if he wanted to and he was under no moral obligation to keep her alive.
[#aa0000 “Thank you. I’m not expecting any more favours and I assume saving me comes with conditions, but still… Thank you.”] Jesse said, her jaw still aching, but without the fear and adrenaline coursing through her Jesse’s speech was growing a little clearer. She followed Baxter a few paces behind, listening to his spiel. She had always wondered what happened to the wayward son of Lily Sanders, but she never could have predicted he’d find himself a gang of kids, lost and abandoned like him. After her last experience with Baxter, she didn’t exactly get the impression that he ‘played well with others’. Yet as they neared the small campsite, she couldn’t help the striking resemblance to the Street Brats of old: a handful of down-and-out orphans looking out for one another when no one else will… although this group looked a tad less welcoming.
When the offer was made to help her get Logan back if she helped them retrieve the brothers and sisters of these kids, Jesse turned back to study Baxter, trying to read him. Her mind was still off after her trauma and the sight of her best and most trusted friend beating her bloody, so she knew she could be reading this all wrong. But Jesse couldn’t afford to blindly trust a kid who once tried to kill several of the Street Brats’ children.
[#aa0000 “Are you really going to help save your brother, or are you just saying what you think I want to hear? Once I outlive my usefulness, it would be easy for you to double cross me. Logan would be left to the mercy of those creeps and I’d be left dying in a gutter somewhere down here. How about a compromise? If I get some of those kids back, then you’ll get a message to the Street Brats about how to save Logan. I’ll stay down here until the rest of these kids find their brothers and sisters. Deal?”] Jesse asked, showing she was willing to work with him, but not without something in return. It wouldn’t be easy tracking down the missing siblings and negotiating a deal for their release, especially when she didn’t have anything to bargain with. But if she could prove her worth and get a few of these kids reunited with their siblings, maybe it would buy her a chance to get help for Logan.
[#880088 “I told you she wouldn’t want to help us. Rich kids – Privileged Brats! They don’t care about anyone but themselves. She’s probably just being time for her rich mommy and daddy to swoop in and buy off the kidnappers.”] The voice came from one of the kids sitting around the fire. Jesse turned her eyes to the small gang of orphans, focusing on the only kid she recognized. A dark-skinned girl with shirt black hair and a tattoo under her left eye stood from the fire and crossed her arms. Jesse recognized her face from the news. Her name was Bryn Phyr and she went missing, along with her twin sister Becca a couple years ago. The only reason the girls got any media attention at all was because of the tragedy. Becca was dead just a couple months ago and the media published all kinds of stories about the tragedy of kidnaped twins separated and killed. If not for that, there would have been little to no attention at all to the missing girls. The media didn’t tend to pay much attention to the poor and parentless. Sadly, that meant that most of Baxter’s gang of orphans weren’t even being looked for!
[+green “And how many times have my readings or Martyn’s words bailed you and your family your of trouble? If you think for one second that I don’t have the children’s best interests at heart, then you don’t know me at all.”] Lisa cut back with a cold sharp edge she often used on others but never on Lily! Lisa seemed calm and composed but inside the pressure was getting to her. She had no idea what was happening to her daughter and could only hope the kidnapper’s taunts were fake. But Lisa could hear the lust and malice in his voice and knew that he was more than capable of becoming just like the monsters Lisa and Lily had faced in the past. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, Lisa was forced to listen to the torture of a boy who had protected Jesse his whole life! The son of one of her only friends! And now both Lily and Jack were accusing her of putting Logan in further harm just to save a few dollars? Lisa and Martyn may have a reputation for being cold and apathetic compared to the rest of the family, but they had never been soulless.
[+green “No. I won’t pay a cent without speaking to my daughter. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway, he won’t stop. He’s not hurting Logan for money, he’s doing it out of vengeance. What did the boy do? Fight back? Try to escape? I’m willing to bet he drew blood for you to be this pissed off.”] Lisa asked, turning her attention back to the bastard that was carving into Logan’s face. Lisa was trying to read as much as she could, throw these kidnappers off their game. As it stood, they were going to kill Logan no matter what she did, so her only chance at saving the boy was to shake the kidnappers, make them feel vulnerable so they’d have to use Logan’s life as leverage. It was the only way Lisa could think to spare him, even if it did mean putting him through this pain in the short term.
[+green “There’s just one problem with your threat. My daughter isn’t in your possession, is she? No, if she was still there, you would have put her on the line or at least punished her for my defiance, instead of hoping I cared enough about Lily’s brat to pay up. You don’t have Jesse, so you’d better think very carefully about disposing of your only bargaining chip. If you want a cent out of Martyn and I, you better keep the boy alive.”] Lisa replied, seeming cold and almost disinterested. She hadn’t even called Logan by name, only referring to him as [i Lily’s Brat] as if he meant nothing to her! Again, this was all strategic. She had her reasons, but it seemed to only serve in making the Sanders’ even more angry!
[#ff6622 “You stone cold BITCH! Stay the HELL out of this!”] Jack shouted, shoving Lisa away before turning back to the phone in time to hear the kidnapper address him specifically. He wasn’t expecting this to be easy. Breaking in to a bank to buy back Logan’s ransom would be risky, not to mention the jail time he’d serve if he were caught. Doing this would break the pardon Jack was given years ago after the break out, so he’d be going right back to maximum security! Jack may never see his newborn child or ever make things right with Logan, but it was worth the risk to get his son back. Unfortunately, these Bastards weren’t just satisfied with the chance of him getting caught or the dollars he could steal. They made it personal.
Jack looked to his wife, letting her see the turmoil in his eyes. He’d be stealing from their own family, destroying the livelihoods they worked so hard for and at the end, he’d be arrested with no chance to see Logan returned safely. If he agreed to this, he’d get only 24 hours with his family before he was locked away for the next decade or more! And those 24 hours would have to be spent breaking into several banks across the city. But if he didn’t, these bastards could kill Logan!
[#ff6622 “I’ll do it. Just don’t hurt him anymore. Logan… You stay strong, son. Your mom and I… we love you, and we’ll find a way to bring you home.”] Jack promised. As the final threats were given and the call abruptly ended, Jack felt the guilt constricting his chest. He felt the strong grip of his wife’s hand along his wrist and Jack turned his regretful eyes to meet hers. He would do anything to give her what she wanted: for him to stay and somehow also get Logan home safe. But what would happen if he didn’t follow through with what he promised the kidnappers? Lisa was quick to answer.
[+green “Yes he is. Thanks to Jack’s big mouth, he doesn’t have a choice! This is exactly why I wanted to handle the negotiations myself. Now that Jack promised to rob those accounts, he has to follow through or your son will die and considering how much of a thrill those bastards took in making you listen to the torture, I’m guessing they’ll make you listen to his execution too.”] Lisa snapped back. Her eyes were hard and narrowed, seething at how badly Jack and Lily had compromised that call. Logan was no safer now than he was, only now Jack was cornered into a deal that would destroy his life and the lives of his family, and the kidnappers were well aware that any negotiations from Lisa and Martyn could easily be overruled by the more emotional Sanders couple.
Lisa pinched the bridge of her nose in a rare show of stress. She needed to talk to Martyn and see if any of this was salvageable. But leaving the Sanders in this mess would drive Lily into another panic attack and Jack closer to his life sentence behind bars!
[+green “Lily, you should call Seth. He’s always had a soft spot for you – maybe it’s enough to get him to agree to all of this. He’s the same body type and has the same hair colour as Jack. If they hide their faces, they’ll look similar enough. Seth can break into half of the banks, giving you more time to spend with Jack before the deadline. As far as making a plan, Martyn and I will deal with that. I can trust that either of you won’t rush in and mess this up any further.”] Lisa retorted, unsurprised to see that defensive gleam return to Jack’s gaze. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, tossing it to the Reader. At first Lisa was puzzled, but when she glanced at the screen and saw a voice recording with Jesse’s name she was eager to play the file and hear her little girl’s voice.
[#ff6622 “You were right, Jesse did escape. She got this message to Larry before the line went dead. Larry and Caleb are tracing the call now and might be able to narrow down a location. I was just trying to buy Logan some time.”] Jack said in his own defense, feeling the blame cast with every harsh glare from Lisa.
[+green “Well, now you’ve only got 24 hours. You better put it to good use.”] Lisa said sharply before leaving the house. She stepped outside into the cool evening air and listened to the message her daughter had left. Instead of bringing reassurance, it only brought more pain. Jesse had obviously been beaten, her jaw broken, and she was scared. Lisa could read the terror in her distorted voice. It was a mercy when Lisa was distracted by the ringing of her phone.
[+green “Martyn, I’m glad you’re on your way back. Things aren’t going well… we just had a ransom call for Logan. The Sanders reacted poorly and now Jack’s got himself into a mess and Lily doesn’t trust me. Caleb’s working on a potential location now, but Logan doesn’t have much time. Jesse was able to get away, but they’re hunting her down. If they catch her… She’s scared Martyn, and she has every right to be. These kidnappers are animals.”] Lisa told her partner, shuddering at the thought of what Dylan said he’d do to Jesse.
Hayden held her breath as the list of injuries continued. She had seen horrors in the early years of her life. She had seen Brats suffer the worst injuries imaginable, but to think of them happening to her own son… Hayden was never one for false hope, but she also came from a long line of stubborn, determined Brats. Her mother and Axel laughed in Death’s face more times than she could count. Even Hayden had her fair share of close calls, including falling from the roof of a building! Each time she clung on to life and fought through the pain as any fighter would. She had beat impossible odds in the past and was rewarded with more than 8 years of peace with her love and her family. Hayden just had to hope some of that strength was passed on to her son. She turned her eyes to her husband, seeing the evidence of his own suffering. Over the years, Hayden had become blind to Elliot’s prosthetics, hardly even seeing them past the man she loved. But each mechanical addition was suddenly far more prominent when the mother thought of how her son would soon bear something similar. Yet amongst that fear was a spark of hope. Elliot had rebuild his arm, leg, and eye while dealing with the pain of the injuries himself. He had forged Tessa’s ribs, and even hand build a replacement spine for Hayden, not to mention Tigan’s hands! If he could create miracle after miracle, maybe he could do the same for Rylan.
[+red “Elliot, I trust you more than anyone. I know you’ll do everything in your power to help our son.”] She told him sincerely. Hayden placed a gentle hand along his cheek, right below his false eye and leaned in to kiss her husband over one of the old scars on his face.
[+red “If your fear gets to be too much, just close your eyes and slow your breathing. Just like the meditation techniques I used to teach Alex. Just close your eyes, use that incredible brain of yours to picture your invention clearly in your mind, and when you find your focus, go back at it. I’ll get Alex and we’ll be here waiting for you. Bring our boy home, Elliot.”] Hayden told her husband, with no trace of doubt in her eyes. She had the upmost faith in Elliot’s abilities and his determination to save his son. Rylan was in the best hands now.
As Elliot let her side, Hayden felt a shudder run through her arms at the lost off physical contact. But she knew Elliot would do whatever he could to save Rylan. Hayden would have to pick up Alex. The young teen had been over hanging out with her cousin Carla at the time of the accident. Hayden barely had time to call her and tell her that Rylan was hurt and she’d call back once they knew more. Knowing her overprotective daughter, Alex was probably pacing the floors eagerly awaiting news of her older brother.
[+red “Martyn, thank you. It wasn’t fair of me to ask you to come, and to take you away from searching for your daughter, but… if Rylan survives this, it’ll be because of you. If you hadn’t convinced the doctors to let Elliot help… Look Martyn, I’ll respect your wishes to handle this yourself. But if anything changes, if you ever need us in any way, please call. I’ll do whatever it takes to get Jesse home safe.”] Hayden insisted, her eyes gleaming with the endless gratitude for his help in saving Rylan’s life. Despite her instinct to wrap her arms around her brother, Hayden resisted. Martyn had never been the touchy-feeling type, and even less so when he was stressed. Instead, she did the only thing she could: offer him the support and help he needed whenever he was willing to take it.
<< I know you still had to finish your other post. I hope you don’t mind that I jumped ahead and posted this. Had a bit of a rough day so needed this as a bit of a distraction. >>
Unlike Lisa, Lily wasn’t a rationale thinker. She was driven by panic, her adrenaline demanding some sort of action to happen in the immediate effect. Perhaps it was her past traumas, or maybe a mixture of having a reckless son and husband, but often she had to act quickly. She had learned in the past what happened if she tried to negotiate. It didn’t work well with Rick, and it never really worked well in the Brats. To get her voice heard, she had to do more than plan in the background unlike the Culls. She knew it wasn’t always the best way in acting and if anything it was a race of who could out-act each other in the Sanders household! It was why she was finding this just as difficult as Jack. They had all the clues but none of them seemed to be coming together. So now she had her son on the phone, she was determined to do something, anything, to buy her son more time and get to him!
What frustrated Lily more was that she couldn’t tell what was happening and was relying on Lisa more-than-ever! In her panic, her own mind was forgetting about Jesse and was solely focused on Logan. It was a horrible truth, but just like Lisa had focused on the dangers of her daughter, Lily wanted her sons pain to stop. So when Lisa was keeping her eyes closed, Lily’s pacing was becoming rapid and she was hugging herself so tightly, her fingers were brushing her own arms! Why wasn’t Lisa acting quicker!? Why was she holding back!? Surely she could say something, or at least make an offer and as the negotiation began, and Lisa resisted, Lily’s eyes burnt with a raging fury. Unlike Jack, she still had the connection with her best friend to see that Lisa cared, but that didn’t stop Lily feeling like Lisa had just thrown away their opportunity!
[+orange “This isn’t the time to be playing games Lisa! They’re torturing him! I have NEVER asked you for a penny but that’s my son! How many times has he kept Jesse safe!”] Lily demanded, adding to the pressure with the negotiators on the phone. In other circumstances, she would have backed her friend and probably would have added to the conversation by defending Lisa’s words! Only as Lisa answered back, Logan’s screams intensified. Dylan only took that as an invite to hurt the boy more, applying more pressure with the glass along the deep cut across the boys face.
[+orange “You’re going to kill him! Stop it! Lisa just fucking pay the money!”] Lily screamed, her entire body shaking with the stress of hearing her son, the flashbacks of Rick hitting her baby boy whilst she was trapped in another room, unable to do anything. Now they had the ability to stop the pain, and Lisa was doing nothing!
When Jack made an appearance, Lily’s eyes shot at him in desperation. She was getting dangerously close to putting her hands on her best friend as well and shaking some sense into her!
[+orange “He’s alive! You can hear him screaming Lisa! I’m sorry your daughter isn’t there! I’m sorry we can’t hear her but you’re letting them murder our son! We have no guarantee anyway that we’ll get them back but he said he’ll slit my sons throat if you don’t give him the money and you are just letting it happen!”] Lily was now at her wits end, her own hands curled into fists like Lisa’s and just as her friend was staring at the phone not blinking, she was glaring at Lisa with the exact same look! As Jack pushed Lisa against the wall, it usually would have diverted Lily’s attention to her husband and she probably would have snapped at him for doing so! Instead, Lily was staring at Lisa with so much anger and disappointment, she didn’t challenge her husband.
If it was any other circumstance, maybe Lily would have been understanding but there was a viscous trauma replaying on her mind, her PTSD kicking in, her desperation to save her son - all rationale was out of her mind. There was no conscious towards Jesse, and it was exactly what Dylan and Pyke wanted to play on.
[+grey “You know Lisa, maybe you should have listened to your friend! Rule number one of negotiating is not to challenge the one who has everything you care about in their possession! Looks like your daughter is going to suffer more now, and since you insist on not giving up any cash, I’ll just have to keep slicing away at Logan here. The thing is Lisa, you don’t know if we’ll give the kids back, but my term was I’d stop if you sent the cash. Too bad you aren’t good at listening to demands.”] Dylan hissed, adding to the confrontation and continuing to slice down.
Logan’s face was a mess. The cut, measured right down to the bone from top to bottom. If Jack thought he had done an impressive job slicing his own face to make himself look different to Rick, it was nothing compared to what Dylan had done! He was just reaching past Logan’s chin, and was pulling the glass towards his throat for the final deadly cut, when another Sanders voice broke his actions.
[+grey “Ah! Jack! Now this is a party. Your ‘son’ has an impressive looking scar now. You can finally say you match! You are very lucky. I was just about to slit the little bastards throat. However since you seem to want to listen, lets start from the top again and discuss an offer.”] Nodding to his partner to continue the pressure, Dylan brought the glass up to the top of Logan’s head again and just as the boy thought it was over, Dylan started to repeat the process, creating another deep cut just below the one he had already made! At this point, all Jack would hear was his son spluttering for breath, his screams muffled. Blood was soaking down his throat, but as he tried to spit it out, it was running down his face so quickly it was filling in his mouth!
[+grey “My price? Hm... well, well that is tricky. I still want the Culls funds, so I suggest you speak to them but how about that... How about this; you have 24 hours. I will send you a list of banks, a number to specific vaults. Those vaults connect to each of the Street Brats. That’s right Jack. You are going to break in to your own little families banks and take their funds. Every penny. You’ll send it to us. Each of you will be run back onto the streets... you’ll be the reason the Brats normal lives go back to chaos. Oh! Don’t think about contacting them. At the end of it all, you will hand yourself into the police. I want the evidence of all this Jack. I want Lily to lose her husband. Her unborn child, to lose its father before its even born. You have 24 hours Jack. If you don’t, we will kill your boy.”] Dylan grinned, finalising his second cut on Logan before throwing the boy over towards Pyke.
[+grey “Oh and Lisa, you have 24 hours to make your decision. The price is up. I want every penny from yours and Martyn’s bank accounts, and your business. In the meantime, I’ll keep having fun with Jesse.”] With that, Dylan hung up the phone, leaving the family to negotiate amongst themselves.
There was a silence that filled the room the moment the call came to an end. Lily was still frozen on the spot, glaring at Lisa, her hands shaking by her sides. After a couple of seconds , she turned to her husband and tightly wrapped her hand around his wrist.
[+orange “You are not going anywhere.”] She said coldly, almost challenging him to dare act against her word.
[+orange “We have 24 hours. I am not losing you. I am not losing more family. Lisa, I suggest you call Martyn and we finally come up with a plan, together.”]
[+green “Your miracle is standing right there. If you don’t listen to my threats and take them seriously, you yourself will need more than a miracle.”] Martyn threatened, his eyes sharpening as he watched one doctor elbow the other. He knew in that instant that he had won them over but he quickly shot Hayden and Elliot a look of warning. What they were about to hear wasn’t going to be pretty.
[+green “Mr. Evenwood knows the risks and if you are aware of his intervention on medical procedures historically, you will know the odds have often been against him. He knows he might lose his son, he knows the implications, but if you are saying his expertise might give the boy a chance then that chance must be taken. After all, as medical professionals you must do everything, to the best of your ability, to preserve life. Rylan’s best chance is his father.”]
Allowing the doctors to speak to his sister and Elliot, Martyn took a step back. Just as Hayden grabbed Elliot’s hand, he was squeezing hers back with just as much ferocity to stop himself from trembling with the information. He knew it was bad, but hearing the doctor speak just how badly injured his son was hit Elliot harder than he expected. They had lived a safe life for years, that what usually would have been the norm for the Brat’s was actually hitting as more of a shock than normal! The fact someone could have purposely done this was even worse, but Elliot had to shake that away for now. He had to listen to the facts.
The eye... it could be fixed at a later date. Elliot had built his own and he was sure he could pas that knowledge onto his son if he survived. It was the arm. Rylan was so proud of that gadget that he showed his father every single adjustment he made as he created it. No doubt, as a typical inventor, he had kept some secrets of his own, but Elliot had learned the fundamentals of that metal attachment. A stray tear slid down his face just thinking of the pride his son had the moment he completed it the first time! Now that very thing he was so proud of was killing him. Then the next realisation hit Elliot...
It wasn’t just going to be the most difficult task he had faced, but it sounded one of the most gruesome too. Elliot had never gotten over his fear of blood. Even when the kids scraped their knees or had a silly accident, it was often Hayden who had to come to their rescue. He closed his eyes, remembering the sight of his father hanging over him and Carlos’ blood dripping down onto his skin. Whilst Elliot had medically intervened before with his skill set, it still sent his skin a ghostly pale and made his stomach churn. There wouldn’t be anything that would stop him. He needed to face his fear, suck it up, and save his son. Turning to his wife, Elliot put a hand on each of her arms and looked at her intently in the eyes.
[+red “You trust that I can do this? I won’t let him down...”]
[+green “Elliot you have to...”]
[+red “I said I won’t let him down Martyn! He’s my son! I’ll sacrifice my own arm if I have to! It’s just... it’s just blood... Hayden you should go to our daughter. Make sure she’s ok. This won’t be a quick procedure and I know you’ll want to be waiting. Look after the family. I won’t let our son down. Rylan is coming out of that operating theatre.”] Elliot promised with a fierce assurance that wasn’t to be challenged. He could almost feel the doctors reluctance staring at him but he didn’t care. The way he was going to push past his fear was giving himself the guarantee that he wasn’t going to let his son die. Quickly giving Hayden a quick kiss, he stepped back and headed towards the doctors.
[+red “Take me in. I need every tool you have and all surgical metal I can build with.”]
[+green “And as soon as Lynn is here, I want her to have access to Rylan’s file and immediate access into the operating theatre. She will also take over as surgical lead upon her arrival.”] Martyn added, giving Elliot a nod of confidence before quickly checking his watch. He hated to rush away when his sister was in need, but he had spent far too long away from his search for Jesse!
[+green “Hayden I’m sorry, I have to go. Phone me the moment you hear anything. I’ll do the same. I’ve... I’ve really got to go.”] Without another word, or any physical contact, Martyn rushed out the hospital. It was never any different between the two. Even on special occasions Martyn would often leave without a word! However that didn’t ruin their bond and Martyn knew it would be the same. Running towards his car, he started his journey back to the Sanders and quickly dialled his wife.
[+green “Lisa, I’m on my way back. I’m sorry I went. I’ll explain when I’m back but I’ll be an hour or two. Is everything ok?”]
<<sorry, only had time for a half-post, but I'll get the rest up later this week>>
Lisa read what she could from the conversation, cursing her own limitations. She could read decently well over the phone, but to be as accurate as she needed to be, she required the visual cues: shaking hands, darting eyes, irregular breathing, flashes of micro-expressions… without those, it was almost impossible to get a full read on the situation. Not to mention, Lisa was aware of her earlier theory – if one of these kidnappers was a con artist, then her entire perception could be thrown off!
She closed her eyes and concentrated on what she could hear, blocking out Lily’s panicked screams: two kidnappers in the room with Logan, but Jesse was silent. She would have made some noise to let her mother know she was ok, so Lisa had to assume she was in a different room. Which meant there was at least one other kidnapper to keep her under threat or Logan wouldn’t be as compliant as he was now. The first voice seemed like a typical enforcer. He wasn’t afraid to use violence and fear to control his victims, but he stayed calm and collected, not wanting to kill the kid unnecessarily. He was clearly experienced with taking and keeping children to have built up that kind of patience while still being indifferent to the boy’s condition. Clearly experience had taught him that killing the kids too early meant he didn’t get paid.
The second voice was far less controlled… almost enraged. Logan must have succeeded in drawing a bit of his kidnapper’s blood in order to provoke such an extreme reaction. The vengeful part of the mother’s mind was congratulating Logan, but the rational side wished he had kept his fists to himself. This didn’t sound like the type of person he wanted to mess with. He was experienced as well, having known how to set up the ransom drop and make his demands, but clearly lacked the detached control of the other. This man was likely used to being in the background and not dealing with the kids hands on.
Lisa opened her mouth, prepared to negotiate with the men until she heard about her daughter. Logan’s screams seemed to dull in Lisa’s mind as she latched onto the meaning of those words. She tried to find any hint of a lie in that voice but couldn’t. Either this man had really done as he implied, or he planned too. The truth was there: this bastard wouldn’t hesitate to put his hands on her little girl. Suddenly, Lisa was finding it much harder to stay impartial.
[+green “You know why they tell you to stay calm and detached when negotiating? It’s so that you don’t make stupid emotional mistakes like the one you just made. If you wanted my money, you shouldn’t have told me what happened to my daughter. Now how and I to believe you’ll actually let the kids go once I pay the ransom?”] Lisa replied back, her voice as calm and cold as if talking about a complete stranger. To anyone else she might have even seemed disinterested in the call, despite the young boy’s screams! Those who knew Lisa, of course, would see the way her fists clenched at her sides so tight it turned her knuckles white, or how she stared so intently at the phone she didn’t even blink!
[+green “You want your money? I want proof of life. Let me speak to my daughter. Let her read your intent and tell me that you’ll honestly let the children go if I pay you. I’ll give you every scent, but ONLY after I speak to Jesse.”] Lisa insisted.
Jack was following Nova as she sniffed out the children’s trail, but the dog could only track so far. The sun was setting and pretty soon there wouldn’t be a trail to follow! Jack was struggling to keep his composure. The last time Logan was in danger like this, it was Jack’s own fault. He had been drinking again without a thought of how his choices would affect the boy, when the police corner him, Tigan, and Larry on the bridge. He was too wasted and uncoordinated to fight properly and his recklessness sent him falling over the bridge and into the icy river below. It was a miracle that saved him that day, but he was close to abandoning Logan forever. It was only after he woke up sober that he realized his mistake: Logan and the other kids were alone, facing the dangers of the streets while their parents were locked away. Jack’s mistakes indirectly lead to Logan being tortured and terrified, and now that was happening all over again! He felt the sting in his eyes and his rage and desperation built, but that ringing in his pocket spared him the inevitable tears.
[#ff6622 “Larry, please tell me you’ve got something little brother!”] Jack practically begged as he answered the phone. As he listened to his brother’s frustrated multitasking, Jack began to feel a flutter of hope. Jesse was able to contact him? That meant they were ok! Maybe not unharmed, but definitely alive!
[#ff6622 “Larry, you’re fucking amazing! What would I do without you, man? Ok, yeah, send me what you have and let me know as soon as you and Caleb have something. I owe you for this, little brother!”] Jack thanked him, feeling a wave of relief at the news. He waited for the sound clip to download and listened to it on his way back to the house. Jack creased his brow, trying to decipher what Jesse was trying to say, but it was muffled by what sounded like a broken jaw… Jack had his fair share of those as a kid. When he was finally able to pick the message apart, that relief he felt twisted into fear. They were going to sell the kids! They had no intention of ransoming them back! And what were those names? Sounded like, Dylan? Ell? Pyke? That last name struck a chord. Geoff, Jack’s mentor, had a fight with a guy names Pyke once. Geoff and Pyke had grown up together in the Stings, but where Geoff wanted to protect the ids they took and raise them to steal and fend for themselves, Pyke thought they could make more money selling off the more useless kids to the Underground. The whole thing ended in Geoff kicking the shit out of Pyke and banning him from the gang, but maybe he never left the trade?
Jack raced back to the house with Nova on his heels, bursting through the door with his new information, but as soon as he crossed the threshold, he was welcomed home by Logan’s screams over the speaker.
[#ff6622 “Is that…? Logan? Logan!”] Jack hurried to his wife’s side, clenching his fists at the sound of his son being tortured. But as angry as he was to hear Logan in pain, it was nothing to the fury he felt when he head Lisa’s cold detached tone passing up a chance to spare him!
[#ff6622 “What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Give him the damn money, Lisa!”]
[+green “Jack, stay out of this. Lily, you have to trust me. We need proof of life before we give them anything. I’m not giving them anything without speaking to my daughter. Otherwise, we’ll have no guarantee they’ll give the children back.”] Lisa insisted, soon to find herself roughly grabbed by a furious Jack. She didn’t understand! This wasn’t about buying their children back, it was about buying time so Caleb and Larry could locate them! No amount of ransom money would save Logan and Jesse, but Jack would pay anything if it could buy them just a few more days to escape that torture!
[#ff6622 “No! You’re not risking my son’s life!”] Jack shouted, shoving Lisa away until her back hit the wall hard. He turned to the speaker phone, calling over Logan’s screams.
[#ff6622 “Name your price!”]
[#776677 “Now Jack, don’t lie to me. I know you and Lily are broke. You can’t afford to save your little brother, so don’t waste out time.”] Pyke retorted over the phone, nodding to Dylan to keep it up. This fighting was perfect! If the Culls and the Sanders were bickering with each other, they’d never stand a chance of finding the kids!
[#ff6622 “He’s not my brother, he’s my son! Whether Logan wants me in his life or not, it doesn’t chance the fact that I love that boy more than anything! He’s my son and I’ll do whatever the hell it takes to get him home, so NAME YOUR FUCKING PRICE!”] Jack demanded. He glanced up at Lily, not sure if she would approve of his impulsive course of action, but he’d rob every damn bank in the whole city if it meant giving Logan a chance to escape!
Pyke fell silent, considering the offer. He turned to Dylan, letting the greed driven man make the decision. After all, Logan was disposable. It didn’t matter if they had him so long as they found Jesse. But if Dylan was after more money, maybe this was a good opportunity to exploit?
[+red “Ell, you know he would never risk Jesse. If Martyn thinks it’s best to work on his own for now, then I trust him. But Martyn, just know that the minute you decide you need back up, we’ll be waiting. Jesse’s family. We’ll do anything to get her and Logan home safe.”] Hayden answered, trying to keep the peace between them, especially after Martyn’s threats not to help with the doctors. Hayden knew better. She watched her brother with a knowing gaze, enough to show she wouldn’t pressure him, but that he understood how threatening to Rylan in his precarious condition wasn’t the right move.
Hayden would make her calls, but first she needed to know her own son was alright. She followed as Martyn made his way over to the doctors. Both fell silent as the Silvertongue approached, clearly nervous that their conversation had been overheard. But not nearly as nervous as they were once they heard his accusations! The hospital could be in ruins! If they got hit with a malpractice suit like that, their careers could be over!
[#776677 “Whoa, easy now! There’s no need for that Mr… Mr. Mason, right? Look, we’re not trying to cover anything up here, it’s just… that boy needs more than a specialist! He needs a miracle!”] The one doctor said, finding a sharp elbow to the gut from his colleague, who pointedly nodded to the distressed mother by Martyn’s side. Clearly, bedside manners were not one of this doctor’s specialties. As Elliot hurried to join them, Hayden’s hand gripped her husband’s so tightly she felt her fingers going numb, and the second doctor finally nodded in resignation.
[i “An inventor? Maybe that is what we need. OK, I’ll give you the full report, but you have to understand that your sons condition is incredibly fragile. At this point, even with the best care, we still stand a chance of losing him. I don’t want that on your conscience, so if you are able to help, just remember that the odds aren’t in our favour.”] The doctor started, not wanting to bring a grieving father in just to watch his son die.
[i “Your son’s heart was damaged. The surgeons are working on it now. But even if they manage to stabilize him, his body is under a considerably amount of stress. The left side of his face was cut badly by the broken class. It’ll leave him blind in his left eye, with a number of deep scars. The most concerning, however, is his arm.”] The doctor started, thinking back to the mangled mess he saw on the operating table. He didn’t even know what he was looking at! But Hayden and Elliot would recall the gadget their son always wore: modeled after his father’s mechanical arm, Rylan always wore a metal wrist guard that wrapped around his forearm, stretching over the back of his hands and lower fingers. It hid many tiny gadgets, tools, and weapons that the young inventor had created over the years and bad become his pride and joy. Sadly, that prized piece of tech may just be his downfall!
[i “It appears your son reached out his arm to shield his teacher during the crash. His arm was caught in the debris when the vehicle caught fire. There seemed to be something metal around his arm… the flames were so hot that it melted into his very flesh, infusing itself with his bones. It’s not possible to remove the mangled metal. We thought about amputating the arm, but the shock of the lost limb in the boy’s current condition would be too much for his body to handle. We’d lose him on the operating table. But we can’t just leave the arm the way it is, the infection would kill him just as quickly. The poor boy’s arm is now practically more metal than flesh, but if we can’t find some way to stabilize the arm, we’re going to lose him.”] The doctor said, giving Elliot his biggest challenge yet! He would have to somehow rebuild Rylan’s arm, using what was left of his wrist guard infused with his flesh and bone, literally rebuilding a half-robotic limb that was still very much attached to his son! All of this, while the surgeons fight to stabilize the boy’s heart!
The only person who ever kept Logan in line was Jesse. It was due to their close friendship that Logan probably hadn’t gotten himself in far more trouble in the past! His protectiveness over his best friend also meant that he had to be present to keep her safe. Now he forced her away, there was very little holding him in check. Besides, she looked at him like he was a monster; not that he could blame her. He thought she might have understood what he was trying to do, but instead he just proved he was only as useful as the violent tendencies that ran in his family. It showed when he almost killed Adam at the party, and it showed that his only way of saving his friend was to beat her to a pulp! The only solutions he could come up with were destructive. So why wasn’t he taking the risk now? Why was Logan letting someone like Pyke control him? If he was going to get killed, he wanted to go out with the Sanders spirit he had. Yet as he stared at the barrel of the gun he was conscious of Jesse. What if she got caught and brought back? Who would keep her safe? He hated how he was just standing there, but the morals he had left was built on a friendship that he might have just destroyed yet was keeping him alive.
With Pyke’s demands, Logan’s defiant eyes didn’t stop glaring at his captor, even as he dialled his mothers number. He was dreading the call. Lily’s PTSD was causing her more and more problems and seemed to be getting worse rather than better. He was scared of making things worse, but he was also thinking ahead. Lisa would be by her side and hopefully just like Jesse, Lisa would be able to read something. Anything!
[#8B0000 “I’m not hurt. Not yet. They know it won’t work... and Jesse...”] Logan started but quickly grinned his teeth to stop himself giving away an answer that would potentially get him shot, but he knew it probably didn’t help Lisa with her reading! He couldn’t tell her if Jesse was dead, alive, still here, what had happened but there was a pain in a voice. One, despite his efforts, that he couldn’t hide. It was a tone that something bad happened and the guilt laced behind those words just echoed that he was behind it all and did something to hurt her daughter!
With Pyke’s comment on how Logan was more trouble than he was worth, despite the dangers he was in, the boy couldn’t help but stifle a small laugh.
[#8B0000 “Story of my life...”] He mused, rolling his eyes almost out of exhaustion of the sentence. It was said over, and over again. He wondered if he was even worth the trouble to find! Though by how quickly his mum picked up the phone and how desperate she sounded, they hadn’t given up on him yet.
Back at the Sanders kitchen, Lily was pacing up and down as she listened to Lisa, Logan and the mystery man’s exchange. Her boy was in extreme danger and they weren’t any closer to finding him! Not only that, he had a gun pointed at him and he was still daring that cocky attitude. Had he not learned anything from his past!? She was almost ready to warn him, but as Lisa muted the phone and gave a warning of her own, Lily’s eyes widened with pure fear.
[+orange “This is Logan! He doesn’t listen to us at the best of times!”] But it was too late. As the phone was switched back on, she listened to Logan’s captor and as the gun shot rang through, so did Lily’s scream across the room.
[+orange “LOGAN! Logan please! Logan are you there!? Logan!”] Lily cried down the phone, the tears instantly brimming to her eyes and imagining the worse.
Logan had fallen to his hand and knees, with one hand tucked on his side as he fell silent with the pain. The bullet had just clipped the outer-edge of his rib cage, shattering some of his ribs but completely avoiding any vital organs. The blood was pouring out of and completely stained the side of his white t-shirt, but it was a clear warning. Finally taking a deep breath in, Logan looked up at Pyke with hate burning through his gaze. He wasn’t concerned about himself, it was how much it was affecting his mother!
[#8B0000 “I-I’m... fucking... I’m alive mum! It’s ok!”] Logan finally managed to cough out from the pain.
[+orange “Logan, it’s not worth anymore pain. Do as he says. Please!”]
[+grey “No, fuck this little brat! I don’t think she’s getting the message!”] Dylan finally chipped in, storming over to the scene now that he stopped the bleeding to his face. Gripping Logan’s hair, he pulled the kids head back and picked up the same piece of glass that was used to slash at Dylan!
[+grey “Lisa! Hey! So, listen here... I know exactly how much you and Martyn have in your savings account. You want to save Logan Sanders for your best friend? While you’ve been so busy trying to keep this little fucker in control, I’ve sent you the details to a non-traceable account. You’re going to empty your savings and deposit them to me very quickly, while you are on the phone, and until you do, you can listen to your best friends son scream.”] Dylan instructed, putting the tip of the glass at the edge of Logan’s scar at the top of his forehead from when Rick threw him across the room as a baby. Showing no mercy, Dylan decided to mirror his revenge. He dug the glass in, digging it so deep into Logan’s skin he reached straight down to the bone! He slowly started to hack his way down, not being careful and not even slicing straight through! It was already a rough and horrendous job, with the blood instantly pouring over Logan’s face. The boy was brave, but even he couldn’t hold back the scream that lurched from his lungs.
[+grey “He’s going to look like his brother when I’m done! That’s if I don’t get to his throat. Oh Lisa, you might just want to look at your friend as you do it. You see... you have such a beautiful daughter, and she was so much fun to play with...”] Dylan started, the glass now across the bridge of Logan’s nose. Dylan was cutting down so hard, he was shattering the bone on the bridge of Logan’s nose and forcing the blood to run to the back of Logan’s throat as he kept his head tilted back! It was perfect. Logan wouldn’t be able to interject as he was choking on his blood, which meant Lisa would never know the truth...
[+grey “Looks like it runs across all the girls in the Street Brats! You are all easy whores to play with! And until Logan behaves and you follow our demands, I’m going to keep playing with her. Now I asked you to look at your friend, because Lily’s son came up and watched it happen! He didn’t even try to fight to protect her! You know what he did then? He snapped. He grabbed her wrist and threw her across the room! He beat her worse than I did before I had my way! So it’s up to you Lisa. You can give me the money, or you can let me slit the little bastards throat. After all, your daughter won’t be the same. Not after all the fun we had together while he watched.”]
[+green “Jesse and Logan. Both gone. They went to this party, the next day they went out together and since then they have been gone. We have been finding clues but we still don’t know who took them. I can’t say they are connected to this, but I have a strong belief they are. And yes... Larry and Caleb and I’m pretty sure everyone else will know by the time you two are done.”] Martyn told his sister the facts he knew and had time to tell for now. There was so much more and at this point, he was desperate for all the help he could get, yet at the back of his mind he was still very conscious that the extra support might actually put his daughter and Logan in more danger!
Elliot was usually the type to calm his wife down when she carried that look in her eyes and he could only see it growing as Martyn continued to explain what he knew. Hayden was impulsive, but for once he was matching the exact same look! His boy was dying on an operating table, his extended family was in danger, and his natural Leadership wanted him to run out, get the family together, and charge at this at full speed!
[+red “We are going to work together and...”]
[+green “No. You are going to listen to my sister and phone your sister, and let me decide what I am going to do for my family. No... don’t you dare throw ‘bonds not blood’ at me Elliot. I know it, I’ve heard it all my bloody life, I get it but no. Let me figure this out first. If you try and argue, I will not convince a single doctor here of anything.”] Martyn warned and while he knew it might lead to backlash from his own sister, he could see Elliot preparing to make his demands but that simple threat kept him in place. Shaking his head, Elliot took a step away to call Tessa and update her on what was going on.
Martyn’s threat however wouldn’t live up for long. Hearing the doctors, he turned to his sister and gave a reassuring nod. He had a small window of time to work on. He couldn’t guarantee he could make a difference, he wasn’t Lynn and he didn’t have the medical influence, however he worked for a law firm and he certainly had his tricks up his sleeve.
[+red “Doctors, I heard you speaking about a boy with severe injuries. Would that be Rylan Evenwood? I hope you aren’t repeating the same actions as five years ago with patient Mrs. Nolan. You must remember? She came in after having a terrible fall. She was taken to the emergency room and her husband was kept away from the details. Ultimately his nerves played up, he ended up having a heart attack and he died. Mrs. Nolan recovered, however upon discovering her husbands death, she later died too from the stress. Now I am not implying this would happen to the Evenwood’s, however I am aware that a collection of doctors decided to hide all medical records and change the facts of that situation. I happen to have access to those medical records, provided by another medical clinician who is determined to sue the hospital. Now, I have never wanted to take criminal action after all the support the hospital has provided to the Street Brat’s, but it seems I am not left with much choice. The risk of it happening all over again...”] Martyn started, looking at the two doctors with an intensity that could rip them apart and break them down!
[+green “However, we have a skilled and very trained inventory and if you give him the necessary facts to help with what you think would be impossible, if the boy is saved, I will write records that will legally deem you responsible of overcoming this medical miracle. You’ll be rewarded by the hospital for your actions. If you don’t, i can assure you, I have a lot on this hospital to destroy your career in minutes.”]
Elliot was just finishing up with the phone call with his sister as he stepped back towards Hayden, standing by her side to listen to Martyn’s conversation. Elliot held his breath, taking Hayden’s hand and praying that by some miracle the Silvertongue could twist the doctors arms and finally learn about their sons condition and make a difference.
[#CD853F “Jesse, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to be a bit more clear? Shell? Logan? Jesse you’re doing so well but...”]
Then it was gone. His connection silent. Cursing under his breath, Larry’s eyes flicked between his computer screens as he watched the data sync. Meanwhile, he webchatted to Caleb to be on standby for the incoming information, while quickly dialling his brothers number.
[#CD853F “Jack, my man! Listen, I just spoke to Jesse! She’s alive, bad shape but... come on download! Sorry, I...I think I’ve... I... I’ve done it! Jack, I think we have a GPS location of the phone. I need to send it to Caleb, get him to do some code cracking but if this has worked then we have a location for now! You need to get home, we’ll message you once we are confirmed but we’re getting closer. She said something, I don’t really know what but I’ll send you a voice recording of our conversation now. Maybe you can make sense of what she was trying to say. Keep your head up man, we’ll find those kids. I promise.”] Larry spoke with genuine optimism as the code of Jesse’s location sent through. Sending it forward to Caleb, Larry then quickly downloaded his and Jesse’s conversation and sent it as a voicemail for Jack to listen to when he was ready.
Baxter could see the fear in Jesse and he smiled at the thrill of it. He was glad his reputation had followed him and with her question, his smile only became more twisted.
[#66CDAA “You don’t.”]
His voice was chilling as he twisted the knife in his palm, stepping threateningly close as Jesse started to step down towards the depths of the Underground. Stepping in, Baxter sealed the gate of the well shut so Eleanor wouldn’t be able to open it and followed down to the darkness.
The Underground was in its beginnings. The new city was in the beginnings of being built, which meant only parts of the old city had been dug beneath it. It was not a vast space, in fact it was only large enough for a few criminal gangs to hide in! It certainly hadn’t been planned to be utilised by the city yet to discard the poorest of society. However, the rumours had started to spread that the plans were in place. As they hit the bottom, Baxter instantly turned to Jesse and pointed his knife straight at her throat.
[#66CDAA “Let’s make this perfectly clear. I’m not here to babysit you. You get into shit down here, I’m not saving you. You fuck up and get injured again, I’m not dragging you to a medical bay. I’m only doing this because for some reason, I feel like I have to. I was a bastard as a kid, and while I still hate my mum, and Jack, and my brother and I have no intention of ever meeting them, I can’t let that bitch Eleanor win. I’ve been watching her for awhile. My gang want to slit her throat, so yeah... looks like it is your lucky day.”] Baxter explained, lowering his knife but shoving past her with his shoulder and taking the lead into the tunnels.
[#66CDAA “First thing is you won’t be able to go back to Logan. Not yet. You go back, you’re weak, you’ll kill him. I can’t go up, because my gang isn’t strong enough. There is only a few of us, Just pray my brother actually had sense to stay alive. Oh and second thing, no asking too many questions about me. Trust me, as soon as I can get rid of you, the better. As I said, I’m only doing this to piss that bitch off.”] Baxter continued as they finally approached a small camp site. It wasn’t much. A few tents which were draped as part of a building which had no roof on it, with a poorly lit campfire in the middle. Around it was a few kids around Baxter’s age, all with tattoo’s on their arms and faces.
[#66DCAA “They all came from the orphanage like me, each lost a brother or sister to Eleanor, Pyke, and Dylan... we came down here because we thought we could get them back. That’s why you are here. You help us make a few deals to get them back, we’ll help you get Logan.”]
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