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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.”]
Pyke kept his gun trained on the boy in front of him, not wavering even as Logan dropped the glass and lowered his guard. Pyke was a professional. He had taken dozens of kids in the past – some working with Eleanor, some for other clients, and some just from opportunity. His experience taught him a lot about controlling different types of kids and the one thing he learned was that contact with the parents was key. Some of the braver runts he’d taken seemed to glean confidence and determination from the possibility of escape. They’d search every inch of their cells, fight against their captors, and take every threat as a new challenge – just like Logan. The parents, meanwhile, were driven by their desperate need to find their kids. They wouldn’t give up hope until they found their little ones, dead or alive. But to bridge that gap between the two – for parent and child to listen to each other, both knowing they were powerless to spare the other the pain that awaited them… that was the power Pyke craved.
[#776677 “I want you to think back to the very last thing you said to your mommy and daddy, kid. Tell me, is that the last thing you want them to remember about you? If you want to fix that, I suggest you stop stalling and pick up the damn phone.”] Pyke ordered, echoing Dylan’s threats until Rylan conceded and dialed his mother’s number.
Lisa had been muddling over what Lily said, trying to think of any clients or enemies she or Martyn may have had that would be capable of taking the kids, but she was coming up blank. She was deep in thought when the sound of Lily’s phone broke her concentration. Thinking it might be Jack at first, Lisa wasn’t paying that much attention, until Lily put the phone on speaker and she heard the hesitant voice of Logan Sanders.
[+green “Logan, I need you to talk to us. Are you hurt? Where is Jesse?”] Lisa asked, mimicking the mother’s sentiment, but Lisa needed more than just answers to her questions. She was trying to read Logan’s voice to find out what was going on, but she could only do that if he kept talking!
[#776677 “Jesse can’t come to the phone right now.”] Pyke called out, stepping closer to Logan so his voice could be clearly heard over the line. He kept his gun trained on Logan with an occasional glance towards Dylan to make sure his partner was alright.
[#776677 “You see… your son has been causing quite a bit of trouble for us, Lily. Quite frankly, he’s become more trouble than he’s worth.”]
[+green “Who are you?”] Lisa demanded, her mind racing with fearful possibilities of what could be happening to her daughter. Logan was very protective over Jesse, so she doubted he would have left her side willingly. Was Jesse hurt? Dead? Had she already been sold? Even the experienced Reader was starting to let panic cloud her judgement and it was a battle to keep the hostility out of her voice.
[#776677 “I’m the man who has a gun aimed at the boy’s skull. One wrong word from you or him, and I’ll pull this trigger. I’ll take great satisfaction in it, too.”] Pyke said. He was closer to Logan now, but still a few steps away just in case the boy did something reckless, like lunging for the weapon. The gun was cocked and ready, with Pyke’s finger caressing the trigger almost longingly.
Lisa reached for the phone, putting it on mute for a moment so she could talk to Lily without being overheard.
[+green “Lily, listen carefully: that man isn’t lying. The threat is real. He [i will] kill Logan if we’re not careful. You need to stay calm and focus – get Logan to cooperate. We will find him, Lily, but he needs to survive long enough for us to get there.”] Lisa instructed before returning the phone and unmuting them.
[#776677 “You know, I wouldn’t have to kill the boy if he learned to behave himself. But I just don’t know if he’s capable of that. What do you think Lily? Should I give the boy another chance? How about you, Logan? Are you going to start doing what we tell you? Or should we just end this now and let your mommy listen to you die?”] Pyke asked, wanting the mutual pressure to break both the mother and son. To show both parties that he was serious, Pyke shifted his gun very slightly and pulled the trigger, aiming a bullet towards Logan’s side for a non-fatal wound.
Hayden could hardly keep her eyes off the emergency room door; desperate for the doctors to come out with updates on her son’s condition. Rylan was a good kid, he didn’t deserve any of this. Merely sixteen, the boy had already made his parents so proud. He was not the fighter his sister was, but that didn’t stop him from being fiercely protective over his family and others, already shaping up to be the leader his father and grandparents were. He was a talented inventor, incredibly resourceful, and quick-witted. Rylan had all the natural skills of his father, with the added benefit of a great education and stable home life. He was well on his way to a bright future… until the accident. Hayden couldn’t help the tear that welled up as she thought of her son’s life cut so short, but something in Martyn’s voice made her snap her attention back to her brother.
[+red “Jesse’s gone?! Are you saying that the same sick bastard that nearly killed my son also kidnapped my niece?”] The change in Hayden was instant. The wetness behind her eyes dried to the searing heat of her anger. While her body was calm and relaxed, her eyes showed the full fury of a fighter waiting for the kill and there was little doubt what Hayden planned to do if she ever got her hands on the person responsible for this!
[+red “It’s ok, Martyn, I understand. And I’m so sorry that I called you all the way here when you could be out there looking for Jesse, I just… I didn’t know what to do!”] Hayden said, not taking any offense to not being informed about the kidnapping. Martyn had always done things his own way; always hesitant to involve the family if he thought he could work it out himself. But now the real danger was coming to light. If both Jesse, Logan, and Rylan were targeted, anyone could be next!
[+red “We should warn the others. Ell, you need to call Tessa and tell her to keep a close eye on Carla. I’ll give Nic a call and get him to pick up Maddison, Zack, Tori, and Tarik from university. I’m guessing you’ve already contacted Caleb and Larry?”] Hayden asked her brother. Martyn didn’t have a lot of friends, but he and the mute computer genius seemed to share a unique bond among the Brats.
[i “A specialist? There’s no specialist for this! Even if the boy somehow survives the surgery, we can’t salvage the arm! Not to mention his eye, his heart, and the burns all over her… Shit… we can’t talk about this here!”] Hayden’s head snapped up towards two frustrated doctors leaving the OR, talking in hushed, yet aggravated whispers, just loud enough to be heard. Her own stuttered gasp is what caused the doctor to cut himself off, realizing his mistake of talking out in the open. Were they talking about Rylan? What about his arm? His eye? His heart? His burns? What was happening to her son?!
The relief that washed over Jesse as soon as she heard that familiar voice was instant. Larry and Caleb were the best of the best! There was no one they couldn’t track down! But as Larry asked his barrage of questions, Jesse felt the throbbing in her jaw increase. Talking was agony! How the hell was she going to answer all his questions? And if he did track the phone, what would happen if Logan was moved somewhere else in the meantime? What if Eleanor found her and destroyed the phone before Larry could find her?! Jesse had to get as much info out as she could, despite the pain.
[#aa0000 “’ey took ush to shell! Undewgwoun! Gonna kiw Wogan! Pye…Dywn…Eww…”] Jesse started, cursing her damn lisp for mixing up all this information. She just hoped Larry understood the main message: the kidnappers tookt hem to sell, meaning the ransom was fake, all just an act to buy them time. Chances were, they’d be sold to the Underground according to Dylan’s board of potential buyers. Most importantly, Jesse needed to send help to Logan first. She could hold out as long as they didn’t plan to kill her, but Logan might not have that much time! Finally, she tried to give the names of her attackers, but they came out as a slurred mess of syllables that she wasn’t sure Larry could understand. She didn’t even get all the way through Eleanor’s name before an arm tightened around her neck, cutting off her words.
Jesse felt the cold steel of a blade against her lips and wisely bit her tongue. She had already suffered enough pain, she couldn’t bare the torture to start all over again! But as the unfamiliar figure spoke, a chilling voice from the past made Jesse freeze. Baxter Sanders? She hadn’t seen him since they were kids! The last she saw of that boy was when he was pulled out of the collapsing tunnel, leaving Rylan behind to die in those caves! Baxter had trident o kill them all that day, just to get back at a mother he thought was dead. For a brief moment, Jesse was tempted to scream and alert Eleanor. The woman was cruel and no doubt eager to punish Jesse for her escape, but maybe the evil she knew was better than the one she didn’t?
[#aa0000 “How do I know I’m any safer with you?”] Jesse whispered back, but the proximity of the blade made her think she didn’t have much of a choice. She just had to hope that Larry was able to track the phone before they disappeared underground and lost the signal again!
Dylan wasn’t usually the type to get his hands dirty. He was there to use his connections to get the highest price possible to be split amongst the three. He hated kids and he would usually do anything to stay as far away as possible, leaving Eleanor to set her orders and Pyke to invoke any violence. Jesse however, had tested his patience. So for once he was going to have his fun. Over the years he had learned people were desperate enough they didn’t care about the condition of the people they bought. So long as they could be of use, whatever that use was, that was all that mattered. With what Dylan had planned with Jesse, a beating wouldn’t effect anything and he had to test his new sale before letting her be used! He had no remorse for the damaged he inflicted - if anything he laughed with every split of her skin, gasping of breath from choking on her own blood, and that sickening crack as he slammed her against the table. She wasn’t speaking as much now! If it wasn’t for Eleanor giving Logan a chance, there was no telling how far he would have taken her beating with what else he had planned...
Logan’s act was one hell of a show. There was no way they would have any spirit to work together now! Jesse would never trust him again! It was that look in her eyes - fear. Terror! Whilst Dylan’s laughs echoed over the sound of crashing wood and yelps of pain, it was nothing compared to what Logan found himself staring at for longer than he expected. He knew what he did was drastic. He knew it was a risk, that Jesse might hate him for it, that she wouldn’t understand but he couldn’t shake off the look she gave him. She wasn’t just betrayed.... no... that was the same look Lily had when she was having one of her panic attacks. It was the same look when she woke up from one of her nightmares. Jesse saw Rick. For a few seconds, she didn’t see Logan Sanders her best friend, she saw the monster he was born from.
It was in that moment that Logan felt all his rage lean into snapping her jaw back in place and throwing her into the window. It wasn’t his anger towards her, it was the realisation of how easily Rick would always haunt him in a moment of madness. He was able to act just like him. He was cold, merciless - if he had that drunken, terrifying laugh there would be no difference! While Jesse had been in a similar situation with Logan in the past, and it had been the very reason they had previously stopped talking to one another, Logan was revisiting his own horrors. Over the years he had managed to convince himself he was nothing like Rick. It all started with that talk in the park with Jack, where they talked about how the fact Logan simply regretted his actions proved he was nothing like his father! However Logan was learning that the wretched bloodline was cursed in them all. It came out of Jack when he drank, and it came out of Logan when he was angry. He saw Dylan, the belt being undone, and the injuries on Jesse’s face. He had heard he had potentially killed his cousin Rylan... he was desperate, angry, and it was the only plan he could conjure. It was cruel, malicious and... wrong...
As Logan stood there with the shard of glass in his hand, his eyes fiercely glaring at the gun in Pyke’s hand and hardly recognising Eleanor’s taunts, his mind was filling with a dark cloud. He watched Jack suffer for years against the torment of alcoholism, turning like his father, and living a stable life. He lived without much confidence, constant anxiety about whether he was good enough, and when he slipped, he had to face a beating just to avoid being like their dad! Was that the future Logan had? Was he always going to be terrified of hurting Jesse if she let him back into her life? The idea of being like Rick was too much and Logan was almost tempted to test if Pyke would really pull the trigger. What did he have to lose? He was almost reach to charge forward, to try and take one last swing towards the bastard and if not Pyke, he wanted to finish Dylan off! The only thing that stopped him was he owed Jesse their promise. They would get out of this together. It might not be in the way they imagined, but they would both end up with their families again. He just had to trust she was strong enough.
[+grey “Are you fucking kidding me? Pyke pull the fucking trigger and end the little shits life! He’s worth nothing and he just cut my face and let our prize run! Kill him!”] Dylan demanded as he leant over the sink in the far corner, trying to wash the blood away from his face which was continuously pouring, Logan had certainly caused a lost of damage with that single swipe and he was causing a lot of further damage to his hand as he held the shard! The blood was dripping from his palm and he was already losing the feeling in his fingertips, but it didn’t register. As Eleanor left and he stared at Pyke, he was expecting the brute to pull the trigger anyway. Instead, he felt the phone hit against his feet and listened to his one and only chance. With gritted teeth, Logan dropped the shard of glass and picked up the phone.
[#8B0000 “How do I know this won’t be like Rylan again?”]
[+grey “Do as he says or I’ll shove that shard of glass down your throat!”] Dylan spat, reluctantly... he would have killed the kid already if he could and was furious that Eleanor had even ordered for the boy to have a chance!
Picking the phone up, Logan stared at the screen and closed his eyes. This was the closest chance he had to calling for help. What if Jesse was too weak to make the call? What if Eleanor had already caught her? If Logan took the chance, spilt all the details and took the bullet, at least the family could get to Jesse! These kidnappers already said they wouldn’t kill her... but again... he couldn’t. He already let Jesse down enough. She saw his father. He couldn’t do that again. Dialling his mothers number, he put the phone on loud speaker and kept his fierce eyes on Pyke as the phone rang out...
Lily had returned home with Lisa at this point, having gathered their clues together and eagerly waiting the return of their husbands. As her phone rang with an unknown number, Lily nervously bit her lip. With all the trouble that had been going on, she didn’t even want to imagine what could be happening next! Little did she know she would soon hear her biggest sense of relief, but also her biggest sense of dread...
[+orange “Hello?”] Lily asked, equally putting the phone on loud speaker so Lisa could hear as well.
[#8B0000 “Mum?”] Logan’s voice broke through, and instantly Lily was leaning over the phone which she rested on the table with her hands trembling. She even looked at Lisa as if for confirmation she had heard correctly! Her son was alive!
[+orange “Logan!? Logan sweetheart, oh my god...Logan where are you? Are you safe? Jesse? Please, please tell me you are ok...?”] Lily pleaded for answers, but there was a silence that followed that set her on edge. Why wasn’t he speaking? Logan was impulsive, rash, quick witted - even if he was in danger he would usually take the risk! Why was he so quiet!?
[#8B0000 “I’m sorry...”]
[+orange “No, no don’t be sorry. Logan who are you with? Is Jesse safe...?”] Lily asked again, but again only silence followed.
Logan was stuck. If he said the wrong thing, Pyke would put a bullet in his head and if they caught Jesse, there was nothing he would be able to do for her.
[#8B0000 “Goodbye mum. I... I don’t think we’ll be coming home...”] Logan finally stated, following Pyke’s orders and saying his goodbye. Even if they did let him live today, Logan doubted it would be for much longer and that reality started to sink in.
[#8B0000 “Tell dad I’m sorry and...”]
[+orange “Don’t you dare speak like that Logan. Just... come on please, tell us something!”]
Martyn was usually a man who could speak his way out of every situation or at least paint a picture to let someone else understand what he was feeling. As Logan asked if Rylan was ok, Martyn didn’t give an immediate answer. While he was concerned for his nephew, there was much more deeper rooted fears. The Brat’s could be in danger, they still didn’t have the answers for their own children, and the nightmares of their past could quickly be catching up to them. When Jack promised to look after the girls, Martyn gave a nod of reassurance and was quickly on the way to his sister.
The scene was a mess and as Martyn drove by, he slowed to take in every detail he could. This wasn’t just an accidental crash. All the evidence confirmed his fears. This wasn’t an accidental crash. He didn’t know how it was planned, or who ordered it, or how it even took place without wiping out whoever was involved but this was too intentional. If this was an accident, there would have been more casualties, more of a mess, more chaos! Yet the chaos seemed solely focused on Rylan’s car. He didn’t have any physical evidence to back up his case, but Martyn was following his gut feeling which historically was hardly ever wrong. Quickly driving to the hospital, he rushed straight towards his sister.
[+green “I can speak to the doctors. I’ll see what I can do. Hayden I have to ask again but...”]
[+red “If my son dies because you didn’t let me help him there will be hell to pay! He’s MY son! I determine his care! We’ve had generations of Street Brat’s at this hospital! You better hope he pulls through this because if you stopped me from saving my sons life I swear to...”] Elliot bellowed so loud it interrupted Martyn’s words. Elliot was an Evenwood and if there was one thing not to challenge with an Evenwood it was the care of their family!
[i “Sir, if you do not stop we will have to tell you and your wife to leave.”] A security guard quickly stepped forward, something Elliot would never be afraid of but with his son still in the operating theatre, he couldn’t push being kicked out. With a final glare at the doctor, Elliot stormed over towards his wife and wrapped his arm around her, resting his head against hers and taking a shaky breath to calm himself.
[+red “I can’t believe this... “] He whispered to her, allowing himself one more brief moment before finally looking up at Martyn.
[+red “I hate to ask but...”]
[+green “I will Elliot. I’ll try my best but I need to know about the crash.”]
[+red “It was an accident...”]
[+green “I don’t think it was.”] Martyn spoke up, watching as Elliot’s posture stiffened and his metallic fist clenched.
[+red “You’re saying this was a deliberate attack? But why? Why would they attack us? We’ve been living away from that life for years! Martyn what aren’t you telling us? This doesn’t make sense! I know we have enemies but we covered everything! We worked on covering everything! Are other Brat’s in danger?”] Elliot demanded but there was a mask on Martyn’s face. The mask he used against his enemies to hide his true intent and the very mask when he was trying to block his own emotions.
[+green “Potentially. I think this was deliberate because someone has taken my daughter. They’ve taken Jesse, and Logan. The crash happened just after hours they went missing. I don’t think it was an accident. They are linked. I don’t know how.”] Martyn stated matter-of-factly, watching as Elliot instinctively went to take a step forward to offer the Mason some comfort, but quickly remembered to hold back. Martyn wasn’t the type for affection.
[+red “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”]
[+green “No offence Elliot but as a leader you often take the drastic course of action. It might bring too much attention but with the dangers potentially spreading, I’ve had no choice. I don’t want to pull you away from here. You need to stay with your son but, if they are targeting other Brat’s, it lets me know who we are dealing with is far more powerful than I originally thought.”] Martyn confessed and whilst it didn’t show on his face, he felt a pit in his stomach. For all he knew, his daughter and Logan were in a lot more danger than expected and every move the Brat’s made as a collective would impact their survival!
Larry hadn’t slept over the last couple of hours. In his small apartment he had multiple computers, laptops, and tablets open around him working away with a direct chat to Caleb in order to try and communicate together any findings. Larry had been attempting to trace any call across the city with the names ‘Logan, Jesse, Mason, Cull, or Sanders’ in. So far, all he managed to find was a pizza delivery and someone phoning about a missed hospital appointment with the name of Logan Cull. As his phone rang, he picked it pressed it for loud speaker without much thought as his eyes continued to stare at the screen. As the voice broke through, at first he didn’t realise who it was and his mind worked a few seconds behind the message that was translated. When he finally realised who it was, he was already typing away codes and plugging his own phone directly into the computer!
[#CD853F Man, Jesse, you’re alive! I can, I’m tracing now but you can’t turn the phone off. We’ve been... whoa, I’m... I’m sorry I... Jesse, who has you? Who has captured you? A name? Initials. Anything!”] Larry was speaking in a mixture of excitement, panic, and determination to find out as much information as he could! All the while he was linking all the information to Caleb so they could work together and hopefully finally find these kids! The phone tracing however would take time...
Whilst Jesse was hid behind the tree however and Eleanor was coming closer, they weren’t alone. Before Jesse could say anything else, an arm wrapped around her neck and quickly dragged her away from the tree. The phone was ripped from her hand and tucked into the new attackers pocket and before she would even know what was going on, a knife was pointed towards her lips in a threatening way to stay silent. As Eleanor drew closer, the figure who had hold of Jesse quickly threw her towards an abandoned well which to anyone’s knowledge had been sealed shut for decades! However as they drew closer, the figure finally let go of Jesse and pulling one of the bricks, the caged seal opened, deep down into the dark depths which was the beginnings of the Underground.
[#66CDAA “Looks like you always need a Sanders to save you. I suggest you start climbing down, unless you want me to hand you back?”] The boy smirked, pulling down his hood to reveal himself. He had the same Sanders eyes, only the dark and menacing kind like Rick’s... the difference was, his hair was shaven off completely and on the side of his face and arms were black tribal tattoo’s. He was younger than Logan, but there was no doubt they were related. He only had a short period with the Brat’s before disappearing, but for his short time he was a menace - one who hated the Sander’s blood line, had no respect for the Brat’s and certainly wasn’t a warm presence to be around. The boy standing in front of Jesse was Baxter. The second long lost child of Lily Sanders.
Jesse really should have known better. In all of her father’s lessons “mock and belittle your captors so they’ll start treating you kinder” was definitely not one of them! Jesse saw the clenched fist but had no time to pull away before the pain exploded across her jaw. She hit the ground with the force of the punch and gingerly raised her hand to touch her jaw. When Jesse turned back to face her attacker, the wound was already starting to swell. The entire right side of her jaw was a sickly red, foretelling of the deep purple bruise that would soon set in. The skin had broken in four angry gashes across the side of her jaw where a clear indentation of Dylan’s four rings was now carved into her cheek. The blood seeped from the cuts and bubbled from her lips, making Jesse gag on the metallic taste. She saw the fury still in Dylan’s eyes and opened her mouth to plead her defense, but even that slight movement make the pain spike once more. Her jaw wasn’t broken, but there was definitely damage done, and that damage was about to get a lot worse!
Jesse flinched as Dylan gripped her injured jaw, feeling the agony of his squeezing fingers. She was too afraid to move in case her own struggles added to the pain. As much as Jesse had tried to be reassuring to Logan, she knew she wasn’t strong enough to withstand this! Despite herself, Jesse silently prayed for Logan to come darting up those stairs and crashing into the room to save her like he always had before. That was the one downside of Logan and Jesse’s inseparable friendship. She had never learned to take care of herself when Logan wasn’t around to protect her!
With a violent *crack* the hand in Jesse’s hair slammed her against the table, and Jesse felt the sickening twist of her jaw on impact. In that moment, her vision went white and the blood splattered against the wooden table. Her jaw hung loose, not having the strength in its current condition to keep her mouth closed. Jesse choked and coughed as more blood filled her throat, and the tears streamed freely down her bruised cheeks. She tried to push herself away from the table, but with one useless arm and that hand curled tightly in her hair, she couldn’t squirm away. The guilt and shame was starting to grow in her mind as Dylan explained how she had just given him everything he needed and still didn’t manage to save her voice! But nothing was as terrifying as the sound of that man reaching for his belt.
The tears that seeped down her bruised and bloody face were tears of relief when Eleanor and Logan appeared. Jesse was thrown roughly to the floor, where she desperately crawled away from Dylan, trembling at the thought of what had almost happened to her. She turned her hopeful eyes towards Logan, only to be met with an expression she didn’t recognize. Instead of the instant reassurance she usually received from her best friend, Jesse felt a chill run down her spine. She knew, without a doubt, things were about to get a lot worse.
Jesse cried out a pitiful yelp as Logan’s rough hand locked around her broken wrist. She could feel the bone shifting beneath the cast as the fractured bone was used to pull her to her feet. The comforting warmth of Logan’s embrace in the basement had long faded and now, Jesse couldn’t hide the fear that flashed through her eyes as she realized it was her best friend causing her this torment. The pain was overwhelming and her eyes were filled with tears, making it even harder to read Logan’s expression – all she saw was hatred and anger. Jesse choked back a sob as she realized she had never seen Logan look more like his father.
Even for Jesse, who was usually resistant to the emotional abuse, the words Logan spat at her were harsh. It didn’t take a reader to see that there was some truth behind his accusations – some true jealousy and resentment poisoning every word. Any hope Jesse may have had that this was all just an act, faded pretty quickly when Logan hurled her across the room. Jesse landed on the coffee table with enough force to shatter the surface and land her in the wreckage, with shards of wood jabbing into her frail body. She scrambled, trying to back away from the pain, but Logan’s hand found her cast once again. As she was slammed against the wall, another cry slipped past Jesse’s lips. Her cast was staring to crack under the pressure and her back was aching from her collision with the table. Jesse’s mask had fallen and her emotions lay bare for the world to see. The scene would have looked hauntingly familiar to Logan: the gleam of unbridled fear in Jesse’s eyes, her skin pale and trembling beneath his merciless grip, the tears of betrayal that seeped from her eyes – this was just like when they were kids. Logan had chosen to believe Xena over Jesse and in his rage, he wrapped his hands around her neck and nearly strangled the life out of her! That action had forced Jesse to leave the family, shattering any bond the two kids had for each other, and lead to Jesse nearly getting herself killed because she refused to trust Logan! It had taken weeks to rebuild that trust, months before Jesse could stop flinching at Logan’s sudden moves, and years before the incident was finally behind them. Yet here they were, replaying that very scene with Jesse looking just as scared of her best friend as she had that fateful day.
Jesse cringed as Logan leaned forward, unable to help her reaction as the anticipation of pain drowned out all reason. But his words… If Logan had been hoping for forgiveness, hope, reassurance... he didn’t get it. Instead, Jesse met his eyes with betrayal and hurt. How could he? Logan put his own best friend though a worse beating than their kidnappers and at the end of it all, he was going to force her to abandon him here? What about all that talk about staying together, fighting side by side, being there to support and protect one another?! Logan may have thought he was doing the right thing, but Jesse knew better. This wouldn’t save them. This would destroy them.
Jesse felt Logan’s hand move to her jaw and her eyes lit up with panic. She knew what was coming, but it didn’t ease the agony of that sharp twist. Jesse’s jaw snapped back into place, but the pain radiated across her entire face! She didn’t have any time to recover before she felt the solid wall disappear from behind her injured back and the shattering of glass all around her. Jesse hit the ground with a tortured yelp, feeling the glass slice her delicate skin as she rolled over the shards. She spared one final glance behind her at Logan, squaring off against their captors. With a heavy weight in her chest and spikes of pain throughout her small frame, Jesse stumbled to her feet and started to run.
[#aa0000 “Wow, Logan, I’m impressed. I almost fell for you little act. It looked like your little friend did too. She looked genuinely afraid of you. It’s too bad – here you are willing to die for your friend and little Jesse just ran off and abandoned you. I’ve never heard of a Street Brat leaving a friend behind to die, even when it was the smart thing to do. I guess she didn’t care about you as much as you thought she did.”] Eleanor sneered. With Dylan’s order, she watched as Pyke stepped forward, taking a handgun out of his belt and aiming it at Logan.
[#aa0000 “As I said before, Logan is disposable. The girl is the real prize here. Pyke, take care of this, will you? Either get the brat under control or put a bullet in his skull. I’ll bring back the girl. I think it’s about time we silenced that little Silvertongue.”] The vile woman stepped back, unlocking the front door so she could go after Jesse without having to go through Logan.
Pyke smirked at the challenge. Clearly this kid wasn’t controlled by fear or violence like the others he had experience in kidnapping. And threats against his friend only worked so well, considering the boy had just given Jesse a worse beating than any of them! Maybe it would be easier just to kill him now? But there was one last card Pyke wanted to try. He took out his own cell phone , and slid it across the ground to land at Logan’s feet.
[#776677 “Go ahead, pick it up. I want you to call your parents. Put the phone on speaker so I know they’re on the line. And done even think about letting slip any of our names, Kid, it this bullet is going straight through your throat and your dear mommy and daddy will have to listen to you choke on your own blood!”] Pyke said, keeping his gun trained on Logan. His stance was relaxed, yet precise, almost like Tessa when she was about to make her expert shots. He wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, but why not give this one last try?
[#776677 “Go on, Logan. Call them. I’ll let you say your goodbyes. Because unless you drop that glass and agree to cooperate, these here will be your last moments on earth.”] Pyke ordered. He had done his research on those sappy Street Brats and he knew the parents would be desperate to keep Logan alive for some foolish hope that he could be rescued. They may just be able to convince him to fall in line, if only to buy them time for a rescue mission.
[+red “Accident… Of course it was an accident, what do you…? Wait, do you… do you think this was an attack? Someone tried to hurt my son?!”] Hayden’s panic was growing. She hadn’t seen the site of the crash herself. Hayden had been just picking Alex up from her friend’s house when she got the call from the police. They said the other driver lose control while merging onto the highway. He clipped Rylan’s car, sending it into a spin. The car had finally come to a halt in the middle of the road, directly in the way of on-coming traffic. Two cars managed to swerve out of the way, but a larger transport truck didn’t have the time to maneuver around them, and ended up hitting the passenger side of the car full force. With spilled fuel and the sparks from the collision, the car caught fire. Rylan may have had a better chance at survival if he had got out of the car right away, but the boy stayed behind, desperately trying to pull his instructor from the car – not realizing the man had died on impact and was now nothing but a corpse. Rylan passed out from the heat and smoke long before the Fire Department arrived to put out the fire. It took precious time to pry the young teen out of the demolished car, with Rylan losing a dangerous amount of blood for every crucial second that passed, but eventually the boy was secured on a stretcher and loaded in the back of an ambulance on his way to the hospital. Hayden was distressed enough in thinking that this terrible tragedy had been an accident, but the thought of someone purposely ramming her sixteen year old son into on-coming traffic was making her sick.
[+red “Martyn, I… yes, of course. I won’t say a word, but please hurry!”] Hayden pleaded before hanging up the phone.
Jack knew something was wrong the instant he heard the intensity in Martyn’s voice. It wasn’t often the man showed signs of stress, but the hand through his hair made Jack stop and give a concerned look to the Silvertongue.
[#ff6622 “Rylan? Is he ok?”] Jack asked instantly upon hearing the news. Jack’s thoughts instantly raced to Tigan, feeling like he needed to be there to support his best friend, but Jack couldn’t just abandon the search for his own son! As much as he wanted to help the Masons, leaving the scene now could waste precious time that Logan and Jesse just didn’t have!
[#ff6622 “Of course. You take care of your nephew, I’ll make sure the girls are safe. Just be careful Martyn. If you’re right, if there really is someone targeting us, then I don’t like the idea of any one of us being out there alone.”] Jack warned him, promising to take care of things in Martyn’s absence. Nova had a solid lead, giving Jack and the mothers enough to follow up on while Martyn met up with his sister to see if this [i accident] was all it appeared to be.
When Martyn drove by the scene of the crash, he’d realize instantly how lucky it was that Rylan survived at all! The Driver’s Ed car was nothing but a burned and crumbled mess, with almost nothing left of the passenger side where the instructor had been killed. The Driver’s side was bent and smashed from the impact, with the twisted metal of the door laying discarded a few feet away from where the fire department had to pry it off the vehicle to get to the boy inside. The Transport that hit them had taken heavy damage as well, but there seemed to be no sign of the car that instigated this. It looked like this was a hit and run, but everything happened so quickly that witness statements were inconsistent. The reports couldn’t even seem to agree on the colour of the car!
[#776677 “Mr. Evenwood, please be patient! I assure you, the doctors are doing everything they can to help your son. But you and your wife need to be prepared. Most children in your son’s condition wouldn’t have made it to the hospital. Now please, sit down and let the doctors work.”] The doctor informed the worried parents, giving frustratingly few details. Normally, the hospital staff was a lot more lenient about giving information to the Street Brats, or even having an inventor like Elliot set in to aid where he could, but that was only because Lynn was able to pull some strings. But Lynn had been on a much deserved vacation at the time of the accident. Hayden did call her and the woman got on a plane as soon as she heard, but it would be hours before Lynn arrived and would be able to help. In the meantime, Hayden and Elliot hadn’t been told anything about Rylan’s condition!
[+red “Martyn! You’re here! They’re not telling us anything about Rylan and they won’t let us see him. They won’t even tell us how he’s hurt! Elliot built his own hand, leg, and eye – hell, he built me a new spine! There must be something he could do for Ry, but the doctors won’t even tell us what his injuries are!”] Hayden explained, rushing to meet her brother. Rylan was already in surgery by the time his parents arrived at the hospital, so Hayden and Elliot hadn’t even seen the boy since the accident!
Jesse ran. She ran as fast as she could given the circumstances: her back was killing her, her jaw was in agony, her arm and shoulder throbbed, and her eyes wouldn’t stop watering from the tears. She was in so much pain that she knew if she allowed herself to stop for even a few seconds, she wouldn’t have the will to get up and keep moving!
Jesse knew Logan hadn’t wanted to hurt her. He only did what he had to in order to get her out that window. But Jesse couldn’t push back the trauma of it all! It wasn’t the first time Logan had broken her trust, hurt her, then told her to get out of his sight. She knew he wanted to give her a chance to call for help, but was that even possible? Jesse took out the phone from her cast as she ran and peered down at the screen. Even if she did get through to their parents, what if Logan was dead before they got there? Eleanor had made it clear that Logan was disposable in her eyes and that furious shout from Dylan as Jesse ran was clearly an order to kill. What if it was already too late? How could Jesse face Lily and Jack knowing she got their son killed! How was Jesse even supposed to go on without her best friend?
Jesse finally started to slow down, her injuries making it impossible to keep running. She leaned her back against a tree and opened the phone. She had to try. Logan risked his life to buy her this chance, she at least had to take the opportunity to call for back up! Then maybe if she was brave enough, she could go back and surrender. She could use her words to get the kidnappers to spare Logan’s life!
Jesse started dialling her father’s number, but froze. That hadn’t worked out so well last time. All she managed to do was make her father worried and give the kidnappers every opportunity to threaten them. Besides, she didn’t know where she was or how to get her father to find her. Her best bet would be to contact Caleb – or rather, Larry, since Caleb was mute and Larry would be just as anxious to find Logan as his brother! – and get him to track the call back to her location. She could even hide the phone somewhere so he could find her and go back to help Logan. Jesse dialled quickly, whimpering as the mere act of speaking was torture to her injured jaw.
[#aa0000 “Lawwy? It’sh Jesshe! We need hewp! Can ‘ou trache thish caww?”] Jesse pleaded, cursing her slurred speech and hoping Larry understood her painful lisp. She needed him to trace the call right away and hopefully this nightmare was soon to be over! Before Jesse could say anything else, however, she heard the familiar call of Eleanor in the background. Jesse clasped a hand over her mouth, trying to stay as quiet as possible to not be found. She wasn’t strong enough to run anymore if she was seen! But Eleanor was far more familiar to this area than Jesse was. It was only a matter of time before the woman found her!
If ‘Seven’ was still alive, he would have feasted on Dylan’s greed. Even the way he looked at the girl; he eyed her up for what he could sell. Her voice to bargain a good ransom, once that was done, he could sell her body. No doubt there were other services he could sell her for and perhaps before he ripped out her tongue, he could force her to pull a few deals with different gangs to get some extra dollars. Out of all the children Eleanor had brought to their attention, Jesse was their biggest gold mine yet! The others were disposable... one or two unsellable and were quick to ‘never be found again.’ If Dylan sold this girl right, it could be his final job. He could get himself enough money to forget any future deals and live his life of luxury. He had started to hear rumours that the city was being rebuilt with new systems to benefit those who had money in their pockets. Jesse was his key to being part of that life and with Eleanor’s expertise and Pyke’s skill at hiding the evidence, he didn’t doubt for a second they were days away from feeding his greed.
It seemed for now however, Jesse would fuel his humour. The moment she fired back, he burst into laughter in the girls face. All her confidence, shattered by his nicotine scented mocking laugh.
[+grey “You are funny! It’s not my fault girls like you call for it. What was it? Didn’t some kid wanna have fun with you at some party? Looks like the girls in the Street Brats have a calling for it! I warned you that you better be careful with what you say...”] Dylan continued to laugh and before Jesse could even blink, he threw his fist back before slamming it straight towards her jaw. Each of his fingers were covered with thick gold rings, which would have caused even more damage towards the young girls face!
[+grey “I won’t rip your tongue out just yet, but let’s hear that cocky mouth of yours with your jaw swinging! Fucking little bitch... got blood on my shirt...”] He sneered, looking at the cuff of his sleeve and the rings on his fingers which were splattered with crimson.
Not caring about the damage he had done, his hand was gripping her jaw and listened to her begging, her stories and the more she spoke the more his smirk only grew. He finally let her face go, eyeing her up and down and shaking his head in what looked like mocking disappointment.
[+grey “I’m glad I’m not selling her for her tongue. Seems like this Princess took daddy’s advice too closely to heart didn’t she Pyke? You stupid little girl... you’ve just told me everything I have to say! The thing is, your family is just as sappy as the rest of them. They just don’t admit it. They don’t need to hear your voice. They just need to see your suffering. From there I can bargain all of that. I can threaten Uncle Elliot, Auntie Hayden, Jack, Kira... who else? Oh the list is endless and you have just inspired my creativity. You’re a good little Princess, aren’t you?”] Dylan threw back at her panicked defence, his hand snatching forward to reach for her hair before slamming her , against the table so he was stood behind her.
[+grey “I think you deserve a little reward. Heh... Pyke, she made it far too easy! It’s what happens when we have a talker. Now I wonder if I can make you scream even with a broken jaw...”] Dylan just started reaching for his belt, when Eleanor’s voice broke through the scene. With a disgruntled grunt, Dylan pushed Jesse down to the floor and turned to see what he considered to be the inconvenience in this whole scenario. Logan Sanders was hardly any use. Sure, he could steal, but the Brat was defiant against his whole family! They had no control over the snot-nosed brat and he clearly didn’t have the protective desires for his family like Jack did. That’s why Jack would be easy to bribe. He wouldn’t need to know whether his son was dead or alive - they all just had to play the game until they got the money they needed! To Dylan it would have been easier to put a bullet in Logan’s head hours ago.
[+grey “Best be a good show. He just ruined the rehearsal...”] Dylan rolled his eyes, leaning against the wall and lighting himself another cigarette to watch what the kid could do. If Eleanor saw something in him, he had to trust her judgement. The kid wouldn’t be able to lie easily to his partners and if he tried anything, Pyke would be able to stop him before he could even think of throwing a punch!
Logan stood silently in the middle of the room. His eyes, cold and empty, glared at Jesse with an unusually terrifying distance. There was no comfort. No signs that he shared any interest in her injuries. Instead he observed her silently for a few moments, before stepping forward and grabbing her broken wrist, yanking her up to her feet.
[#8B0000 “I always hated how you were the goodie-goodie. Everyone always looked at you like you were perfect. The teachers, your parents, hell, even my parents wished I was more like you. They even said I was getting you in too much trouble. I bet they never would have guessed this would have happened...”] Logan growled, his emotionless expression starting to burn with anger. Grabbing Jesse by her throat, he lifted her up and threw her with such force across the room that he had no consideration of what she would have crashed into!
[#8B0000 “I’ve always been like one person and I keep fighting against it and what has it got me Jesse? Everyone sees me as a disappointment and I know you... if it was between my life or your voice what would you pick? It would be your voice, because you always have to make your ‘father’ so proud.”] Logan continued, once again picking her up by her broken wrist and yanking her towards the window.
[#8B0000 “You’ve been thrown around a lot over the last few days. Maybe I should make my real ‘father’ proud too, shouldn’t I? He liked to throw my mum about. Hurt her. Make her cry. Make her clean up. When I’m done you’ll be cleaning this mess up once and for all.”] Logan hissed before he shoved her against the wall next to the window, pinning her broken wrist down with his thumb stroking against the cast. It was strange... he was obsessed with cast, feeling the texture and more specifically, the lump where the phone was hidden.
Leaning in close to her ear, Logan took one quick glance towards the window.
[#8B0000 “Remember, pain is mandatory. Run. Run as quick as you can. Make the call. Don’t look back and trust me. We’ll see each other again soon.”] He whispered, his tone switching in an instant. Everything he had been saying, it was a twisted code. He had to play up to make Eleanor believe he was against Jesse and that his attacks were fuelled but if it was a matter of Logan’s life or her voice, she had to use her voice! The only way she was going to save them was to get out of that building, run as far as she could, pick up a signal and make the call! If not she had to get some sort of help! He wanted to make sure the cast was still in her arm. After this, if it all worked, they would be separated. He had to trust Jesse could push past the pain. That she could make him proud and get them out of this!
[+grey “Don’t keep it between you and her Logan! I’m actually impressed so far but surely you can ramp it up. What did you say to her? Go on, I’m intrigued...”] Dylan piped up, laughing from his corner.
[#8B000 “I said that this is going to hurt.”] Logan piped up, grabbing Jesse’s jaw and with a quick snap, he attempted to try and fix any damage he could. In another swift motion, he picked Jesse up and threw her straight towards the window! It was drastic, perhaps a bit further than he needed to go but the doors were locked and he wouldn’t have been able to unlock them in time! The locks were complicated and as a thief even he wouldn’t have been able to get her out in time. The glass shattered around him and his friend but he didn’t have time to check her condition. Instead he picked up a shard of glass, holding it so tightly it was cutting into his own palm.
[#8B0000 “Jesse! Run! It’s mandatory! RUN!”] Logan yelled, blocking the window and he watched as Dylan charged forward. It was like someone had just taken every penny he had! Only before he could get close, Logan slashed the glass forward and cut straight across Dylan’s face, hearing the man scream out as he backed away with blood pouring in between his fingers as he covered his injury.
[+grey “What the fuck! KILL HIM AND GET THE GIRL!”]
[#8B0000 “You’re not getting past me!”] Logan threatened, his attention instantly turning to Pyke knowing that would be his next threat. He might die in the next few minutes but he had to buy Jesse as much time as he could! She needed to get away and with their location, signal wouldn’t be easy to find. This was their chance and he wasn’t going to let Jesse get caught. He promised he would protect her. He did as kids on the streets, he did in school, and he wouldn’t let her down now!
At the van, Nova wasted no time digging her nose into every corner that she could get herself in. She sniffed at the tyres, the bonnet, the doors and even scratched against the windows desperate to get inside. As Jack picked the lock, she jumped straight inside, gathering as many scents as she could. Logan and Jesse’s were instant. The kids had definitely been in there but Nova was a smart dog. She wasn’t just sniffing for the familiar smell - she wanted to find the smells of the people she didn’t know. After a few minutes she kept out, heading straight to Jack and jumping up against him with her paws desperately padding on his chest for his attention. As soon as she had it, she barked in the direction the scent was coming from, her paw up and her nose pointing towards out of town. She wouldn’t be able to trace the scent all the way to the location, but she could follow as far out as the van travelled. Until they found the exact location the kids were taken to, Nova wouldn’t be able to point out the perpetrators, but at least it gave Jack a sense of direction!
Martyn wanted to be more useful, but this was completely out of his depth! He was the one who knew how to react once he had all the evidence in front of him. He was a manipulator with people, not a detective. That’s why Lisa spoke to people and Martyn only met with them just before the court case to plan their act. He uncomfortably paced up and down near the van, allowing Jack and Nova to work away but before he could ask why Nova was getting perked up, he looked at his phone and sighed seeing his sisters name. Unfortunately his sister was overly protective. If he ignored the call, she would call again. If he didn’t answer at some point, with that annoying Street Brat over-protectiveness, she would be demanding answers for his safety. He also wasn’t ready to have an army jumping on this case, but he wasn’t one to lie.
He was half tempted to message saying he would call later and that he was busy with work, but a gut instinct made him press the answer button and the moment he put the phone to his ear, he was glad he did.
[#008000 “Hayden? I...I can’t hear you. You’ll have to speak up...”] Martyn almost shouted, attempting to beat the noise in the background. With Nova’s barking, he took a few steps away from the van and used his free hand to cover his other ear. He listened intently and while he was concerned for his sister and his family, there was a detail he picked up on. It was one he might have missed years ago, but his time with his wife had taught him one or two things...
[#008000 “You said the car was demolished? Hayden does it look like an accidental crash? Does it...”]
[+red “Hayden is he coming or not? We have to go.”] Elliot’s voice urgently called in the background, reminding Martyn that this was more than a clue gathering exercise. His sister needed him and without wanting to admit it, he needed her...
[#008000 “You get yourself to the hospital. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Stay calm and don’t tell the police anything else! You understand me? Wait till I can come to offer legal advice. See you soon Hayden.”] Martyn quickly spoke, hanging up on the phone and running a hand through his hair. It didn’t make sense. The car was demolished, Rylan was in intensive care the same day two Street Brat children were kidnapped. He had to get to his sister. He had to find out more and stop any further risks if his suspicions were correct.
[#008000 “My nephew has been in a car crash. I need to look into it. I wouldn’t leave unless I had to. I think we’re all being targeted Jack. You need to get back to Lisa and Lily, continue clue searching but keep them safe. I mean it Jack! No heroics! Explain to Lisa I had to go alone. She’ll understand.”] Martyn quickly explained. With him gone he wanted Lisa to stay for any negotiations the kidnappers might try and play. She wasn’t a Silvertongue but she could certainly tell how real their threats would be!
Without further explanation, Martyn rushed away and headed to his car. Hayden didn’t live close, in fact it was intentional when their lives started to get back to normal. In an attempt to keep everyone safe and away from further legal action against the family, they kept their distances but close enough to get to one another in an emergency. As quickly as he could, Martyn was driving towards the city his sister lived in, but also taking a path to get a quick glance of the scene where the crash happened. He needed to see for himself.
In the hospital he would find Elliot arguing with one of the consultants, demanding to see his son to see if there was anything he could do. He still had his phobia of blood, but if there was one thing Elliot Evenwood hadn’t lost was his stubbornness to try and fix a situation by building something! In the midst of Elliot’s argument, Martyn had started to make his way into the hospital to try and find his sister...
Lily was too busy glaring at Gregg’s disappearance to notice her friend at first. It took a good moment in time, but it was only as she felt Lisa’s piercing stare hit the back of her head that she turned around with a quizzical look. She didn’t understand? Had she done something wrong? When Lisa explained, Lily couldn’t help but let out a small giggle.
[+orange “I’ve had some compliments but I never thought ‘con-artist’ would be on that list. I’m not sure if I should be flattered or not but thanks Lisa... I...I don’t really like using it. My mums lies broke up the good relationship she had with my dad and then when she rebuilt it, it was too late... I don’t want to use it too much in case I make the same mistake. Though I have to admit, I have been using it to hide my panic away from Jack more often recently...”] Lily admitted, anxiously biting her lip as she did. It was an odd paradox. She was one who could openly demonstrate her fear, concern, happiness, anger and yet when she needed to, it seemed she could completely hide it all away and play the game!
[+orange “But who could have con’d us? We’ve only been in contact with a few people. Have you had any clients? I mean I had that woman from CPS but she was legitimate Lisa. She had everything to prove who she was, she knew my story, she had the links across the city. Have you...I hate to ask this but have you had any clients you might have upset? I don’t know... I’m just trying to think of someone. Anyone! Maybe we need to go back home. Try and piece everything we have found out together and get the boys back as well?”] Lily suggested, instinctively checking her watch. It was getting late. They had spent so much time looking for clues and she didn’t feel they were any closer to getting any answers!
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