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Jesse was nervous as she was forced up the stairs to face her fate. It was one thing to pull a brave face and burry her fear behind her mask when she was with Logan. She could always lean on her friend and use his strength to face her fears. But being separated… that was terrifying! Not only was she unaware of the pain and suffering her best friend could be going through, she was painfully exposed and vulnerable without her defender at her side. Jesse didn’t know what awaited her at the top of those stairs, but she knew it wasn’t good. Still, to keep her promise to Logan, Jesse forced an unreadable expression on her face and lifted her head up high as she left the basement and saw one of her captors waiting for her with a sneer. His threats made her shutter on the inside, but Jesse was able to keep her composure as she met Dylan’s eyes with a glare just as menacing as her father’s.
[#aa0000 “My father may have been drugged, but at least he didn’t have to tie someone down and rape them. But I guess you don’t have much of a choice. No one had standards low enough to sleep with you if you didn’t.”] Jesse shot back, using that sharp tongue to take a shot while she still could. Jesse had no doubt she would regret her retort, but it felt good to slip in an insult after all the misery this bastard had caused.
[#776677 “Haha, this one’s got spunk! Careful kid, you don’t want Dylan here to take that personally. Go on, Dylan, why don’t you tell her what those smart ass remarks will get her?”] Pyke laughed, tightening his grip on Jesse’s arm so that she could feel her delicate skin bruising beneath his fingers.
Jesse thought she could handle herself, but once that threat was made against Logan, she froze. They wouldn’t really kill him, would they? Logan was only worth something to them alive! Then again, they had much less of a chance getting a ransom out of Lily and Jack, simply because the two didn’t have that kind of money! And even if they didn’t kill Logan, they could do a lot of harm and still sell him off for a decent price, thanks to their connections to the Street Brats!
As Dylan continued it became increasingly evident that Jesse would have to be less concerned about Logan and more about herself! If what Dylan implied was true, it wasn’t Jesse’s skills and talents that would fetch a fair price, it was her body. They could easily rip her tongue out and never miss a dollar! The fire started to fade from her eyes and that fear slowly seeped back in. With Dylan’s fingers tightening around her chin, she couldn’t even pull her head away!
[#aaaa00 “No wait! Y-you don’t want to do that!”] Jesse said, wincing at the falter in her own voice – her father would be so disappointed. He always taught her to trust her gift. Unfortunately, Jesse could hardly think through the fear and her worry for Logan down in the basement! At this point, her usually well thought out plans were more of just a jumble of desperate thoughts.
[#aa0000 “This is about money, right? You’ll need proof of life for a ransom call. My dad will know something’s wrong if I’m not able to speak, and then you’ll get nothing! But if I can still talk, I’ll convince him he needs to pay. Not just my mom and dad, but all of the Street Brats! My Uncle Elliot is an inventor; his gadgets are worth a small fortune! Aunt Hayden and Uncle Tigan developed their own fighting style and travel all over the country to teach championship fighters. They’ve got money too! And Logan’s parents… they may not have much in the bank, but Jack is one of the best thieves in the city. With the right motivation, he can steal anything he needs to fit your price. I can make that happen, but not if you take away my voice!”] Jesse argued back in her own defense. She may have been exaggerating the values her family had access to, but her voice and expression were believable enough. She didn’t need to actually get these guys their money, she just needed to buy time until her father could save her .
[#776677 “You keep talking dollars, kid, and you might get Dylan on your side. He’s the greedy son of a bitch in our operation here. But me? I get my paycheck from Eleanor either way. All I want from you is some cooperation. And since you seem more keen to argue with us than to cooperate, I think we better teach you a lesson. Personally, I’d rather hear what that voice sounds like before we cut it out.”] Pyke threatened.
As Gregg made his threats, Lisa stared him down, reading through his insecurities and preparing her next verbal assault, only to have Lily beat her to it! The monther seemed to be on a roll, striking down Gregg with her words and threats, most of which Lisa knew weren’t exactly true. But what struck the reader was that the threats [i sounded] real, even to her! Lisa’s eyes shifted away from Gregg, no longer considering the man worthy of her time. Instead, she watched Lily’s expression as she delivered her threats, looking for any traces of deceit and finding… none! Lisa knew for a fact that Lily didn’t have as much power as she was professing, yet there was no hint of a lie in the woman’s tone, enough to fool even a strong reader like Lisa!
As Gregg took off, Lisa turned back to Lily to give her a quizzical look. She had never seen someone lie so well, aside from Martyn – and he had the benefit of being a Silvertongue with decades of experience living with a reader!
[+green “Lily, that’s incredible.”] Lisa said, taking a moment to realize she hadn’t fully explained her awe. She watched her friend’s expression for a while longer before she allowed her expression o show how impressed she was.
[+green “I’ve never seen you lie like that before… it almost reminds me of your mother. Lily, you’re a natural con artist. With a little practice and some coaching, you’d be able to deceive even skilled readers!”] Lisa explained, not realizing until now that Lily must have inherited some of her mother’s abilities. Maybe she hadn’t ever had the motivation o use it before, but now that Lisa knew she was capable of this, Lily had the ability to hone her skills if she wanted and become as good a con as Nola! Thinking about con artists gave Lisa another stray thought. Of course… she had been thinking about this all wrong! She was looking for villains, people with a grudge, the type of people the Street Brats were used to dealing with, but that didn’t make sense at all! Jesse would have been able to read a threat from a mile away, and if she warned Logan, there’s no way anyone would be able to get their hands on a sly, agile thief like him! The only way someone would have gotten close enough was if the children trusted them at first. They shouldn’t be looking for villains, they should be looking for someone the kids might have trusted!
[+green “A con artist… a good enough con to fool a reader… That’s why Jesse never saw the threat coming. A con artist can take on a flawless role, playing their part perfectly, so that even a reader can’t see through it. I think it was a con artist who took the kids. They must have posed as someone Jesse and Logan would have trusted… or at least someone they didn’t see as a threat.”] Lisa offered, learning yet another clue. They still weren’t able to narrow down who took the children, but at least they were getting closer.
Jack looked around the store, not surprised to see no signs of a struggle. This place was tucked away enough no one would find the young teenagers here. They must have been taken after they left. Nova at least found this little detour helpful as she was able to pick up a recent scent of the two kids. And with another stroke of luck, Caleb came through with a location of the van. It wasn’t anything solid, but it was at least a place to start! If they could find the van, Jack could break into the compartments like Martyn suggested to see if anything was left behind.
[#ff6622 “Alright Nova, let’s start with the parking garage. Maybe you can pick up the scent of whoever was driving it.”] Jack commanded, trusting his faithful companion to do her part. Nova may not have grown up in the same world as her predecessors, but she was just as smart, loyal, and perceptive as any of the other Street Brat dogs. Jack had no doubt she’d find a way to track the kids.
As they arrived in the parking garage, Jack started picking the lock on the van with ease. It seemed that whoever dropped it off here was pretty thorough when they cleaned it out, but there could still be traces of the kids somewhere inside, and if Nova could pick up a scent to follow, they might be able to track down one of the kidnappers. Jack was driven by this stroke of good luck, but his life on the Streets made him wary of hope. It was usually Jack’s experience that nothing good lasted long. If things seemed like they were going right, there was always something bad lingering on the horizon. It may have sounded pessimistic, but Jack’s grim perspective was soon confirmed when Martyn’s phone began to ring, flashing his sister’s name on the screen.
[+red “Martyn!”] Hayden’s panicked voice rang across the phone line before her brother even had a chance to say hello! It was hard to hear Hayden over the background noise – what sounded like car horns and road rage, mixed with a flurry of voices all in different conversations. Yet over the noise, the fear and pain in Hayden’s voice was clear.
[+red “It’s Rylan… he was at Driver’s Ed. And he… We’re on our way to the hospital now. The police said it looked like an accident, but… Oh god, Martyn, the car was demolished! The driving instructor is dead and Rylan… he’s in Intensive Care. The doctors aren’t sure if… if he’s going to…”] Hayden couldn’t bring herself to say it. For all she knew, her son could be taking his last breaths as she spoke! Hayden had always been a fighter – one to rush into a situation and throw punches until the danger had passed. She could take pain as well as she could give it and as long as she had something to fight, her determination would pull her through. But this… there was nothing to fight! Her son’s life was on the line and all she could do was trust the doctors and hope Rylan had the strength to pull through!
Eleanor watched the emotion play across her little hostage’s face: first confidence, then confusion, then panic as he realized the danger his friend was in. The sounds on the phone were enough to satisfy Eleanor. The crash sounded horrible, and she responding screams were proof that the accident was a bad one. Whether the boy lived or died was irrelevant, as long as he was hurt bad enough to distract the Street Brats and keep the focus away from Logan and Jesse.
[#ff00ff “Exactly. Your little friend has nothing to do with this, Logan, that’s why I chose to target him. The Street Brats have no way of connecting his accident to your disappearance, so it can never be traced back to me. And since everyone cares a lot more about Rylan than they’ve ever cared for you, they’ll be far too distracted to even bother looking for you.”] Eleanor explained, seeming perfectly unfazed by the thought that she may have just killed a 16 year old boy just for the hell of it!
Eleanor was thrilled that her plan had worked. The boy would write the letter in his journal, backing up the argument that Lily and Jack were unfit parents. Eleanor could use that to petition the courts and take custody, even with Logan being missing! That meant that Lily and Jack would be forbidden to be involved in the case! The police would share no information, they wouldn’t be involved in ransom called, and they would be traumatized enough by their own son’s written words that they wouldn’t have the strength to keep looking for him. Maybe if Eleanor was feeling particularly cruel, she’d petition the courts for custody of the unborn child as well! It wouldn’t be the first time a baby was ripped from Lily’s arms, only this time the law wouldn’t be on their side. They’d be helpless! But while all of that sounded perfect to Eleanor, Logan offered something even more enticing… his trust.
[#ff00ff “Well now, that is an interesting offer, Logan. I’d much rather have you working with us than against us. You look like you’re telling the truth, but I’m no reader. For all I know you could be some kind of con artist, like me. So before I trust you, I’m going to need some proof, Kid.”] Eleanor said. She could hear muffled voices from upstairs, sounding like little Jesse was trying to bargain her way out of her punishment. This was the perfect chance to see if Logan was telling the truth or not.
[#ff00ff “Alright Logan, I’ll let you take a shot at Jesse. I don’t care what you do to her – do whatever your little heart desires! – but I want it to break her. I want to see that mask of her shatter and those glaring eyes filled with tears before you’re done with her. And to make sure you aren’t just trying to play some elaborate act, you’re going to hurt Jesse in front of us. Pyke, Dylan, and I will be watching whatever you do, so you best put on a good show. If we’re satisfied by what we see, you might even earn yourself a reward, Kid.”] Eleanor offered. She placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him up the basement stairs. She lead him to the living room where the men were currently dealing with Jesse.
[#ff00ff “Change of plans, boys. Before you have your fun with the girl, we’ve got ourselves some entertainment! Go on Logan – she’s all yours.”]
[+orange “You know Lisa, I often wish I thought like you. You’re right, they are a good team and I know they have been through so much but that will make them stronger, right?”] Lily asked but she didn’t need an answer. The kids were left to their own survival once before. Logan and Jesse might have had their clashes and moments when perhaps they almost walked away from one another, but ultimately they pulled through. They used their differences to make an unstoppable force and survived long enough to reunite with their parents and live a normal life. Lily just hoped that normality wasn’t short lived and yet as she continued to bring up her doubts, there was a fire she was messing with. As Lisa cut her back, she bit her lip knowing she crossed a line. She shouldn’t have doubted, but it almost seemed natural in Lily’s behaviour not to carry much hope. Only this wasn’t a matter of hope. Hope wasn’t going to bring their children back. They had to act and actually do something and the two mothers together were a force to be reckoned with - and that was about to be proven as Gregg made his approach.
[+red “Next time I’ll brea his fuckin’ neck. He’s lucky I didn’t already! Your husband is a coward, got nothin’ in him when he’s forced to be quiet. Was almost burstin’ into tears when I grabbed his neck! I’d happy serve time in prison again to watch you look after that useless bastard if I wrung his neck in.”] Gregg laughed, showing no remorse for his actions but as Lisa started to dig in deeper to his family history and his own past, he rubbed the back of his neck nervously and gritted his teeth.
[+red “How d’ya know so much? That’s fuckin’ weird. They told me your family were a bunch of creeps! Adam might not live because of that bitches kid and you ‘av the nerve to threaten me? You’re just as much of a coward as your husband. I bet you squeal at pain. I’ll take the risk for prison to rip that tongue out of your mouth..”]
[+orange “Touch her, try it. I dare you.”] Lily threatened, stepping protectively forward and narrowing her own eyes at Gregg. Now he had two fierce mothers approaching him and oddly enough, for a many of many threats he took a cowardly step back!
[+orange “I don’t think you understand. I’m the daughter of the late Police Chief. You want to know why Logan hasn’t been arrested yet? It’s because I have all the power under my fingers and while Martyn and Lisa might not be able to fight, I’m sure I could get a few prisoners to make your life hell behind bars once you are locked up. I may not have the police on my side anymore, but after what happened to me, I have a lot of prisoners who loathe men like you. Do you want to end up like your son?”] Lily piped up, bluffing her way along but if her mother could play the game, surely she could? Lily had no idea if half the criminals who beat Rick up were still even serving time but it seemed to do the trick! With her and Lisa’s efforts Gregg continued to back away.
[+red “You’re both freaks! I swear, I’ll bring the entire family down on yers! If I get me hands on either of them, I’ll drag them to the underground market! They’re buyin’ this week and you’ll never get yer kids back. Fuck that Eleanor Carrow and her threats, I’ll sort it myself!”] Gregg yelled as he retreated, unknowingly giving Lisa and Lily another little clue. Many of Dylan’s buyers were criminals from the underground, perhaps if they could find one of those buyers, they could find out more information on the children’s location...
The Underground wasn’t really much of a thing when the Street Brat’s first started. In fact it was just a laughable waste of space under the city which no one really knew what to do with. Then as usual started getting used as a small hide out for low key criminal gangs, and then those gangs became bigger and more powerful and before the city knew it, it was a waste pit for criminality. More recently one of the new Chief Officers in the police since Nola and Simon’s passing thought it could be used to contain that criminality. If they contained the criminals in one space and let them fight amongst each other, either they would wipe each other out or the criminal activity would at least be kept away from the surface of the city. However, Martyn had started to hear rumours that the governors of the city wanted to now use it as a purging of the ‘lower classes’. Anyone who couldn’t provide anything worthwhile to the city, or bring economic growth, was tossed into the hell hole and forgotten about. Martyn laughed at the idea, thinking it would never actually happen and so far, no one was insane enough to take it to that level but still - the criminals down there thanks to the police’s brain wave was enough to have that concern in the back of his mind. If their children were sent down there, the chances of getting them back out unscathed were slim...
[#008000 “Do you think I know what to do Jack? This isn’t a court case where I can plan my actions and my words months in advance to play on the jury. No. Even you as a thief, you have to plan. That’s almost how you’ve got to approach this... with your strengths. See them as something you almost have to steal back. You have always frustrated me but there is one thing I can’t deny - you will do whatever it takes to protect your family but I won’t stand by and watch you be reckless about it. I guess Jesse and Logan have actually taught us something. Our families together pretty much work like their friendship.”] Martyn spoke about in Jack’s fluster, thinking exactly how Jesse and Logan worked. As much as Jesse and Logan needed each other for survival, the Sanders and the Culls needed each other to work effectively!
With Jack’s suggestion, Martyn followed to the abandoned shop and much like Jack he felt his own wave of guilt. Jesse had spoke about how she needed to keep secrets from her family because she was tired of them being able to manipulate her thoughts and read her mind. Was this why she came here? To speak a thousand secrets to Logan which she couldn’t divulge to her parents? It seemed this was just one of the many secrets she had...
Feeling his phone vibrate, Martyn lifted it up to see the text message from Caleb. While the van was found, the fact it was abandoned so close to where they were didn’t give Martyn the hope or the clues he was desperate for. Instead it only told him that these kidnappers were intentionally covering their tracks and doing everything they could to try and make it impossible for the parents to find them.
[#008000 “There is nothing here. We should...”] A quick bark interrupted Martyn and he looked over to see Nova had been silently padding alongside them to the scene, and had been sniffing around for clues. She ran over to Jack, grabbing his shirt with her teeth and tugging sharply. As with all the Street Brat dogs, their loyalty to their family was strong and Nova could recognise the the scent from the teenagers, especially with them both coming into the room with a hangover. If she could pick up a scent here, perhaps she could pick up a scent at the van and lead them in the direction they needed to go!
[#008000 “Well at least someone is useful in this situation. They’ve been here and we know the vans location. We need Nova to pick up a scent but we also need you to break into the compartments Jack, see if perhaps they have been foolish enough to leave behind the smallest of clues. I’ll message Lisa for her and Lily to meet us, and hopefully, we’ll have our first real hope in all of this.”]
The threat would have been enough to threaten any other teenager, but Logan couldn’t help but sneer at the word ‘disposable’. Eleanor had done her research on him and she would have known just how much that word was used in the Sanders bloodline. Jack was disposable. Logan followed in his footsteps. The threat was often followed with now being around to protect the one they cared about. Even as a baby, Lily was told that Logan could be killed, she would be forced to have another child, and she’d never actually have anyone to love or to love her. He knew that every person who delivered that threat had the ability to carry it out. Logan had no doubt in his mind that Rick would have ended it all if he screamed at the wrong time, or if Lily said the wrong thing and Eleanor... well, Eleanor carried that same look in her eyes. She was tired of Logan already, seeing him as nothing. So he didn’t doubt that she would put a bullet in his head but that didn’t scare him. In other scenarios he might have just dared to test the waters but as he heard Jesse’s gasp and quickly caught a glance at the look in her eyes, he realised just how selfish that would be. Besides, his main fear at the moment was what was going to happen at the top of those stairs to his best friend!
So instead he stared back at Eleanor with a defiance that would have made Jack proud. He was standing strong , trying to gage how he could play this with the skills he had but all he knew was how to fight, how to answer back, and how to steal! El was far too intelligent to let him get close, unlike Dylan, and usually Logan could talk his decisions out with Jesse. Now she was gone, he was trapped with whatever plots this woman had in her mind and he was already getting an uneasy feeling just by the way she was looking!
[#8B0000 “You can’t just throw threats around. You really think the Brat’s aren’t prepared for a revenge attack one day? It’s all they ever used to go on about before we were allowed to live our own normal lives! You start messing with their lives, the news will quickly spread and you’ll be opening yourself up, especially with the Evenwoods. As much as Rylan pisses me off, that family is always checking in with everyone and if something goes wrong, they’ll be the ones calling out! And er, so what if he is learning to drive? What has that got to do with...”] Logan started confidently, but as she brought up the everyday normalities of the outside world such as his cousins driving lessons, he tilted his head. Logan, as with many of the Brat’s, were brought up with dangers. When they were exposed to those dangers, the idea that anything ‘normal’ could be a risk went right out the window! Logan’s mind was adjusted to the Street Brat survival mode. What was the next weapon being used against them? The next torture tactic? The next gang they had to fight? Though he had forgotten just how cruel the real and very normal world could be, if used in the wrong hands.
The panic and the noise coming through the phone, seemed to portray the panic in his mind the moment he realised exactly what Eleanor had done. Logan and Rylan may not have been the closest, but he was family! The worst part was, which was one of Logan’s ultimate fears, he was trapped and there was nothing he could do about it. The confident look in his eyes quickly turned to dread, that familiar anger rising and falling with his chest and his broken hands clenching so tightly that the wounds started to drip with blood.
[#8B0000 “What have you done!? He’s not a part of this!”] Logan hissed through clenched teeth but there was a clear torment in his mind and body. Everything was twitching at him to run forward and rip the bitch to pieces but his mind was screaming at him to stay put. He was disposable because he was useless and he only got people hurt!
As Eleanor continued to speak, Logan was staring straight through her with a look that wasn’t the same as usual. His aggression was fading, and his eyes emptied with a soulless and empty look. Nothing she was saying was truly registering. All he could think of was just how Jesse was suffering, Rylan was probably dead... and as his textbook was placed in his hand, he subconsciously opened the pages to see the aimless doodles and empty pages - hardly any school work, hardly anything meaningful. It was the very textbook from Mr. Clarkson’s class; the teacher who was hellbent of ‘disposing’ of Logan from the school. Mr Clarkson said he would be the destruction of Jesse’s future and his parents were wasting their time on a boy like him. He was nothing but trouble...
And now for the first time, Logan was being forced to write the most meaningful and powerful letter that could change everything. Though Logan didn’t start writing straight away... instead he looked up at Eleanor with a different look in his eye. A much more sinister and terrifying expression. The very same expression his real father carried. The very same malicious look of Rick Sanders.
[#8B0000 “I’m done caring about who I can and can’t protect, because why does it matter? Why does it fucking matter if I destroy everything anyway? So why should I keep fighting against it? You know what Eleanor, maybe you are right. Maybe I am disposable because I keep trying to live my life fighting against what I am. I’m the son of Rick Sanders, not Jack. So I’m just like him, and I’m destined to be just like him and that bitch upstairs, well...maybe I was destined to destroy her just like my father was destined to destroy Lily. I keep trying to protect her and she gets everything! She gets the brains, the perfect parents, the perfect house, the happy life and me? She can keep on living while everyone else is happy to get rid of me. The Brat’s will come to save her, sure but me? Nah... once they found out Rylan got hurt or is dead because of me... heh, they’ll have the excuse they want to get rid of me.”] Logan spoke in a mixture of speaking to himself and addressing Eleanor. His voice even carried that same half-toying, half-fury filled tone of Rick. The only thing he needed was the slur of alcohol and the difference would be impossible to tell! Eleanor’s psychological torture while only brief, had clearly had an effect on the boy. The past few days had been traumatic enough and it seemed Logan only needed a push towards the edge.
[#8B0000 “I’ll write the letter. I’ll do it but you want my trust? You really want my trust? Then let me teach Jesse a lesson. I want to see her hurt. I want to see her suffer. I’m the one who had been risking my reputation, my family, my friends... everything to protect her and y’know what? I’m done. I’m done trying to fight for a family that doesn’t exist. I know what makes Jesse terrified. So let me show you. In fact... let me have my fun with her. I bet I can do a much better job than Pyke and Dylan, and I’m the son of Rick Sanders. I saw what broke my mum and Jesse talks to me like she understands. I can show her, and she’ll learn she never really understood until I’m done with her.”] Logan offered, glaring up the stairs as if trying to shoot all his pain and anger through the door and at Jesse. Maybe it was time to accept who he truly was. He was never destined to be part of a good family; he destroyed all the goodness in it and when he tried to make things work, he only suffered. Well, he wasn’t going to suffer anymore.
Lily did have a point. Logan and Jesse bonded over their similarities – neither liked physical contact, neither yearned to be part of the group, and both had known violence and isolations long before they knew love and comfort – but there were very prominent differences too. Jesse was pensive, quiet, using her talents to observe, read, and assess the situation with a well thought out strategy. Logan was impulsive and defensive, quick witted and always vigilant, never afraid to jump into action when needed. Jesse’s greatest strength was her words and her weakness was any physical restraint of violence, while Logan thrived off his quick action and confident, fearing the psychological trauma instead. One would think they were an odd pair to be friends, never mind having to survive a kidnapping together, but Lisa couldn’t help but wonder if it was their differences that made that partnership stronger.
The Street Brats had a history of pairing off with those similar to themselves, be it their skills , their values , or their personalities . While most of those relationships had remained strong over the years, almost every one had its near-breaking point. Maybe it’s the differences between Jesse and Logan that will keep their bond strong through the challenging times ahead?
[+green “Logan may have a bad habit of acting impulsively, but Jesse has the opposite problem. My daughter, as talented and intuitive as she is, is far too hesitant. She misses opportunities, avoids risk, and ends up in more dangerous situations because she’s afraid to act. If either were taken on their own, I’d be terrified for them. But together? Jesse will reign in Logan’s impulsiveness and Logan will keep Jesse motivated. They’ll make it through this Lily; I know they will.”] Lisa told her friend in reassurance. Lisa couldn’t deny the fear she held for her daughter and Logan being in enemy hands, but those kids had already overcome the odds before when they were much younger and more inexperienced. Now, they just had to trust that Jesse and Logan could keep each other safe until they were found.
[+green “Not leaders… that’s the second time I’ve heard that today. If you and Martyn aren’t going to have confidence in yourselves, we might as well give up right now.”] Lisa snapped back, more sharply than she intended. Lisa had been told her whole life that she wasn’t good enough. First by her grandfather in the mob, then her cousin and Lexi in the Elites, various Street Brats over the years looking down on [i Martyn’s little tag along], and Gordon’s degrading taunts as he forced himself on her. Normally, Lisa accepted the comments as truth, knowing she was just a follower, nothing without Martyn to guide her, but this time those comments stung a little too sharply. No one should ever dare tell Lisa she wasn’t good enough to protect her own daughter.
[+green “Martyn would never risk Jesse’s life. If he thinks that calling Hayden and the others is what’s best, he’ll do it. No matter how much he has to swallow his pride, he’ll make that call if it comes to it. But calling in the Brats has risks as well. These kidnappers told us specifically not to call the police. I doubt they’ll be too forgiving if we bring an army of Brats into town. Besides, those bastards that took our kids have no idea who they’re messing with.”] Lisa said with a dangerous gleam in her normally unreadable eyes. She had a point: a Silvertongue with words as sharp as daggers, a Reader so talented it was as if she could read minds, an expert thief, and a medical expert fiercer than a mother bear when it came to her cub!
As the kids departed and the angered shouts of Gregg filled the park, Lisa felt a fury of her own rising in her chest. This was the man who broke into their home, assaulted her partner, threatened her daughter, and dared to protect the two boys that had been bullying and tormenting Jesse for months! Lisa whipped around to glare at the man, letting her features meld into something far more fierce and intimidating than Lisa initially appeared.
[+green “So you’re the man who forced his way into my home and caused those bruises around Martyn’s neck? I see violence runs in your family. Is it just you, or is your brother a brute too?”] Lisa asked, watching his expression for mere seconds before she had her answer.
[+green “He is. No doubt you and your brother had the same bullying tendencies as your nephews. But my daughter told me things took a dark turn: Eddie and Adam threatened to leave a lot more than bruises in that basement. Did you even assault a girl when you were their age? Ah, more than one? And they didn’t tell anyone because you threatened them, just like you threatened my partner. And now you’re looking for Logan? What would you have done if you found him? A few punches? No, that’s not severe enough. You would have beaten that boy into the ground. You tell yourself you wouldn’t kill him, we both know you’re not capable of controlling those violent urges in the moment. So by all means, call the police. I’d be happy to tell them about your history and your intentions of ambushing an injured 16 year old boy. Any one of these children will testify to witnessing those threats, and the bruises you left on Martyn are proof enough those threats are real. You want to hit me too? Go on, add more evidence to the case. By the end of this, I’ll see you rotting behind bars for the rest of your pathetic life.”] Lisa seethed, reading her victim every step of the way. Every assumption she made was verified by his poorly concealed expression, giving her everything she needed to call his bluff.
Jack listened to Martyn, unknowingly having nearly the exact conversation his ife was currently having with Lisa! The Sanders wanted to rush ahead full force and bring their son home safe, while the Masons were patient, calculating, and preferring to sort out all the details to make sure they weren’t placing the kids in any further danger. Fortunately Jack had matured a lot over the years and had learned to rely on others to cover his short-sights. Martyn was an asshole most of the time, but Jack trusted him, especially when his daughter’s life was on the line.
[#ff6622 “If you think we should wait then we’ll wait. It’s just reassuring to hear that you‘ll call them if it comes to it. As for the Underground… that place was a nightmare even back then. If it’s gotten worse over the years then we can’t risk the kids being brought down there. I won’t let Logan suffer through that.”] Jack said as memories of the fighting ring, Tigan’s soulless eyes, and the stench of burning flesh filled his mind.
[#ff6622 “I’m not trying to destroy them Martyn! I would never want to leave Lily but I… I’m not good at this… Being a thief, a Sting, a Street Brats, that’s one thing, but trying to be a father… a protector… Logan’s life is worth a hell of a lot more than mine. But you’re right… I can’t abandon Lily, especially with that baby on the way. I just don’t know what else to do…”] Jack said, flustered with the worry and panic of his missing son. He felt useless with no plan of action and nothing he could contribute to finding Logan and Jesse, until Martyn pushed him to use what knowledge and resources he had.
At the request to think like his little brother, Jack closed his eyes for a moment, taking in a few even breaths to refocus his mind. When he opened them again, he put himself in Logan’s shoes. The kid was a thief, like Jack, very observant and resourceful. He’d look for some place private and hidden so as not to be disturbed. An abandoned building would work… there was an old vacant shop not far from the house. Quiet enough for the two kids to have an easy place to escape to when times got tough.
[#ff6622 “An old, vacant store a few streets over… Logan might go there.”] Jack finally suggested, leading the way towards Logan’s old hide-out. It was a little harder for the two adults to navigate the old building than their kids, but soon Jack pulled the creaky door open to reveal what had clearly been the two kids’ favourite spot.
Jack felt that familiar pit in his stomach when he thought about why such a place was needed. Did Logan really feel so unwelcome in his own home that he tried to make a new one? As Jack took a quick look around to search for clues, Martyn’s phone would buzz with a text from Caleb.
[i “Tracked the van Jesse told you about. Parking garage two blocks from your location at the corner of 9th Ave and Hall St. Parked on level 3 beside the elevator. Looks empty, but might have some clues. I’ll keep tracking. Good Luck.”]
Eleanor Carrow was an expert in her craft. She had successfully kidnapped, ransomed, and sold 17 children over the past few years, never once drawing any unwanted attention to herself. She was careful, calculating, and manipulative, making sure to get as much out of the parents as she could before selling the child to the highest bidder. Each scene was different, each method of taking the child or contacting the parents was unique, and she was very careful to avoid any sort of pattern. There was no evidence to connect ech of the past 17 disappearances to her or her associates, and her past successes had given her confidence. She wasn’t about to be intimidated by a teenager with anger issues.
[#ff00ff “You’re in no position to be making threats, Logan. Jesse’s parents have enough money to make her valuable, but yours? Lily and Jack don’t have enough money to pay next month’s rent, especially since your little stunt got your step-father fired. They don’t have the means to pay a ransom, which means you are worthless unless you learn to cooperate. You’re disposable, Logan. And trust me when I say that if you cause more trouble than I’m prepared to handle, I’ll have Pyke put a bullet through your skull without a second thought, and then no one will be here to protect your little Princess.”] Eleanor threatened, hearing the sharp inhale from Jesse proving the girl saw the truth to her words. Jesse even let a flash of fear cross her mask, turning her pleading eyes to Logan. Jesse wanted to convince her friend to take the threat seriously, but before she could say anything she was shoved up the stairs and into a new, yet equally as terrifying scene.
Eleanor, finally alone with Logan, was growing tired of the boy’s rebellious attitude. Even with threats against his own life and the wellbeing of his best friend, the boy refused to cooperate and give Eleanor the answers she was demanding. She saw that fierce look in his eye and knew why: he saw nothing to gain by behaving. He didn’t believe that’s he would spare the girl any harm by doing as he was told, so why give her the satisfaction? She was going to have to get creative if she wanted Logan to think twice about fighting her.
[#ff00ff “Oh, I wouldn’t count on the Street Brats if I were you, Logan. We have contingencies in place in case any of them decide to get involved. Your aunt Kira, for example: finally making a life for herself with her husband and young toddler. Her little one, named after her late father, how sweet! It would be a real shame if something happened to little Caiden. Or your distant cousin, Rylan? The two of you never did get along, but being the son of Elliot Evenwood makes him pretty important to the Street Brats, doesn’t it? Did you know he’s learning to drive? His first lesson is happening right now.”] Eleanor said in an ominous tone that proved she was up to something malicious. She took out her phone – a landline from the safe house that still worked in the basement where cell service wasn’t available – and hit a number on the speed dial.
[#ff00ff “You still have eyes on the Evenwood boy? Excellent. Run him off the road. Make it look like an accident.”] Eleanor said before holding out the phone just long enough for Logan to hear the squeal of tires, the crashing of metal, shattering of glass, and faint screams in the background. With her point made, she ended the call, hoping now Logan understood just how much power she had over the situation. Rylan was possibly dead right now just on a whim! It would take hardly any effort at all for Eleanor to go after Kira and her family, or any of the other Brats. If any of the Street Brats joined in trying to rescue Jesse and Logan, they’d soon find a lot more of their family in need of rescuing!
[#ff00ff “The Street Brats aren’t coming to save you Logan. And your parents? I doubt they’d even waste the effort to look for a screw up like you. You’re not getting out of here, Logan, so it’s in your best interest to make this little venture as painless as possible for you and your friend. You want to keep whatever it is you cut your bindings with? Fine. But you’ll have to do something for me in return to prove I can trust you to cooperate.”] Eleanor told him, pulling out a pen and one of Logan’s notebooks she had taken from his locker when she was interviewing his teachers.
[#ff00ff “I want you to write something for me Logan. Write all about how your violent drunk of a step father beat you when he was angry and how your unstable mother let it happen, cowering in the corner with her own PTSD. I want you to write something so compelling, the courts wouldn’t think twice about removing you from the custody of your parents. Do this and I might just be able to trust you enough to keep your secret blade. You can take all the time you want, but I’d hurry if I were you. Jesse isn’t coming back downstairs until you’re finished.”]
For Logan to listen to words of encouragement, well, it never really happened. He never saw himself as anything ‘positive’. From his birth, Rick saw him as disposable. Then when he grew up with the Street Brat’s he was the troublemaker, the one who created all the tensions and problems. In school the teachers were tired of him, the police now had the excuse they always wanted to lock him up, his mother was stressed and Jack was close to hitting the bottle again! He knew he was loved, but he didn’t really care for compliments, mostly because he knew all the above was true! He was much like Jack in most ways; he only saw that negative perception and that doubt did creep in his mind. However, Jesse was always the person who could break through. He used to try and hide it. He would shrug, roll his eyes, tut; whatever he could do to deflect any positivity she could see in him but she was annoyingly persistent. Besides he could to learn that she would always end her sentence with a satisfied smirk, or a look of confidence because despite Logan’s attempts, she could read right through them. That was when he started to open up and accept them, knowing that Jesse didn’t lie. Now more than ever he needed to hear those words. He was conscious, something which was a rarity for Logan. He was arrogantly cocky, enjoyed being the centre of attention, especially when trouble was involved. To have his fear openly exposed, no, his reaction to his fear exposed - it was the worst thing that could happen. To hear it was actually a sign of strength was a perspective Logan never would have thought of if it wasn’t for Jesse.
[#8B0000 “I won’t give up, not for me Jesse, but because we’re both in this. I always said I would protect you and I’m not letting a stupid... I mean... a fear get in the way.”] Logan responded simply, nodding in acknowledgement to her words. The fear was still in his eyes, but there was a change in his posture. He was presenting himself as stronger, ready to fight against the world and as Jesse pointed out the injuries on his arms, he shrugged.
[#8B0000 “My arms are in a lot better condition than yours. Don’t worry about my injuries, I told you I can take it. I promise.”] Logan assured her. It was agony, but how could he complain when Jesse’s arm was in a cast and her shoulder was dislocated! He would take all the bruises and grazes he could if it meant she didn’t have to suffer anymore injuries.
[#8B0000 “I get it but we also just can’t wait around! The more we wait, the more people they talk to. That means the more people know we are Street Brat’s, and that also means more people know we’re still around. That brings dangers to our families as well! We can try playing the game but if that doesn’t work I’m not waiting around much longer. You might think that blade can’t do much, but I’ll take my chances. I’m sorry, but I’m not planning on giving them the opportunity to mess with us. They know too much about us already.”] Logan argued and that’s when he went into his plan and ultimately, snapping Jesse’s dislocated shoulder back into place.
The last thing he ever wanted to do was to hurt his best friend, especially since he knew how sensitive to pain she was but as he said, it would be better for her in the long run. He continued to hold her close, resting his head on top of hers as she buried her head into his shoulder. Usually he wasn’t so affectionate. Logan expressed his care for his best friend through his protective nature. He would fight against the school bullies and get into fights. This was a rare moment for the two but perhaps it was an important moment. Logan needed the encouragement and Jesse, surprisingly, needed the comfort. Logan stayed close to her just as long as he dared, knowing they were pushing it daringly close until they came down again. He had been in this situation and he knew the monsters upstairs would either get bored and want to play, or would be too paranoid to leave them alone for too long.
[#8B0000 “Well, I’m glad my services come in useful. I can break faces and snap arms back... who says I’m useless? I’m glad you’re here too Jesse”] Logan smirked, trying to lighten the tone after her pain to show that they were both ok. Unfortunately, that moment wouldn’t last too long.
Hearing the basement door open, Logan distanced himself a little from Jesse thinking that their proximity alone just might get them in trouble. It was a huge mistake on his part. It gave Eleanor the path she needed to backhand Jesse and in the moment that Logan saw red and was ready to charge forward, he felt a tight grip on his own shoulder. If Jesse wasn’t around, he would have dared taking a swing at the guy even if he was twice of Logan’s size! Instead he gripped his bruises and battered hands, glaring coldly at Eleanor as her interrogation continued until she finally hit that turning point....
[#8B0000 “You’re not letting anyone fucking touch her!”] Logan hissed, watching as Eleanor turned on him and he was almost glad. He was daring her just with the look in his eyes to continue plotting, to take a step forward... he would enjoy beating that bitch black and blue for even daring to threaten Jesse in such a way!
[#8B0000 “You let her go up there, you let Pyke and Dylan leave you, I will show you what happens with a monster. You really want to be left alone down here with me? You really want to test that because I swear if they lay one finger on her upstairs and you continue with your pathetic little threats, I’ll enjoy breaking every bone in your body! You hear me? I’m not some weak little kid! You read my file, you’ve seen the fights and the damage I’ve caused. You tell them to bring Jesse back down now or I’ll make you suffer!”] Logan shouted without thinking as he could see Jesse getting pulled up the stairs. His panic was rising, Eleanor was getting exactly what she wanted. She was toying with a fear he didn’t have control of!
[#8B0000 “Did you not hear me!? I’ll kill you if I have to! Tell him to bring her back!”] He took a threatening step forward, almost readying himself to throw a punch as Pyke was up the stairs with Jesse and no one could stop him.
He was terrified of that door closing behind him, of having no one to fight against and stop and having no control. With all of the other dangers against Jesse, he was always able to get back control. It might not have been in the moment, but he was always able to protect her against any further danger. If those monsters did what he was expecting them to do... he couldn’t protect her from that. He saw the damage of what it had done to Lily and as much as Lisa held her mask, he heard from Jesse the occasional story of her own mothers trauma. He couldn’t just stand there and watch her get taken away! He was terrified! At least until one thought popped into his mind...
Jesse told him he was a survivor. They were both survivors. He hated the idea and it was already making him sick to his stomach. He could feel his anxiety growing and he was having to take deep breaths to try and control his fear but maybe this was the break they needed. If he could keep Eleanor focused on him, perhaps it would give Jesse the opportunity they needed to call for help. With a shaky breath, Logan raised his hands, showing he wouldn’t fight... for now.
[#8B0000 “I know the truth won’t actually save Jesse. You’ll do it to torment me, to break me, to mess with my head but Rick had one advantage - I was too young to fight back. I was too weak. He knew he could just easily get rid of me and he had my mum under his control because she was so scared. You’re going to do what you want, so why should I tell you the truth? You don’t scare us.”] Logan spoke up resistantly, with his eyes glancing up to Jesse as he watched her pulled away up the final step. Every impulse was telling him to run after her, but she had the biggest opportunity up there to call for help or at least get the signal out! Though with each passing second, Logan’s anxiety was building. Was it worth it? If he couldn’t protect her, if she was going to be broken, was this really worth it?
Glaring back at Eleanor, he grit his teeth together, trying to only let her see the strength and determination rather than the terror and the fear.
[#8B0000 “You know you won’t win. You’ll have every Street Brat hunting you down eventually.”]
Upstairs Dylan was finalising his phone call while putting up the finishing touches to what he had been working on while the kids were locked downstairs. On a large wall he had stuck up large pictures of people who had called wanting to make an offer for the kids. Each picture had a bio and a price they had offered underneath. On the top was a picture of Lisa and Martyn, with a proposed offer Dylan was going to create and next to them was a picture of Lily and Jack, each with a red cross through their faces as Dylan deemed them unworthy of even bothering to bargain with. The buyers ranged from top criminal minds, underground fight rings, abusers, slavers and essentially - all the scum of the Earth and the enemies of the Street Brat’s, Dylan really had no morals when it came to who Logan and Jesse went to, so long as he made a good profit which could be split.
Turning to see Jesse being brought up, he tucked his phone away and approached the girl, smirking as he saw the apparent confidence in her eyes which she had shared with Logan just moments ago.
[+grey “I wonder how many bones it would take to wipe that little smirk off your face Jesse Mason? I imagine not many. You see all those people - they want to buy you alive, but they never said anything about whether the goods couldn’t arrive damaged.”] Dylan grinned as he knelt down in front of her and cupped her chin in his hand.
[+grey “You know I really didn’t want you coming back up so soon but I have an idea about why Eleanor has been so keen to let me and Pyke have some fun with you. You’re a pretty little Princess... I heard your mum was good at playing along and I’m sure you would too if it meant protecting your friend. Maybe Lisa really enjoyed it. Maybe it was the happiest she had ever been and now she’s back with your father... heh... then again even he had to be drugged to have a little bit of fun to have you. What do you think Pyke? Do you think she’d secretly enjoy it like her mum did?”] Dylan asked, wanting to have as much fun tormenting this girl as possible. It seemed since he came off the phone and his initial offers had been made, his mood had changed. It was no longer about keeping these kids away, he was making money from them! He had to make sure they were as broken as possible so he didn’t get any complaints from his potential buyers.
[+grey “I’ve had a microphone in your house for awhile and your daddy said that your words were so important, that it is better to speak, right? Well, how about this Princess... if you aren’t careful with how you talk to us and what you say, we’ll slit Logan’s throat. We can play this two ways Princess, depending on what Pyke wants to do... maybe we can finish what the others never got to? Someone tried to silence you forever but they didn’t achieve that and you really are testing our patience. Maybe we should cut that little tongue of yours straight out your mouth?”] Dylan laughed, squeezing his hand so tight against her chin that his fingers started to dig into her jaw, already leaving deep bruises.
[+grey “What do you think Pyke? Silence her now, or should we have some fun making her scream? How you want to do that is up to you, you sick bastard, but I’m fed up of Street Brats. I want to start sending Martyn and Lisa images of what happens if they don’t meet our demands. Hope your mummy and daddy have deep pockets Princess, because by the time we are doing with you, the price is going to sky rocket!”]
<<Sorry this is only half a post. I didn't want to wait any longer before posting something, but it's Canada Day weekend, so I won't get a lot of time to write for the next few days.>>
Jesse could count on one hand the number of times she had let her true emotions show freely to the world. Raised by a Silvertongue and a Reader she had learned early on that emotions were better kept guarded. Love, friendship, loyalty… they did make you stronger like the Brats believed, but they could also be a source of weakness if they fell into the wrong hands. Decades of torturing one in order to hurt another – the Street Brats had learned these lessons the hard way. And yet, most of the Brats still wore their emotions on their sleeves as if daring their enemies to use them for their own benefit. Martyn and Lisa were the exception. They were cold, distant, purposely separating themselves from their friends and families whenever possible. They showed little to no physical affection, and rarely let their words reflect their feelings. But they did so to protect themselves. Jesse knew by reading her parents that they did love each other just as much as any of the Street Brat couples, even if it looked like they were hardly more than business partners to everyone else. Jesse knew they cared about the Street Brats as well. She had seen the bond between her father and his brother and sister grow stronger over the years, and while Tigan and Hayden might not ever see it, she knew her father loved his siblings. She also knew that Lisa had found her own place among the family. No longer just a companion for Martyn, Lisa had now forged her own bonds. She was very close with Lily, she had grown quite fond of Caleb, and her friendship with Elliot had remained through the years. But still, they refused to show these feelings to the world and they had taught their daughter to do the same.
When Jesse showed her true fears and pain to Logan, she half expected to hear the same words as her parents: be strong, don’t cry, hide those fears away. But Logan never made Jesse feel ashamed of her emotions. Instead, he comforted her and talked her through them, turning her doubt into reassurance. Logan never seemed to judge Jesse for her weaknesses or her mistakes. If he could put up with her cowardice, then the least she could do was try to make him fear better about his own fears.
[#aa0000 “Everyone has fears, Logan. It’s not stupid… you’re fear of the dark is from when you were a baby. You experienced something so traumatic… that leaves a scar. It’s not a weakness. It’s a sign that you’re a survivor: you learned as a baby that there are dangers in the dark and now, you instinctually want to avoid those dangers. It shows you’ll fight to survive, Logan, that you won’t give up. That doesn’t make you a coward.”] Jesse said, unknowingly saying something similar to what her mother told Lily: that her scars were evidence that she fought and survived something horrible. That they were a testament to her strength, not a weakness.
[#aa0000 “Uncle Elliot made it for me. It won’t do a lot of damage, but it does come in handy sometimes. Logan, are you ok? You’re arms…”] Jesse frowned, taking in the damage he received from the struggle against his bonds. She was glad she had been able to cut him free. He must have been in a lot of pain being tied like that. Jesse was in enough pain now that she was free! She grimaced at the thought of being kept with her hands taped behind her back.
[#aa0000 “I know you want to get back at this creep, but Logan, we’re in a lot of trouble here. We know there’s at least three kidnappers, all of whom seem to have connections to human trafficking. They know we’re Street Brats and they know how to manipulate our parents. Not to mention, one of them is a con artist god enough to fool a Reader, and none of them seem hesitant to hurt or even kill either one of us. We’ll figure a way out of this, but we can’t afford to get hurt too badly in the meantime.”] Jesse pointed out.
When Logan asked about a plan, Jesse fell into deep thought. She didn’t like his offer of causing a commotion. If he did anything to piss off their captors, he could be punished for it and Jesse was afraid of how far they’d go. The pain in her shoulder wasn’t helping her think and Jesse was struggling to come up with a plan, despite her full concentration… which gave Logan the perfect opportunity to act.
With a sharp tug, Jesse cried out in pain. Her shoulder violently snapped into place sending a wave of pain radiating from the joint. Jesse bit down hard on her lip, tasting the metallic drops of blood that seeped through. The pain had taken so much of her focus, that Jesse hardly even realized Logan’s arms were around her until a few seconds later. As the initial pain faded, the relief set in. What was once agony in an unmoveable limb was now just a light ache in the joint. Jesse relaxed, sinking into Logan’s arms and letting that rare show of affection ease the pain. She leaned her head against his shoulder, taking in a shaky breath as a few, raw tears slipped through her lashes and dampened Logan’s shirt. She let his words guide her into taking deep breaths in and out until he ended the hug. Jesse used her good arm to wipe away the last traces of teats from her eyes. She gingerly touched her shoulder, assessing the aching limb and feeling reassured that Logan had successfully set it into its proper placement. Now a few days of rest would set the limb as good as new.
[#aa0000 “Thank you… it does feel better. I never would have been able to do that myself. I know it’s horrible to wish something like this on your best friend, but… I’m glad you’re here Logan."]
While the kids were comforting each other in the basement, a stolen truck pulled into the driveway with both Pyke and Eleanor inside. Eleanor couldn’t afford for anyone to see her CPS car anywhere near this place or else risk someone finding out her involvement, so she had Pyke pick her up on the way once he had ditched the van. Eleanor and Pyke stepped inside the building, hearing Dylan still on the phone. She didn’t hear any fuss from the basement, which was odd. Usually her victims were crying or screaming for help by now – which was why they soundproofed the building as much as possible. She make eye contact with Dylan, motioning to the basement so he’d know where to find them once he was off the phone.
Pyke followed Eleanor to the basement, stepping down the stairs until she could see the two teenagers huddled next to each other in the darkness with both their hands free at their sides. She highly doubted Pyke would be foolish enough to leave them both free, which meant these kids were more clever and resourceful than she gave them credit for. One of them must have a blade of some sort. This gave her the perfect excuse to punish them for it!
[#ff00ff “How did you get free?”] Eleanor demanded. She watched the little redhead staring at her intently, trying to read her intentions but Eleanor was far too practiced at keeping her features plain.
[#aa0000 “The man upstairs. He freed us so I could reset my arm…”] Jesse answered, watching Eleanor step closer with every word. When she had finished, her excuse was cut off by a sharp *slap* as Eleanor backhanded the girl with enough force to leave her cheek stinging red. Pyke, predicting resistance from the boy, gripped Logan’s shoulders as a silent threat not to get involved.
[#ff00ff “Don’t lie to me. He wouldn’t have freed you both. So how did you get free?”]
[#aa0000 “He freed me before putting us down here. I couldn’t reset my arm myself, so Logan cut his binds on a nail sticking out of the wall.”] Jesse replied, using Logan’s excuse. She knew she had made a mistake as soon as she saw the slight upturn of Eleanor’s lip. She was smirking… that can’t be good.
[#ff00ff “I checked this room myself before we even brought you down here. There are no nails, no loose boards, no broken glass – nothing that would be even remotely helpful for you to escape. I know what I’m doing Jesse. I’ve taken 17 other kids in the past and not one of them stood a chance of getting out. Now, since you insist on lying to me, let’s change out tactics, shall we? Pyke? Why don’t you take little Jesse upstairs. I’m sure you and Dylan can find some way to entertain yourselves with her.”] Eleanor said, shifting her focus to Logan. He was going to be a fun one to break, she could already tell!
[#ff00ff “Logan, how did you get free? You better not try to lie to me, because until I hear the truth, you’re going to stay down here alone while Jesse gets to spend her time upstairs with my two colleagues. I’ve read your file, Logan. You’ve been in this position before, right? Locked away in the dark while your mom was used and abused by your real father. You know what can happen when you’re not there to protect the people you care about, so Jesse being upstairs with Pyke and Dylan… that should scare you Logan. And I won’t bring her back until I know I can trust you to cooperate. Well?”] Eleanor asked, using that sickly sweet tone she often used for her CPS work, as if she was trying to help council a traumatised kid. While her focus was on Logan, Pyke released the boy and grabbed Jesse’s newly reset shoulder with a painful grip and pulled her towards the stairs.
[#aa0000 “No! Logan, it’ll be ok! I’ll be ok and I’ll see you soon. I promise!”] Jesse called back, forcing any trace of fear behind her mask so she was able to look back at her friend with a confident, reassuring expression. Eleanor was clearly trying to play on his fears. He had to stay strong until they were brought back together again, and Jesse would have to do the same, not knowing what fate awaited her upstairs. She felt the cell phone inside her cast and knew this might be her chance to get a message out if they left her unsupervised… on the other hand, she was praying the phone didn’t ring and give away the fact that they had stolen it. Otherwise, this was going to get a lost more dangerous.
The fear, the torment, his voice... no not his voice; his cold, vindictive laugh: Logan thought it would never stop. He had blocked it out for so long that it was louder and more aggressive than what he could have even imagined. Though that was purely what was it... his fear ticking away at his mind and making his mind belief that the man who raped his mother was more alive than ever. So, when Jesse’s voice was breaking through, Logan was shaking his head. He was never one to believe in any sort of mindfulness, or have any belief that it could fix his nightmares. Yet the more he ignored his friend, the more he could hear Rick laughing at him. In sheer desperation, he closed his eyes tight, forcing himself to try and focus on what Jesse was saying and somehow, that dark mocking tone faded... it wasn’t completely gone, and he doubted as long as he was trapped that it would, but he could see the imagery that Jesse was painting. At this moment he was the safest he had been. While it would be soon be over, no one could hurt him. He was safe. The darkness was actually protecting him. It was only dark because he was protecting his eyes, just like Jesse said.
It was just enough to calm Logan down to stop his body from violently shaking and to get his breathing back under control, but unlike Jesse he couldn’t hide it. His family were very openly expressive with their emotions and that conveyed over to Logan, so his fear made him completely tense and didn’t stop the small whimpering of a sob that occasionally broke through his lips.
In the basement, Logan had a little more sense in what was going on rather than letting his fears completely take control, but the wide look in his eyes proved it was still there. While the room was dark, it wasn’t nearly as claustrophobic as the boot of the car, so he was able to keep some sanity intact; which was why he was able to think quick enough to get the phone while he could,
[#8B0000 “He had a few, that one was sticking out of his pocket. When he turned on you, he forgot about me just long enough for me to grab it. It was the perfect distraction, but Jesse... be careful with your requests. Your lucky his phone rang when it did! Still, at least you bought me time to snatch it.”] Logan explained, watching as she slipped it into her cast but scowling at the pained expression on her face. These bastards had hurt her enough and to think that Dylan almost didn’t think twice of pushing her down the stairs made his blood boil. He was fed up of always being just too late to protect her. Even in school he could only get back at the bullies after they had made their move. As Jesse finally let her fear show on her face, Logan tried to soften his own expression.
[#8B0000 “A coward? I’ve heard you say a lot of words but they are the stupidest ones I’ve listened to. You heard him. He thinks you hate me! Taking those risks and speaking the way you did, that’s not cowardly Jess. If anything I’m the coward. Pain should be more feared than the dark...”] Logan told her, not exactly having the smooth effect with words since he was more a person of actions, but he wanted to try and at least build some of Jesse’s confidence up. When she pulled the clip out of her hair and he watched her pull out the blade, Logan couldn’t help but smirk with a cross between being impressed and surprised!
[#8B0000 “What else have you got in that head of hair? A key out of here I hope! You’re a sneak Jesse!”] Logan called out, never knowing about the secrets within that clip. The relief instantly came the moment he felt her putting the blade against the tape. He knew it was a massive risk, one they would get punished for but right now he just wanted some freedom within the darkness.
With each snapping thread, the deep purple bruises and abrasions showed from how much he had been fighting against the binds. Even his skin was turning blue from the lack of circulation. Pyke certainly hadn’t been gentle and Logan hadn’t been easy on himself. As soon as his hands were free, he pulled them up, rubbing away the pain and stretching his fingers out to try and take away the numbing pins and needles that could be felt across his palm.
[#8B0000 “If they ask, you blame me. We have to keep this up. Say I found something sharp and tugged it on a wall. You do not blow your cover Jesse. I don’t blame you for your words and I... damn it Jesse I’m only good at throwing a punch and stealing things! If he shows up again I want him to suffer twice as much as Adam did.”] Logan growled, not really enjoying Jesse’s advice not to fight but he knew she was right. He wasn’t strong enough to take them down, as much as he would give it a good go! If they wanted to survive this, they had to play smart...
[#8B0000 “I think we have time. Dylan seemed more interested in getting the best price, so he’ll probably keep it going for as long as he can. Our only way out is through that door, and i don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to open it without being prepared.”] Logan spoke his view, standing up as he did and looking at the basement door.,
[#8B0000 “Even if we did get out, we wouldn’t get far... we need to somehow get out, use that phone to send a signal or a message and hope they get to us in time. The next time that door opens we need a plan. Maybe with my hands free I can cause some sort of commotion? Maybe just distract them enough to get you out or at least get the phone somewhere outside to send a message.”]
With that, and while Jesse was hopefully distracted trying to plan with Logan’s words, he quickly spun around and grabbed her arm, forcefully twisting it until another ‘pop’ echoed through the wall. After many skating injuries, Logan had often popped different bones back into place himself. Something he quickly learned from Lily. As quickly as he violently twisted her arm, he pulled her in close and wrapped his arms around her. While she wasn’t one for physical contact, after such a drastic cause of pain by her best friend, Logan wanted to immediately provide the comfort she would need while he could.
[#8B0000 “Pain is mandatory Jesse. Deep breaths... Physical pain never lasts and it’ll go. You’ll feel it, that relief. You’ll feel better. Deep breaths in and out...”] He guided her through it, finally pulling back and quickly examining her arm to make sure it was correctly in place.
[#8B0000 “Usually you would rest it, so don’t try and move it too much....”]
If Lily was in a more reasonable mind frame, she would have instantly have regretted her words! Only right now she could only see Lisa and Martyn blocking their pathway to find their children. Her father was always one to take action, and perhaps she took more from him since her mother would have been more cunning, discovering the loop holes and playing the parts she needed. Lily didn’t know where to begin, what to do, what to even ask... all she could see was those dangers they had avoided for eight years hitting them harder than ever and now they didn’t have the immediate support of the Street Brat’s to protect them!
[+orange “Your daughter shouldn’t be having to think like that. Jesse’s such a sweet little girl and I know Logan has always been there for her, but it’s like ying and yang. I’m... I’m angry because I’m scared Lisa. When I was with Rick, sometimes I couldn’t stop my impulses and I would lash out without control, or challenge him, and both me and Logan would suffer. That was passed down to Logan and I’m scared he won’t be able to stop himself. I love him, I really do, but I almost got the both of us killed when I acted out at that meal with Gordon. It’s not just about us being careful to play on their side, I’m terrified my son won’t be able to hold himself together. Even you couldn’t stop me.”] Lily finally confessed part of the roots of her anger as she looked at Lisa’s fearful expression. She wished she could have shared the same confidence in the children’s abilities, but history had taught her just how dangerous the wrong move could be.
With the agreed plan of action, Lily was already rushing ahead until a sharp tug on her arm and the words of advice forced her to slow down reluctantly. If they were too slow, she was scared they would miss the vital clues. Her father always taught her of the ‘Golden Hour’; the most critical time to find any evidence and after that, the case would start slipping away and your chances of finding the answers you needed would dramatically drop.
[+orange “I’m sorry I just need to at least know he’s not here. I’d never forgive myself if they were hiding the children right under our noses. Lisa... do you think we might have to call the others for help? I know Martyn hates asking Hayden for help, but the others were always the heroes. They knew how to somehow figure things out. Maybe we’re out of our depth with this? We were never the leaders...”] Lily asked, biting her lip as she classically did when the doubts were playing on her mind.
Approaching the skate park, there was a group of kids sat down on the edge of the ramp who Lily recognised from Logan and Jesse’s school.
[+purple “Hey, guys we better go... that’s the freaks mum and the other one is Logan’s...”]
[+orange “Wait! We’re not here to cause trouble. Have you seen Logan?”]
[+purple “Errr... not since he beat Adam bloody but you shouldn’t really hang around here. Eddie and Adam’s family have been waiting here for Logan to get their own back. Logan usually hangs around the old abandoned places.”] One of the kids called down and before Lily could question further, the kids quickly made their escape. Well, at least they knew one thing. Adam’s family had been waiting for Logan, so either they had grabbed the kids or they were still looking! Just as Lily was about to turn to her friend, the very reason the kids were so keen to run away was standing behind them.
[+red “I warned your fuckin’ husband if he said a word to you, I’d knock his fuckin’ teeth out. Looks like I’ll just ‘av to go for second best. Your children ‘av caused my family hell! Adam just about made it through. Y’know what Mason, I should just call the police now! Get them here instead. I’d like to see your little smart mouth get your way out of this. Where is the little shit anyway? Logan? You should be lucky you got ‘ere before him!”] The familiar voice Martyn had encountered just hours before appeared, which belonged to Gregg, the Uncle of the family. Now Lily and Lisa had one more answer. It wasn’t Eddie and Adam’s family who had taken Logan and Jesse, but if they weren’t careful, the cops would be called and their children’s lives would be at risk! Also, both of them weren’t exactly fighters and Gregg looked ready to throw his own punches!
[#008000 “Jack, you know better than anyone that there are more sick monsters out there than we can count on our fingertips. Let’s just actually think rationally about this. We don’t need the cavalry here and the more people we inform, the more we risk the kidnappers finding out what we are up to and the more we put a risk against our children. I am happy to try whatever we need to, but this does require some planning. As for the Underground... Jack I’ve heard bad stories about that place. Things have changed since you were down there. I’ve heard developments about this city, how things are changing to a new system and that place is a lot more dangerous. It’s a last resort but, yes, if we have to we will.”] Martyn reluctantly agreed but putting his own barriers in place. They had to make more attempts before calling every Brat they knew to come to their aide in his eyes. Besides he didn’t exactly like it when the more impulsive Brat’s got involved and as Jack continued to speak, he was reminded of exactly why.,
[#008000 “Do you intend to use that brain of yours one day or do you intend to follow the Street Brat tradition of being a complete moron?”] Martyn asked, raising an eyebrow as he did.
[#008000 “Let’s just actually TRY to think for a moment, ok? Let’s do this together. You repeat what every other Street Brats does; you play the hero. You make the bold move and swap yourself out for a family member to save them and guess what? The people you leave behind end up using all their energy trying to find you. Then we end up in this wonderful little circle of self sacrifice, guilt, blame... eventually someone cracks, it becomes too much, and then the emotional whirlwind happens and no one learns and we play it all over again! So, let’s ask what you are willing to do Jack, because if you haven’t learned anything from that speech; doing that will destroy your family.”] Martyn pointed out, his voice cold and direct as he gave his own mini speech. He was not going back to the days of pointless trade-offs and dangers.
[#008000 “Use your skills for our advantage, not for theirs. Trust me, sometimes I think selling you off would make my life a lot easier and Lily’s, but they need you and surprisingly enough as much as I hate to admit it, we need you. You are just like Logan. He is a mini you which is why you clash because you are both exactly the same. So use that brain and think about what he’d do, where he’d go and how he’ll survive.”]
Finally standing up, Martyn looked up at the clock and knew it would soon be dark.
[#008000 “If you want to get looking we better go. We don’t have long left.”]
It was a twisted and selfish thought, but Jesse couldn’t deny it was true. She was almost glad Logan was struggling with his fear – not because she wanted to see her best friend in turmoil, but because it gave her something to focus on besides her own fears and pain. The pain in her shoulder and wrist was so bad, Jesse felt like she was going to be sick, but if she could focus on Logan’s problems instead of her own, she could distract herself from the pain. Jesse kept her mask carefully in place. She let through enough pain and fear to be convincing, while hiding the rest so no one, not even Logan, could see how vulnerable she truly was at the moment. Instead, as they were shoved into the truck, she tried to concentrate on her best friend. If she could help him get through this part,s he knew he’d be there for her through the rest of it.
[#aa0000 “Don’t listen to his voice, Logan, just listen to mine. You know me, You know I’d never hurt you. So just focus on my words, ok? Um… Close your eyes! Just trust me and keep them closed, ok? You see? It’s not dark in here at all. It’s light… almost too bright. So bright it’ll hurt your eyes if you open them, so that’s why you have to keep them closed. There’s nothing to be afraid of, Logan. It’s only dark because you’re eyes are closed. Everything’s ok. There’s no one here but you and me.”] Jesse told him, letting her voice take on that smooth, almost hypnotic tone that her father once taught her. She kept talking, gently painting a picture with her words, explaining that they were safe, lying out in the sun with their eyes closed, using her words to try to take his mind someplace safe and to pull him out of the trauma he associates with the darkness. But her words could only take her so far. Soon the car came to a stop and they were pulled violently out of the daydream into the hopeless, dangerous reality they were stuck in.
Jesse knew asking for her hands to be freed was a risk, but the pain was overweighing her better judgement. She whimpered as he grabbed her, feeling the tight, bruising grip on her arm. She panicked, knowing she wouldn’t even have her arms to break her fall if he pushed her! But luckily, the phone call seemed to distract the kidnaper enough to spare her that punishment.
As the binds were cut, Jesse gingerly moved her dislocated arm to her side, feeling the tears well up once more from the pain. She stepped down the stairs, being careful not to trip in the darkness. She could barely see through the dark, but she could make out Logan’s outline, knowing her friend was still at her side. She moved to sit beside him, surprised by his request until she reached her good hand into his pocket and found a cell phone.
[#aa0000 “Logan, when did you…? Wow, maybe Jack did teach you something useful after all. I’m supposed to be the observant one and I didn’t even see you try for this!”] Jesse said. The phone was small enough she could slip it inside her cast. It would be a tight fit and extremely uncomfortable, but it was the only place Jesse could think to hide it where it wouldn’t be noticed by their captors. Every movement, however, sent a shot of pain through the injured limb, and Jesse was desperate for the pain to stop – or at least lessen! As Logan told her to pop it back into place, Jesse shook her head fearfully. She knew it would be better to relocate the joint – that it would hurt less in the long run and help to prevent any further damage to the joint – but the thought of snapping the shoulder back into place seemed so violent and painful. Jesse knew she’d never be brave enough to do it herself! The only way she’d ever get relief would be if Logan were to pip her shoulder back in place himself.
[#aa0000 “Logan, I can’t! It hurts so much already, and I… I can’t even touch it, let along snap it into place! I know I’m a coward and a wimp, but I just can’t…”] She said, letting a little too much fear and pain slip through her mask. It had been a long time since Logan had seen something affect Jesse this much. She hadn’t been this scared since they were kids locked away in Antonio’s basement! But while Jesse had inherited her parents low tolerance for pain, she had also inherited their mission-focused minds. As long as she had something to focus on, she could push her weaknesses back and try to keep her mask in place.
Jesse reached her good hand to her hair, finding the intricate clip she had worn every day for the past three years. With a small twist, the clip split in two and revealed a small but razor-sharp hidden blade. It had been a birthday gift from her Uncle Elliot , and Jesse had promised him she’d keep it with her at all times. It had been an empty promise at first, thinking she’d never need the concealed weapon, but now Jesse was glad she had it with her! She reached around Logan’s back, using the blade in her good hand to hack away at the thick tape that bound his hands together. It was a slow and frustrating process with only the use of her one arm, but soon the tape was frayed enough for Logan to free his hands and Jesse could return the clip to her hair in case any of the kidnappers caught her with it.
[#aa0000 “They might be mad that I untied you, but maybe if we cooperate and don’t fight back, they’ll see there’s no need to hurt us? We’ll stand a much better chance of escaping if we’re allowed to keep our hands free.”] She said, willing to take the risk to free her best friend. Her shoulder still hung at an unnatural angle and Jesse bit her lip from the pain. She was almost afraid to ask Logan to pop it back in, terrified of how much it was going to hurt. It may have just seemed like she was just being a pathetic wimp, but Jesse’s strong aversion to pain was almost as bad as a phobia! She was struggling just as much with the anticipation of pain as Logan was with his fear of the dark!
[#aa0000 “Logan, did you hear that man on the phone? At first I thought this was a normal kidnapping: that they were either going to try to ransom us back to our parents or use us as leverage against them, but after what that man said… Logan, I think they’re going to try to sell us! We have to try and escape before we’re sold or else they could separate us. I don’t even want to know what sick minded buyer would want to purchase a kid.”] Jesse said, trying to keep her mind off the pain as much as possible, but thinking about their current situation wasn’t any less depressing.
[+Green “We’re still alive, Lily. Playing the game with Gordon and Rick may not have kept us intact, but it did keep us alive. And if I hadn’t been patient and kept up my act with Gordon, the Brats and I would never have found you! I know you’re afraid, Lily, but if we rush in to this… if we give these people any indication that we’re not willing to follow their rules, they might just kill the kids! We’ll have no chance to get them back alive. I need you to trust me, Lily.”] Lisa told her friend, placing a hand on Lily’s shoulder and dropping her mask so the woman could see the fear Lisa held for her own daughter. Lisa may have been cold, calculating, and apathetic when she was younger, but now she had everything to lose. She wouldn’t risk her daughter’s life.
[+green “Jesse will be able to read the kidnappers and take calculated risks. Giving us the information over the phone was an important first step, and no doubt she was punished for it. From now on, unless the situation becomes critical, she’ll try to minimize the risk and stay on the kidnapper’s good side. And I’ve seen how protective Logan is over my daughter and how much he trusts her. They’ll keep each other safe for now. Believe it or not, Lily, the ransom call is a good thing. As long as these people want something from us, they’ll keep the kids alive. We just have to make sure we don’t become more trouble than they’re worth.”] Lisa advised. With the suggestion to split up and search the city, Lisa exchanged a look with Martyn, sharing her partner’s uncertainty. But the kidnappers never said not to look for the kids, they just said not to contact the police, so maybe it would be ok to search for some clues? It would at least give Lisa a chance to talk to Lily alone and ease the tensions between her and Martyn.
Lisa hurried out the door behind Lily, grabbing her arm and forcing her to slow her pace a little.
[+green “Lily, the police will be around looking for Logan after the assault and you told me CPS was already here. No doubt they’ll be watching you. You have to act natural and avoid calling attention to yourself. We don’t want to attract the cops in case the kidnappers think we’ve broken their rules. We can search, just try to act naturally.”] Lisa whispered.
While Martyn and Lisa were careful to cover their tracks, Jack was nearly as on edge as Lily! Especially after hearing the harsh truth from Martyn. Jack knew it was bad – which was why he asked out of earshot from Lily. He didn’t want his wife to learn just how hopeless their situation really was. But the thought of human trafficking? That shook Jack to his core.
[#ff6622 “What kind of sick monster makes a profit from selling kids? Jeez, this almost makes me long for the Street Brat days. At least then we knew who we were up against. But this… If we don’t find anything out here, I’ll give Cole a call. He’s still got some connections from his time in the asylum. Plus, growing up with the Stings gave him as much of a protective streak for those kids as it gave me… even if he doesn’t like to admit it. If that fails, we could try searching the underground. I know there were a fair few willing to pay good money for me and Tigan in the fighting ring when we were Logan’s age.”] Jack suggested. But that came with its own problems. For Logan to be sold into the underground, that would be bad enough. The beatings, the lashes, being forced to fight and kill for your own survival… it was barbaric. But at least Tigan and Jack had survived with their sanity intact. Logan would be the same, but Jesse? She wasn’t a fighter. She had no use in a place like that. The horrifying truth is that Jesse wasn’t likely to be sold for her skills, since no one would be able to trust her. Which left several far more depraved possibilities for someone purchasing a young teenage girl.
[#ff6622 “You said they were motivated by greed, right? I may not have money, but I have something better: a way to get endless amounts of it. I was trained by Geoff, Seth, and Sarah. I’m easily one of the best thieves in the city. Do you think there’s a chance of those bastards releasing the kids if I offered my skills in return? Lily won’t like it, but if it get our kids back alive, I’m willing to do anything.”] Jack asked, wanting Martyn to know he would go as far as it takes, even trading himself for Logan and Jesse if it came to that. Martyn was a silvertongue, he was their best chance at striking a deal. As much as Jack wanted to stay home with his wife, son, and new baby – if the price of getting Logan and Jesse returned safely was his freedom, he’d make that sacrifice in a heartbeat.
Fear wasn’t an emotion Logan often displayed, or even acknowledged. When he was a baby, those fears had been built within him but he caged them up and threw away the key, refusing to show any signs of weakness after the exposure of trauma his family had faced. There was only one time in his ‘new life’ where he let it slip and it was in front of Jack. He always kept the light on in his room, even when he was falling asleep and one day, out of what came from good intent, brought to life the fear he tried to keep hidden. Jack flicked the light off and Logan woke with a terrified cry, his anger lashing out in natural defence and it was Jack who held him still, stopping Logan from doing something he would regret and keeping him close until the fear faded away. Unfortunately Logan discarded the comfort at the time, blaming Jack for exposing a fear which he in himself deemed as pathetic... it was the dark and had no way of causing him pain and yet, every inch of him took it as his final moments; much which it could have been when Rich threw him in the dark as a child.
So for it to be open to these kidnappers, his best friend; it was as if Pandora’s box had opened and he couldn’t close it again. Now these people would know exactly how to control them and if he was stronger, just for a bit longer, he could have saved them from that. The same cries that echoed in his bedroom the night Jack triggered his fear was continuous until he was finally threw into the boot of the car. The only thing that stopped him was that his voice was hoarse and his energy was depleted from the sudden shot of adrenaline. Even as Jesse rested her head against his shoulder, his whole body tensed even further until finally he heard her voice.
[#8B0000 “It’s so stupid Jesse! I’m sorry I have this stupid fucking thing and....I can hear his voice. I can hear his voice and mum screaming and I need light! I can take a punch Jesse but not this...”] Logan admitted, though he was glad Jesse was there for comforting support. If she wasn’t and he was in the tight and dark space alone, he wasn’t sure if his sanity would have stayed intact! Though as Jesse warned about her words, under the hood Logan was not displaying his usual confidence. With his fears being twisted, every negative thought was being bounced back by the monster who raped his mouth. He could hear that drunken, vile voice, laughing at him with every moment that currently passed. He couldn’t that beat him of course and she was right, they had to stay strong and survive this.
[#8B0000 “Whatever you have to say Jesse... I know you have to do it...”] Logan agreed, though there was no emotion left in his voice. For the feisty and fiery Logan, he was numb; as if the darkness had taken all hope away. It was only while he was succumbed to his fear, but it still showed the terrifying amount of control they had while Logan was tied up and restricted to the darkness.
Luckily their kidnapped didn’t have much patience in terms of keeping them in his presence any longer. While he was alone with them in fact, he wanted them contained and away so he wouldn’t have to look after them! So as Dylan ripped the hood from Logan’s face for the connivance of getting him into the house quicker, Logan revelled in the short amount of relief that he could get. That was quickly snatched away however as he looked down at the basement. His stomach felt queasy, his nerves were shot at and there was even a level of embarrassment on his face with how weak it was making him!
[+grey “I suggest you listen to your Princess...”] Dylan warned, tapping his foot impatiently and crossing his arms. This was exactly why he hated that he was left alone with kids. They had far too many needs and were always bitching and moaning about something. He didn’t have the time to waste so with each passing second, he was growing more agitated that Logan wasn’t moving.
As always, Jesse played her part. Her words had the exact desired effect, forcing Logan to take that first step out of guilt, but her next request had Dylan gritting his teeth.
[+grey “So you think you’re in charge now? You stupid little...”] His hands reached forward, ready to push her down the stairs just to teach her a lesson but just as it did, one of his many phones started to ring with a potential buyer. Snatching the call up, he balanced the phone between his shoulder and ear as he always did, and quickly grabbed Jesse and yanked her forward.
[+grey “Hold on a minute, I’m just dealing with your goods now... yeah, yeah I’m looking after her... right, Princess, any more screaming from you and your friend and you’ll have hell to pay now get down those stairs and leave me alone! Right, yeah, yeah we can make a price....”] Dylan cut the binds from Jesse’s hands, wanting the complaints to stop quickly so he could focus on his customers. He forced her down the first few steps before slamming the basement door shut and leaving them in the dark....
Logan was next to Jesse on the stairs, his legs shaking so badly that it was taking him extra time to get down before he finally reached solid ground. The moment he did, he leant his back against the wall and took deep breaths of air, trying to calm his anxieties and accept that they wouldn’t be leaving this place anytime soon...
[#8B0000 “Jesse... my.... my back pocket... “] Logan hinted to her, unable to retrieve it back since his hands were still tied . While Dylan was distracted answering the call and losing his patience and cutting Jesse’s binds, Logan was able to slip into his pocket and quickly pull out one of Dylan’s many mobiles. It was great skill from the thief, especially with his hands still tied and in the midst of a panic attack, but it was their one advantage! Unfortunately in the basement there was no signal, so there was no way the phone could be used to make a call or even be traced.
[#8B0000 “Keep it safe. Don’t let them find it... My wrists...they won’t untie me anytime soon. Are you ok? Your arm? You should, listen, it’s going to hurt but you need to pop it back in if you can. No doubt the others won’t let you have too much freedom for too long.”]
With Logan’s disappearance, Lily did have her concerns but even with the circumstances she was expecting her son to return at any moment, or at least have the street smarts to keep himself safe. While Logan was a troublemaker at heart, he knew how to keep himself away from extreme dangers and his life as a Street Brat certainly set himself up to make sure he was protected. So even while Jack was out looking, she was staring at that door with hopeful eyes, hoping her son would do what he did every other time he ran away; kept himself safe, came back, and stormed up to his bedroom without a word to his parents. While those past actions would have hurt Lily, she was almost pleading to hear those stomping foot steps up the stairs. Instead, the door opened with a man she was seething with, and one of her best friends... Martyn should have been lucky he brought Lisa with him because he would have had Lily’s words to deal with and Jack’s fists!
Instead it was his arrival that brought the earth shattering reality to the Sanders household. Logan wouldn’t be coming home and both families children were in an unknown amount of dangers, with unknown consequences. Lily was squeezing Jack’s hand so tightly it was the only thing keeping her grounded and stopping herself from losing to another panic attack. These last few days had been hell and just as Lily thought it could never get wish, she was hating herself for ever thinking that. She stared at Lisa, pleading with her to give her some good news in this case but all she heard was that they had to wait to find out for their next clue. Lily knew the consequences of waiting far too much and her expression tightened as she tried to contain her emotions.
[+orange “Did waiting with Gordon help you Lisa? Did buying time with Rick help me? We might be waiting to save them Lisa but it could break them forever!”]
[#008000 “Being broken is better than being gone forever Lily! That’s enough! You moved on, you are struggling mentally, more than you even want to admit but you are moving forward. That’s why you have this home, why you love Jack, why you care about Logan and why you are excited for your baby. Lisa has done the same. This is not the time to be digging up the past.”] Martyn cut in quickly, not afraid of the repercussions of cutting Lily short or what Jack might think of his words. Firstly, it wasn’t helping the situation and secondly, he wasn’t going to sit there and watch Lily shout Lisa down for trying to plan rationally. Of course, this was a family with connections to the Street Brats, so all rationale was thrown out of the window the moment the pressure was built up.
[#008000 “I was able to get through on Jesse’s phone. She was quick, able to give us a few details but then the phone was taken from her, the demands were made and it was cut off.”] Martyn answered Jack’s question truthfully, knowing he wouldn’t have to expand any further. Both of their children probably suffered for that call and Martyn was still regretting that he couldn’t get more information at that time.
[#008000 “I don’t know what is happening to them, but they aren’t safe. That is why we have to plan this carefully. We make the wrong move, we could be the reason our children get hurt so we can’t be drastic with this!”]
[+orange “And we also just can’t sit here!”] Lily protested again, refusing to accept the idea of them just sitting around. If it wasn’t for the more action orientated Brat’s in the past, Lily might have still been under Rick’s captivity .
[#008000 “Fine. An area search but nothing more until we have more information. We have to be careful who we contact and how we contact them as well, just incase the kidnappers are listening.”] Martyn reluctantly agreed, giving Lisa a quick look to tell her that he was far from happy with this but at least if he and Lisa went with the couple, they could keep them under control. Jack and Lily weren’t exactly far from reckless...
Lily wasted no time grabbing her coat and phone, before quickly giving Jack a quick peck on the cheek.
[+orange “I’ll check out the skatepark and the areas around. Maybe you and Martyn can check some of Jesse’s known spots too. If she was with him, maybe she’s convinced him to go somewhere...? Phone me the moment you find anything.”] Lily urged before heading out.
Martyn wasn’t nearly as quick standing up. He wanted to make sure they were covering their tracks and that the kidnappers had no way of finding out they were actively looking for their children. It might just spark a drastic reaction! Hearing Jack start to speak, Martyn was almost prepared for a lecture but instead, the question that was posed was a lot harder on Jack. He wouldn’t like the answer and neither did Martyn, but as Jack said, he was nothing but brutally honest.
[#008000 “They seem eager to control us. If it is for greed then yes, they will try and drain every penny from me and Lisa and we still probably won’t get our daughter back. Logan... they know you have nothing to offer. If you can’t pay, if they continue down the path of greed they’ll either sell him or maybe he’s the disposable option. He’s the threat. They threaten Logan knowing our family connections our they sell him away. That’s why we have to be careful with how we act Jack. I want both of our children out of this.”]
The pain was starting to make Jesse feel nauseous. Her wrist and arm were radiating pain and there was nothing she could do to ease it! With her hands still taped behind her back, Jesse couldn’t even shift into a more comfortable position, so her shoulder and wrist were in constant strain. This was Jesse’s weakness – physical pain. Words didn’t affect her near as much, especially since she could read the intentions behind them. She knew that Pyke and Dylan were just saying whatever they thought would hurt the kids most, so nothing they said could be taken seriously. But she had no defense against the physical torture. Unfortunately, Logan was the opposite! He was tough, strong, and sadly used to the violence thanks to his abusive childhood. He could push through the pain in ways Jesse could never do. But his true weakness was the psychological torture. Dylan’s words were already affecting him, triggering his childhood trauma, toying with his fears, and shattering his confidence! Jesse needed to find some way to build back Logan’s strength. She couldn’t survive this without him!
[#aa0000 “Please! We won’t fight you! We won’t try to escape! Please don’t hurt me again, I’ll… I’ll make sure Logan listens to you! I’m his best friend and… and I’m a Silvertongue! I can make him cooperate! Just don’t hurt me anymore, please!”] Jesse offered, hoping her promised cooperation might earn them both some leniency. Jesse didn’t know how much more pains he could take before she passed out and she knew any further trauma could have serious consequences for Logan. But Jesse also knew that this was the best way to play to Logan’s tactics. She had to convince them that she was selfish enough to put her own needs first: that she would be willing to manipulate her own best friend if it meant avoiding anymore pain. Maybe then, they’d believe the kids were growing apart and harbouring resentment for each other. It was the only way to make them stop using Jesse and Logan as leverage against each other.
[#776677 “It WAS my job, until the little bitch let slip out licence plate! Now I gotta ditch the van to throw their parents off the trail. Trust me, you got the easy job. Besides, Eleanor should be back at the safehouse soon. I’ll only be a couple hours.”] Pyke replied, biting his tongue to stop himself from cursing the man out for whining so much. Dylan and Eleanor were in this on a level field, but Pyke was really just a hired hand. He knew his payday depended on these two and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that by pissing off the boss, even if he did get annoyed with the man’s complaining.
Pyke drove the van around town to throw off the trail before pulling into a parking garage and ditching the vehicle there. He spent time wiping down the interior so as to leave no proof before grabbing his bag and abandoning the vehicle. It couldn’t be traced back to them since it was stolen to begin with. Instead, Pyke stole another SUV and drove off, taking the long way home to avoid drawing any unwanted attention.
Jesse tried to be as cooperative as possible to avoid any further punishment. She did as she was told, climbing into the trunk without complaint. As soon as she heard the engine start and knew her whispers wouldn’t be overheard by their kidnapper, Jesse shifted closer to Logan, biting back the pain in her arm, and leaned her head against his shoulder. Even if the bag prevented him from seeing her, she wanted him to feel the gentle contact and know she was there.
[#aa0000 “Logan, its ok. I’m right here. Remember what Nic and Elliot used to say? I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine. You’re not alone, Logan.”] Jesse whispered to her friend, trying to keep all traces of fear and pain from her voice like her father taught her. She wished they hadn’t kept the bag on Logan’s head, because she really, desperately needed to see some kind of response from Logan. But even without the bag, the trunk may have been too dark.
[#aa0000 “Listen Logan… I’m going to have to say some things that I don’t really mean. Just remember what you said before: No hatred, no hard feelings, right? I’ll be strong if you stay strong too, ok?”] She asked, eager to hear some sort of reassurance from her friend. As soon as the car stopped and Jesse realized they were at their destination, she reluctantly pulled back, shifting away from Logan so it would look like she had wanted nothing to do with him during the journey. When they were pulled from the trunk, Jesse did her best to get her feet under her and walk compliantly into the house. Her observant Reader’s eyes took in as much detail as she could before she found herself at the top of a dark set of stairs. Jesse wasn’t a fan of dark, cold basements either. Her time alone, trapped in the demolished basement of that condemned house had made her a little wary of repeating that experience, but at least this time she wouldn’t be alone. Besides, she really didn’t want to be shoved down the stairs again, especially when she wasn’t able to use her arms to break her fall! So Jesse nodded to her kidnapper and took the first step onto the staircase.
[#aa0000 “Logan, come on. Just follow my voice, ok?”] Jesse started, but wasn’t sure how cooperative Logan would be if his fears were at play, so she regretfully tried a stronger tactic.
[#aa0000 “Logan, please! If you don’t, they’re going to hurt me again! You promised you’d protect me! Logan, don’t be so selfish… don’t let them hurt me. Don’t leave me here alone!”] She pleaded, not meaning a word of her guilt trip, but she knew that shifting the blame for her own pains and fears onto Logan would affect his protective side. At this point, Jesse wanted him to cooperate as much for his own protection than for hers!
[#aa0000 “Please Sir, can you… can you take off the tape? We won’t try to escape! And we won’t fight, I swear! It just… it hurts so much! Please! Let me prove that we’ll cooperate. You don’t have to punish us anymore!”] Jesse pleaded, knowing there was a good chance she was pressing her luck, but her shoulder and wrist were in agony, and Jesse could hardly think straight through the pain. Besides, if their hands were free, Logan wouldn’t feel so helpless and he might be able to get his confidence back!
Lisa agreed with Martyn. As they drove to the Sanders’ house, she was already making the call to Caleb to see if he could track the kids, locate the van Jesse had mentioned, and to let her know what they needed for the ransom call. Surely Caleb or Larry would be able to tap into the phone and trace the call to a location, right? Once she knew their best hackers were on it, she shifted her attention to the Sanders.
[+green “Lily’s worried about her son; she’ll understand that you’re also worried about our daughter. Lily will make sure to keep Jack in line… she may hold a grudge, but she won’t let that get int eh way of finding the kids.”] Lisa assured her partner, getting out of the car and hurrying to the Sanders’ front door, overhearing Lily’s voice on the phone as they approached.
[#005500 “Don’t worry about me, Lily. I’m a Street Brat, remember? I know trouble won’t stay away for long. Besides, my fiancé is a teacher, remember? That awful woman were be hard pressed to find any reason to take my little boy away from us. I’m more worried about you guys. You’re my best friend, Lily, you know I have your back, no matter what!”] Kira promised, showing her loyalties hadn’t changed since she was a kid. Despite the fact that Kira had her own life now: a fiancé, a toddler, a steady job as a paramedic… she would never turn her back on her friends.
[#008800 “I know Lily… you and Jack left for a reason, and I can’t blame you for that. I just want you all to be safe, that’s all. The Brats can only protect you if you’re here. Listen, I’ll ask around. Maybe Tigan’s seen the kids, or the twins. I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Good luck Lily, call me if you need me!”] Kira promised before letting the worried mother take care of things on her end.
Lisa stepped into the house after her partner, instantly reading the hostility and mistrust in Lily’s eyes. Martyn said he was harsh on the phone, but from Lily’s expression it must have been worse than she thought!
[+green “Lily please, just listen.”] Lisa told her, trying to keep the worried mother from kicking them out before they had the chance to share the frightening truth. Jack stormed into the room, looking like he was prepared to punch Martyn for the way he treated Lily earlier, but hearing his name from the Silvertongue’s mouth stopped him in his tracks. He recognized that tone: something was very wrong. Jack appeared at Lily’s side, nodding to Martyn to get him to continue, but nothing could prepared Jack for what he was about to hear.
[#ff6622 “Someone’s taken…? No! Who the hell would do this?!”] Jack shouted, feeling the fear building in his chest, presenting as a burning fury in his eyes. Only Lily’s hand in his kept him grounded. He squeezed her hand back, feeling all her worry and concern passed through that simple contact. Already Logan’s mind was racing, trying to think of any enemies the Street Brats had, past or present, who might target their kids. But Jack, Lily, Lisa, and Martyn had been separated from the Brats for years, could it really be connected to them? Or Maybe Lily was right: maybe this was Eleanor taking the kids into custody before they had a chance to argue their case? Or maybe it was something to do with that bully of a kid that Logan put in the hospital?
[+green “Lily, we’re not wasting time. Like Martyn said, Caleb is already searching for them. Jesse told us everything she could and the kidnapper mentioned that he’d be placing a ransom call in a few days. If we don’t find them by then, we’ll set up a trace on the call so Caleb and Larry can lead us to their location. We will find them.”] Lisa insisted, seeing the connection made in Jack’s mind as soon as she mentioned the kidnapper.
[#ff6622 “Wait, you heard from Jesse and the kidnapper? He let her call? Or… or did he catch her trying to contact help?”] Jack asked, knowing the frightening implications of the latter. He turned his eyes back to Martyn, expecting the harsh truth from the Silvertongue.
[#ff6622 “Jesse, Logan… are they hurt? Are these bastards hurting our kids?”] He asked, not hesitating to refer to Logan as his kid. All his fatherhood doubts aside, he loved Logan like a son and he wouldn’t stand for some bastard hurting him!
[#ff6622 “Lily’s right, we can’t just sit around waiting for a call! Lily, why don’t you and Lisa check in with Logan and Jesse’s typical hangouts and see if anyone saw anything. Martyn and I can search the streets and see if we can find the van Jesse mentioned.”] Jack suggested, giving his wife a reassuring kiss and promising her that they’d find her son. Jack was always more a man of action than patience, so he’d much rather be out looking that sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Besides, he needed to speak to Martyn in private and this was a good excuse to slip away from the woman.
[#ff6622 “Martyn, you’ve always been one for brutal honesty… I need you to be straight with me. Why do you think they took the kids? Lisa mentioned a ransom call, but… that might make sense for Jesse – you two can pay to get her back – but Logan? They’ve got to know that Lily and I don’t have much to offer. Hell, we’re hardly paying the mortgage and that was before I lost my job! What do you think will happen if we can’t pay? Logan is my son, I can’t… I can’t fail him… not again.”]
Logan knew that Eleanor was playing on the doubts on his mind, but that didn’t stop her words from having any less of an effect. While Jack’s previous actions with alcohol had damaged their relationship, Logan had blinded himself with the rage of that incident that he forgot exactly how much he cared about him! He did consistently test Jack’s patience and push the boundaries. He probably tempted Jack to drink on multiple occasions and in some instances, Logan wanted him to drink just so he had another reason to be angry! It was a selfish thought, one he regretted now he was reflecting. While he agreed that Jack’s life would be more peaceful without Logan’s presence and no doubt he sometimes wished the boy was away, there was one doubt Eleanor couldn’t play on... Jack was far too stubborn to give up and she couldn’t shake away that knowledge. Not yet anyway. Still, her words didn’t hurt any less. In fact it was feeding into Logan’s thought process that his kidnapping was the best thing that could happen to his family and would have been a good thing if Jesse wasn’t dragged along!
[#8B0000 “I don’t want them getting hurt trying to find me Jesse, not that I get a choice. They are both stubborn...”] Logan admitted with hardly any joy in his voice at the idea. His mother was pregnant, and this would only add to the stress and anxieties she was suffering and Jack had no limitations to the dangers he would put himself in to protect the people he loved! Though ironically, Logan wasn’t exactly the same.
[#8B0000 “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you Jesse! You use your words if you have to and you get every punch, every strike targeted at me. While my hands are tied, I can’t steal, I can’t fight. I’m useless. You need to get them on your side. I promise you, I can take it. I can’t do this without you Jesse and your words have so much more power than my fists, It’ll be ok. The less injuries you have, the better.”] Logan encouraged his decision, not wanting her to point out the negatives but only see it as a step towards their survival! It had been so long since they had to think with this frame of mind in such severe circumstances. He could see that Jesse was piecing together that this was their only way and when she agreed, he shot her the first confident smile since they were kidnapped.
[#8B0000 “We got this. We’re a team. We just need to hold on long enough, alright? No hatred, no guilt, no hard feelings. You just say what you have to say to stop them from hurting you Jesse.”] Logan gave his last bit of encouragement before finally, he watched Jesse get pulled away and it wasn’t long before he himself was pulled out the van!
The sickening pop was enough to keep Logan fighting out, but it was that one triggering word that fully had him fighting back and eventually, digging his teeth deep into Dylan’s hand!
[#8B0000 “DON’T CALL HER THAT!’] Logan howled in anger, but before he could even think of retaliating further the darkness took over and all sense of gravity was lost. It didn’t take the hood to choke him, as each of his breaths hitched in panic and his hands were pulling so hard on the tape that it was cutting into his wrists! Amongst Jesse’s scream and Logan’s fear filled cries, Dylan’s laughter joined in the orchestrated chaos he and Pyke had created and his eyes left Logan, staring at Jesse and watching the tears roll down her cheeks.
[+grey “He doesn’t like you being called Princess does he? Well, looks like we found our new name for you. Now, now Princess doing as we say would be telling your friend here to behave himself.”] Dylan reminded and his point was only emphasised as Logan’s screams of terror only grew, the trauma of his own past intensifying with every second! When Jesse finally cracked and called Logan out for his actions, Dylan burst into hysterics and with a sharp tug, he pulled Logan back up from the bridge and threw him back down to the ground with such force, Logan’s cheek ripped open against the tarmac!
[+grey “So you DO hate how much trouble he gets you in. Shame you’re in the biggest trouble of your life, Princess. Oh and, that hood won’t be getting removed any time soon. I think Logan needs to learn that his actions have very severe consequences.”] Dylan mused, though his laughter didn’t last much Logan as Pyke made his own instructions for what had to happen next.
[+grey “You’re kidding me? Now I have to play babysitter? I thought that was your job? You phone Eleanor and you tell her she best hurry hurt, because I don’t do well with these little fuckers on their own and last time I only kept them alive because they were worth something. Jesus fucking Christ... glorified babysitter... fuck...”] Not impressed with the next stage, Dylan clicked his car keys for the boot to automatically open before grabbing the still shivering Logan by his ankle and dragging him into towards the boot. With very little care, he tossed the kid in, watching Logan’s head smack against the metal as he did.
[+grey “Get Princess in and I swear if a drop of blood touches my boot, you’ll be bleeding a lot more when I get you out! Pyke, I mean it, don’t take your time with this. I really don’t want to have to kill one of them.”]
Leaving the boot open for Jesse, Dylan waited until he heard that Pyke had packed her in with Logan before he started the engine and started to drive towards their next destination. It was a much longer driver, clearly taking them far from the safety of the city. By the time they arrived, the sun was setting just as Dylan opened the boot of the car. Inside Logan was completely still and stiff with fear and underneath the hood, was a boy who let every tear he had fall from his cheeks. Dylan ripped the hood off, smirking as he saw the effects of his and Pyke’s handy work.
[+grey “I suggest you both behave. If you don’t Logan, there are much darker and tighter places we can lock you up in this place and Princess, there’s more than a dislocated shoulder we can cause...”] He warned, grabbing them both by their hair and pulling them out the car and down towards the ground.
[+grey “Get yourselves up on your feet, head towards the building, and don’t dare try and test my patience...”]
In front of them was not a particular large building, in fact to anyone it would have looked like a small outback house in the middle of nowhere. Inside however it was fully kitted out. There was a comforting space for Eleanor, Dylan, and Pyke to sit and plan, while there was a small opening to a basement which looked less than pleasant. It was dark, with the bare necessities, no windows and not even a mattress to lay down on.
[+grey “Both of you, down there, now.”]
Only after the small exposure to the trauma Logan had faced, as he saw the entrance to the pit of darkness, he shook his head.
[+grey “Princess, I suggest you get your friend down there. You see that broken wrist? You broke that falling down didn’t you? How would you like me to do that to you all again? Both of you, down, now!”]
[#8B0000 “We can’t risk it... we have to decide which takes priority and Logan’s case comes second right now. I’m not losing Jesse.”] Martyn wished there was a way he could protect both the case and find the children but there was no way of managing both. Without Jesse’s witness statement in the immediate instance, their case wouldn’t be as strong. Not that it mattered now in Martyn’s eyes - those consequences could be dealt with once they found the children! The terrifying part was that they had no leads. At least in the past, often than not, they had a track of their enemies. Even if they didn’t know exactly who had brought trouble on their door step in the moment, the Brat’s could figure it out with the knowledge of the city and the information they had gathered.
[#8B0000 “I can delay the police if we need to. I can find a way, somehow. Most are corrupt. Since the McCleeve’s lost their reign and Lily didn’t take her mother and fathers place, they have fallen back to some old habits. I’m sure we can bribe if we have to. Whatever the cost to protect them.”] Martyn continued to plan in his mind, trying to cover the loose ends that would already building up. They had so many timers acting against them; the time to keep these kidnappers on their side before their children were lost. Time with the police, with the CPS, with the case itself, with their children’s lives.
[#8B0000 “If they are calling in a few days we’ll have to plan for that call. Not a detail missed. Whoever this is, we need a way to find them. Caleb, ourselves; whatever is needed. Jesse is smart enough but they sounded vicious Lisa. We didn’t give her brute strength and Logan... if he loses control he might get her hurt. As for Lily and Jack, I think we best be careful with how we approach this. I might have already tested Lily’s nerves...”] Martyn admitted, knowing his last conversation with Lily on the phone was going to test the families bonds. He dismissed her so quickly, having the pressure build up and now he was going to a family already breaking, to tell them news which could break them even further!
Martyn was right... Lily hadn’t been at ease since Eleanor had arrived at the door and Logan hadn’t come home! She was used to Logan sneaking out till all hours of the night, but with that witch out there looking for any excuse to try and get their son in her possession, she didn’t want to take any chances! Hearing the door open, she looked up with hopeful eyes but as she watched Jack come in alone, her heart sank instantly. She didn’t have a chance of even asking Jack if he even found a hint of where Logan had been as the phone was passed over and she heard Kira’s voice.
[+orange “Kira? No, no luck yet. He always finds a way to stay hidden but this Eleanor woman seems to know more than she is letting on! I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t give us notice that she had taken him. Wait she... she visited you? Kira I’m so sorry I didn’t mean for our trouble to come on your doorstep but thank you for standing by us. It’s all been a mess... move... move back? I don’t know... Logan’s already out of control and...Jack...”] Lily whispered, hinting towards Jack’s relentless attitude to fight with Tigan whenever things got bad. If those two were together she would never see her husband without a bruise!
[+orange “Also this court case... sorry, Kira there’s a knock on the door. Can you phone around the Brat’s for me, just incase? It’ll be good to have a backup. If Logan does turn up, just message me as soon as you can. Again, Kira I’m so, so sorry for all of this.”]
Just as Lily was finishing her conversation, Martyn had pushed the door open and allowed himself in. He didn’t bother taking his coat off, or bothering to hide the concern on his face. This family didn’t need masks right now, they needed the truth.
[+orange “Martyn, I really don’t want you here right now. I asked for your help, you didn’t want to give it, so please... Lisa please, not tonight. ”]
[#8B0000 “It’s about Logan and Jesse. Jack...”] Martyn started, looking at Jack to get close to his wife and be there for comfort. This wasn’t going to be easy on any of them and he knew the physical comfort they needed for one another.
[#8B0000 “We’ve just had a call. Logan and Jesse are in danger - they’ve been taken. We don’t know who by, or why, or what they want or where they have gone. We’ve already got Caleb searching for the van, Jesse was able to tell us that but nothing more. I know you’ll want answers, we all do, but we really need to work together.”] Martyn explained as matter-of-factly as he could but that rare expression of concern.
Lily grabbed hold of Jack’s hand tightly, partly to control her own outbreak of emotions but also to keep Jack in his place, knowing just how impulsive he could be. There was also an underline anger at Martyn. Hours ago he didn’t want to help, now he was coming here giving them the worst news they could hear and demanding they work together!? For the sake of Lisa, Lily bit her lip but the reader would be able to see the anger.
[+orange “Surely we must know something!? Has Eleanor taken him? The woman from the CPS? You two must know something! Jack, did you see anything? We can’t just sit here. When I was taken with Logan I was gone for weeks. Lisa with Gordon! If we waste time we might be too late. We can’t just sit here!”]
Eleanor seemed pleased when Logan argued back, especially with his sudden and surprising statement about his step father. She had seen the same fire in Lily’s eyes when she defended her husband, but that spirit didn’t carry to Jack. He was determined to protect his wife and son, but he doubted himself too much as a father. Seeing the surprise in Logan’s eyes at his own words just proved how rare statements like that could be. Jack probably had no idea how Logan felt and Eleanor planned to keep it that way.
[#ff00ff “It’s too bad you never told him that yourself. Maybe if you’d been a little more accepting of Daddy Jack, he might have tried a little harder to save you. But now? Why would he even bother looking for you, Logan? You never listen to him, you’re constantly berating him, and I’m guessing you were the one who got him fired, right? Stolen alcohol from Jack’s store days before he was cut loose? Not a coincidence. Face it, boy, you ran yourself out of that family. Jack will finally have the family he always wanted with your mother and his [i real] son or daughter… at least, until I find a way to take them away too.”] Eleanor taunted, wanting to break down Logan’s hope and determination as much as possible. Maybe if he thought he’d ruined everything with his family, he wouldn’t fight as hard to escape? Unfortunately for Eleanor, she had a skilled Reader/Silvertongue eager to undo her lies as soon as they were in the privacy of the van!
[#aa0000 “Don’t believe a word of it, Logan. Jack and Lily’s perfect family isn’t complete without you. Your mom and dad will never give up until they find you. And Jack… he may not believe he’s a good father… but he’s always seen you as his son.”] Jesse whispered back, not wanting her friend to listen to those poisonous words. And just as she tried her best to offer encouragement to Logan, he was already offering her the same, willing to risk his own safety to keep her unharmed.
[#aa0000 “Wait, you want me to turn them on you? NO! Logan, I don’t want to see you hurt! I’ll be braver! I’ll try to be strong, like Aunt Hayden and Uncle Tigan! Please don’t ask me to make them hurt you!”] Jesse pleaded, not wanting to see Logan in pain anymore than he wanted to see her hurt! But Logan did have a point: so long as they were tied, Jesse’s words were their best weapon. Logan could take more damage than she could and if she was able to make these kidnappers doubt that they cared for each other, maybe they’d be less likely to use threats and violence against one another to keep the kids in line. But in order to do that, Jesse would have to betray her own best friend and put him in the line of fire! Not to mention, she’d have to say some things that could potentially cast doubt on their friendship and when Logan had already been feeling uncertain about his bond with Jesse, this was terrible timing!
[#aa0000 “I don’t like it, but… OK. If it comes to that, I’ll… I’ll get them to focus on you. But Logan, you have to know that I don’t mean any of it! No matter what I have to say in front of those guys, you’re my best friend and I never want to see you hurt.”] Jesse told him, wanting to be sure he wouldn’t fall for the same lies she would be forced to tell their kidnappers.
The next several minutes were chaos. Jesse fed the information to her father as quickly as she could, but before she got out the critical detail, she was violently ripped from the van! Jesse knew one word – one name – could give her father a far better chance at finding them, but she could read the malice in the expressions of these men and was terrified of the consequences for pissing them off any further! Instead, she watched helplessly as the phone was tossed over the bridge, knowing that might have been the last time she’d ever be able to speak to her father.
Jesse didn’t have long to despair before Pyke clasped his hand over her mouth, squeezing tight enough to leave painful bruises in her cheeks. With his free hands, he reached for her tape-bound broken wrist and twisted, causing a muffled screech of pain from his hostage. He didn’t relent, not even when he felt that wetness of a tortured tear roll down her cheeks and hit his hand.
[#776677 “You heard the man, Jesse! This is going to hurt and you’ve got your dear friend Logan to thank for it.”] Pyke growled in her ear before giving a sharp, sudden tug to her already-injured arm. With a sickening pop, Jesse’s screaming increased ten-fold, ringing out clearly, even despite the hand over her mouth! Her newly dislocated shoulder hung limply at her side, still pulled in a very painful position with her hands taped behind her back. And the worst part was that it would be in continuous agony until it was popped back into place!
[#776677 “You hear that Logan? You’re girlfriend’s got a good set of lungs on her, don’t you Princess?”] Pyke jeered, not even knowing Logan’s connection to the word. He just wanted to make it clear that if one of them acted out, the other would suffer. Logan seemed like more of a fighter, so Pyke had to be sure that he could keep Logan in line by hurting Jesse. Still, the girl was observant and sharp tongued – he’d have to keep her quiet by punishing Logan in her place. Once Dylan ordered Jesse to speak, Pyke finally removed his hand from Jesse’s mouth, sliding it into her hair instead and jerking her head back with a sharp tug. The tears were now sliding down Jesse’s cheeks in a rare show of emotion for the Reader/Silvertongue. Her shoulder and wrist were in agony and Jesse’s fears only rose when she saw Logan, hooden and terrified, being held over the side of the bridge!
[#aa0000 “No, no! Don’t! We’ll do as you say we’ll… NO!”] Jesse screamed, seeing her friend in such peril. She was almost afraid for speak for fear of saying the wrong thing and getting Logan killed! [i Words may get you hurt, but silence can get you killed.] Her father’s voice rang through Jesse’s mind and with a feeble burst of courage, she called out to her friend, remembering what he told her in the van.
[#aa0000 “Damnit Logan, stop fighting them, please! Just do what he says! For once, just do what you’re told!”] Jesse called out, letting the tears fall to prove she was doing this out of desperation, when in reality, she was starting to weave her own plan together. Logan was right, she had to convince them that they weren’t as close as these bastards believed, otherwise, they’d be under constant threat to keep the other alive! [i I’m sorry Logan, I don’t mean a word of this… you’re just going to have to trust me!]
[#aa0000 “You always do this! You fight and I’m the one that gets hurt! I can’t… I can’t take it! Just do what he says! Don’t make them hurt me anymore!”] Jesse cried out. She yelped at the spike of pain in her arm as Pyke tugged her away from the van.
[#776677 “You’ll have to take them to the first location in your car, Boss. I heard the brat tell her daddy about the van. I’m sure Logan will have a great time shoved in that dark, cramped trunk with his whiny little Princess alongside him. Eleanor will be arriving soon. Why don’t you take them back while I ditch the van and throw them off your trail?”] Pyke offered, not expecting much resistance from the kids at this point. Logan looked utterly traumatized and Jesse was overwhelmed by the pan in her broken wrist and dislocated shoulder.
Lisa’s eyes were intent, watching Martyn’s scribble and hearing the alarm in his voice. Something was wrong with Jesse! This must have been the twisted feeling in her stomach that she had been worried about earlier – her little girl was in danger!
[+green “They said not to call the cops, but Martyn… Jesse’s the main witness in Logan’s case and Logan’s wanted for assault! The police will be looking for them! What are we supposed to say?”] Lisa tried her best to keep her voice calm and her Reader’s mask in place, but her tone betrayed the fear she was feeling for her daughter. This felt just like the time they were arrested, knowing Jesse was out there on her own and they could do nothing to protect her! Lisa was right behind Martyn as he hurried from the house, grabbing her own phone in the process. She knew why Martyn was hesitant to call in the Brats. If this was somehow linked to their past, then it wouldn’t be long until someone found out they called in help from their former family, and if these kidnappers thought the Culls weren’t willing to follow directions, they might just kill the kids! But now things were getting complicated. If they weren’t able to find Jesse and Logan before the trial, the police would be notified and the kidnappers might follow through with their threats! If they couldn’t track Jesse down, they’d have to find some way for Adam’s family to drip the charges and Martyn already knew that was practically impossible!
Lisa was hardly able to control her own panic, but it really scared her when she saw Martyn start to lose composure!
[+green “Martyn, we’ll find her. Caleb can track the van and if that doesn’t work, then he can put a tracer on the cells. The kidnappers said they’d call for a ransom in a few days, right? We’ll find her Martyn. And until we do, Jesse’s smart enough and talented enough to keep herself and Logan alive. You trained her to use her words as a shield and as a weapon. She’ll be ok until we can reach her. Let’s go tell Jack and Lily, like you said. We can call Caleb and Larry on the way.”] Lisa agreed, following her partner’s lead and providing support and confident the way she always used to do when they were kids.
Meanwhile, the Sanders were getting nervous. Jack had already been out looking for Logan with no luck at finding the boy. Logan’s words were starting to sink in, mixing toxically with the accusations from Eleanor. He was scared of losing Logan forever if he didn’t find some way to mend the broken bond between them! But to do that, he needed to find his little brother first!
[#ff6622 “Wait, CPS went after you too? Don’t tell me they’re trying to take little Caiden! Good… no, I’m just glad you’re son’s ok, Kira. Now, I just have to find mine. Just a sec, Lily’s right here, I’ll put her on…”] Jack said, speaking into his cellphone as he walked through the house. He was hoping maybe Logan had run off to visit his aunt, but Kira hadn’t seen him either. She had, however, had a visit from Eleanor Carrow. Fortunately, Kira and her new toddler didn’t seem to be the target, Eleanor only seemed interested in getting more dirt on Lily and Jack. Seeing his wife, Jack handed over his cell, knowing Kira would want to warn her best friend personally.
[#550055 “Lily? Any luck finding Logan? Listen, I called to warn you, I just had a visit from CPS. A woman named Eleanor Carrow can asking about you and Jack. I didn’t tell her anything, I swear, but she seemed pretty determined. She said she’d been looking to speak to Logan, but hadn’t found him yet. Then she asked how far you and Jack would go to ‘preserve your reputations’. I’m worried Lily. People like that… they warp the truth. I’m afraid of what she’s capable of. Maybe you, Logan, and Jack should move back with the Brats for a little while? You know Tigan and the others would never let anyone take Logan away.”]
Logan was defensive as it was, especially towards the few people he cared about, but even before Eleanor tugged on that wire it looked like he was ready to rip her apart! He might have only been a kid but with her extensive research, it was clear just how far Logan would go. Adam might have suffered under Logan’s influence of alcohol, but there was some hidden part of his mind that didn’t care about consequences. The only thing that stopped Logan from launching forward was watching the blood bubble on Jesse’s neck. That wire would slit right through if she pulled any closer and while Logan wasn’t a reader, he didn’t doubt Eleanor’s threats. He gritted his teeth, visibly shaking with rage as Pyke tied his hands behind his back. There was no fear in Logan’s eyes despite the situation they were in. He had been a hostage so many times in his life, he knew that they could survive this. The only regret was that he pulled Jesse into this. When he had his chance he’d make Eleanor suffer.
That threat only become more alive in his mind as Eleanor started to paint a picture in his family. She might have just been telling the solid facts, but there were some memories and some truths which Logan had avoided for most of his teenage life because of the feeling it brought up inside him. He could feel a pit in his stomach, which grew so heavy he felt like he was going to be sick. His chest felt like there was a weight pressing against it as she talked about his mother and when she moved onto Jack, for the first time, Logan couldn’t hold his tongue.
[#8B0000 “He’s more than just a criminal! He’s more of a father than you could even imagine!”] Logan spat quicker than he could think and the moment the words left his mouth an instant moment of shock spread across his face. He had been so angry at Jack! Moments ago he was doubting if any sort of bond could ever be repaired amongst the two but that simple slip up just showed how much Logan still cared for his dad, even if he wouldn’t say it to his face.
[#8B0000 “That’s if you get that far. I won’t let you beat us, you hear me? You’ve done your research, you won’t win!”] Logan shouted as he was shoved into the van, silenced as the doors slammed behind him.
There was no escape. No hope of anyone coming to their immediate aid. Logan wished there was something more he could do. He was desperately tugging at the binds on his wrists and maybe if his hands weren’t so busted, he might have at least have been able to slip the tape looser to manoeuvre more! What worried him more was how Jesse’s mask had dropped. She was having to take deep breaths to calm herself and the pain was clear on her face. He couldn’t let her suffer anymore because of him...
[#8B0000 “Jesse, first rule; we don’t blame each other, right? I can take more pain than you. If things get physical, you get them to turn on me. You understand? I can take it, but I need you for your words right now. Let me be the punching bag. Whatever you have to say to get them to turn on me, you do it. Jesse, promise me right now you’ll do that! I can take it! I know you won’t want to be if that bastard is as ready to cause us as much pain as possible, you get him to take it out on me. If they think we care about each other, you use those words of yours to change their mind. Promise me Jesse, please?”] Logan practically begged in a quiet whisper, knowing it was partially insane but she already only had a small cut on her neck and the pain was a lot for her! He would take every punch, kick, broken bone, cut, burn; whatever they could throw to save her the pain. Besides he had suffered it for most of us life - another injury wouldn’t bother him. While he didn’t have his fathers zero tolerance for pain, he certainly had a higher tolerance than the average person.
With Jesse’s instructions, Logan turned his back to her and squatted down to try and reach for the phone. It wasn’t easy with his hands bandaged as well, but just before it rang he was able to slip it into his palm.
[#8B0000 “Got it! Shit, Jesse... which button? This... I can’t... got it! Got it! Quick!”] Logan spoke quickly, hearing the warning signals of Pyke’s approach. As always he was impressed with just how much information Jesse managed to take in and relay but unfortunately, it was too late. Before she could reveal anything more he watched his friend slam down on the van floor and his hand gripped tightly around the phone.
[#8B0000 “Coward. You’re picking on someone who can’t fight back!”] Logan hissed, hating this predicament. The phone was inches away and Jesse’s parents would be able to hear everything. All he had to say was Eleanor’s name and it would be the clue they’d need! With Jesse in Pyke’s hands however and knowing just how dangerous that man was, he couldn’t risk it. He gave Jesse an intense look, begging her to follow the promise he whispered to her before. Little did he know, his own suffering was just about to begin.
[+grey “Well hurry up, you know I really hate babysitting and time is money! We could be planning our next one already but you’re so insistent we keep hold of these Brats? The price best be worth it. I’ll organise the little try-before-you-buy scheme but I mean it, I want the best price for these two. We’ve not had kids with a real reputation before and the more we can make those families suffer, the better. I have some connections who would pay more just to see them fall apart... I can send the deal out to them now, but you gotta swear the Sanders and Masons don’t climb back up from this! I’m not losing a single coin to those freaks.”] Dylan insisted his side of the deal but his voice, despite his demands, had no malice. Instead the greed came out as joy with the sheer prosper of just how much they could make. As Pyke’s van appeared, Dylan hung up on one phone just in time to see Logan holding another.
[+grey “Well I never thought you would ask...”] Dylan sneered, climbing into the van and grabbing the back of Logan’s neck with one hand, while snatching the phone with his other.
[+grey “Mr. Mason! What a pleasant surprise!”]
[#008000 “Who is this? Where is my daughter?”]
[+grey “I don’t like to ruin surprises Mr. Mason. Just know, we’ll be in touch in a few days. I suggest you follow my friends orders. No contact with the police, no attempts to play the hero. You sit back, relax, and wait... we’ll be in touch soon.”] And with that, Jesse’s phone went over the bridge and soon to follow was Logan’s who was squirming away under Dylan’s grip.
[+grey “Feisty little Brat, aren’t you? You know... you squirm just like your mother. She got pulled into a van, just like that one. You know that Logan? It’s where you were made. Seems only fitting to take you away in one.”] Dylan mocked, laughing for a brief moment until that mockery turned into a pain filled cry as Logan managed to twist around enough to sink his teeth into the mans wrist! Pulling the cigarette from his mouth, he slammed it into the corner of Logan’s lips, causing the boy the pull away with a splutter of ash and heat which gave Dylan enough of a chance to throw Logan down to the ground and pin him down with a knee to the back of the boys neck!
[+grey “Little shit! You’ve just got blood on my new suit! Pyke... make the girl scream and make sure she knows that her best friends disobedience is only going to get her in more trouble than she’s ever been in. I hope your friendship with Logan was worth it Jesse...”] Dylan growled, pulling a black hood from his pocket and smirking down towards Logan.
[+grey “I heard you’re a little baby still and don’t like the dark. Your daddy used to lock you in the closet didn’t he? Now you sleep with a night lamp, stay away from tight spaces... have you ever told your best friend that little baby Logan has a fear of the dark? Maybe it’s time we show her...”]
It was something Logan had kept to himself for as long as he could, hoping the eight years away from the Brat’s would lead to people forgetting about his fear but as soon as that dark hood was pulled over his head, he snapped. He could hear his mothers screams and while he was far too young to remember exactly what happened, the pain and fear rang through his ears and it all came in the darkness, mixing with his own desperate cries. Across the bridge his screams rang out, his entire body already shivering and fighting against Dylan’s grip, but he wasn’t done yet...
Dylan tightened the cord at the bottom of the hood so tightly, it choked Logan’s screams and he hauled the boy up, throwing him to the edge of the bridge and hanging him off - holding him by his jacket.
[+grey “And then your current daddy decided you weren’t enough! Lily died so he ended up so drunk he threw himself off a bridge! I could let go now... what do you think Jesse!? Should I throw him off? Tell your little friend to do as he’s told! TELL HIM!”] Dylan demanded with a sinister smirk, enjoying the fear and distress he was causing Logan who was barely balancing on the bridge with how much his body was shaking! His sobs could be heard through the hood and the muffled pleas for it to end.
[+grey “I mean it Jesse. Tell him, or his nightmare will only get worse!”]
[#008000 “So long as he wasn’t coming to hurt anyone else... We need to cover our tracks. If a low life from Eddie’s family knows our name, who knows how far it can spread. We haven’t got this far to lose it all now.”] Martyn added to Lisa’s thought process, not really focusing on his own injury . He hated to have the focus drawn on him and apart from the pain that came with injuries, he hated the attention it brought. Though he had to admit, as Lisa brought the ice pack he was grateful for that slight bit of relief. History proved that pain also affected his words and judgement and with how things were with Jesse at the moment, he really didn’t want to tip that balance and lose her trust because he said something stupid.
[#008000 “I’ll do what I can for Logan but either way, it won’t be a positive outcome. I don’t know how we are going to prepare Lily and Jack for the fact they probably will lose Logan for some time either way... we’ll figure it out, For now let’s just try and fix our own family problems for once.”] Martyn insisted, tired of his words with the Sanders and just like Lisa he wanted his daughter home and safe. Little did he know, their own lives were about to turn upside down.
The moment he heard Jesse’s voice, Martyn shot up on his chair and dropped the ice pack to the ground. The intensity in his eyes growing the moment he caught onto that panic - though he wasted no time. He quickly scrambled for a pen, writing down the details his daughter was passing. It was perhaps an odd way for a father to react, but this was no ordinary family. They were all about the details and Jesse’s voice alone told Martyn how important it was not to miss a single clue she was passing.
[#008000 “Jesse, what’s her name? Who is with you? Who... Jesse? Jesse it’s ok.... Jesse!? Ok, ok Logan, Logan you can hear me? Tell me the name. Logan are you there? No don’t speak to them, listen to me. Logan!”] Martyn hissed and as the new stranger took the phone, he barely had time to get a word in edge ways before the sound of the phone hitting the water echoed through the speaker and then... silence.
Instantly the phone slipped from Martyn’s hands and he was frozen in his chair, feeling the same pit of despair the moment he handed his daughter over the moment she was born. While it wasn’t his own actions, he still felt the same sickening betrayal in his stomach. His little girl was in danger and there was no obvious clue of who had done it...
Apart from one... they knew Jesse and the family were Mason’s. What if the attack on Martyn was Eddie’s families way of causing a distraction to start the kidnapping?
[#008000 “We need to go to Jack and Lily. Do we... no. No we can fix this. We don’t need to involve the rest of the Brat’s yet. We just need to stay calm, figure this out. We can figure this out.”] Martyn closed his eyes as he spoke, as if already planning his next steps and trying to calculate their best move. It was quick, trying to hide the emotion that was building up that only Jesse or Lisa could pull out of him on rare occasions. He stood up, not wasting time to grab his coat and the piece of paper with the limited clues scribbled on it.
[#008000 “No, we contact Larry and Caleb. We have the registration of the vehicle. They must be able to find something. Then we deal with this. I... I don’t really know Lisa. We’re not Leaders I... I don’t know what to do I...”] It suddenly came out - the panic that was very rare from Martyn but it was there. He went so into autopilot he didn’t even realise until the moment he grabbed his coat, ready to leave on a hunt but for what? And where? And to do what exactly? Martyn didn’t have those answers and for once, he was outside his own control. He was used to having all the information and knowing who to manipulate and with that phone call he missed his one chance to say the words that could make the difference.
[#ff00ff “I’ve got to hand it to you Logan, you’re loyal. Most of the kids I’ve dealt with were more than eager to rat out their parents for all the little things they’ve hated about them, but you: you’ve got more reason than most to hate your mother and step father, yet you’re fully willing to defend them. Too bad. If you had been willing to cooperate and give me the evidence I needed, I would have had enough to remove you and that new little baby from your mother’s care. Now I’ll have to get creative.”] Eleanor said as she grabbed Jesse, seeing no need to continue her act. She had no patience for heroes, so as Logan took his protective posture and demanded that Jesse be released, Eleanor simple tugged a little tighter on the wire, making sure to slit the skin just enough to make her bleed. Jesse had very little tolerance for pain so despite her best efforts, she couldn’t help the small whimper that slipped from her lips at the sting around her neck.
[#ff00ff “Oh, I know all about your family, Logan. Your mother, the daughter of two of the cities most respected police chiefs, who suffers from severe PTSD, allies herself with the infamous gang of Street Brats, and married the alcoholic son of the man who raped her. Your step-father, has a criminal record for stealing long before he joined the Street Brats, that even your magical pardon can’t erase, and he himself has been known for causing fights and resisting arrest. It won’t be hard for me to convince a judge that they are unfit parents who may have had a hand in your disappearance. After-all, if they were afraid you’d rat them out for child abuse, they might have just killed you off like your real father did with his first-born.”] Eleanor explained, revealing that she’d certainly done her research. She was meticulous, planning out every detail as she had done with the 13 other kidnappings over the past 8 years that she had helped orchestrate. No one had caught on to her yet and this case certainly wasn’t going to change that.
Once the children were loaded into the van, she gave her orders, making sure she could be overheard by the brats inside. Leaving them in the capable hands of her associate, Pyke, Eleanor got back into her car and made her way to her next stop to build her alibi. The first ransom call would be soon and she wanted to be sure she had a witness to account for her at the time the call was made. Eleanor was only about ten minutes away from her next stop when her phone rang.
[#ff00ff “Have I ever let you down before? Patience, Dylan, the kids should be arriving at the bridge soon. Pyke will have to stop to interrupt their attempts to call their parents, but once he handles that, they’ll be at the bridge within the next few minutes.”] Eleanor said confidently. She had made sure her orders to Pyke were loud enough to be overheard, wanting the kids to know they’d only have their phones for a short while longer. Those brats are resourceful; they’ll try to find a way to contact their parents before the phones get taken and Pyke will be able to intercept. It was all part of Eleanor’s plan. She wanted the kids and the parents to underestimate them, so the ‘mistake’ of allowing the kids to make contact will end up working in her favour. And, it has the dual benefit of giving the opportunity to show the parents they wouldn’t tolerate any lack of cooperation from either side.
[#ff00ff “Give the girl back? What, am I an amateur? Of course we won’t be giving her back to her parents! But I still want that ransom money. I say we drag this out a little, don’t sell the kids too quick. If we hang onto them for a couple weeks, leading the parents on, they’ll be too scared not to pay. Once we have the ransom, we can sell the girl off just like her friend and the parents will be left alone, broken, and poor with no one to blame but themselves.”] Eleanor explained. She had been down this road before. If they rushed things, the parents would be too tempted to involve the police or try to make their own demands: proof of life, a live exchange, ‘give us our daughter, then we’ll give you the money’, and all that other bullshit. But drag it out, let them feel the pain of knowing their precious little girl was in the hands of violent, merciless kidnappers who weren’t afraid to harm her on a whim, they’ll be desperate enough to offer up the cash even without a guarantee!
[#ff00ff “These two are both former Street Brats. Trust me, you’ll get your money’s worth. In fact, if you want to drum up some business before the sale, why not let your buyers test out the merchandise? If we want to drag this out for a while, keep the kids for a few weeks and see if your buyers want to spend a few hundred dollars for a sneak preview? I bet there are people willing to pay for a few hours with a Street Brat kid, so long as they don’t kill them yet.”] Eleanor suggesting, always trying to think of ways to get more money.
Soon she was arriving at her destination, catching sight of the house just as a young man was getting in his own vehicle and driving to work, leaving his wife and young toddler at home alone.
[#ff00ff “I have to go. Pyke will make the initial contact with the parents, then he’ll bring the kids to you. Just make sure you don’t let the two get too close. They’re resourceful and very protective over each other. We can use that to keep them in line. I’ll join you in about an hour.”] Eleanor assured him, trusting both Pyke and Dylan to keep the kids occupied until she arrived. In the meantime, it was time to set her alibi.
[#ff00ff “Excuse me, Ms. Kira Mason? My name is Eleanor Carrow, I’m with Child Protective Services. I have a few questions for you regarding your close friend, Mrs. Lily Sanders. Do you mind if I come in?”] Eleanor said to the young woman with the little toddler in her arms. Hearing that CPS was asking about Lily and Jack made Kira nervous, but she tookt his as an opportunity to defend her best friends. Hopefully she could say something to convince the woman that Jack and Lily were good parents, and in the very least, she could see what this woman wanted and call to warn her friends once she left.
Jesse tried to do as Logan instructed. She took a few calming breaths and tried to relax her arm, but the angle was twisting the broken wrist tightly and she couldn’t seem to ease the pain. Her neck was red and raw from the wire, with a small cut wrapping around the front – nothing life threatening, but it certainly looked worse than it felt.
[#aa0000 “I don’t think it’ll matter. That man was easy to read – he’s mean, short tempered, and he wouldn’t think twice about hurting us. Besides, we already let slip one of our weaknesses. Eleanor heard me step in when she mentioned your mother and she saw you surrender when I was being choked. They know we care about each other and they’ll use that to keep us in line.”] Jesse warned him. It wasn’t good: first, it meant that the kidnappers would easily hurt one of them in order to force the other to behave, second it would play on their guilt of getting each other hurt. Logan and Jesse would have to stay strong and try to remember that none of this was their fault if they wanted to keep a clear head in this.
[#aa0000 “Yeah, my phone is in my back left pocket…can you reach?”] Jesse asked and as if on cue, the cell began to ring. Unfortunately, the ring was set a little louder than Jesse intended and as soon as the sound echoed through the back of the van, the vehicle suddenly pulled over and the front door slammed, indicating their kidnapper was coming back to check on them!
[#aa0000 “Logan hurry! It’s the button on the top right to answer the call! Can you… hello? Father?! Logan and I have been captured! White commercial van, tinted windows, license plate ADSN 314. One man, tall, dark hair, small scar on his chin – and a woman, name is… AH!”] Jesse knew there wasn’t time to waste. They were already at the bridge! She could hear the man stalking around the van, messing with the lock on the door and ripping them open so fast, she was startled they didn’t fly off the hinges. But before she could spit out the name of their attacker, Pike reached out and locked his hand around Jesse’s ankle, tugging her so sharply, she slammed against the floor of the van, landing with a sharp spike of pain through her broken wrist. Pike glared at the boy, noting the phone still in his hand.
[#776677 “You, boy, you tell whoever the hell that is that if they ever want to see you or the girl alive again, they’d better keep their mouth shut. If they call the police, or tell anyone else about this, I’ll be shipping you two back in pieces!”] Pyke growled, dragging Jesse out of the van. Eleanor was right – the kids did manage to get a hold of one of the parents. Perfect. She said they’d make their official demands in a couple days, but to be sure to let the parents know they were serious about harming the kids to scare them into complying. Pyke was more than capable of making the twerps scream, but why take all the fun for himself? He could see Dylan already waiting for them and he motioned for the man to join them.
[#776677 “Now, we were going to do this nice and quick – make our demands and have you two home with your families by tomorrow. But it seems you both need a lesson in following instructions. So now, we’re going to wait a few days before we call your parents to make our demands. And if you or the girl do anything to make our job harder than it has to be, you’re going to regret it. And if I hear any whiff of the police getting involved, or either of your parents trying to play hero, I’ll start cutting off fingers. Understand?”] Pyke demanded, knowing Logan was still holding the phone still connected to who he assumed was one of their parents.
[#776677 “But before we take that phone from you, I think we better make sure your folks know better than to think we’re bluffing. Hey Boss, you wanna give the kid a taste of what’ll happen if they don’t learn some manners?”] Pyke offered, keeping Jesse in his own tight grip while stepping back to let Dylan deal directly with Logan. He knew the phone was still recording everything and he wanted to be sure the parents would be scared for their children’s lives before he disconnected the call.
[#aa0000 “No, no! You don’t have to hurt us! We’ll cooperate! We won’t fight you! Don’t hurt Logan!”] Jesse cried, reading in their faces just how far these men might go!
Lisa appreciated the honesty. That was one of the benefits to her partner being one of the only Street Brats that didn’t fall into their bad habits. He didn’t try to lie or hide the truth for her [i protection], he was honest with her, trusting her to handle the information. That was probably why for the two least romantic people in the Brats, Martyn and Lisa had managed to keep their relationship so strong.
[+green “He knows we’re Masons? That makes him dangerous… we can’t exactly call the police and report this as an assault if it risks him spreading our real identities. Still… I hate that you had to face him on your own. I haven’t seen bruises like that on your face since the prison break eight years ago.”] Lisa noted. She stepped over to the kitchen, returning moments later with an ice pack to help ease the pain of the bruising. She knew Martyn didn’t like being coddled, but she hated seeing him in pain. The least she could do is give him something to take the edge off.
The threat of a man bursting into their home and attacking her partner was worrisome enough, but it got Lisa thinking about how far a dangerous man like that would be willing to go. Suddenly, her mild concern for Jesse being out was growing into a considerable fear. What if that bastard attacked their daughter? She was a witness to the crime and one of the only people able to testify that Eddie and Adam had made the first move and provoked Logan. Although, by the exhausted look on Martyn’s face, Lisa could tell that their daughter’s testimony wouldn’t make a difference. Logan was in deep trouble and this time, no fancy words or strong connections would get him out of it. Lisa bit her lip in sympathy for Lily. She was so desperate to have her happy family safe and together… losing Logan would destroy her.
[+green “CPS is investigating already? I thought they’d have more time… Logan’s too old to be adopted, he’s too much trouble to be put in a foster home… if CPS takes him, he’ll be placed in a group home for troubled kids and that will ruin any chance that boy has for a bright future. If he pleads guilty, opts into therapy and rehabilitation. What do you think his chances are for a reduced sentence?”] Lisa asked, knowing even that would be a hard sell. Even if they could play to the sympathies of a judge, Logan himself would need to publically admit his wrong doings, apologize to the victim, and willingly take a juvie sentence in order to gain any leniency and Lisa doubted Logan would be that cooperative.
[+green “I know there’s only so much you can do Martyn. Logan crossed a line this time and words can’t fix everything. I just wish there was some way to keep that family together. Lily’s lost enough.”] Lisa said, sitting patiently as her partner took out his phone. More than ever, she wanted Jesse home safe. The upcoming conversation wasn’t going to be pleasant – the only thing harder than explaining all this to Lily would be to tell Jesse her friend was going to be convicted for his attempts to protect her. But this wasn’t just about Jesse – she was likely still out there with Logan, and if that boy got into any more trouble, there would be nothing at all Martyn and Lisa could do to protect him.
Logan, much like his mother and father, felt emotions intensely. Just like his parents he bottled it up until a day ... or week... forced everything out. It seemed this week was the one that finally pushed him over the limit. His dark humour which he got from Jack was almost gone, and his sarcasm was diminished. Almost. Seeing the sly smile on Jesse’s lips and her rebellious attitude on normality, even Logan couldn’t help but give an impressed smirk in return. He hadn’t heard so much confidence in Jesse for awhile! She was always happy to build up everyone else’s confidence, but to hear her speaking about herself in such a way genuinely made Logan feel proud for her.
[#8B0000 “Give me warning next time so I can record you saying this shit and I can throw it in your face whenever you doubt yourself.”] Logan threw back, allowing the smile to last for a few moments before things got more in depth again.
She was right, as always... if he left it wouldn’t just be about trying to stop his trouble disrupting his parents life. He had heard his mothers panic attacks which she tried so desperately to hide. He had heard her cry, heard her nightmares, heard Jack try to calm her down... she tried so hard to keep it a secret but Logan had witnessed it so many times and he was scared of the day she would break. It was also why he was so angry with Jack. He was out and about getting used as a punching bag to avoid his drinking but Logan wasn’t entirely sure that Jack knew how close Lily was to breaking! She never did recover from her own past and Logan didn’t account that if he left, he might be the very reason she crumbles. Especially now that she was pregnant. It seemed the pregnancy was playing with her emotions more than ever. Still... maybe by some miracle Jack would keep her together if Logan did finally get taken away. Maybe by some miracle, it would be a weight off his mothers shoulders.
At least Jesse had his back no matter what he decided to do. Though little did he know that his decision would be taken out of his hands in mere moments. The woman who seemed to be intervening with his life to protect him, was far from what he perceived. Still, his originally impression didn’t make him trust her anymore. First came her insistence to speak to him, then came her point blank accusations about Jack!
[#8B0000 “My very violent fight was to defend my best friend who had her wrist broken by a very violence bully. Maybe you should go poke your nose at him instead?”]
It was as Eleanor moved to his mother that his fists clenched and luckily his friend was there to stop the woman was daring to speak another word. Logan had a lot of triggers and Eddie and Adam discovered that the hard way, especially when it came to targeting his mums character.
He was so lost in his frustrations as he started to storm away, he hardly heeded Jesse’s warning. Why would they run from that creep? When Jesse tugged on his arm, he shrugged himself off, scowling as he did wondering why they were having to be so dramatic about some hag who was harassing them. It was only as he felt the distance grow, and he felt her presence disappear, that he finally turned to see Jesse with the wire around her throat! Instantly he pulled his bandaged hands from his pockets, clenching them tightly and taking a threatening step forward.
[#8B0000 “You let her go! This has nothing to do with her!”] Logan snarled, having no idea that this was exactly what the woman wanted! He was ready to take the risk and charge forward, but as he saw the much larger man approaching, he gritted his teeth and lifted his hands in surrender.
[#8B0000 “Her parents will figure it out. My parents will be after you. You’re messing with the wrong family!”] Though his threats would be in vain. He painfully felt his hands being pulled behind his back, before being thrown into the van with his best friend. He was thrown with such force, his chest slammed to the floor but he was up just as quickly as he was down! Running to the back of the van, he slammed his foot to the door, giving it a few attempts before he collapsed back against the wall, panting with anger that they had gotten in this situation. He should have just stayed at home! The danger was quickly escalated as the man knocked against the side of the van and his eyes looked up at Jesse, seeing the pain and fear growing in her expression.
Not wanting to piss their kidnappers off more, Logan lowered his voice to a quiet yet comforting whisper.
[#8B0000 “We’ll figure something out Jesse. Don’t apologise! Look at me. We’ve survived things like this before, alright? We’re Street Brats, remember that ok? Relax your arm as much as you can, don’t fight against the restraints and do what they say. Don’t get yourself hurt trying to fight for me. We’ll play the game until we can figure something out. Your mum and dad will know somethings wrong... we’ll get out of this.”] Logan assured her, stepping forward as close as he could.
[#8B0000 “Do you have your phone? Is it in your pocket? Just incase... Maybe if I turn my back to you, I can get my hand and reach your phone and answer if they ring?”] Logan whispered even quieter now that the was closer. They didn’t have much time but if luck was on their side and Jesse’s parents were as paranoid as he thought they were, maybe they had a chance!
It wasn’t just Eleanor who was in on the operation. Waiting on the bridge was a tall man, with slick jet black hair that was greying to the sides and a thin beard. He wore a full three piece suit and looked stiff, rigid, and cold just with the look in his eyes. While Eleanor could play the game of a comforting authority figure, Dylan Lynch was the opposite. He was cold, calculated, greedy and was one of the top organised criminals in the city. He was known for his connections of finding children to exploit to criminal gangs, to even going as far as being part of the modern day slavery chain. If a gang, organisation, or illegitimate place of work needed someone, he could find the people... for the right price. It all started with the steel factory. When they lost an employee, he could easily scramble one up; but then he climbed up. Gangs often needed cannon fodder to put into high risk situations and what better than some kids who wouldn’t be missed? It was good work with high stakes and an even better cash reward!
As he waited at the bridge, leaning against the rail with a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips, he lifted up his cell phone with Eleanors number already ringing.
[+grey “El, are they on their way? I’ve got clients up to my eyeballs bidding for these kids.”] Dylan spoke up, balancing the phone between his cheek and shoulder as he pulled out a secondary phone which was buzzing away in his pocket, checking the stream of texts of gangs calling out to him.
[+grey “Do we really have to give the little bitch to her parents? She’d make a killing on the streets and that other brat, well he’s just an easy sell. Look, I’m on the bridge waiting. They best be what you promised me. If they’re not I’ll happily throw them from the side and go out hunting again. Street Brat kids have a good price on their heads and there is plenty of them out there!”]
In the Cull household, Martyn was sat on the armchair with his head hung back and his hand lingering over the bruises on his jaw. He was struggling with the small amount of pain. It had been awhile since he had experienced any kind of attack and he didn’t know how he managed with some of his Street Brat beatings! It was a subtle reminder of a silver-tongues weakness and one he didn’t want reminding of! As he heard Lisa’s voice he was partially grateful, but he could already sense the questions; why didn’t you tell me? When did this happen?
He didn’t bother hiding the truth. Instead he sat up and looked at his wife straight in the eyes as she started with her questioning.
[#008000 “Eddie’s Uncle decided to pay us a visit today. He knows we’re Mason’s... I couldn’t risk calling for help. Not with our family name at risk...”] Martyn explained though every word made him wince; as per the intention of the attack.
[#008000 “Jesse hasn’t come home yet... I’ve been anxious but, she’s out with Logan. I thought she would have called by now. I’ll phone her, but that boy...”] What words could he say more? That boy had exhausted all his energy. While he searched for his phone through the mass of papers, he knew his own confessions weren’t over. He knew Lisa would be reading the stress on his face and would see it wasn’t just down to the attack mere hours ago!
[#008000 “Logan’s case is impossible. If they really wanted to, they could go as far as attempted murder since Adam had to be resuscitated upon arrival at the hospital. Lily phoned... CPS was at her door and I couldn’t tell her... the defence is either get Logan to plead guilty to try and lower his juvenile sentence or surrender him to the CPS to avoid prison. She won’t be too happy with us right now but after the attack, with everything I’ve looked into, with Logan’s continuous outbursts I just... I’m not a miracle worker.”] Martyn spoke up honestly, knowing there might be judgement and anger towards his decision but there was only so much he could fight with this case! Also the Uncle’s threats was still lingering in his mind. He really couldn’t risk Lisa and Jesse getting into danger because of the Sanders decisions and now it wears coming on their doorstep. The bruises showed it!
Finally finding the phone, Martyn dialled Jesse’s number and put his own phone on loud speaker, so Lisa would be able to hear as well.
Jesse, glanced at Logan out of the corner of her eye when he started defending her. The words didn’t both her. In fact, she almost took pride in the names they threw as insults. Freak, Psychic… people feared what they didn’t understand, and the very fact that those assholes were intimidated by her skills was something Jesse was somewhat proud of. She wasn’t the type to fit in with her peers. Even among the Brats, Jesse was often the odd one out. She wasn’t as affectionate or supportive as the others, she didn’t need nor want the constant chit chat or incessant attention that Rylan, Alex, and Carla seemed to crave. Jesse preferred sitting silent most of the time, and hated being judged for not speaking up. That’s one of the reasons she liked Logan so much. With him, there was no pressure. He didn’t fault her for just being herself and he never demanded anything different from her. In truth, aside from her mom and dad, Logan was likely the only other person in the world who Jesse actually cared what he thought of her.
[#aa0000 “What if I like being a Freak?”] She asked, giving her friend a sly smile.
[#aa0000 “Being normal is overrated anyway. I don’t care what they call me, Logan. [i Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.] Those assholes don’t matter to me. You do.”] Jesse told him, stealing a quote from the great Dr. Seuss. Maybe all those nights babysitting for her cousin Kira’s new baby were paying off. She never would have been caught dead reading children’s books otherwise!
[#aa0000 “No one [i moves on] from losing someone they love. Trust me. My dad was gone for the first two years of my life and Mom was shattered. Then I finally got dad back and my mom was taken, and Dad was just as numb and lifeless without her and she was without him! And you saw what your mom’s death’ did to Jack. There’s some pain that just doesn’t heal, Logan. Do you really want to cause you mom that kind of pain?”] Jesse asked, poi ting out that some wounds never healed over. The Brats could talk all they wanted about ‘watching over each other from beyond the grave’, but there were some Brats who had never recovered from losing the person they loved. Hell, Axel went on for years without Asha, but he was never truly the same. After losing Simon and Lily, Nola literally died, slowly and agonizingly of that heartache. If Jack and Lily ever lost Logan… Jesse wasn’t sure they’d survive it!
[#aa0000 “Well, too bad Logan, because you’re going to be an influence on that new baby whether you’re here or not. If you ran away, that kid is just going to grow up thinking it was their fault for driving away their big brother. They’re going to think you don’t care about them; that they’re unwanted and unloved. Just like you felt when Jack neglected you as a kid. Look… if you don’t want to be a part of that family… if you really don’t want to be a part of that baby’s life, or your mom’s , or Jack’s… then we’ll figure something out together. But I just want to make sure you’ve thought this through. I promised you I wouldn’t let you do anything you’d regret, remember?”] Jesse told him. She would support his decision in the end, even if it meant shattering Jack and Lily’s family. Jesse would never force Logan one way or another, but she needed to know he had thought this through. It wouldn’t be so easy to change his mind later on and pretend like nothing happened. If he did run away, if he abandoned his parents, if he missed out on that baby’s birth, he wouldn’t ever be able to get those moments back.
Unfortunately, it seemed Logan wasn’t the only one who was considering breaking the Sanders family apart. Eleanor sure seemed determined to prove Logan was being mistreated. From what Jesse could tell, she was just concerned. She clearly wanted to know the truth and she wasn’t buying Logan’s lies about not being hurt by his step father.
[#ff00ff “A good role model? Logan, you and I both know that’s not true. I know you’re facing charges with the police. You snuck out of the house, got drunk, likely off of stolen booze, and then you got into a very violent fight that landed a boy twice your size in the hospital. Are you telling me none of that follows your step father’s example?”] Eleanor challenged. She flipped to a new page in her clipboard, one that had some background information on Logan’s family.
[#ff00ff “Jack Sanders, wanted for multiple counts of thief, public intoxication, assault, resisting arrest… Not exactly what I would call a good role model. And your mother…”]
[#aa0000 “Don’t you dare say a bad word about his mother.”] Jesse hissed bitterly, narrowing her eyes in a fierce glare. She knew it was a sensitive subject for Logan and she wasn’t going to sit here and watch this woman pick at the vulnerable areas in Logan’s family life. The woman didn’t seem overly malicious. She looked like she genuinely wanted to help, but Jesse wasn’t going to let her manipulate her friend, even if she thought it was for his own protection.
Jesse turned on her heels, taking a step away from the car, but as she turned she saw a white commercial van with tinted windows pull over and a tall, muscular man get out and start walking towards them at a determined speed. It took mere seconds for Jesse to read what was clearly displayed in his expression.
[#aa0000 “Logan, run! RUN!”] Jesse urged, tugging in Logan’s arm. Everything about that man screamed danger and Jesse knew they had to get out of there now! She took a step away, accidently backing straight into Eleanor. At first, she was almost relieved! She may not trust the woman, but she was duty-bound to protect children from this kind of harm, right? She would be able to protect them? Or at least give them a ride someplace safe! But before Jesse could turn around, she felt the cold, unforgiving vice of a wire wrap around her neck like a garrotte. The wire was tight against her throat, cutting off her voice and restricting her breathing until all she could muster were a few chokes gasps. She couldn’t even struggle because every slight move made the wire cut deeper into her skin, letting the blood bead menacingly around the wire.
[#ff00ff “Enough games. Logan, if you run, I’ll wring her neck.”] Eleanor hissed. The man grew steadily closer, clearly working with Eleanor as he pulled out a role of thick duct tape to use for restraints.
[#ff00ff “Be smart about this, Logan. Look around: there’s no cameras, no witnesses… this is a bad part of town, no one would think anything of two troublesome kids getting themselves killed just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So unless you want to forfeit both your own life and your friend’s, I suggest you cooperate. Put your hands behind your back and let my associate tie you up. You try to fight, run, or scream, and you’ll get a front role seat to your friend’s last moments, do you understand me?”] Eleanor demanded. Even if Logan did try to struggle, the man was twice his side with the muscle mass to force whatever compliance they needed. He reached for Logan’s arms so he could tape them together behind the kid’s back. Once Logan was secured, he kept a firm grip on the back of the boy’s neck while Eleanor lowered the garrotte wire and took the tape to bind Jesse the same way. Jesse cried out when her broken wrist was roughly pulled behind her back and taped to her other hand, but Eleanor was quick to slap a hand around her mouth to silence her. It wouldn’t matter, there was no one around to hear them, but Eleanor wasn’t taking any chances. The two kidnappers shoved the teens into the back of the van – the entire process taking mere minutes, with no witnesses.
Jesse took a quick read of the van – the handles had been removed on the inside and a thick metal gate was installed between the front of the van and the back, meaning there was no possible way for the prisoners to escape without help from the outside. Eleanor had been right about there being no cameras on the streets, so any hope of the Street Brats’ techies, Larry and Caleb, seeing what happened to them was slim. What scared Jesse more was that she didn’t read any of this from Eleanor! The woman had fooled her completely! Her wrist was in agony, twisted behind her back and bound with tape so she couldn’t get free. The fear was starting to set in as she heard Eleanor delivering her orders outside the van.
[#ff00ff “Take them as far as the bride, then ditch their cellphones, watches, jewellery, anything else you can find on them. I’ll set up my alibi, then meet you at the first location tonight. As far as my research proved, the girl is valuable – her parents are well off and they care enough to pay a decent ransom for her. The boy… his parents care, sure, but they’re dirt poor. Fortunately, I’ve got a source that says someone might be interested in purchasing him for a good price. We’ll wait a few days before we make the ransom calls. If either kid give your trouble, start breaking fingers.”] Eleanor’s cold, merciless tone was a starch comparison to what she used when talking to Logan and Jesse initially. It seemed like she had mastermind this entire thing! Even her investigation of Jack and Lily was a mere excuse to test how much the parents loved their child and how much they could afford to pay. Eleanor had planned every detail to cover her tracks and send the police looking in the wrong direction. This wasn’t personal, this was just good business! With any luck the Culls will pay a hefty ransom for their daughter and Logan will be sold off to anyone with a grudge against the Street Brats or his grandparents the police chiefs!
[#aa0000 “Logan, I’m sorry! She’s a con, just like your grandmother! She was playing a part so perfectly… she was impossible to read! And if I can’t read her… my mom won’t be able to read her either.”] Jesse admitted, shocked seconds later by the pounding on the side of the van.
[#777766 “Shut up back there! Keep your voices down or I’ll beat you both bloody, understand?!”] The man’s gravelly voice rang faintly through the walls of the van. After a few seconds, he got into the drivers’ seat and started the vehicle, heading for the bridge out of town.
Lisa woke up with a feeling of unease. She felt almost nauseous, like the world was tilting on her and the ground wasn’t quite solid under her feet. Call it mother’s intuition, but Lisa knew something was wrong. She glanced at the clock, realizing she had been a sleep for a couple hours. She got out of bed and hurried to Jesse’s room, finding it empty. She must not have returned from meeting Logan yet. Odd… Jesse was still a little hung over when she left. It wasn’t like the girl to stay out so long when she wasn’t feeling well. Jesse, much like her parents, didn’t like to show any kind of weakness or vulnerability if she could help it, so Lisa had firmly expected her to be home and in her room recovering.
Lisa’s next move was to head downstairs, thinking maybe her partner had heard something. But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.
[+green “Martyn? Have you heard from Jesse? I thought she’d be back by… oh my god, what happened?”] Lisa demanded, crossing the room in quick strides so she could get a closer look at the bruise forming on Martyn’s jaw and the stress in his eyes.
[+green “Are you alright? Who did this? Is… Is Jesse…?”] Lisa felt the unsettling feeling grow as she considered the possibility that Jesse was here when Martyn was attacked. Was she hurt too? Was she safe? Had she been taken? Threatened? Why wasn’t Martyn telling her anything?!
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