Aaron pulls up outside the community centre as I briskly walk up from the station. I meet him at the door, holding it open for him.
“HOW COULD YOU LET SOMEONE JUST WALK OUT WITH A KID THAT ISN’T THEIRS?” Erin shouts as we enter.
She's standing in the middle room of the centre with a childcare worker, who looks terrified. I hurry over to them, Aaron close behind.
“Hey, hey, hey, Aer,” I say, placing my hand on her shoulder.
“Mark!” She says, throwing her arms around me.
I wrap my arms around her. The worker takes this opportunity to go back to the children.
“They say some guy came & picked her up, but they won't tell me anything else!” She says.
“Okay, shhhh,” I reply. “It's going to be alright.”
She pushes me away. “It's not alright! My baby girl is missing!”
I place my hands on her upper arms. “I know, Aer,” I reply. “I need you to calm down a bit, okay? You're scaring the staff, & I need to talk to them to find out who took her, okay?”
She hesitates, trying to breathe & not cry. She then nods.
“Good,” I reply. “I want you to go with Aaron into the front room, get a drink of water, & wait for me.”
“Sit with me.”
“I would, but I need to talk to the staff, remember?”
She struggles not to cry. I pull her in for another hug, holding her against me until she calms down again. I kiss her head before guiding her towards Aaron. He puts his right arm around her. I watch as they head back into the main room, before I turn & head into the back room where the childcare is.
Aaron sits down with me, handing me a tissue as he holds a plastic cup of water. I wipe tears from my face & then he hands me the cup.
“Thanks,” I say, taking it.
“You're welcome,” he replies, as I take a sip. “Mark will find out what happened.”
“I know, it's just… I thought we’d moved past all the bad things this week!”
He nods. “We’ll have her back in no time.”
“She should be here.”
It hits me that there's only one person that Felicity would willingly go with outside my brothers & Paige- who would tell me if they’ve picked her up. Only one who could talk the staff into letting her leave.
I stand up, placing the cup down. I head further into the centre.
“Erin!” Aaron says.
Mark hears & looks. He puts his hand out to stop me, but I ignore him.
“If you saw his face again, would you recognise him?” I ask the worker.
“Uhhh, sure,” she replies.
I get my mobile out & flick through my photos until I find one of Zack.
“Is this him?” I ask, showing her the photo. “Is this the man who took Felicity?”
She stares at it for a long moment. And then nods.
I cover my mouth, stifling the distressed cry. Mark puts an arm around me.
“Thank you for your help,” he tells her. “If you remember anything else, please call the station.”
“Of course,” she says. “I am truly sorry for the mistake we made.”
He turns me around, arm still around me & guides me towards the front door. Aaron holds the door open for us.
“I want you to put out whatever you have to put out to get his face out there,” she says. “I want his face on an alert list or whatever! He's got her, & I know he's gonna try & leave the state. So you have to get them on the lookout for him, okay? He has to be stopped!”
“Aer,” I say, taking hold of her arms & turning her to face me. “I need you to keep it together, okay? I know you're worried, so am I. But you're not going to do yourself any good working yourself into a hysterical fit. I’m going to find her.”
“Seeing you this distressed makes me want to stay with you,” I tell her. “But I can't, because I need to find her.”
She nods again.
“I need you to stay strong, Aer,” I tell her. “I need you to not fall apart so I can find her. I’m going to do whatever it takes to bring her home.”
She nods again. “I know you will.”
I pull her into a hug, holding her tightly.
“You should go home with Az.”
She pulls back, looking at me in disbelief. “No!”
“Erin,” I reply, softly.
“No. I’m not going to go sit at home, slowly going out of my mind, wondering what's happening to my baby!”
“I promise I’ll keep you updated.”
She shakes her head. “You can't make me go home,” She replies. “I need to be there, at the station with you. I don't know if I can keep it together if I’m not near you.”
I sigh, knowing I won't be able to change her mind. “Alright,” I reply. “But you stay out of our way. Stay with Aaron, & let us do our work. I’ll update you when I can.”
She nods. I kiss her forehead. I put an arm around her as Aaron steps to her right. We head off towards the station.
Waiting is the hardest thing. I’m sitting in the waiting area of the station, struggling not to fall apart in tears as I watch Mark lead a team of officers in the search for Felicity. Aaron stays with me the whole time, his arm around me.
Mark has my phone, so they can access the photos of Zack & Felicity. But also monitor my calls in case Zack has the twisted thought to call me.
I pray that she's okay. I know he wouldn't hurt her. Not physically. But she's spent very little time with him. Up until this week, she's only ever been with him via Skype. So being alone with him would be terrifying. No doubt he told her & the childcare staff that he was taking her to meet up with me.
All I can picture is here screaming & crying for me. What lies will he be telling her, what empty promises is he making to calm her down? Where will he take her?
I lift my head at the sound of the roller door being pulled down. Tyler locks it from the inside.
“Are you finished?” I ask, as he walks over to me.
“For now,” he replies, stepping round the desk to stand beside my chair. “Stand up.”
Frowning, I stand, pushing my chair back & turn to face him. He cups my face with both hands, & I tilt my head up slightly as he brings his down, pressing his lips against mine for a long kiss.
“I know we haven't… Slept together since Brodie,” he says. “And if you're not ready, then that's fine. But I want you.”
“I want you too.”
He smiles. “Good.”
He leans in to kiss me again, but I push his chest, keeping him at bay.
“Here?” I ask, raising my eyebrow.
He nods. “This is the only place we’ll be alone,” he replies. “Erin's bound to be home, & I really don't want to take my chances at yours. Terese could come home, &… I’d hate to see her react if she found out we’d snuck home to have a bit of afternoon delight.”
“Wow. How much time have you spent thinking about this?”
“Longer than I wanna admit,” he replies. “Plus… I think it would be pretty hot to make love to you in your school uniform.”
I raise my eyebrow. “Got a thing for schoolgirls?”
“I’m crazy in love with you,” he replies, before kissing me again.
We break apart & he moves things around on his desk, clearing space in the middle.
“Take your jacket off,” he says, still clearing the desk.
I take it off, draping it over the chair.
“Sit,” he says, pointing to the desk.
I sit on it, legs dangling off the side. He steps between my legs, places both hands on my hips & pulls me forward, closer to the edge. He pushes my skirt up slowly, fingers brushing my thighs. He rubs his fingers on his right hand over my undies, making me moan. He claims my lips in another kiss, suffocating my moans as he keeps rubbing me.
I find myself reaching for his belt as we kiss, his hand still rubbing me as I unbuckle his belt. I undo his jeans, & push them & his boxers down. He pushes my undies aside, holding them by my right thigh. He slips his left hand between us, covering my opening. He then pushes his middle finger inside, & I gasp into his mouth. He wiggles his finger, making me wet, before he pulls it out & pushes his cock inside.
He thrusts, pulling me closer each time. I wrap my arms around his neck, panting as our tongues clash. I grind my hips every time they meet his, making him moan & tighten his hold on my hips, his fingers digging into my skin.
Just as we get a steady rhythm, his mobile buzzes with an incoming call. We stop & he checks it. He sighs, before hitting the reject button.
“Aren't you gonna answer?” I ask.
“Nope,” he replies, dropping his mobile onto a pile of paperwork to my right. “Not when we’re like this.”
“But what if it's impor-”
He thrust into me, making me gasp. He holds my hips in place, keeping himself pressed deep in me. He leans forward, kissing my neck before lightly nipping. I grind my hips, & then rock them back & forth, encouraging him to thrust again.
He thrusts & I arch my back, giving in to the pleasure. I support my upper body with my arms, hands splayed on the desk behind me, as I tilt my head back. He growls, upset that he can't reach my neck. So he rubs my clit, making me gasp.
“Tyler?” Aaron calls from outside.
Tyler places his hand over my mouth to quiet my moans, slowing his thrusts a little.
“Tyler?” Aaron calls, as the side door opens.
Tyler uses the split second we have to pull my skirt down with both hands, before Aaron comes into view.
“There you are!” Aaron says as he walks beside a car. “Why didn't you answer when- Woah! Oh! Oh!”
He stops & turns around, putting his back towards us.
“What do you want, bro?” Tyler asks.
“Can you please not be in that position?” Aaron asks. “I’d rather not have this conversation when you're like that.” He brings his hands up to his face. “I’d rather not be here right now… This is soooo awkward!”
Tyler steps back & I bite my lip to stop the involuntary moan as he pulls out of me. He pulls his boxers & jeans up, stepping to my right to allow me to stand as he zips his jeans up. I pull my skirt down a little further as he does his belt up. Tyler looks at me, before looking at Aaron.
“You can turn around now,” Tyler says.
“You're fine to, Aaron,” I reply. “Sorry.”
Aaron turns around. “Just be glad it was me & not Mark. He’d freak if he saw you two… Doing it in such a… Dirty place.” He rubs his face. “I personally wish I hadn't seen that. There's some things a brother should never see.”
“Sorry, bro,” Tyler replies.
“Just don't do it again,” Aaron replies. “Or at least lock both doors!”
“Yep, gotcha. Won't happen again,” Tyler replies. “What did you want?”
“Wanted to find out why you weren't answering your phone… Which I now know.”
“There's an urgency to it, isn't there? Why else would you come?”
Aaron nods. “Felicity’s been kidnapped.”
“What?!” Tyler & I say.
“Mark’s already onto it, & they even have confirmation of who took her from the childcare,” Aaron says. “But Erin’s barely keeping together while she waits at the station & I think it would be best that you're there too.”
Tyler opens his mouth.
“Before you say you're busy, save it,” Aaron interrupts. “It's obvious that you have the time.”
“Actually, I was gonna say wait outside for a minute,” Tyler replies.
Aaron nods, before heading out. Tyler looks at me.
“Massively awkward conversation,” Tyler says. “Never gonna live that one down.”
“Yeeeah,” I reply.
“I should've remembered to lock that one.”
“At least it wasn't a client.”
“Yeah, thankfully clients don't use that little hatch door,” he says. “But I’m sorry that my brother saw you like that.”
“To be honest, I don't mind that it was Aaron,” I reply. “Better than Mark or either of my parents.”
“Ohhh definitely better than your parents,” he replies. “Brad would have killed me.”
“Yep,” I reply, nodding. “Anyway… I should grab my things & we should go.”
“We?” He replies, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” I reply. “I’m gonna come with you. Your family is my family.”
He smiles, before leaning down & kissing me. I push him away.
“Don't,” I reply, hands on his chest. “I’m going to want to keep going.”
He smirks, but then drops his head. “You're right.”
I grab my jacket & bag, putting one strap on my shoulder as Tyler grabs his mobile & keys. We cross to the door, Tyler letting me go out first. He locks up & we walk around to the front. Aaron's waiting out by his car. He looks at Tyler & then tilts his head towards the van.
“I guess we’re banished to my van,” Tyler says, as Aaron gets into his car.
“Mmmm,” I reply.
“I don't blame him after our little show in there,” Tyler replies as we cross to his van.
He unlocks it. I open the passenger door, dumping my bag on the floor before climbing in as Tyler walks around the front to the driver's side. He gets in as I’m doing up my seatbelt & Aaron turns his engine on. Tyler pauses as he’s doing up his seatbelt & watches as Aaron drives off.
Aaron returns with Tyler & Piper in tow, & I notice the awkwardness from Aaron as he walks briskly ahead of the other two. I frown as first Aaron & then Tyler & Piper all sit down without a word- Aaron to my left, the other two to my right.
“What's up with you three?” I ask.
“Nothing,” Aaron replies.
I narrow my eyes, trying to figure out what he's hiding.
“Don't worry about it,” Aaron says.
I open my mouth, wanting to know more, but I know he won't so I sigh & turn my attention to looking through to the back room. That's where Mark is, discussing the case with other officers that are working on it.
The reception phone rings for the hundredth time & another officer answers. I notice in the corner of my eye as he puts the call on hold & then steps over to the doorway through.
“Constable Brennan,” he says.
Mark turns around. “Yes?”
“They're on line one,” the officer replies.
“Put it through to my desk.”
I watch Mark hurry over to his desk, quickly picking up his desk phone. There's too much noise from other parts of the station for me to hear him, but I do see him look relieved at one point so my hopes of a breakthrough rise.
He hangs up & beckons his team over. He speaks to them for a minute, pointing at several of them who nod. Two of the four head out the front door, while two more wait for him. Mark puts on his vest & thigh holsters, & I straighten up. He leads the officers into reception, pointing for them to head outside. He watches them go before stepping towards me. I quickly stand.
“I have to go, so I’m going to make this quick,” he says. “That was Melbourne Airport. Security has identified him going through security there-”
“They didn't want to raise too much suspicion, so they let him go & they’ve been tailing him to his flight's gate,” Mark continues. “They're going to monitor him & detain him if his flight starts to board before we get there, which is why I have to go.”
“Let me go with you.”
He shakes his head.
“Mark. Please! I want to be there for Felicity.”
He falters slightly when I say Felicity.
He sighs. “They're unsure if he's travelling with a small child.”
“Brief version- he has two tickets, & is carrying something that's the size of a child Felicity's age, but there's a blanket over it & he told the security team that she's sleeping & they weren't able to lift it. Seems weird that they’d let him go, but he cleared the metal detector so they didn't think it might be a bomb & they're watching him anyway, they won't let him on the flight.”
I shake, struggling to keep back tears.
“Trust me, if he has Felicity, I’ll make sure that she's okay,” Mark replies, squeezing my arms. “That's why I’m taking two squad cars. But I really have to go. I’ll explain everything in more detail when I get back, okay?”
I nod. He kisses my forehead & then turns to leave. I watch him rush out the door. Aaron & Tyler stand & hug me.
Paige arrived shortly after, having come from her shift at Harold’s. When it was clear I was hyperventilating, she guided me outside for some fresh air, sitting me down under the statue. The others followed us outside, & we’ve been waiting there ever since.
I spot two squad cards drive into the carpark & I stand up. It’s an anxious wait, but soon enough two officers escort Zack through the greenery towards the station. The other two officers follow a few beats later, Mark close behind them. Initially the other officers block my view of Mark, but soon enough I can see him clearly & my chest tightens as I see that he's not carrying Felicity.
In seconds I’m running over to Zack, landing a hard punch against his cheek. The officers struggle to hold me back as well as hold him.
“WHERE IS SHE?” I scream.
Mark’s arms wrap around me, pinning my arms to my side & I struggle to get free.
“Get him inside!” Mark barks at the officers.
They nod & hurry him past me. I struggle to break free, but Mark’s holding me tight.
"Calm down, Aer," he whispers into my ear, as Zack is taken inside the station.
“I won't calm down!” I reply, still fighting him. “Where's Felicity?”
“I’ll explain, but not until you calm down.”
I stop struggling & he holds me for a few more seconds to make sure, before relaxing his arms. He turns me around to face him.
"She wasn't with him.”
I can't breathe! He places his hands on my cheeks, cupping my face & forcing me to stay focused on him.
“He refused to explain it, so we brought him back here,” Mark says. “I’m going to go talk to him now. I’m going to get to the bottom off this, but I need you to stay with the others.”
I nod. He looks over to Aaron & Tyler, & tilts his head towards me. Mark turns his attention back on me, giving me a smile. He lets go as Tyler steps beside me. I sway, feeling dizzy, & both of them grab me. They walk me over to the statue, sitting me down. Tyler & Aaron sit either side of me, & Mark squats in front of me, holding my hand while Piper disappears into Harold's. She returns with a bottle of water, which Mark takes & then pushes into my hands.
“Drink,” he says, undoing the cap.
I take a small sip. He smiles.
“Make sure she drinks more,” he says to Tyler & Aaron as he stands. “I need to get inside.”
I watch as he turns & walks towards the station, not taking my eyes off him until he disappears inside & the door shuts.
“How's Erin?” Zack asks as I step into the Interrogation room & close the door.
"A mess thanks to you," I reply, taking a seat next to my colleague. “You better start explaining yourself.”
“The day after I arrived in Erinsborough, I received a call,” he says. “They didn't say who they were, just that they knew who I was, that I had a daughter, & if I wanted to see her stay alive, then I needed to do what they told me.”
"Why didn't you report the call?” I ask. “You’ve known all this time that I’m a police officer.”
He nods. “I wanted to,” he replies. “But they threatened to kill Felicity if I did. They sent me photos of her. It was clear someone was following Erin. And I know, I should have warned Erin, but I knew she would alert you & I feared they would attack Felicity.”
“What did they want you to do?”
“I assume you know about the custody request.”
I clench my jaw. “I was with Erin when she found out about it. We’d just arrived back home after the hospital.”
“I don't want to take Felicity from Erin,” he replies. “She's better off with her mother than she will ever be with me. But they demanded it.”
“And taking her today?”
He hesitates. “That was all me.”
"Why?" I ask. "Surely you knew how much the custody request was stressing Erin out. Why would you think it was okay to take Felicity without telling Erin? Don't you realise that makes you look like you were doing a runner?”
“I know, & I’m sorry for that!” He replies. “But I couldn't explain to her the truth, for the same reasons as I couldn't the other day. I was scared for Felicity, & my instincts told me to take her & get her into the army base. They can't get her there. I planned on calling Erin once I was there, & explaining everything.”
“You said you believe there was someone following Erin. Did you think you could take Felicity without them noticing?”
“I thought I could get away before they could catch me.”
“So you had Felicity. But when we picked you up, she wasn't with you. So… Where is she?”
“I don't know.”
I sigh, glaring at him.
“Honestly, Mark, I don't know,” he replies. “I had her, parked in the car park at the airport & was about to get her out of the back, when I was attacked. Someone hit me from behind. When I woke up, they’d put me in the car. Felicity was gone, a doll in her place. I knew it was them, because I got a text from a blocked number saying so. It's still on my mobile.”
My colleague passes the evidence bag with Zack’s mobile. I place it between Zack & myself, & he unlocks it through the bag. I pull it over to me, & check the messages. It opens in the thread- blocked number but the message is there.
You shouldn't have tried to run. She's mine now.
I pass it to my colleague & look at Zack.
“For the record, Zack's phone confirms the text,” I say. “It says, & I quote, ‘You shouldn't have tried to run. She's mine now’. The number has been blocked.”
“Believe me now?”
“Why did you still try to get on the flight?”
“I knew they would be monitoring me,” he replies. “The text came through just after I woke. It's clear they have a way of watching me. I was afraid of what they’d do if I called you. I knew Erin would have discovered that Felicity wasn't at the centre, & that you’d know too. I figured, given the custody request, you’d alert the airport & that authorities would be watching for me. So I knew that was the best way to draw your attention but not alert whoever was watching me to it.”
“And the doll?”
“Taking it was stupid, I know. But it was the only way to cover myself. I was scared about them watching me.”
“Do you know who it is?”
Zack sits back & crosses his arms. “And why would I keep giving you information? You clearly don't believe me.”
“I’m concerned about the safety of Felicity,” I reply. “So should you. Which is why you need to keep telling me everything you know.”
He shakes his head. I clench my jaw.
“Erin,” Mark calls.
I look towards the station, seeing him walking over. He seems agitated. I stand & meet him partway over.
"What's going on?” I ask.
“Zack’s explained some of the story, but he's holding back crucial information.”
He sighs. “I don't know. Maybe to cover his own ass?”
“What do you know so far?”
“He's been threatened by someone, we’re not sure who, but they threatened to kill Felicity in order to get him to comply.”
I gasp, covering my hand with one hand. Mark holds my upper arms.
“He's admitted they forced him into the custody request, that he would never want to take her away from you, but they put him in a position where he had no choice,” he says. “He couldn't tell either of us, for fear that they’d do something to Felicity.”
“He was trying to get Felicity out of danger,” he replies. “He says he planned on taking her to Darwin, to the army base where whoever is threatening her can't get her. And then he would call you.”
“In the mean time I lose my mind, worried sick!”
He nods. “I know. I’ve already told him.”
“Do you believe him?”
He hesitates. “There's a text on his mobile that supports his story as to where Felicity is right now, & we’ve requested his phone records to verify the calls.”
“Where is she?”
“He says he was attacked at the airport carpark,” he says. “He was knocked unconscious & when he woke… She was gone. All he has is the text.”
"But you say he’s holding something back?”
He sighs. “I have a gut feeling that he knows who has her,” he says. “He just refuses to tell me. He thinks I don't believe him enough.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ve talked to Sarge about an idea I have.”
“It's a very unusual tactic, completely off book.”
“Just tell me, Mark!”
“I want you to be in there with him,” he says. “Maybe he’ll open up to you.”
“Is that a good idea?” Tyler asks, stepping over. “I mean, he’s done all of this. You sure you want to leave her alone in the same room as him? She might kill the guy.”
“I’ll kill him after I get Felicity back.”
I sigh, fed up with the silence. I’ve been sitting in with Zack for a while. He hasn't said a word to me. Mark had shown me in, using me to distract Zack so he could turn on the recorder again. Mark knew it would be good to have our conversation recorded, but felt like Zack wouldn't be honest if he knew it was being recorded.
“You need to tell them everything,” I say.
I shake my head. “You're hiding something.”
He leans forward. “I’m not.”
I get up & pace. I then step back over to the table, place both hands on it & lean in close to him.
“You want to ensure Felicity is safe?” I ask. “There's one way you can do that. Tell us what you're hiding.”
“Honestly, Erin. I'm not hiding anything from you or the cops! I care about our daughter.”
“Where was this care two years & three months ago, when I told you I was pregnant?” I ask. “Where were you when I felt her kick for the first time? When I spent thirteen hours in labour, screaming from the pain, all alone? When she crawled for the first time? When she walked for the first time? When she said her first word? You’ve never shown much care for her. You never wanted her.”
“I sent you money.”
I scoff. “More like threw it at me. You made me feel like we were nothing to you. You chose to put the army before us. So why should I believe you when you say that you care for her, now that some stranger has her? When you're the reason that she's even there?!”
“When you told me you were pregnant, I… I wasn't ready for kids,” he says. “I was already training in the army, & I wasn't ready to settle down with a family. You’ve let me stay in her life, which is more than I deserved given how badly I treated you. Yes, I haven't been there the way you wanted me to. Yes, I’ve missed those big milestones so far. But even though I’m not there every single day to see her grow, it doesn't mean that I don't care for her.”
He reaches out & places his left hand on top of my right. I pull mine back, standing up & crossing my arms.
"Do you know how stressful it's been this afternoon?” I ask. “Knowing that she's out there with you? She barely knows you. Up until this week, you’ve been just a face in photos & a handful of Skype calls. So it would be distressing enough for her to be with you without me. And now I find out that she's been taken, & all I can think of is how terrified she is!”
“I’m scared for her too.”
I shake my head.
“You can think of me as the enemy if you want, Erin,” he says. “But don't use that to claim that I don't care about my own flesh & blood. I may not be there all the time, but I’m still her father & I still care about her.”
“So prove it, Zack! Help me get her back!”
“I’ve told you everything that I remember!”
I shake my head, fighting tears. “Why don't I believe you?”
“You tell me.”
"Surely there's something else,” I say, placing my hands on the table & leaning over. “Even if it's a small thing.”
He sighs. He then frowns, thinking hard. “When they knocked me out at the carpark… I wasn't completely out when they moved me into the backseat.”
“Yes! Good. Keep going.”
“Felicity… She was crying. Screaming.”
My chest tightens. “My poor baby.”
“There was this man… Who opened the door… The other side.”
“Okay. What did he look like?”
“Uh…” He closes his eyes, brow furrowed as he thinks hard. “Bald. Slightly scruffy beard. Uh… I’d say older than us. Was wearing an expensive looking suit.” He looks at me. “I can't recall any more of what he was like.”
“That's okay, Zack. It's a good start,” I reply with a reassuring smile. “Mark can look through the security footage for him.”
“I… I think there was more than just him.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I… I remember several voices.”
“Okay. Anything you remember? Any words you remember hearing?”
He shakes his head. “It was in a different language,” he says. “Either Italian or Greek. I get the two confused.”
“It's okay. What about names? Surely they said each others’ names?”
He thinks. “The bald man talked to Felicity in English,” he says. “I… I don't remember anything else. I think that's when I passed out.”
I sigh, hanging my head. Sooo close, yet so far!
I look up at him. “Yes?”
“I do vaguely remember one man said a name,” he says. “Just as I passed out.”
“Close your eyes for me.”
He frowns. “Why?”
“I’m going to talk you through a relaxation method. It's worth trying in order to shake those memories to the surface.”
He nods, & then closes his eyes.
“Sit back, & take three deep breaths,” I say. “Slowly inhale, hold, slowly exhale.”
He sits back in his chair, & I watch him take three deep breaths.
“Think about being in the car, that moment when the man said the name,” I tell him. “Focus on just that, & my voice. Can you understand what he's saying?”
He’s silent for an excruciatingly long minute. I let him have time to think, knowing pushing him will risk him to be frustrated & he won't find the word.
After several minutes, he sighs as he shakes his head & open his eyes.
“I can't!” He snaps, hitting the table with both his hands.
“Take a moment to think of this image then,” I reply, leaning in close to him. “Felicity sitting in a room, crying & screaming for me. Maybe even calling out for you. She's terrified & distraught. And the best chance we have of finding her is for you to remember that name. So please try again.”
He stares at me. He then sits back & relaxes, closing his eyes.
"Tomato," he says.
I frown. “What?”
He frowns. “No… That's not right,” He says. “Something similar to that…”
I shake my head. I turn away, struggling to keep back tears. I walk across the room as I slide my hands into the hair on the top of my head & hold my hands there. I close my eyes. Any chance of us finding her soon is slipping through our hands. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
I freeze, my stomach backflipping. I slowly turn around as I drop my hands.
He opens his eyes & looks at me. “That's the name.”
I cross back to the table, once again putting my hands on the table. “Are you sure?”
“You have to be absolutely positive.”
“Erin, I promise you that's what I heard,” he says. “One of the men called the bald guy that.”
Feeling my chest tightening from panic, I push aside the bad thoughts threatening to consume my mind.
"Erin?” Zack asks, but it's faint as I step back.
I turn, reaching the door in one stride & yank it open. I run out, crashing into Mark as I reach reception. He steps back to regain balance, holding my arms tightly.
"Aer?" He asks, looking concerned.
I try to hold back the tears, but I can’t.
"Hey, shhh," he says. "Tell me what's wrong?”
I struggle to get the words out. “Felicity… Felicity's been taken… He’s got her.”
“Who has her?”
I grip his shirt, desperate for something to hold on to. Something to ground me.
“Aer,” he says, “Look at me.”
I look him in the eyes.
“Take a deep breath,” he says. “And tell me.”
I take a few shaky breaths. And then the word falls out of my mouth.