Quite a ruckus could be heard from the office of the McCord house in Georgetown. Elizabeth was shuffling through papers, which had become strewn around the room, over both desks, the bookshelf and the chair in the corner. She was checking and rechecking folders for the missing page she needed, which had managed to disappear into thin air, for the meeting the following morning with the Canadian Ambassador. Muttering profanity to herself as she went, becoming increasingly frustrated with her fruitless search. The office resembled a disaster zone as she discarded folders haphazardly.
Elizabeth shifted a stack of documents and a particular blank folder suddenly became visible in the mess. From the outside it looked completely insignificant but the feeling of unease settled in her chest as she remembered what the folder contained. Elizabeth hesitated to pick up the folder, wanting to shudder with what the contents insinuated. It didn't have official papers in it and it definitely did not contain what she was looking for. The contents were more disturbing than anything the State Department or White House had ever sent her and she hated to be reminded why. It had appeared out of nowhere and accidentally brought home a very intentional threat by an enemy still unknown to her or the FBI. She wasn't sure which she hated most: that Jason and Alison had been without protection or that protection for her children was necessary at all. She shook herself from the distraction it brought and hid the folder in her bottom drawer, not wanting to run into that horrible reminder of the threat currently imposed on her family.
"Shit…" was all she managed as she went back to her task, digging more furiously through the stacks of papers, files and folders still atop her desk. Of course she was missing the most important page of all, the one she needed to read that night and at least understand the details of the trade agreement before the following morning. She didn't want to have to call Blake and tell him that she'd taken something home and lost it again. She would if she had to, but only as a last resort.
Her phone buzzed unceremoniously somewhere on the desk. It took four rings before Elizabeth noticed the phone vibrating somewhere near the computer, hidden from view under stacks of folders printed with the stamp from the White House. Uncovering the phone from the disheveled desk revealed Alison's name as the caller ID. Half distracted, she answered the call, immediately shoving the phone between her shoulder and ear so she could continue searching for the missing document with her now free hands.
"Hi, Noodle." She spoke into the phone with a light tone as she moved about the office space, now at Henry's desk, shuffling through the stacks. A few seconds passed but she received no reply to her greeting, just dead air on the other end of the line.
"Noodle? Alison? Are you there?" She stopped moving around; she thought she had heard the rustling of clothing down the line but she was still unsure whether Alison had attempted to speak or not. She put down the papers and took the phone in her hand again, looking at the screen to see the call counter still running and Alison's name across the middle of the screen. Elizabeth put the phone back up to her ear to try one more time, beginning to think she had been pocket dialed when a sudden cry made her heart stop.
"Mom?!" Echoed down the phone and the sheer panic in Alison's voice set alarm bells ringing through her whole body. Papers flew everywhere as she whipped around as if to look for her daughter behind her, expecting to find her standing there in the room.
"Alison?!" Elizabeth startled in response, still unsure what she was hearing.
"Mom! Help!" Alison sobbed down the phone, gasping into Elizabeth's ear. "Please help me! Please!"
The words sucked the air out of Elizabeth's chest. She wanted to pull her daughter close and shield her from harm. Protect her from the monsters under the bed like when she was a child and the nightmares woke her from sleep. Defend her with her own life if necessary as she knew she would without question. But she wasn't there and these monsters were real. There was nothing she could do but hang onto the phone for grim death, listening to the terrified cries of her daughter.
"Alison! What's wrong? What's happened?" Elizabeth began frantically. Her mind went into overdrive. It must have been a joke, she tried to rationalise internally. It had to be. A stupid prank pulled by teenagers who obviously thought it was funny, hilarious even, to make a phone call like that. To scare their parents like that, to scare her like that. Jason, it had to be Jason messing with her. Now she knew he was rebellious but this was over the top, even for him. It wasn't until she heard a scuffle and then the screams of her daughter echo in the background did her blood run cold. This was not a joke, fear like that could not be faked.
Elizabeth didn't recognise the voice that spoke into her ear but the icy edge to his hoarse voice made her shudder.
"We will kill your daughter if you don't meet our demands. Resign on National television by 4pm or she dies."
"Wait! Alison! Alison!" Elizabeth screamed. She couldn't remember how to breathe. The sound of her own choking sobs were drowned out by the adrenaline coursing through her and the thundering of her own rapid heartbeat. The silence seemed to last an eternity as she pressed the phone hard to her ear, desperate to hear something, anything that could prove it wasn't true.
"You have an hour." The line went dead.
Elizabeth's screams brought Henry hurtling into view through the office doors, already alarmed by the cries he could hear. His expression soon turned grave as he took in his wife's distress. Tears rolled down her ghost-white face while her whole body shook, the phone still pressed to her ear.
"Babe? Elizabeth? What's wrong?" His voice was brimming with concern as he joined her in the space.
Elizabeth couldn't speak. She had no words. Bile rose in her throat and she felt sick to her stomach. It was her fault. It was entirely her fault and now her innocent daughter would pay the consequences. Elizabeth lowered the phone and opened her mouth to speak but all that surfaced was an enormous sob.
"Elizabeth? What's wrong?! What's happened?" Henry tried to read her; his eyes darted over her features as he searched her face for clues, but all he got was frightful distraught.
"They have her!" was all she could choke out, her whole body shaking.
"Who? They have who? Who's they?" His chest tightened and he felt suddenly nauseous, apprehension dawning in the pit of his stomach. His disquiet heightened by Elizabeth's response, Henry grabbed her by the shoulders. She felt cold to the touch and trembled under his fingers. Her eyes were glazed with tears and though she was physically in front of him, he could tell her mind was elsewhere. When she didn't answer him immediately, he wanted to shake her back to the present, now desperate for more information.
Elizabeth's head spun and she felt suddenly weak. Henry's voice was distant and she couldn't focus on his presence. His grip tightened on her shoulders and the pain from his fingers digging into her skin seemed to shake her from her trance.
"Alison!" Elizabeth finally stammered out. "The stalker took Alison!" She cried into the void and it echoed ominously off the walls.
The colour drained from Henry's face with those words. He seemed to be waiting for the punch line of a terrible joke while the pair stood there staring at each other so he could believe it wasn't real. But it didn't come. Henry found his voice again but it shook with fear.
"We have to tell the FBI." Henry announced.
"I have to resign or they're going to kill her!" Tears flowed freely down her cheeks; Elizabeth was inconsolable. Since the appearance of their stalker, this was her worst nightmare. Now it had come to life.
"How did they even get to her?" He exclaimed, trying to hide his own panic and the sickening feeling pooling in his abdomen.
"I don't know, Henry! I don't know! Oh God, what have I done? Our baby!" Elizabeth's knees buckled with her sobs. Henry saw her falter and pulled her body into his chest. He held her close, hoping and praying he would wake up from this nightmare.
"We'll find her babe, we'll find her." Henry's voice trembled with the effort to remain composed and attempt to reassure his wife. He was beyond terrified and was trying hard to believe his own words. To have a bit of faith in the system designed to help them, even though it had just proven it couldn't protect them. He squeezed her tightly to his chest, unsure if the trembling he could feel was from his own body or Elizabeth's.
"Henry, I have to go." Impulsive in her state of shock, Elizabeth tried to push away from his chest, her mind already made up. "I have to go, and resign, so we can get our daughter back." Henry only held her tighter. Discerning the panic that made her reckless, he knew he had to try to talk sense into her. She pushed harder when Henry didn't let her go, trying to remove herself from his embrace and run from the house.
"Hang on! Was it real? Was it really Alison?" Henry wouldn't let go, anchoring Elizabeth to himself as she struggled. He had to ask these questions, he had to be the voice of reason, as scared as he was at the endless possibilities surging through his mind.
"Yes! It was Alison! She was screaming for help, Henry!" Elizabeth choked on her own tears, her body going limp once again. Elizabeth didn't know what to do, she was sick with guilt and fear. She couldn't imagine how it had happened or if it truly was real at all.
At that moment, a commotion began on the street out the front. DS agents moved around frantically, each with a hand pressed to an ear, listening intently to whatever they were being told. A pounding on the front door made them both jump. Henry let go of Elizabeth and she swayed slightly on the spot. Henry pulled Elizabeth on numb legs, holding her steady the few steps to the door. The door swung hard to reveal Matt, one of Elizabeth's regular agents, standing on the porch looking scared and uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry to disturb you both, but it's Alison. She appears to be missing. She was parted from her security detail whilst at school and they've been unable to locate her."
Henry didn't know what to say. Though this information wasn't new to him, it wasn't getting any easier to understand. Their daughter had been taken, kidnapped, and was being held hostage until the stalker's demands were met. Elizabeth gapped at the announcement, clearly in shock. Matt looked past Henry to meet Elizabeth's gaze only to be met by the same fearful look.
"We've dispatched more agents to look for her ma'am, we're doing everything we can." Matt tried to reassure the couple, eyes darting from one to the other. Though the frenzied nature of the scene behind him did nothing to support his words.
Elizabeth couldn't stop her hands from shaking while she held the phone up to her ear once more. The call to Alison's security detail confirmed her worst fears and heightened them all at the same time. She was gone. She was definitely gone. Her DS agents were beside themselves, frantic that she had disappeared. They were in the process of going over the school a second and then a third time with more DS and FBI agents joining the search now that news had spread of her disappearance. Elizabeth collapsed into a chair as she listened, still in disbelief as the agents reported to her.
Alison had been in class when a member of the security team had arrived to talk to her. Although unusual to have a meeting whilst Alison was at school, a call to the FBI supervisors by the lead DS agent had confirmed the meeting and asked that the agents let them step aside to talk privately. The pair had been unwilling, but Alison insisted it was fine and she was pulled away from her agents. As the minutes ticked on, they became concerned and went to check on the pair, only for them nowhere to be found. They had searched the entire school with haste but they were too late. She was already gone.
The incredulity was quickly replaced with anger while Elizabeth listened to the recount, though she wasn't quite sure with whom. Fuelled by the terror that flooded her system, she was determined to get an answer from the already panicked agent who had failed in his duty and let her daughter get away.
"Who was the agent?!" Elizabeth was yelling down the phone, on her feet once again, striding up the hallway. She was now ready to wage a war with whoever was endangering her family.
"Ma'am, please calm down!" The agent stuttered down the line.
"I will not! Who was the agent?!" She barked down the phone. Fueled by hysteria, Alison's terrified voice screamed in her head. She was insistent she receive a name, the life of her daughter depended on it.
There was a pause that seemed to last an eternity. Elizabeth opened her mouth to yell again but was beaten to it. "You're not going to like this ma'am. It was Captain Ronnie Baker."
This update took a little longer than I wanted it to but it's finally done! I have consciously not revealed the prompt because it's basically a plot spoiler, maybe after the next chapter but I can say I have enjoyed the challenge. I've been working between this and my other multi-chapter fic. An update for All That Remains should be up in the next day or two as well.
Many thanks goes to morethanwords again for all your help! I really needed it with this chapter.
And a massive thank you for the reviews, favourites and follows! They really do keep me writing xx
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Security footage from the school via the FBI to the home computer confirmed it. It indeed was Captain Baker. In what capacity she was involved was still unclear but the vision of her incapacitating Alison was enough to make Elizabeth feel faint. She could only watch as the footage revealed when Alison received one precise and unexpected blow to the chest which left her keeled over. Unable to breathe or scream, she was dragged the short distance to an awaiting car and thrown into the back of it. It was clear the footage wasn’t monitored in real time but how they managed to avoid being seen was beyond belief. They were either incredibly lucky or, as Elizabeth suspected, the abduction was impeccably well timed. She watched the footage over and over, every time praying someone would step out of a classroom and save her daughter or Alison would fight harder and scream, but it didn’t happen. Every single time she disappeared from the screen into the same black car. No-one came to her rescue.
The FBI were scrambling to find information from their headquarters; trying to follow the car’s path from surrounding cameras, tracing chatter on the dark web and, much to Henry and Elizabeth’s distress, tracking black market auction sites where the worst of humanity lingered, waiting for an opportunity such as to claim the Secretary of State’s daughter. So far their efforts had been fruitless and the ineptitude Elizabeth was forced to watch from afar was enough to make her wrathful.
“Find her, now!” Elizabeth snapped, unable to control her temper. Phone once again pressed to her ear, she was beyond seething, filled with white hot rage. Her daughter had been taken by someone tasked with helping them, someone that should have been protecting them. Elizabeth had grown fond of Captain Baker, she had seemed sweet and dedicated to her job but it now appeared otherwise. The facade was a ploy to gain her trust. She had been working against them and Elizabeth had missed it. It left her devastated that she hadn’t seen it and nauseated she had allowed the threat to get so close to her family.
As of 15 minutes since the phone call and 30 minutes post-abduction, they had no leads and no clue as to where she had been taken with the 4pm deadline approaching fast.
“We can’t find Captain Baker, ma’am, and we can’t get in contact with her either!” The man from the FBI stuttered in his haste.
“She’s taken my daughter! And you can’t find her?!?!” Elizabeth was exasperated. Maybe Henry had been right, maybe the FBI wasn’t up to the task of protecting her family. She wanted to call every contact she had to help with the investigation; pull every string and cash in every favour she was owed to try and speed up this process. She wanted to march down to FBI headquarters herself and work on tracing Captain Baker’s movements and assets but she knew she couldn’t. It was no longer her job and it was out of her control.
“We're running a trace on Alison's phone to find its location but it's been bounced around the towers. It'll take more time to get an accurate location. We’re trying everything we can, ma’am...”
“I don’t have more time!” Elizabeth interjected, her patience running short as she paced the entrance hall in Georgetown.
Henry stood frozen in the corner, arms folded across his chest, trying to keep the bile from rising into his throat as he listened to the infuriating exchange. His fear and helplessness was maddening, it made him sick to think that he had failed to protect his family and had to sit back at watch this unfold. He was trying not to think of the worst possible outcome but he couldn’t stop his mind wandering to those places. He felt like he should have known, should have been there to stop it. He knew it was impossible to predict what had happened but that didn’t stop him feel ashamed that he hadn’t stopped it.
Elizabeth couldn't contain the adrenaline pumping through her. The whole situation was beyond frustrating as it highlighted the incompetence of Diplomatic Security and the FBI, even if it had been less than an hour since they learned of the security breach. She hung up the phone; she couldn't deal with it anymore. Her only saving grace was that Stevie and Jason had been secured and were on their way home surrounded by armed agents. She stormed to the office and picked up the secure line, dialling the number to the President’s office.
Lucy patched her through and Conrad immediately answered her call, clearly distracted and Elizabeth wasted no time spilling her thoughts down the line.
“Mr President, I need to resign. Someone has taken Alison and I can't get her back unless I resign by 4:00.” She sounded very business-like in her rehearsed announcement even as her mind ran wild elsewhere.
There was almost a stunned silence from the Oval Office while Conrad Dalton processed the information being projected at him and its ramifications.
“Russell just told me, I'm so sorry Bess! How do you know what they want? Did they make contact?”
“Yes. They called from Alison's phone. Conrad, they said they're going to kill her if I don't resign. So I have to and I will. I just wanted to let you know first. I’m about to organise a press conference. I...” Her string of words faltered for the first time as she was brought back to the present. “I need to get my daughter back,” she finished quietly, trying to hold back a new wave of emotion.
“Is there anything I can do?” Conrad asked sincerely. His heart ached for his longtime friend, he couldn’t imagine the suffering they were currently enduring.
“No. The FBI is on it. Getting information just takes time which we’re a little short on at the moment.” Elizabeth responded.
“Alright. You do what you need to do, you have my full support. I hope you get her back Bess, I really do.”
“Thank you, Mr President.” And with that, she ended the call. She paused for a moment as she placed the phone back on the desk. Her next call would finalise her decision, there would be no turning back. She needed to do it, it had to be done.
Elizabeth dialed through to the State Department, to one of her own staff. Connecting directly to Daisy’s office, she prayed she would pick up quickly. It took a few rings but she finally answered and Elizabeth didn’t give her the chance to get a word out.
“Daisy? Daisy! I need you to call a press conference for me, right now.” Elizabeth announced.
Daisy still sat at her desk already with a pen in hand, hovering over a notepad during what was previously a quiet afternoon.
“Madam Secretary! Yes, of course, but why?” Playing catch up and caught off-guard, Daisy stuttered the usual questions.
“Someone, well whoever has been threatening my family has taken Alison from her school and demanded I resign in order to get her back. So that’s what I’m going to do and I need to do it right now.” Elizabeth sounded so resolute in her explanation, it threw Daisy to be handed that information with such calm in her resolve.
“Oh my gosh! Taken Alison? Ma’am, I’m so sorry. Of course, I’ll set it up right away.” A little taken aback being bombarded by her boss, Daisy asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Daisy didn’t want to state the obvious and ask if Elizabeth was being rash; this was far too important.
“No, not right now. Just the press, please. And send them here! I haven’t got time to come back to the office. We have a 4pm deadline.”
“Yes Ma’am. I’ll come too and bring Blake with me.”
* * *
Elizabeth paced the kitchen glancing at the clock every 30 seconds. 3:27pm and counting. Besides her feet being numb to the pain from her heels, her skirt feeling exceptionally tight and her stomach situated in knots, she was ready for the press conference.
One by one they appeared out the front, she was simply waiting for Daisy, Blake and the rest of the gaggle of reporters to arrive before stepping outside and announcing her resignation. She had under an hour to meet the deadline and with her own daughter’s life hanging in the balance, she wasn’t prepared to call their bluff. The phone gripped tightly in her hand began to vibrate again and she answered it so quickly she didn't even look at the screen. Before she could breathe a word, his chilling voice whispered in her ear again.
“We have a proposition. We will release your daughter in exchange for you, and you only. Bring anyone with you and she dies. Tell anyone the location and she dies. Tell the FBI and she dies. Meet us alone at Fort Marcy at 4:00pm. If you're late the deal's off and we send her back in pieces. If anyone else shows up before you, we’ll take her out with us.” And the call was ended.
“Henry!” Elizabeth yelled out with a shaky voice, not sure exactly where he was but she knew it wouldn’t be far. She didn’t understand. This wasn’t the deal she was prepared for. With half the reporters in Washington currently waiting at her front door, this wasn’t what she was expecting so close to Alison’s captors demands being met. They had changed the rules on her and she had no choice but to comply with Alison’s life still in jeopardy. Henry appeared at the doorway moments later, breathing hard only to look between the phone and Elizabeth.
“Did they call again?” He asked before she had a chance to form a coherent thought. Elizabeth could only nod slowly in response. Her mind raced with scenarios, outcomes and consequences but even before she had Henry’s input, she had already decided what she was going to do. “What did they want?” Henry prompted almost impatiently.
“Me. They want me…” It was barely above a whisper, her eyes never leaving his.
“No,” was Henry's only reply, his voice full of authority. She immediately raised her voice in retaliation, ready to argue her case, out of fear more than anything else.
“Henry, I have to go. I have to get her. It’s my fault, Henry! It’s all my fault!!!” Her desperation was evident; all she wanted was to fix the situation she had unknowingly placed her family in.
“No, you can’t! The FBI will find her…”
“They said no FBI or they’ll kill her!” She interjected. Henry sighed before continuing.
“Every agent in DC is looking for her right now.” He defended, still uncertain himself whether he actually believed his own words. He had questioned the incompetency of the FBI from the very beginning but he knew one thing for sure; he wouldn’t let her go, he couldn’t let her leave.
“What if they’re not up to the job? You said it yourself! Even her security let her get away!” Elizabeth exclaimed, gesturing wildly before taking a breath and lowering her voice. “I have to Henry, please let me go.” She begged, becoming more desperate to win her argument and make him realise she needed to do this.
“I can’t do that. You just… Can’t…” Henry couldn’t form the words to make her find reason. They were beyond that now. He desperately wanted to find Alison, but he couldn’t let his wife be taken in her place. His need to protect his family was as steadfast as hers, but now opposed her idea as to how they would do this.
“They’re going to kill her Henry! They’re going to kill our daughter because of me! I can’t do this! I can’t just sit back and watch and wait to see what happens!” Elizabeth stalked away, wrapping her arms tightly around herself.
“And I can’t let you go!” Henry declared, going after her before taking measure of his demeanor. He hated this anger that reared its head with this helplessness. It wasn’t Elizabeth’s fault, he didn’t blame her at all. But they needed to find their daughter and he would do whatever it took.
“Where? Where did they tell you to go? I'll come with you!” Henry bargained, hoping he could convince her it was a better idea. Not ideal by any means and he had no idea what he would do once he got there, but anything was better than letting his wife hand herself over to mad men in exchange for their daughter. As much as he hated to think about it, they couldn’t even be sure Alison was still alive. Whoever had her was crazy enough to abduct her and blackmail the Secretary of State, there was no guarantee they would hold up their end of the bargain. They could have set Elizabeth up to walk right into a trap.
“No you can't! They said they'll kill her if I'm not alone!” Elizabeth wheeled around to face him, hysterical. She had been given a solution and she was prepared to take it. The only thing standing in her way, was Henry.
“Where Elizabeth?” Henry demanded, taking her by the shoulders. “Where did they tell you to go?” Her eyes darted between his and her mouth opened and closed. She didn’t want to tell him. She didn’t want to endanger her daughter’s life further and risk upsetting her captors by not complying with their demands. The hands that gripped her shoulders pulled her into his chest and she couldn’t resist, she couldn’t bring herself to lie to him. Not now.
“Fort Marcy.” She cried into his shoulder.
* * *
Elizabeth retreated upstairs sure she was going to be sick. She hated what she was about to do but she had no choice. She paced the length of her and Henry’s room with the phone held to her ear yet again. She was desperate. She needed to get to her daughter and she would do whatever it took.
“Isabelle? Isabelle! I need your help! Please!” Elizabeth pleaded down the phone when her old friend answered the call. Though they had been a little distant in recent times, Isabelle was her oldest friend and the only one she could trust with something this important.
Isabelle was a little stunned to hear the desperation and fear in the Secretary of State’s voice after she saw her name appear on the screen. This wasn’t what she expected to hear from her old friend and colleague.
“Elizabeth! What's wrong?” Isabelle sounded confused but the impending deadline denied them the time for a complete explanation.
“I have a favour to ask. I need you to do something for me…”
Please forgive me for the named location if anyone actually knows it and it doesn't seem right. Because I live on the other side of the world, all I had to work with was google maps!
Oh boy this one was a lot of work, but I loved it! Yes, it's a touch short but it was a good place to end it.
Nearly back to uni time so I'll actually have some nights back instead of needing to get up at 4:30am for work six days a week... It sucks, just incase anyone was wondering...
Anywho! Thanks again to morethanwords for beta'ing! You're the best!
“At least let me tell the FBI director!” Standing at the foot of the stairs, Henry was exasperated as he tried, once again, to bargain with his wife. This decision was important, life as they knew it hung in the balance but according to her, all cards were off the table. There would be no negotiation, she wouldn’t budge; her decision was resolute.
“No! Can’t you hear what I’m saying?” Elizabeth exclaimed, revealing her frustration as she gestured at him. 3:34pm. This argument had been in full force for five minutes since she came back downstairs, wasting precious time they didn’t have. Her fear and nerves had shortened her patience and she was now throwing it all at Henry.
“If we’re going to go, we need to take back up. We have no idea what kind of situation you’ll be walking into.” Henry countered, trying to make her see reason and think rationally. Nothing had helped up to this point and he was beginning to feel overwhelmed. His control over the safety of his family had slipped away and try as he might, he couldn’t grasp it again.
“And what if they catch sight of an agent or a car and kill her on the spot?!?!” She shot back without a moment's hesitation. “ I know how this ends Henry, I’ve seen these situations 100 times before!” She finished with false confidence, trying to convince him she knew what she was doing, even though she wasn’t quite sure herself.
“She might not even be there, or worse, she’s already dead and you’ll be walking right into a trap!” His retort was sharp and it stung Elizabeth like a stab to the heart. Her breath hitched in her throat and that hot, sickening feeling washed over her again. Their gaze lingered, unable to speak as they both came to terms with that possible reality. Elizabeth tried to push it from her mind and instead, focus on the path forward she had already chosen. She couldn’t think about Alison already being dead. It would break her to even entertain the thought. In her core, she knew Henry was not being unreasonable, but she had to be hopeful. She had to believe she could save her daughter.
Just then, two black, unmarked cars flanked by an escort pulled up in front of the McCord residence, drawing Henry and Elizabeth’s attention away from each other and towards the front room. Agents surrounded the doors as they opened to reveal Stevie and Jason looking worried as to the commotion out on the street. They had been told nothing. Nothing at all about why both their security details had, all of a sudden, gone into a complete meltdown without warning and hustled them both into cars. They were ushered quickly off the street and into the waiting arms of their parents which only terrified Stevie more.
“Thank God you’re here!” Elizabeth exclaimed as she pulled Stevie and then Jason into a fierce hug even his protests couldn’t fend off.
“Mom? What’s going on? What’s happened? And where’s Ali?” Stevie looked between her parents, her brow furrowed with confusion and anticipation. Elizabeth and Henry stopped mid-movement to look at each other and then back at their children.
“Alison has been taken.” Elizabeth’s voice quavered. It wasn’t getting any easier to say aloud and there was no time to stonewall or avoid telling the other two what was going on.
“Taken? What do you mean taken?” Jason repeated, clearly rattled.
“Someone took Alison from school and is holding her hostage until the ransom demands are met.” Henry interjected before Elizabeth could open her mouth again, now sounding a lot more composed than he had a minute earlier. The room fell silent for a moment as Stevie and Jason absorbed the news of their sister’s plight.
“What demands?” Stevie asked cautiously, eyes darting between her parents. Henry and Elizabeth looked at each other again before returning to the children.
“They want me to resign,” Elizabeth answered, deciding the first demand was a better option to tell her children.
“Is that why all the reporters are here?” Stevie looked back at the door for a moment before returning to meet Elizabeth’s eyes.
“Yes,” she said quietly as Henry stepped forward and raised a hand to Jason’s shoulder.
“Look, you two go upstairs. Your mom and I have some things we need to discuss.” He finished in a way they knew was not up for deliberation. They both looked between their parents, worry etched in their faces, hesitant to leave with questions still unanswered.
“Go, I’ll be up in a minute,” Elizabeth promised quietly, giving Stevie’s shoulder a comforting squeeze. The couple watched them both go and Elizabeth waited until she was sure they were out of earshot before turning back to Henry. She opened her mouth to speak but Henry cut her off.
“Look Elizabeth, we don’t have much time to continue debating this so you either resign now or we go to the exchange point with back up.”
“And just pray they’ll be satisfied with their first demand being met…” she finished almost bitterly. She was beyond frustrated that Henry wouldn’t side with her, that he didn’t believe and trust that she knew what she was doing. She knew he was scared, but Alison’s life was too important to be arguing about and Elizabeth thought she was the best chance of saving their daughter.
Henry grimaced at her reply. It was all he could do to stop himself breaking down with despair, helplessness overwhelming him entirely.
* * *
Elizabeth had come back downstairs, unyielding in her decision. In an attempt to console her eldest and youngest children, she had stumbled upon both of them in Stevie’s room, sitting together in silence. Jason had tried to be stoic, looking at the floor and simply nodding as Elizabeth spoke, trying to reassure them that everything would be ok. But Stevie’s tears soaked Elizabeth’s blouse the moment she buried her face into her mother’s neck, and all Elizabeth could do to stop herself dissolving was to hold her a little tighter. That unshakable feeling of guilt rose in her again at the situation she had placed her family in. It made her physically ache to see the pain it was causing them all. But she could fix it, she knew she could. She held Stevie until her breathing evened out, kissed both of them again and then left, her plan solidifying itself in her mind. She had then marched to her room and after a minute of shuffling through the wardrobe, pulled a tiny black box out of the back of a drawer. About half the size of a lighter and no thicker than one, she slipped it into her bra, pulling the doors closed behind her.
She retreated to the back of the house; her footsteps echoed off the floorboards and the high ceilings and she hoped Henry hadn’t paid it much attention from where he stood in the office. With Stevie and Jason now safe upstairs, she knew she could focus on the calculated plan she was about to execute. Her coat was already hanging by the back door, anticipation mounting as she laid eyes on it. Elizabeth typed a number into her phone and dropped it and a set of keys deep into one of the pockets. She didn’t pace, even though her nerves were making her feel sick again. Checking her watch, she grabbed a nearby piece of paper and scribbled three words onto the page, folded it up and placed it on the corner table.
A single gunshot rang out through the air. It wasn’t close, but close enough to be heard and recognised. Outside, reporters ducked for cover and DS agents wheeled with guns drawn. People hit the ground everywhere before the street descended into total bedlam. Daisy and Blake had just stepped out of a car among the gaggle outside and looked on frightfully as people threw themselves behind cars up and down the street. Phones were pulled from every pocket and TV cameras quickly turned on, pointing in the direction of the gunshot.
Yells could be heard from the road and agents bolted down the pavement to the source of the shot. Henry raised himself from his position where he’d instinctively dropped to the floor of the office to see DS agents all running in the same direction.
“Dad?!” Jason yelled from upstairs, doing a poor job hiding the fear that made his voice quaver.
“I’m coming Jas!” And Henry instinctively bounded up the stairs to his frightened son.
This was what Elizabeth had been waiting for. Her phone and the keys to the Jeep already in the pocket of her jacket, she threw it on, holding them securely through the material as she darted to the back door. Quietly, she pulled it shut behind her as her agents stormed through the front door looking for her. She knew she didn’t have much time and dashed through the courtyard, slipping away from the chaos.
She was overcome with a terrible sense of guilt that she was leaving Henry behind, but she couldn’t take him, there was no point putting another loved one’s life at risk. They wanted her. She knew Henry might have been right, that she may be walking right into a trap but she knew how to negotiate, she knew how to make sure she wasn’t tricked into handing herself over for nothing.
Elizabeth slipped through the final door completely unnoticed, checking her watch as it latched. 3:45pm. The timing was perfect, the last minute ploy expertly executed. She hated that she had to leave, hated that she had left Henry but she had to. She had to save Alison. She had no choice, not this time. With her head low she ran to the Jeep parked a little way down the back street, pulling the keys from her pocket as she went. She looked left and right as she climbed into the front seat, making sure she hadn’t been seen and, as predicted, every agent had run towards or been preoccupied by Isabelle’s distraction, including Henry. She pulled away from the curb and disappeared around the corner, praying she would make it to Alison in time and Henry would forgive her for what she was about to do.
That was quick, even for me!
A special thanks again to morethanwords for putting up with my pestering, you're awesome!
And thank you to everyone leaving reviews! I love reading them, they make my day!
“Madam Secretary! Ma’am!” DS Agent Matt yelled from the foyer as more agents stormed through the front door, guns drawn, looking left and right as they entered the house. No reply came back to Matt but they filed through the rest of downstairs, sweeping the ground floor only to come up empty handed.
“She’s not down here!” one agent yelled from the back of the house and it echoed through to the second storey.
Henry heard the commotion downstairs and looked back at his worried son as Stevie stood by the door, fidgeting on the spot.
“It’s ok Jas, everything’s fine.” Henry gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You two stay here,” he finished, looking between them, before jogging out the door to deal with the frenzy of activity below.
“Guys?” Henry called out halfway down the stairs.
“Dr McCord, we need to secure the Secretary, is she upstairs?” Matt replied urgently.
“Um, I don’t, I don’t know,” he answered honestly, not exactly sure where she was. He looked back up the stairs, expecting to see her standing there or to come running around a corner in answer to the calls. But she didn’t. Elizabeth hadn’t responded at all to the noise and movement that had come crashing into the house, which was unlike her and it immediately concerned Henry.
“Let me check the bedroom,” he responded calmly, even though a foreboding unease began to settle in the pit of his stomach. He advanced back up the stairs and down the hall to the closed bedroom door. Henry grabbed the handle and shook the door, but the lock held it firmly in place.
“Babe? You in there?” he yelled through the solid timber, trying not to sound panicked. Henry’s heartrate increased a little as silence reigned from within. She had to be in there, otherwise the door wouldn’t be locked, Henry thought to himself. “Elizabeth?” He tried again, a little more anxious this time that he couldn’t raise a reply. A second later he pushed off the door, unable to listen to nothing any longer and jogged back to the stairs to find Matt and two other agents looking exceptionally anxious.
“The door’s locked, I need the spare key from the kitchen drawer.” Henry answered their silent looks of enquiry and they all jumped aside to allow him to pass. His chest tightened and a heavy weight engulfed his stomach as he searched for the key. He found the right one in the bottom of the drawer and snatched it into his hand. He tried not to run the whole way back to their room but he couldn’t stop a feeling of dread raining over him. Hands now shaking, he thrust the key into the lock with slight difficulty and the door swung open.
His heart sunk and the feeling of trepidation increased at the sight of the empty room. It looked exactly how it had been left that morning. The bed neatly made, piled high with pillows, even the scent of her perfume still hung in the air. The only difference being the blouse that Elizabeth had been wearing earlier now lay on the floor near the also-closed wardrobe door. He was sure she had to be in there. He darted to the wardrobe door and flung it open to find the bathroom door closed as well. He thumped the timber and yelled out again.
“Elizabeth!” Time seemed to stand still when no reply echoed from within. Maybe she’d fallen and hurt herself, he began to think, trying to shift his mind away from the alternative which was now screaming in his head. She couldn’t have, she wouldn’t have, he kept trying to tell himself, but a sickening feeling made him feel dizzy and he couldn’t think straight. “Elizabeth!” He tried again with a shaky voice. The lock held as well and he cursed aloud at having to find the key to the bathroom too. He shuffled through drawers in the wardrobe with haste, sure it was in one of hers. As predicted, in Elizabeth’s top drawer, he pulled it from amongst her things.
He had to swallow the bile that rose into his throat and remember to breathe when the bathroom also revealed no sign of his wife. Stevie and Jason appeared behind him, looking completely terrified. His mouth opened and closed as he turned to face them, distress etched in every inch of his face. He couldn’t find his voice. He couldn’t form words.
Another yell came from below. “Dr McCord? Dr McCord!”
Breathing shallow and disoriented, Henry stumbled on weak legs past the children, who looked on in silence, back to the top of the stairs. A huddle of agents stood waiting for him, a folded piece of paper at hand. Matt held it up for him and Henry had to focus on taking the paper in his shaking hands. He read it over and over, three words scrawled across the page in her handwriting.
Forgive me, Henry .
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Isabelle asked warily through the phone line. Her words echoed around the interior of the Jeep as Elizabeth sped down the highway.
“No, but what choice do I have?” Elizabeth replied with force. She was so nervous and worried she felt sick.
“You’ve got the tracker?” Isabelle questioned, diverting the conversation in a more practical direction.
“Yes, I have the tracker. You still have the number?” Elizabeth replied with a semblance of confidence. She knew what she was doing, she had spent most of her career pulling off similar operations with her old spy friends. This one was just a little closer to home.
“Yes. You don’t think they’ll find it on you?” Isabelle asked almost hesitantly.
“God, I hope not. It’s in my bra…” There was a slight pause and Elizabeth continued with her plan. “I want you to meet Alison back out on the road and make sure no-one goes after her again. Once she’s safe, use the number to track the GPS. I don’t care what they do to me, just keep Ali safe.” Her voice cracked and tears stung her throat with her last words. Silence hung in the air as Elizabeth tried to swallow the lump and Isabelle searched for a reply.
“Bess…” Isabelle said morosely into the silence.
“Look, I’m nearly there.” Elizabeth interjected. “Just, get Alison, ok? Get her out of there.” She finished, sounding desperate in her plea.
“Okay. Be careful, Bess.”
“I will,” Elizabeth replied. But what she really wanted to say was I’ll try , because even she had no idea how this would go down. Above all, Alison’s life took priority and she would do anything to protect it.
Elizabeth had to hang up and turn off her phone; the lump in her throat was making it impossible to breathe. She finally let out a sob for everything she had done and everyone she loved. Even though she knew this was the only way, she hated to think of the pain her actions had and would cause everyone she held dear. More so as she knew Henry would be figuring out right then that she had left him behind without so much as a goodbye. That pained her the most, which was why she had left the note. She had to say something, but saying anything to his face would have been too obvious and she wouldn’t have been able to get away. It didn’t make it easier though, so she let herself cry, to release that pent up emotion she was carrying. As she drew closer to the destination, she pulled herself back together, wiping her face and steadying her breathing. She needed to concentrate and focus on the next step in front of her.
Henry's call went to voicemail as he flew down the stairs and to the front door. He kept praying she would answer even though he knew she wouldn't. She'd made up her mind that it was her fault and she was going to fix it when no-one else could. He swore at the top of his lungs, needing to release some of the emotion trying to escape his chest before he opened the front door.
Henry was beside himself; furious for not staying with Elizabeth and angry with her for leaving. He should have known, should have realised she would do anything to protect her family and if that meant sacrificing herself, she would. It took Henry too long to realise Elizabeth had disappeared and that his car was missing from the back street. It was all a distraction, all a ploy to slip from the house unnoticed. It was cunning and clever, typical of CIA-trained Elizabeth. She made sure no-one was watching the back door. Leaving the doors locked bought her time. Henry just didn’t know who fired the weapon. At the point everyone realised Elizabeth was no longer in the house and that the car was gone, it was too late and her phone already turned off.
Even though he knew where she’d gone, chasing her down would only endanger her life and Alison’s further, and that was the last thing he wanted. Beside that thought, he was sure they would already be gone before they got there. It had taken too long.
Henry knew why she'd gone. Hell, he admitted to himself he would have done the same. But this was different. He couldn't keep her from harm and his incessant need to protect her had slipped through his fingers. First Alison, and now Elizabeth.
Henry took a breath and threw open the front door. He scanned the area for Daisy and Blake, who he spotted pretty quickly looking very uncomfortable amongst the frenzied gaggle still on the street. Everyone turned to see Henry standing on the porch, expecting to find the Secretary. Cameras immediately flashed in his face and a wave of noise hit him like a train. He couldn’t hide his panic; he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Dazed, he called out to Elizabeth’s staff.
“Daisy! Blake!” Henry gestured for them to join him quickly. The Press Secretary and Personal Assistant were alarmed by Henry’s distressed appearance, and tried to make their way toward the house. They shoved past the reporters and agents, now trying to keep the reporters at bay. They reached the threshold and Henry slammed the door behind them.
The drive didn’t take long. As Elizabeth pulled off the highway, she glanced at the clock. 3:57pm. She drove into Fort Marcy slowly, being sure to place the car in a way she could easily turn around and make a quick escape. Arriving at a clearing, she scanned the area for signs of life, a trap or ambush and finally she spotted a dark car with blacked-out windows on the other side, hidden in the shade. She had been gripping the steering wheel so tightly, she hadn’t realised how much she was shaking, until her left hand couldn’t shift the gear into park. How she got there she didn’t know, she could hardly remember anything after the gunshot.
It took a tremendous effort to undo her seatbelt and open the door while her fingers wouldn’t cooperate. She stepped out cautiously on shaky legs, being sure to stay close to the car. Her heart thundered in her chest, it felt like it was trying to leap from her throat. A window slid down a crack on the other side of the clearing and she mustered all the courage she had.
“I’m here, alone. I want to see Alison.” Elizabeth called out with authority, even though her whole body was trembling. She wasn’t leaving the car until Alison’s wellbeing was confirmed and she knew they were serious about the exchange.
A back door opened slowly and Elizabeth held her breath.
Alison appeared out of the back of the car, tied, gagged and closely followed by a dark clothed, hooded figure. The black metal of a Glock glinted in the afternoon light, hovering just near her head and it left Elizabeth with her heart in her throat as she saw it. She wanted to cry to see that Alison was ok with her own eyes. Maybe not necessarily well, but she was alive and breathing so was leaps and bounds ahead of her own nightmares.
Alison's eyes grew wide at the sight of her mother across the dirty expanse. Despite the bonds that held her and the gun to her head, she struggled, squealing through the cloth in her mouth. Alison ran to her, stumbling and falling onto her knees on the gravel, unable to balance herself with her arms still tied behind her back.
Elizabeth was halfway across the clearing towards Alison before she even realised she was moving. Alison's uniform was dirty and dishevelled, her dark hair a mess, but physically she looked ok, as far as Elizabeth could tell. Elizabeth fell to her knees in front of her daughter, not feeling the sting of bare skin hitting the gravel. With shaking hands she pulled the gag from Alison's mouth and untied the rope binding her hands. As soon as they were free, she threw her arms around her daughter, sobbing with relief. Alison pressed her face into her mother's shoulder, crying and shaking with brief reprieve to be reunited with family.
Although relieved to see her daughter, Elizabeth was also terribly aware of how dangerous this situation was for both of them. She didn't know how many of them were in the car and couldn't take her mind from the armed man just metres away and knew they didn't have much time. Alison continued to cry and tremble against her, but Elizabeth pushed her away to look her in the eye. She didn't want to let her go, but she knew she had to, for both their sakes. Alison just looked dazed and delirious; Elizabeth wanted to shake her from hysteria so she could hear and follow her instructions. She had to listen now: both their lives depended on it.
"Noodle! Baby! Listen!" The grip on Alison's shoulders tightened and it was enough to gain her attention. "I need you to go, you need to get out of here. Take Dad's car and go. My phone is in the car, I'll be ok, but you need to leave. Isabelle is waiting for you out on the highway. Get to her and you'll be safe. Do you understand?" Elizabeth looked at her earnestly, her tight grip remaining on her shoulders.
"What? No! No Mom, I'm not leaving you," Alison sobbed and it broke Elizabeth's heart.
"Baby, please… Please don't make this harder than it already is. I need you to go. I just… I just need to know you'll be ok," Elizabeth replied, trying desperately to keep her voice steady.
"Your time is up!" The figure with the gun shouted from near the car. Elizabeth looked up, past Alison to her hooded captor with fear evident in her features. It wasn't a voice she recognised but it still sent a chill down her spine.
"Go, Alison," Elizabeth commanded, looking back at her daughter.
"But Mom…" Alison pleaded, tears still streaming down her face.
"Now Alison! You need to go, now!" Her voice rang with authority. She didn't have much time, at any moment they could change their minds and take them both. She couldn't stop Alison from being taken in the first place, but she could save her now.
Alison seemed to recognise the command; it wasn't up for debate or to be questioned. They were clear instructions Alison knew she had to follow, even when she didn't want to. She was scared out of her mind. The last few hours had been beyond terrifying. She was so glad to see her mother and now they would be forced to separate again.
The pair rose in silence and Elizabeth couldn't resist pulling Alison into another hug. With a kiss to the head, she let her go. "I love you," Elizabeth looked straight into her daughter's eyes with as much strength as she could muster and gave her an encouraging nod. Completely aware of the eyes of their captors on them both, she silently begged her to go to the car.
"I love you, too." Alison choked. She turned and walked toward the car on shaking legs, looking back over her shoulder every few steps to where Elizabeth still stood, completely terrified for what was about to happen. Alison reached the car and climbed into the driver's seat. She closed the door quietly behind her and gripped the steering wheel to stop her hands shaking. She watched, terrified as another of her captors got out of the car and advanced towards her mother. She didn't want to leave, she didn't want to leave her mom behind, but all she could think about was doing what Elizabeth had instructed her to do. Realising that Elizabeth had traded her own safety, for hers.
Elizabeth hadn't even noticed the men approach her from behind as she watched Alison go. She was so fixated on seeing Alison get to the car and leave. All she wanted was her daughter to get to safety.
It took Elizabeth a full second to understand what the sharp prick to her thigh was. Moments later her vision began to blur around the edges and her legs felt weak. Black spots took over her sight and the world seemed to stop as she fell to her knees again with a deep exhale. The last thing Elizabeth saw was Henry's car speeding away from the clearing.
Blake's face had drained of colour and Henry was sure he was about to pass out. He swayed on the spot but grabbed the banister in the foyer to keep himself upright.
"Gone?" Daisy stuttered. "As in left the building without her security, to hand herself over to the stalker, gone?!" She stared in disbelief at Henry, who was still very much in shock.
"Yeah..." Was all Henry could reply. His entire world had been turned upside down in the space of a single hour. And there was no longer a damn thing he could do about it. Not that he didn't want to; if he had been able to guarantee Elizabeth and Alison's safety, he would have gone after her in a heartbeat. But now he didn't know where she was, or who she was with and it made him want to rip DC apart inch by inch. He felt numb and hollow to physically be this helpless. He had failed on so many levels, he was beyond devastated.
Daisy looked mortified. How on God's green earth was she going to cover that one up? More so, where was the Secretary of State? Diplomats didn't just go MIA. At least not on home soil and not when the house was surrounded by security.
"You need to get the press to leave. Elizabeth isn't here to announce her resignation…" Henry moved straight on to the reason he had called the staff inside. It was bad enough his daughter and now his wife were missing, the last thing he needed was the house surrounded by every journalist in DC.
"And what am I supposed to say? The Secretary of State called every news outlet in Washington over for an urgent statement release, only to change her mind? Because I sure as hell can't tell them the truth!" Daisy's mind went into overdrive and panic was beginning to set in; she couldn't do this, she couldn't even think of a possible spin for this story.
"I don't really care what you tell them, just make them leave. Say she's sick, or been called away or security told them to leave..." Henry exclaimed, his emotions getting the better of him as he quickly lost his patience.
"Yes, because they're really going to believe that after the commotion that's just happened outside, and no-one saw her leave!" Daisy pointed out, growing more frantic by the second. This was so far out of the ordinary, she was having a hard time focusing on how she was going to do her job. Her boss was missing. Being held captive somewhere, by God knows who. She couldn't deny she had grown fond of Elizabeth; she posed her challenges and made Daisy work for it, but now she was terribly worried for Elizabeth's life and safety. This had gone way beyond the realm of an ordinary day at the office.
Henry's phone began to ring in his hand. He didn't recognise the number, but he knew he couldn't not answer it. If the stalker still had Alison's, or even Elizabeth's personal phone by now, they would have access to every contact within it. He couldn't risk it, he decided, and held a hand up to interrupt Daisy's next thought.
"Hold on, I have to take this." Henry interjected. He accepted the call and held the phone to his ear. He didn't say a word as the line connected.
"Henry? It's Isabelle," He released the breath he'd been holding at the sound of the familiar voice. "Before you say anything, I want you to know, I have Alison. She's safe and she's ok. We're by the side of the highway. She can't drive your car home." She finished matter of factly, the last part seeming quite obvious considering the ordeal she'd just been through.
Henry couldn't believe his ears. It wasn't even close to what he was expecting to hear. Alison was safe. Someone he and Elizabeth trusted immensely had their daughter. The first wave of relief surged through him and he suddenly felt weak at the knees. Daisy and Blake perked at his change in demeanour, watching him intently, trying to understand the one-sided conversation.
"And Elizabeth?" he added hopefully. The silence down the end of the line rang with the answer to his question.
"I'm sorry, Henry…"
"You did it." It suddenly dawned on Henry and his relief was replaced by anger. His brain went into overdrive as he pieced the puzzle together. "You helped Elizabeth slip away. Was it you that fired that gun?" He was nearly yelling down the phone.
"You helped Elizabeth get away! I knew she had help, she had to!" He turned and stormed into the kitchen, away from Daisy and Blake who were still trying to decipher half of the conversation.
"I'm sorry. I only did what I was asked, I didn't know exactly what she had planned…"
"She's handed herself over to a maniac is what she's done! She wouldn't listen to me, I couldn't change her mind!" He was becoming hysterical.
"Henry! Listen to me! She took a tracker with her." Isabelle yelled over Henry, knowing it would be the only way to silence him and make him listen.
He went silent, opening and closing his mouth wordlessly as he processed. He finally drew his words into a single question. "So… So you know where she is?"
Isabelle answered, her own stomach still tied in knots: "Yes. We're on our way to the FBI, meet us there."
A voice crept around the edge of Elizabeth's consciousness. Muffled and incoherent, it sounded distant and distorted. The pull of sleep still too heavy on her weary body, it felt too hard, was too much work to summon the concentration needed to listen to what was being said. She thought there were two voices speaking to one another, engaged in some kind of conversation or discussion. The voices grew louder and louder, pulling her from sleep as the veil of anaesthetic wore off. It was an argument, which seemed to be ramping up as the voices grew sharp and shrill. A door somewhere in front of Elizabeth burst open and the argument entered the room. Her head lolled to one side as her other senses began to awaken and awareness seeped slowly back to her mind.
"I don't know what he thought he was going to do. Christ, she's the Secretary of State! Of course someone's going to notice she's missing!" The first voice sounded young and nervous, with just a touch of an accent Elizabeth couldn't quite distinguish in her foggy state.
"Everyone, and I mean everyone, is going to be looking for her right now. We'll have to sit tight." A second male voice replied, much deeper and more gruff than the first, but was full of unquestioning certainty.
She shivered slightly, but from his voice or the cold, she couldn't tell. Her jacket was gone and the room was abnormally cold. The feeling in her hands was starting to return and she realised they were terribly uncomfortable. Elizabeth tried to move them but was met with a sharp pain to her wrists. Cable ties dug into her skin, connecting both hands to either arm of a chair. This seemed to rouse her quicker and a swift assessment found her ankles to also be tied to either leg of the chair.
"So, what are we gonna do?" the younger one asked timidly, only for the other to huff loudly.
"We stick to our plan. Fuck what he wants!" The bold voice growled, reverberating off the walls.
Head still too heavy to open her eyes, she tried not to panic. Everything ached. As she tried to reposition on the wooden seat, she couldn't stop the groan that left her throat. The room fell silent - except for the soft whimpering she could now hear coming from somewhere nearby.
Elizabeth was trying desperately to open her eyes. Everything was still foggy and detached, but the cold seeped through her with ease, biting at her exposed extremities. She heard footsteps move toward her and a hand roughly grabbed her jaw, lifting her head from her chest. His fingers felt dirty against her face as she was forced to look up for the first time. She could feel the strength held in his arm alone as the muscles contracted with precision. He leaned right over her so their faces were just inches apart and squeezed her jaw between his fingertips. Her eyes fluttered open with the abrasive contact. She blinked away the haze, and the sharp features of the older of her captors made her forget the aching.
His wide-set jaw covered in stubble and his long, crooked nose filled her vision. His dark, almost black eyes stared at her menacingly while a scar trailed down one side of his cheek to near the corner of his mouth. Dressed in black, she could tell he was fit; muscle clearly defined even under his shirt. His shoulder set was broad and the remnants of a military haircut were still visible through the slightly greying hair. Elizabeth inhaled deeply and tried to hide her terror from her face. What had she got herself into?
"Nice of you to join us, Madam Secretary," he almost whispered. His stale breath against her face stung her nose and she wanted to recoil from his grip. He felt her flinch and only tightened the grasp he had on her face. The clamp around her jaw was painful, but she recovered quickly, refusing to let him see. She recognised his voice immediately. She had already spoken to him twice on the phone.
"What do you want from me?" Elizabeth demanded. She kept her voice low and her eyes steady, trying her best to match his glare despite her disadvantaged position. She could see the younger of the two men in her peripheral vision standing off to the side, but she was determined not to let her eyes flick to him. The faint whimpering continued nearby, though she wasn't sure from where. She tried to ignore it for now, praying it wasn't Alison, and focused her attention on the immediate threat.
He leered down at her and she tried not to waver under his gaze. "We don't want anything from you." The sneer that crept across his marked face made her want to shiver. "But we know plenty of people that do."
She tried to face up to him bravely, determined to gather as much information as she could, though what use to her it would be in her current position, she wasn't sure. "Like who?" She bit back, her brain now kicking into overdrive at all the potential prospects that could be; the Sinaloa Cartel, ISIS, Al Qaeda - all the criminals across the globe she had fought, targeted and incarcerated over the last few decades. There were dozens of possibilities, and being at the mercy of any one of them petrified her.
"Hizb al-Shahid," the older man answered casually and Elizabeth faltered at the mention of the name. "They're only one of many parties that seem interested in you at the moment. We'll soon find out - you'll be going live in, 3… 2… 1…"
"... So, due to the security threat currently imposed on the Secretary, Diplomatic Security and the FBI have asked for you all to evacuate the area. We will address the original announcement at a later time." Daisy tried her best to sound professional, like she was simply carrying out a duty that came with her day to day job. Addressing the media certainly did, but pretending everything was fine when it certainly wasn't, was hard to pull off. Although she wasn't lying, so much, she still felt queasy about the whole situation. Cameras flashed and a barrage of voices hit her immediately, all fighting above one another to be heard as she stood on the porch.
"Where is Secretary McCord? Will she be moved?"
"Why were we all called out here then?"
"Why did Dr McCord call you inside? And why did he look so upset?"
Daisy couldn't think of an answer to any of those questions. She was so preoccupied by her worry for her boss, she just wasn't quick enough on her feet. A lone reporter, one of the older journalists she recognised, pushed his way to the front of the mob.
"Daisy, Daisy!" He called above the noise and the uneasy look on his face immediately drew Daisy's attention. "I have a source who confirms an auction for the Secretary of State has just gone live on a dark web site."
The noise seemed to quiet down but Daisy's ears were ringing as she stared back blankly. She didn't believe it. It couldn't be true.
"Oh come off it, how could someone sell the Secretary of State!" A voice yelled from the crowd in amusement.
"There's a photo and all! Bids have started at $100 million US." The old journalist reaffirmed. Hushed chatter spread through the crowd as reporters jumped on their phones.
Daisy stared out over the reporters, stunned and in shock. She couldn't seem to form a coherent sentence. The volume of voices began to rise again and she did the only thing she could think to do.
"No more questions. Thank you for your time." And she threw herself back through the front door to yells from the mob on the street.
"Are they leaving? Why aren't they leaving?" Blake stammered nervously, looking through the front window.
"We need to speak to the FBI, now!" Daisy sounded flustered and overwhelmed.
"Daisy? What's wrong?" Henry jogged down the stairs to where the Press Secretary and Personal Assistant stood together. He had been comforting Stevie and Jason before leaving for FBI headquarters. He was glad he was at least able to tell them their sister was safe, but news on Elizabeth had stalled. Alison was waiting for him and he was desperate to get to her. A part of him wouldn't believe she was safe until she was wrapped up in his arms. Isabelle would also be helping track Elizabeth from there and he wanted, no, needed to be where the action was. He didn't have time to wait for phone calls, he needed to see the operation in progress and make sure everything was being done to find his wife.
Daisy didn't want to tell Henry. Nothing had been confirmed, they didn't even know if it was true. But if it was, they needed to inform the people that could do something about it, and Henry was one of those people.
"One of the reporters just ambushed me with a source saying the Secretary has been placed on a black market auction site," Daisy stammered and everyone fell silent.
Henry felt that hot, sick feeling rise in his chest. It was like he couldn't get enough air into his lungs. He was losing her. His head began to spin and it felt like his solid foundation was falling out from beneath him. This seemed to make this hazy nightmare all the more real.
It was time to go, he needed to find Elizabeth. If they found the tracker on her, they'd lose her position. Henry knew the more time that passed the further away she could be moved, the more chance the tracker would be taken off her, and trying not to think about it, the less likely they would be to find her alive. And now she was being bid on by some of the worst criminals known to mankind.
"I'm going into the FBI," Henry shook himself straight and announced with conviction. "You two stay here and make sure they leave." He was determined to do something, anything but sit there and wait.
Sheer terror had brought Elizabeth completely back to her senses.
The room really was cold and she could feel the effect it was having on her body. Her wrists were sore and her thighs were trying to cramp with the tension. She kept having to consciously release the muscles in her legs every few minutes, but her need to shiver was making that harder to do. The stinging of her knees had dulled but the pain in her back was getting hard to ignore. She was trying to shift positions, but everything was so uncomfortable. She could still feel the little black box pressed against her skin and made a silent thank you that it was still there.
The dark, rectangular room felt damp and dank, almost like a bunker of sorts. There were no windows and a solid wooden door was the only way in, or out. There was one yellow light above her, casting shadows in every direction. Besides herself and the chair she sat on in the middle of the room, the only other item she could see was a table with a laptop set on it in the corner.
This was not what Elizabeth had been anticipating, nor was she any the wiser who these men really were. The 'being sold to the highest bidder' part was unexpected. Surely it wasn't just about the money, otherwise they would have asked for a ransom first up. It was terrifying to think she may end up in the hands of a terrorist group with a vendetta against her. But she was sure the FBI would be monitoring the auction by now, if they weren't already working to shut it down. Everyone would be looking for her by now. She hoped. Isabelle would have made sure of that. Unless she had been taken too. Or Alison didn't make it to safety. Oh God. She tried to shake it from her mind, she couldn't think about that now. She could deal with what may happen to her, she was trained to, after all. As long as she believed Alison made it to safety.
After the initial exchange, her captors had gone quiet, but their body language had grown restless. They paced the length of the room in between her and the door, checking their watches and intermittently glancing at the door. She watched them watch her. It was unnerving, but she tried not to let on. One would check the computer screen and make eye contact with the other every now and then. They must have been waiting for someone. She analysed them closely, deciding her next move. There was something else going on; she could feel it. She had questions, but wasn't sure if she should ask them while they were agitated. She weighed up her options, still unsure of their intentions or what they were going to do with her.
She plucked a little courage and decided to start with a neutral question to test the waters. "What time is it?" This piece of information would actually be useful. She had no idea how long she'd been unconscious for, or how long they'd travelled or if it was day or night.
The gruff older man stopped walking and swivelled on the heel of his boots towards her. "4:40," he huffed.
Elizabeth nodded her acknowledgment, piecing together a timeline. Still not sure how long she'd been asleep, she could assume they had travelled for no more than 20 minutes. By the time they had carried her dead weight down to whereever they were, tied her up and set up her sale, it couldn't have been long after that she regained consciousness.
"Who else have you got here?" Elizabeth decided on next, but it sounded more like a demand.
Both men's eyes flicked to the wall to her right and she knew then, that was where the whimpering had been coming from. It had gone eerily quiet a few minutes after she first heard it and she was beginning to get worried.
"A friend of yours, I believe," the older man answered with a smirk.
Elizabeth's blood ran cold. Isabelle. They had Isabelle. Her mind began to race and she started to panic. What had happened to Alison? Did she make it out? Did she get away? She couldn't stop herself from stammering, "You said you only wanted me."
"This one had seen too much. We couldn't let her run off."
Elizabeth was tentative, but she needed to know. She needed to know what happened to her daughter. "Can I, can I talk to her?" She was shaking again as she looked frightfully between her captors.
The men looked at each other quizzically. It seemed an odd request. But the older one turned to the other and said, "What's it going to hurt, we're gonna kill her anyway. Go and get her." And the young man left on demand.
Elizabeth was shocked by their callousness, but she was in no position to protest her outrage when they were giving her what she wanted. She could hear the movement outside the door and held her breathe as she waited for it to open in front of her again.
The blonde haired figure that was dragged back through the door was not what she was expecting to see. She was dumped at Elizabeth's feet in a pile, whimpering and crying. She too, was bound, her hands behind her back. Her usually perfect hair was a mess and her uniform dirty. Elizabeth's heart raced as she took it all in.
"Captain Baker?" It wasn't Isabelle after all.
I am so sorry guys. I really didn't mean to leave you hanging! Life just happened... I went away for a week and my uni classes are really intense this tri. I think I've got a handle on it now though.
Many thanks to morethanwords and thepuppiesinpink for all your help!
Russell Jackson was running down the hall of the White House. Although unusual for him and quite undignified, he had some urgent news for the President. As he reached the Oval Office, he was glad that as he threw himself through the door, he found Conrad Dalton alone.
“Excuse me… Mr President…” Russell panted from his dash down the hallways. “I have just been informed... that Elizabeth... is missing.”
Conrad looked at him quizzically from behind his desk as he took it in. “Missing? What do you mean missing?”
Finally catching his breath, Russell was able to spit out a complete sentence. “It appears she slipped away from her detail just before the press conference she scheduled. The FBI is scrambling to catch up now.”
“Good God.” Conrad looked down at his desk, processing the ramifications he was sure would arise in the next few hours. “And Alison?” he added as an afterthought.
“She’s been found. They believe she was part of some exchange deal, and Elizabeth handed herself over willingly.”
“Of course she did.” Conrad sighed and slumped back into his chair. He recalled with ease with self sacrificing nature that came with Elizabeth. Always willing to put herself on the line if it meant something greater. Well, this time her family was that something greater, and Conrad doubted she would have even thought twice. That didn’t make him any less concerned for his Secretary of State. They were old friends after all.
“Alison McCord is on her way over to FBI headquarters with Isabelle Barnes for questioning. Elizabeth seemed to have had some help…”
Before Conrad could get a word out about the familiar name of his other old CIA agent, there was an urgent, incessant knocking on the door. Russell whipped around, annoyed to be interrupted but Conrad called out for whoever it was to come in.
Oliver Shaw stood there, frazzled. Laptop in hand and looking very worried.
“Don’t just stand there, son! What do you want?” Russell barked at the kid and he jumped into the room, still clutching his open laptop.
“Mr President, Mr Jackson.” Placing the computer on the desk in front of Conrad, he sounded nervous. “You won’t believe what I’ve just found.”
Henry had run into the FBI headquarters, dazed and disoriented. Someone had been waiting for him at the door, but the tunnel vision wouldn’t let him see the world in focus until he was lead through the maze of hallways to find Alison sitting with Isabelle at a table. Her face was tear stained and her uniform dirty, she looked pale and drained but he was just so glad to see her. Alison leapt to her feet and ran to her father, throwing herself into his open arms while Isabelle slipped from the room. She had stayed with Alison while waiting for Henry. The last thing the poor girl needed was to be left in a small room with strangers.
Henry squeezed her tightly, wanting to hold her forever. Her tears dampened his shirt while his own fell into her hair. He couldn’t believe she was safe; it didn’t feel like reality. Nothing did at this point. He caught a hint of Elizabeth’s perfume for just a moment and he had to hold her tighter to stop himself collapsing in a heap. He felt like this was a step forward. That if he could find his daughter, he could find Elizabeth.
“You’re ok,” Henry choked, “you’re safe now.” Henry continued to coo to his middle daughter. He couldn’t imagine how terrifying it must have been. He himself had been in tight spots before and had a knife held to his throat back in Bolivia, but he had willingly placed himself into those situations. Alison had not.
Alison had sobbed uncontrollably for some time, until agents joined them in the room and Henry had to let her go. He was anxious, eager to know what she had to say. If any of it would be of use to the authorities at all. Everyone needed answers and intel. Finding Elizabeth was a top priority. Notepads in front of each agent, they all took a seat at the table in the centre of the room and the questions began.
“...I don’t know where they kept me, but it was cold. The walls were concrete, like a basement.” Alison recalled with ease. She sat shoulders hunched almost cradling herself on the solid chair next to her father. She was exhausted from her ordeal, but desperate to help. Henry could sense how hard she was trying to stay composed and answer the best she could. She needed her mom back.
“How many people did you see?” FBI Agent Saunders continued.
“Three, maybe four. The one that seemed to be in charge had a scar on his face, over his cheek.” Alison wanted to shiver as she remembered the intimidating size and form of the man that she thought on more than one occasion was going to kill her.
“Is there anything else you can tell us?”
She thought hard for a minute trying to recollect any detail that might be of importance. “I don’t think I was meant to be moved. They were really angry about something. They came in and bundled me up and took me back out to the car.” She sniffed back fresh tears. They had taken her back to her mom, only for her to take Alison’s place.
“How long were you in the car for?”
She swallowed the new lump down and answered quietly. “About 20 minutes, I think.”
A knock on the door made Agent Saunders rise from her chair and step outside. Alison took the opportunity to stare down at her lap and take a few deep breaths but Henry couldn’t get his stomach to unclench. There was a heavy silence in her absence but she rejoined them momentarily. She released a sigh as she took her seat again and Henry swallowed his unease.
“We’re having trouble tracing the GPS signal. There must be interference because we’re unable to get an accurate position. I think they have taken the Secretary to the same location as Alison. The timeframe seems right, and a basement would be a good place to interfere with the tracker’s signal.” The agent announced and Henry thought his heart had stopped. “But, we do have an approximate location. We’re narrowing the sites down building by building. It’ll just take us a little longer.” Agent Saunders finished but it did nothing to quell Henry’s worry.
“It's my fault.” Alison started to cry again from Henry’s side and it broke the reverie. “I shouldn't have left her. I should have stayed!” she sobbed.
“No it's not, you did the right thing.” Henry had great difficulty keeping the emotion from his voice. “Otherwise now you'd both be in trouble. Your mom wanted to save you, no-one could have stopped her from doing that,” Henry tried to reassure his daughter but was having a hard time doing so.
The door opened again and everyone looked up to see the FBI director step into the room. He locked eyes with Henry, looking slightly panicked and Henry’s heart jumped into his throat.
“Dr McCord, can you come with me please.” It wasn’t a question. Henry wanted to be on his feet immediately, but Alison was still shaking. He glanced between the director and Alison. He didn’t want to leave her, but the look on his face made the bottom fall out of his stomach. “Agent Saunders will stay with her.” He seemed to read Henry’s mind and he was finally able to stand on numb legs. He gave Alison’s shoulder a squeeze and followed the director out of the room.
“Can you tell me what’s going on?” Henry looked questioningly once they were out of the room, praying it wasn’t terrible news.
“You should see this…” He said wearily.
They walked through into an expansive room that was alive with activity. Everywhere he looked were monitors, projectors and pin up boards with numbers next to names of groups he recognised. He stopped behind a huddle of people who were staring at a computer screen intently. Henry couldn’t quite see what they were looking at, but a small cough made everyone step aside.
There, on the screen, was Elizabeth. Nothing else on the page registered to him, bar his wife in the photo. She looked to have been asleep, but he knew that wouldn’t have been the case by choice. Her head rested on her shoulder where she sat. Her blouse looked dirty on one side, the delicate fabric sat oddly off her shoulders and was ripped in a few places. Her wrists were cabled tied to the chair. Her hands sat limply over the rests, her wedding and engagement rings still on her ring finger. Her bloodied knees were visible below the hem of her skirt and her ankles were attached to either chair leg. Henry thought he was going to be sick.
“... The bids have been steadily rising. An account with links to Hezbollah currently have the highest bid of $450 million US, but other terrorist organisations are keeping up. Unfortunately, the auction time is only short. We're working on infiltrating the site to shut it down but if we don’t find her in the next hour or so, we may lose trace of her, especially if she is moved out over international waters.”
Henry couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. Not again . He thought to himself as the dizzying sickness swelled. They were so close, yet so far away. She was right there in front of him. If only he could reach out and touch her. It would make this terrible nightmare go away.
Elizabeth sat stock still, stunned by the woman dumped and crying at her feet. She blinked a few more times to make sure it wasn’t the after effects of the drugs playing with her brain. No. It definitely was not Isabelle. Relief surged momentarily that is wasn’t her CIA spy friend who was in charge of the safety of her daughter, but it was quickly replaced by animosity directed at the traitor in front of her. Her brain started firing. She had a lot of questions. This woman had taken Alison. She had pulled her away from her security, incapacitated her and knowingly dragged her into harm's way. Motherly instinct kicked in and she wasn’t sure whether she was furious or glad she was currently restrained. She wanted to rip her to shreds. More so than the men holding her captive. Them, she didn’t know, nor had any idea who they were working for, but she had trusted Captain Baker and she had betrayed her and her country.
Elizabeth wanted to give her a dressing down, unable to extinguish that internal impulse. But with the eyes of both men still on her, she knew she wasn’t in a position to do so. There was only one pressing question she knew she could ask and had to have the answer to.
“Why? Why did you do it?” Elizabeth spat viciously.
Captain Baker was yet to look up. She was too ashamed to make eye contact with the Secretary of State restrained in the chair before her. She was a coward and she realised now the extent of her remorseful actions.
“Because… I was scared,” she sobbed. “They had pictures of my family; my mom, dad, my sister with her new daughter. They said they would kill them all!” Her voice rose with her cries as she heaved hysterically. Finally she lifted her bloodshot eyes to Elizabeth before continuing. “I’m so sorry ma’am, I didn’t want to do it. They told me no-one would get hurt.” The explanation would never be good enough. Not to herself, anyway.
Elizabeth softened as she took in the young Captain. She couldn’t help but sympathise with her. She knew that feeling. Whoever these people were had done the same to her and put them both in such helpless situations. She hadn’t done this out of her own twisted agenda or revenge. She wasn’t angry, she was scared. They both were.
There was movement on the other side of the door and both men immediately leapt into action, the older and larger of whom slipped out of the room. Elizabeth could hear raised voices through the wood, even Captain Baker seemed to still at the noise. It seemed to go on for several minutes, her heart racing as muffled conversation seeped through the room before it went quiet again. An eerie anticipation consumed her.
The door flung open with a bang, bouncing off the wall behind it. Elizabeth nearly leapt out of her skin as the huge figure of her captor occupied the doorway. A smaller man stepped out from behind the man with the scar and she recognised him immediately.
“Elizabeth, I certainly wasn’t expecting to find you here.” Julius Burton greeted her with a malevolent smile. Dressed in a suit, he stalked forward, not taking his eyes from Elizabeth. He didn’t even seem to notice the blonde Captain on the floor.
“Julius.” Elizabeth sounded sincerely surprised. She was certainly confused by his appearance.
“I had actually come round to make sure something happened to your daughter, considering you didn’t turn up for the press conference - only to find you here instead.” He looked down at her with an unpleasant grin. “I’m still not convinced this is the best idea. I only wanted you out of Dalton’s ear, but there appears to be a fair few people wanting to get their hands on you and willing to pay a lot of money to do so.” He seemed to be enjoying this far too much.
Her brain was trying hard to process everything she had just heard. Pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. Everything that had happened over the last few weeks was beginning to make sense. Elizabeth’s voice was deadly low. “You’re the one who’s been stalking my family.” She glared back at him with fire in her belly. She was opposed to torture, but for the man who had been threatening her family, she was willing to make an exception.
“Yes. You see, you made it a little difficult when you ramped up security, which is why we had to find another way to get to you. She became exceptionally useful.” And with a slight nod toward the ground, Julius acknowledged Captain Baker for the first time.
“You should have left my children out of it. Your discord was obviously with me, presumably over the Naval Base contracts.” It was all beginning to take shape. It all made sense now that the origin of the issue had revealed himself.
“I thought targeting your family would be enough to get what I wanted. I find fear to be a much better motivator than any negotiation. And you’ve proven that tonight, that you’re here in place of your daughter.” He turned away and strolled to the desk in the corner. “I don’t think you quite understand just how much you’ve cost me. Whispering in Dalton’s ear, we’ve been long time allies. I knew I had to get you out of the way, you’re just bad for business.”
Elizabeth seemed to be stunned into silence, she didn’t know what to say. It had all grown vastly in proportion to what she had originally suspected. It wasn’t anyone they had originally thought. The answer to their question had been hiding in plain sight all along.
He studied the computer screen for a moment before chuckling to himself. “So, Madam Secretary, how much do you think you’re worth?”
"Dr McCord? Dr McCord!" Henry blinked back at FBI Director Doherty. He had been consumed by the worst fear he had ever experienced whilst simultaneously being unable to ignore the overwhelming rage burning inside him.
That was his wife. That was his wife up on that screen being auctioned off like livestock. He was so angry, and scared. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Not that he was ever the hero type. Sure he may have been a Marine at one point, but he'd never swooped in and 'saved the day'. Nor did he think he could right now. And that's what hurt the most. He was still coherent enough to understand the greater authorities needed to step in if there was any hope in saving Elizabeth. This wasn't a movie or a fairy tale you just knew had a happy ending, no matter how tumultuous the predicament. This was reality. And the reality of it was that he had failed to protect his wife and children, even with the skills he learnt traveling into war zones and flying fighter jets. None of it would help him now. He decided to turn his attention to Doherty, now eager to get on with it with people he knew were going to fix his self appointed shortcomings.
"There are teams mobilised downstairs ready to move to the area now. We're preparing to sweep every inch of every building within the radius of the GPS signal to find the Secretary," Director Doherty informed Henry.
Henry seemed to snap out of his trance with those words. "Then I'm going too." Any chance he had to get close to Elizabeth's location, he would take.
"I don't recommend it…"
"Well, you'll have to arrest me to stop me," Henry interjected forcefully. There was no chance in hell he was being left behind. Alison was safe. He had no qualms leaving her in the hands of CIA and FBI agents well out of harm's way while he threw himself into the line of fire.
Doherty hesitated for a moment. He could see the determination and desperation on Henry's face. Who was really going to stop the poor man trying to find his wife? He had been through enough already. "Then we better get you suited up."
Everyone had left the room after Julius Burton's boastful speech, leaving Elizabeth alone with Captain Baker. She wasn't angry anymore. She was reeling. She couldn't believe she hadn't seen it. Julius Burton - one of Dalton's biggest supporters and donors. At least until Elizabeth had interrupted the money train with her major climate change policy. He definitely had the resources at his disposal to pull off something so elaborate. He didn't even need to get his hands dirty until that sickening reveal, he just paid everyone else to do it - or threatened their lives.
Evidence of the latter was still curled up in front of her on the floor. Captain Baker hadn't looked up again and the rage she had felt just minutes before had evaporated away. She couldn't stand the silence. She couldn't sit there and wait for something to happen either. The full effect of whatever they had given her had worn off and she could tell. Elizabeth was starting to tire and everything hurt. Her back and legs ached, and her wrists were very tender. She tried to be hopeful that someone would come for her soon, but as every minute ticked by, she felt more and more alone.
"What now?" Elizabeth spoke aloud, trying to start a dialogue which hopefully would give them a chance to get out of this situation. Captain Baker wasn't a traitor of her own free will, and Elizabeth knew she could use that to her advantage. Now she had an ally.
Captain Baker looked up at her slowly, her mouth opening and closing wordlessly. She had no idea what to say. She was resigned to her own fate for what she'd done. She deserved whatever she got, nor did she expect the Secretary to speak to her ever again.
Elizabeth looked down at the blonde woman, trying to look intrigued by whatever she had to say, but when she didn't say anything, she decided to make the question more specific. She knew they didn't have much time. She was sure one of the guards would be back soon enough.
"What did you see outside? Where are we?"
The Captain stared at her blankly, unresponsive to the questions. Elizabeth looked at her encouragingly, praying she would say something useful.
She seemed to shake off her own delegated disparagement, unable to not try to be helpful to the woman who had been nothing but kind to her. "Um, I don't know where we are. I had a hood on when they brought me in. It sounded large and concrete. There were stairs down to here which made me think we're underground. They didn't take the hood off until they dragged me in here."
"Ok that's good. I think we're only about 20 minutes out of DC…" Elizabeth nodded to herself, trying to draw out a mental map. She had studied the room around her to figure as much, but to have it confirmed was a good feeling. Though getting out of this room and the damned chair did prove to be more problematic. Not to mention the guards. The older man with the scar seemed too hard for her to try and bargain with, but if the younger one came back by himself, she might be in with a chance. She might be able to scare him with the magnitude of the situation, especially if he was just in it for the money. She was a good negotiator after all.
"I thought that, too," Baker interjected.
Elizabeth nodded again in response, moving her eyes to the ground to think. She heard footsteps shuffle up to the door again and cursed internally that they hadn't had more time. Moments later, the man with the scar emerged from the doorway alone carrying a hip flask. He eyed both women suspiciously, lingering on the spot for a moment.
"You. Move." He nodded at the Captain and she awkwardly shuffled off to the side without a second's hesitation, arms still tied behind her back.
His eyes never once left hers as he strolled across the floor. Elizabeth watched as he silently moved to the corner and threw himself down on the chair by the desk. His lax body language as he flopped down haphazardly was in complete contrast to her rigidity still tied to the chair, unable to even bring her knees together. It was slightly unnerving to have her gaze matched in that way but she rather him rival her than turn his attention to Captain Baker. Those protective instincts that landed her there had struck another chord for the younger woman. Elizabeth knew she could take whatever he dished out, but she couldn't let anything happen to the young Captain.
She wasn't trying to provoke him, just understand his motives and possibly predict his next move. That would be essential. The payoff for this must have been huge. Or maybe not enough, which would explain why the plans had changed. What was going to happen when the auction ended? Is that where the others disappeared to? To prepare transportation to get her out of the country? That was a frightening thought. Whatever they were planning would have to be fairly elaborate since she was sure ship ports and airports would be on high alert. But how she was moved would really depend on who bought her.
The scarred guard sipped steadily from the silver flask, never once in large amounts, always in small doses. That alone was enough to help Elizabeth narrow down the list of what it possibly could be. Not that it really mattered. Whatever he had brought with him was not going to be good for anyone in the room, least of all her. He was much too tall, broad and strong to take on as is. But then again, maybe the alcohol was enough to soften him to prepare for her own brand of manipulation.
The convoy of vehicles had sped out of DC's metro area. Everyone on edge, no-one quite sure what to expect. Henry sat in the second car, surrounded by the tactical response unit looking like they were about to head into a war zone in the Middle East. He felt sick, but whether that was from motion sickness or nerves, he wasn't sure. He had very little idea where they were going, or what they were going to find. Somewhere north of DC, that was all he had managed to take in.
There was radio chatter amongst the vehicles, but he couldn't comprehend any of the back and forth. He was completely zoned out of the conversation around him, simply focused on the silver ring on his left hand. He looked at it fondly over the kevlar vest strapped to his body. He had been in similar attire not long after he had first put that ring on and a comparable level of fear had constantly held his attention then. All he had wanted was to get home to his new wife. He used that plain, silver band as a means to calm and convince himself it would be reunited with its better half. He was sure of it. He had made that prayer once before and he was sure it would work again.
A phone rang somewhere in the front of the car and Henry didn't even look up as their team leader, who introduced himself as Coopers, answered the call. He had no idea how long they had been traveling for as they sped up the motorway, but a name he recognised on the edge of his hearing suddenly made him look up to the front seat.
"Julius Burton? That billionaire buddy of the President's?" Whoever was on the other end seemed to be relaying information but Coopers just looked more confused.
Henry sat in silence waiting for the call to end, his heart now hammering hard against his ribcage. Coopers replied once more and ended the call and Henry couldn't contain his curiosity.
"What about Julius Burton?" Henry nearly barked in his haste. Coopers looked around to face him, still confused.
"That was Doherty. He said Burton purchased an abandoned warehouse within the vicinity of the GPS signal weeks ago. It's sat dormant for months - that is until two days ago when it came back on the electricity grid and has been steadily using power since. Not enough to run machinery, just enough to power the lights basically, all day and all night. Doherty thought the timing was odd. It was the only familiar name that owned property in the area."
Something twinged inside Henry and his instincts narrowed in with those words. The timing was odd and definitely too coincidental for his liking. "We're going there first. Tell Doherty we'll check that building first," he demanded of Coopers.
Coopers' face twisted with scepticism. "Do you really think some billionaire friend of Dalton's would abduct the Secretary of State?"
Henry knew it all sounded a little crazy, but that gut feeling seemed to grow stronger with every passing second. "They were friends, until POTUS turned in favour of my wife's policy. Burton immediately withdrew his support," he replied convincingly. "We have to check there first." He was nearly begging, and it must have showed.
Coopers didn't look totally convinced but immediately radioed back to headquarters to confirm the location of Burton's warehouse and let the others know that was where his team was heading. Henry knew he may have been totally wrong and he would accept that if he was, but it was better than no starting place at all. He checked his watch automatically as he had done regularly over the last hour - 20 minutes. They had 20 minutes left before someone secured the purchase of not only the Secretary of State, but also his wife and mother of his children.
Henry's turmoil had grown with every bend of the road as the team headed for the factory building now owned by Julius Burton. Even more so when the car rolled to a stop on an empty stretch of road and everyone but Henry proceeded out of the vehicle. Surrounded by dense trees and with nothing but car headlights, the building that was their target was still out of sight.
Henry knew why they would approach on foot. Now under the cover of darkness, the Special Forces team could use that to their advantage and their car would ruin the element of surprise. He checked his watch one last time with the light of the car. Four minutes of the auction remaining. His heart seemed to miss a beat with the deadline so close, knowing this was only the first stop they would make tonight, if she wasn't here. Henry tried not to think about the utter despair if she wasn't there and the team had wasted time investigating his hunch. He couldn't think about it, he needed to focus and pray this would be the only stop they made tonight and they could return to base with an extra person on board.
The team surrounded Coopers, awaiting instructions on what would come next. The emptying of the car shook Henry from his panic and he too fell into line. Henry joined his place in the circle. Even with his Kevlar vest, helmet and handgun, he didn't quite fit with the seven others, but held his place regardless. Though they were all there for the same reason, this was more than just a job for him. He was trying not to think about what would happen if this mission went south, for whatever reason. He couldn't think about it. Not now.
Coopers adjusted himself as he looked around the huddle. He eyed every one of the men, gaining their attention and pulling their focus. They would all need to be at the top of their game if this was to be a successful infiltration and extraction. They all looked poised and ready to handle whatever they would find. Except possibly Henry. He looked the most anxious of all, and for good reason. Coopers had been under strict instruction from Director Doherty to allow Henry to follow the team in after the initial threat had been subdued. At this point, it was probably the preferable option. Coopers certainly didn't want him trying to lead the charge.
"The target is a quarter mile to our north," Coopers signalled to his left. "We will proceed on foot and by stealth. Stick tight, we'll regroup when the compound is in sight. Night vision on." He folded down the eyepiece from his helmet and the rest followed suit, Henry included. The familiar feeling of heading into a mission came back to him immediately. With that single movement he was back in Marine mode. He was ready.
The talk dulled his nerves slightly as mission mode seemed to take over. The team moved away immediately at a jog and Henry had no time to think, other than try to keep up as he followed the team north into the tree line. If he hadn't been equipped with the night vision goggles, he would have lost them in the dark of the dense foliage.
Twigs crunched underfoot as the team moved through the trees, covering a fair amount of ground as they went. Henry could feel himself already sweating under his vest and helmet, but the weight of the gear disappeared as adrenaline forced him on with the group. The rhythm of their pace as they jogged through the dark kept him focused on putting one foot in front of the other instead of what they might find once they reached their destination. He could just make out a light source in the distance north of their direction and his stomach clenched, driving him forward under the weight of his gear. The trees provided enough cover as they approached and the team was able to get within 100 metres of the building before Coopers pulled them all to a halt with one hand signal.
They surveyed the complex with their goggles; it was clearly currently occupied. Two SUVs and a smaller, luxury car were parked around a small door at the side of the building. Guards stood on either side illuminated only by a small light above the doorway. The black SUVs matched the description Alison had given the FBI and Henry knew they were in the right place. As much as he wanted to just shoot both men where they stood, he knew he wouldn't get very far if there were more inside once shots had been fired. Coopers turned to his team with authority.
"Alright, the numbers here look limited but that's no reason to let your guard down. Only two outside means there are more inside. We take the two standing at the door, then…" Suddenly the side door opened and everyone stopped to look. Five people filed out into the darkness, one of whom was obviously different to the others.
Henry knew immediately that the shorter, rounder man had to be Burton. Though they had never met, he had seen him at events and in the papers. The silhouetted stout figure had to be Julius Burton. It just had to be. The door closed behind them, leaving limited light as they moved around the doorway, some of their view obstructed by cars.
The five men began moving towards the cars and every single one of the team still standing in the trees didn't know what to do. If they let them leave, would they be able to find and arrest everyone involved? Julius Burton would be no problem, but his henchmen would prove more difficult. Simultaneously, they still weren't 100% sure that the Secretary of State was being held inside. Up to this point, they were working off a hunch. Henry sensed everyone's hesitation, even though he wanted nothing more than to run in guns blazing.
The team kept eyed their leader apprehensively, waiting for an order, but Coopers did nothing. They watched as who Henry presumed to be Burton got into the back of the car. Only two others got into the driver and passenger seat, leaving four men now standing at the door. That was a more manageable number, Henry thought. The team of eight still hidden by trees could take on four with ease. The motor rumbled to life and headlights split through the darkness to their right. The crunch of gravel under tyres followed the vehicle's path as it wound its way down the drive and out onto open road.
Without a single word, Coopers turned to his team now bracing for a fight. They all seemed to be thinking the same thing. A nod was all they needed and all eight moved out from the tree line, Henry at the back of the pack, handgun rattling slightly in trembling fingers.
It had been some time, how much Elizabeth could only estimate, as the lonesome henchman had steadily become agitated. He hadn't risen from his position, but he could no longer sit still. He looked at his watch every few minutes and sipped at the flask. Just from the way his face was changing colour, Elizabeth knew it didn't contain orange juice. It unnerved her as she watched his enormous form become tense as the minutes drew on with no sound from outside the door.
No-one had come back, and she gathered from her captor's behaviour, someone was supposed to.
"Where are they? Why aren't they coming back!?" He barked suddenly at the room in general after several more laps of the room. It was rhetorical, but Elizabeth had a hunch she knew the answer to his question, and it wasn't something she was going to provoke him with; not in the state he was already in. "They should have been back by now. They sold you 10 minutes ago. What's going on?" His voice was slurred and he slammed himself back into his seat.
Elizabeth blinked back at the drunken guard. Her auction had finished. Someone out there right now was expecting to receive the Secretary of State as a prize very soon. She was terrified. Besides the overdue guards, there was no sign of a rescue team, even though she was sure they would be looking for her. Her mind raced with the now reasonable predictable outcomes she could expect, and the only one that seemed remotely positive was she would be untied in the near future.
The room went silent again as the guard rubbed his hands together and ran his hands through his hair. Breathing heavily into the space, his weight rested on his knees. Seconds ticked by before he broke the reverie, growling at her with malice, "You know, don't you?" Elizabeth blinked back rattled, unsure how he landed on that conclusion with such haste. His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and his face was flushed red. She didn't answer, but kept her mouth shut, unable to drop her gaze. Suddenly he turned to Elizabeth and directed every ounce of anger at her with a drunken bark, "Tell me what's going on!"
Elizabeth stumbled over her words as he suddenly rose unexpectedly and advanced towards her. "I don't know what's happening," she responded somewhat truthfully. She had not a single clue as to what was happening outside of the four walls around her, but with any luck, the FBI would be closing in because this wasn't looking very promising.
The guard didn't look the least bit convinced. "I swear to fucking God, if you don't tell me right now, I'll kill her." With those words, he pointed the gun directly at Captain Baker who still sat huddled near the wall.
Elizabeth stared at him blankly, she couldn't get a read on him, she couldn't tell what he was about to do, couldn't tell if he'd make good on his threat. His eyes were glassy and wild and she wanted nothing more than to recoil. Her heart thundered and she blinked absently with her mouth open while the gun stayed trained on Captain Baker.
"I don't know." Elizabeth's voice trembled and she could feel it was not persuasive in the slightest.
"I don't believe you." He hissed without hesitation. He was so close Elizabeth could see how flushed his neck and ears were below the greying crop and his whole body moved as he breathed. She wanted to weigh up her options; stay silent and wait for his next move, or try to sound more convincing with her claim.
When Elizabeth didn't respond quickly, he moved towards Captain Baker and picked her up haphazardly by her arm. She was dumped at Elizabeth's feet again, crying as the barrel of the gun was pointed directly at her head. "Last chance," fell from his mouth with deadly intent as she saw his finger move to cover the trigger.
Elizabeth panicked. She knew then he wasn't joking. Without taking her eyes off the weapon, she blurted out before she even realised she was yelling, "The FBI is probably here!"
The ringing silence hung thickly and she knew then she'd handed over her ace.
"How do you know!? How did they find us!?" He bellowed with a slight slur, rattling the Glock near Ronnie's head. "HOW did they find us?!" He roared the question and the force of it knocked the wind out of Elizabeth's chest.
Elizabeth didn't know what else to say. She was out of ideas. "I've… I've got a tracker on me…" The room fell silent.
He seemed dumbfounded by the new piece of information. His alcohol affected brain seemed to take longer to process the implication. Then, just as quickly, he turned on Elizabeth again and she had nowhere to go. He closed the distance in three strides. Rough hands grabbed at her and she couldn't stop the scream of surprise. The gun still in one hand, he groped up her thighs, hitching her skirt further up her legs. She tried to twist herself out of his grip but his immense size loomed over her precariously, trapping her under him. His face near her neck, the sound of him grunting with the effort made her want to be sick. She could smell the alcohol on him as he swayed on the spot, leaning on her for balance. She was suffocating.
He mauled up her sides looking for the device and she nearly screamed again as he got to the pits of her arms, knowing where they would go next. A cold hand plunged into her shirt and she shrieked at the intrusion, squirming in her seat, struggling against the restraints on her arms and legs. His hand was rough and merciless as it searched carelessly. His fist, along with the GPS, retracted and he stopped momentarily to examine the box.
Elizabeth was left panting when the first blow struck the side of her head. She hadn't been expecting it, still recovering from being violated and she yelped at the impact. It hit her on the jaw, leaving her ear ringing and the world spinning. She could taste the iron on her tongue as she gasped at the pain that flooded her face.
She didn't have time to recover when the second blow landed just below her eye on the other side. Unsure whether she was hit with fist or gun, blood splattered everywhere as she sputtered for air. She was preparing for a third impact to her head, but it landed below her sternum, dead centre of her abdomen. She couldn't breathe. She doubled down, gasping for air when another blow landed right by the last one. She wanted to scream. She couldn't see straight, but whether that was from the blows to the head or the blood running down her face, she wasn't sure.
"Stop… Please stop… Please…" she begged breathlessly. She stayed bent over, trying to pull her knees up to protect her abdomen from another punch she was sure was coming. Her wrists were cut open and bleeding from her struggles, but she couldn't feel it. The pounding in her head and pain in her torso were excruciating.
Elizabeth didn't look up as the figure loomed over her again. She was sobbing through the pain, trying to breathe and spitting up blood. She could hear him heaving when the cold metal of the gun was pressed to her head. Her mind immediately went to Henry and her last words to him. She regretted not telling him she loved him one more time, for not writing it in her note. She wished she could hug and kiss her children again, because she was sure this was it, and she'd never see them ever again.
Elizabeth clenched her eyes and fists as she heard the click of the safety pin release next to her head.