Jennifer could hear the wind outside her window as she typed away at the
contents of her new story. At the gym the other day, she ran into
one of her old classmates from Grisham Hall prep school, Nora Jacobs and stopped
to chat. They hadn't talked to each other in years. Somehow the
conversation turned to Jenniferís love for animals. Nora was a lover of
animals herself. After all, she did work for the Los Angeles Wildlife
Conservation Center. Apparently, Nora had recently become aware of strange
occurrences at the Center. Some of her colleagues seemed to be hiding
something, and last week a beloved Veterinarian had been found dead. Nora
did caution her on the problems it could cause for her if she leaked out who
gave her the information. Nora also didnít want Jennifer getting caught
up in another situation she and Jonathan were known for.
Jenniferís neck ached as she typed the last line of the paragraph. Across the room, Jonathan saw his wife working away. She was so dedicated. That was one of the things he loved about her. She was consumed with anything she put her mind to. And didnít back down until whatever job she was working on was complete. She made a difference. While he was observing her, she was totally unaware of the gaze he was giving her. She closed her eyes and relaxed her neck. She turned her head from left to right slowly as to loosen up some of the tight muscles she acquired doing this story. Her hands went up to her shoulders to give them a soft rub. Trying to be as quiet as he could, he got up and replaced her hands with his. She was startled by his touch. Jonathan could give a great massage. She had a feeling she was in for one too. Jennifer could feel her body relax. She was putty in his hands. Just as Jennifer was feeling the most relaxed Jonathan stopped.
"Jonathan," she said sleepily. "Is that it?" She teased as she turned around, looking into his eyes.
"Sorry, Darling. I thought I heard Jessica."
"Jessica, but Darling, Jessica is at Sarah's tonight."
"Oh." Jonathan said. "Ooooooh." he repeated as revelation dawned on him. He grinned mischievously as he beckoned his wife away from her computer.
"I have a feeling I'm not going to get any more work done tonight."
Jonathan just smiled.
The next morning, a light rain could be heard through the window of their bedroom. Jennifer rolled over and looked at Jonathanís handsome face and stroked it gently while he slept. If anything ever happened to you, she thought. But, Jennifer had a story to finish and her deadline to have it published was one week away. She got out of bed and dressed to get a bite to eat and meet Nora for the rest of the story. When she came into the bedroom again, dressed, Jonathan was already awake.
"Oh I'm sorry darling."
"Leaving so soon?" Jonathan held his arms out for her to come to him.
Jennifer sits on the side of their bed, in his arms, "You and I both know the early bird gets the worm."
Pouting, Jonathan teases, "Not this bird...."
"I've got to meet Nora for the lead on this story. She sure seemed pretty adamant about me not mentioning it to anyone in as much she didnít even want to mention it to me then or over the phone."
"Just be careful. I don't want anything happening to my worm." He squeezes her tighter.
"Oh, I will darling." His lips looked so luscious she had to kiss them.
"What was that for?"
"That was the worm thanking the bird."
"Oh, you'll see. Now I'm off to Nora's."
When Jennifer arrived at Nora's it was a quarter of 7. She was 10 minutes early. But she'd wait for Nora if she wasn't quite ready to head out. Nora was taking her to the Conservation Center. She had mentioned something on the telephone about meeting a man who used to work there. He was offering them some valuable information. She
knew it would be risky, but Nora assured her they would talk with the man
alone. It would be a long drive but well worth it. Jennifer rang the doorbell to Nora's apartment. She was immaculately dressed as usual wearing beige slacks, a white turtleneck with a tan Cardigan sweater draped over her shoulders. The loafers she added to the outfit were just the right touch she needed incase she had to flee the scene. She giggled to herself thinking of a few times she had to "flee". She rang the doorbell again hoping Nora wouldn't throw them too far behind schedule, she had to meet Jonathan for an early dinner at Chason's. It wasn't often they had an entire weekend for just the two of them anymore. Jennifer knew there was a reason she liked Sarah so much. She and Jonathan loved Jessica very much, but there were times when they just wanted to be together just the two of them. She was becoming impatient with Nora. She knocked, "NORA?" she called out. And noticed that the door was slightly opened. "Nora?" She called as she walked in the doorway. She could hear Beethoven's 5th symphony playing in the background. "Nora, I could come back later!" Jennifer began to feel as if she were walking into a trap. She still heard no sound. She didn't hear the shower running so she couldnít be taking a shower.
Something told Jennifer that Nora was in grave danger. As she started to walk into the living area of the Condo, she saw a figure in a chair. She must've dozed off. Relief began to take over. Giggling, she says, "If you were that tired, we could've rescheduledÖNora?"
When Jennifer turned the chair around, She screamed at the sight of her friend with the scarf she must've been wearing to go out tied tightly around her neck. "NORA?" She ran to her friend's aid to loosen the noose around her neck. She was cold and blankly staring. Jennifer gasped in disbelief. Nora is dead.
By the time Jonathan arrived at the scene, Jennifer had already spoken with the officer in charge. Telling them she only entered the condo because she suspected foul play. Officer Dvorak had the privilege to question Mrs. Hart. The Harts had a reputation of "getting too involved" down at the precinct. This was nothing new. But this was officer Dvorak's first time meeting Mr. and Mrs. Hart.
"So Mrs. Hart, let's go over the story one more time. You rang the door bell-"
Jennifer was becoming impatient with the new officer. She had already told him three times. And every time he was jotting things down. Surely he couldnít be writing the same story over and over. She put her hands on her hips and began staring at him. Thank goodness Jonathan intervened when he did, "Uh, is everything alright darling?" He could see her frustration plainly written on her face.
"Dvorak" he reminds Mr. Hart.
"Dvorak, My wife's friend was just murdered. Surely you have enough information to follow up on the story. If there is anything else we can do, here's my card. Give us a call. We'll give LAPD our full cooperation."
The officer took the card and put it into his writing notebook. He couldn't help but notice Mrs. Hartís brown eyes. Jonathan noticed him noticing too. He knew the officer couldn't help himself and smiled at him while taking his wifeís arm.
"Jennifer." looking into her eyes. "I'm sorry about Nora."
"Oh darling." she said as she found solace in his arms "If only Iíd been a few minutes earlier..."
"There was no way you could've known."
"Yes I know. " She sighed thinking about her friendís lost life and her part of the story and just what she had gotten herself into again.
"Thank you for rescuing me back there Darling. He was about to see another side of me."
Jonathan could only smile at his wife. He was sure she was about to give him the story with both barrels.
"Amanda!" Lee Stetson called quietly into the darkened room. His wife had a penchant for finding trouble and this time was no different. A simple trip to visit a friend in California had gone from vacation to work and Lee wasnít sure he was happy about that. When theyíd arrived they were shocked to learn that their friend and colleague Kevin Daston had died the day before. Amanda was convinced that he had been murdered even though the police had declared his fall into the lionís cage accidental.
"Lee. Over here." Amanda whispered back.
Lee laughed slightly. The room was pitch black, he could barely see his own feet, but he was sure Amanda was waving him to where she was. "I canít see your arm Amanda."
"Huh?" Amanda said. "Oh. Sorry. Take a left at the table, a right at the file cabinet and Ö"
"Ouch." Lee hollered, interrupting Amandaís directions.
"And watch out for the cage in the middle of the floor." Amanda smiled. She was tempted to giggle, but thought better of it.
"Thanks." Lee said as he came up to stand beside her. "Now, wanna tell me why weíre groping around in the dark?"
"Weíre looking for clues." Amanda said in her best Sherlock Holmes voice.
"Clues? What kind of clues?"
Amanda smiled sweetly and patted Lee on the shoulder. "Youíll know it when you see it."
"What kind of clues are we going to find in an abandoned office in the basement of an animal conservation center?"
"The best kind." Amanda quipped. "Oh come on, sweetheart, you know you love this stuff."
"I do, do I?" Lee grinned.
"Well, I hope you do Mr. Secret Government Agent."
"Well, Mrs. Secret Government Agent." Lee smiled. "Weíre never going to find anything here without a little light."
"Thereís a pen flashlight in my purse."
"In your purse?" Lee looked confused. "Why didnít youÖnever mind. Whereís your purse?"
"On top of the file cabinet. I put it there so I could look through this desk."
"What desk?" Lee asked as he felt his way back to the file cabinet. "Ouch." He said.
Lee just growled and mumbled about idiots leaving cages lying around the floor for him to trip over. He found the penlight and walked back over to stand next to Amanda. "Oh, that desk. Did you find anything?"
"Just this." Amanda held up a piece of paper.
Lee took the paper and shone the light on it. "Nora Jacobs. 7am." Lee put the paper back down. "Come on, this is getting us nowhere." Lee headed for the door. Amanda reluctantly followed behind him.
Amanda watched as Lee read the Sunday paper. They were going to go sight seeing after theyíd eaten lunch. She jumped when Lee looked up quickly from his paper and let his reclined feet fall loudly to the floor.
"Amanda, what was the name on that piece of paper we found yesterday?"
"Nora Jacobs, why?"
"Listen, ĎNora Jacobs, director of the Los Angeles Wildlife Conservation Center was found dead early yesterday morning by socialite Mrs. Jennifer Hart.í"
"Hart? As in Jonathan Hart Industries?"
"Does it say anything else?
"Not really, but they do mention Kevinís recent death. Maybe we should pay this Jennifer Hart a visit."
Amanda nodded her head.
Sarahís car pulled up to the main gate. "Ya know, Jess, you should really consider getting your driverís license."
"Nah, then you wouldnít have the joy of driving me everywhere. Who am I to deprive you of that?" Jessica laughed.
Sarah smiled. "Oh look, are your parents expecting company?"
"I donít know. Why?"
"Because someone just pulled up behind us and the driverís getting out of the car."
"Oh. Maybe they need directions. Roll down the window."
"I am." Sarah said as Lee walked up to her door.
"Is this Jennifer Hartís home?" He asked.
"Yes." Sarah and Jessica both answered.
"Can you get through the gates?"
"Maybe. What do you want?" Jessica asked cautiously.
Lee pulled out his government identification. "I just want to ask Mrs. Hart some questions."
Sarah took the id and showed it to Jessica. Jessica shrugged her shoulders and handed the id back to Lee.
"If they let us in, you can follow behind us." Jessica said.
"WhÖ" Sarah started as Jessica poked her on the arm. Lee walked back to his car. "What was that for?"
Jessica didnít answer, she just watched Lee as she got back in his car. "Go ahead, use the call box."
"Why? Did you forget your gate opener again?"
"Can I help you?" Jenniferís voice came over the speaker.
"Mrs. Hart? Itís SarahÖJessica forgot her gate opener thing again."
Jennifer laughed. "Alright, come on up."
"Oh, thereís someone behind us, they have government id." Sarah announced. Jessica was still silently watching the other car.
"Really? Hmm, okay." Jennifer pushed the button that would open the gate and allow both cars inside.
Jonathan and Jennifer were both standing outside when the cars pulled up the driveway. Lee and Amanda both got out of their cars and walked towards the Harts. Jessica also got out of Sarahís car.
"Bye." Sarah said.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Bye." Jessica said softly as she stared at the couple walking towards them.
"Bye Mr. and Mrs. Hart."
"Bye Sarah, thanks for dropping her off." Jennifer said.
Sarah pulled out of the driveway and drove home.
Jessica was standing silently beside Jennifer.
"Mrs. Hart?" Lee asked as he and Amanda came to stand in front of Jonathan and Jennifer.
"Yes, Iím Mrs. Hart."
Lee and Amanda both pulled out their identification and showed it to the Harts. "Weíd like to ask you some questions about Nora Jacobs." Lee announced.
"Nora?" Jennifer asked.
Jonathan took the IDís and studied them carefully. "Whatís this all about?" he asked.
"We know that your wife was the person who found Ms. Jacobsí body. We just want to ask her some questions." Lee said.
"Whoís Nora Jacobs?" Jessica asked.
"An old friend of mine." Jennifer answered. "Jess, why donít you go find Junior and feed him?"
"ButÖ" She started.
"Please?" Jennifer pleaded. Jessica was ready to protest, but the look in Jenniferís eyes told her she should just do as she was told.
Jessica muttered, "Itís not like Iím a little kid." to herself as she went into the house to find the dog.
"Mr. Stetson, Mrs. Stetson, why donít you come inside?" Jennifer invited.
Lee and Amanda sat on the couch in the living room. Jonathan was pouring drinks at the bar and Jennifer was sitting on the opposite couch. Jessica had fed the dog and stood inside the kitchen door listening to the adults talk. Jonathan saw Jessica standing in the doorway when he walked from the bar to the living room area. He held his finger to his lips to tell her to keep quiet. He then brought the drinks over to the couches and handed a drink to both of their guests and one to his wife.
"Mrs. Hart, did you know that Nora Jacobs was murdered?"
"Lee." Amanda cautioned.
Amanda indicated the alcove that hid Jessica from their sight.
"Oh. Sorry." Lee apologized.
"What is this all about?" Jonathan asked exasperated.
"Weíre just trying to get all the facts straight. For all we know, your wife couldíve killed Ms. Jacobs and then called the police."
Jonathan became very angry. His face started to turn red and his eyes narrowed. If looks could kill, Lee Stetson would have been a dead man. "My wife is not a murderer."
"We donít think she is, Mr. Hart." Amanda said in an almost motherly voice, trying to calm him down. "We just have to make sure we know exactly what happened."
"Itís okay, I understand." Jennifer said.
"Well, I donít. I think itís time for these two to leave."
"Iím afraid we canít do that yet."
"What do you want to know?" Jennifer asked solemnly.
"Did you know Kevin Daston?" Lee asked.
"No, I didnít. Why? Does he have something to do with Noraís death?"
"We donít know. He was an animal trainer at the Conservation Center."
"Was?" Jennifer asked innocently, although Nora had already told her about Kevinís "accidental" fall.
"Heís dead, Mrs. Hart."
"Murder?" Jonathan asked.
"We donít know." "We think so." Both Lee and Amanda answered simultaneously.
Lee and Amanda talked with the Harts extensively before returning to their hotel.
"Penny for your thoughts." Amanda said.
"I was just thinking about Kevin. Do you remember the first time we met him?"
"Yeah, he was always your favorite courier."
Lee laughed, "You will always be my favorite courier."
"I was never just a courier." Amanda said wistfully.
Lee smiled. "Thatís for sure, you didnít obey orders enough to be a courier. Only agents disobey orders as much as you."
"Well, you should give reasonable orders." Amanda said seriously. Lee laughed and Amanda joined him. Their laughter soon quieted and they sat on the couch in pensive silence. Both were remembering all the times they had laughed with Kevin.
"He was a great guy." Amanda said.
"The best." Lee agreed.
Amanda shook her head. "No, you are the best." Amanda smiled tearily as she leaned in and kissed her husband. As the kiss ended, Amanda laid her head down on Leeís chest and sighed.
"Do you really think Mrs. Hart had anything to do with his death?"
"I donít know. Actually, Iím more interested in that daughter of hers."
"Did you see the way she reacted to us and how she was sneaking around listening to our conversation?"
"She did seem a little anxious."
"What are you thinking?"
"I donít know, but I have a theory. What if Jessica Hart pushed Kevin into the lionís den, whether accidentally or on purpose?"
"And Nora Jacobs saw it all so Jennifer Hart killed her to protect her little girl? No, Lee that sounds too farfetched even for you to believe."
"Yeah, youíre probably right."
Jennifer and Jonathan were getting ready to go to sleep. Jennifer was sitting in bed with her laptop when Jonathan came in and sat beside her.
"Time to go to bed." Jonathan said as he closed Jenniferís laptop and placed it on his nightstand.
"Jonathan, I was using that."
"I know." He grinned mischievously.
"Darling, Do you think Kevin Daston was really murdered?"
"Maybe, itís possible whoever killed Nora killed him too." Jonathan began to kiss Jenniferís neck.
"But, why?" Jennifer asked.
"That I donít know." Jonathan tried to kiss his wifeís lips, but she turned her head and he ended up kissing her cheek.
"DarlingÖ" Jennifer began, but Jonathan stopped her by pulling her face to his and kissing her firmly on the lips.
"Time to go to bed." Jonathan said authoritatively.
"Iím not sleepy." Jennifer grinned with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Who said anything about sleep?" Jonathan asked as he reached up and turned off the light.
Amanda awoke with a start. She glanced at the clock and noticed it was only 2 am. She knew she wasnít going to get back to sleep anytime soon so she decided to go for a walk. Careful not to awaken Lee, she got dressed and left the hotel room. She was heading for the lounge area when she heard furious whispers coming from around the corner. Amanda quietly walked to the corner and pressed herself against the wall. She listened at what sounded like a man and a woman arguing.
"What are we going to do? No one is going to buy two accidents happening at the same place in a matter of weeks." The man questioned.
"But, Nora didnít die at the center she died at home."
"Thatís a mere technicality. Itís too many accidental deaths. We
canít get away with another."
"But, we have to get rid of the girl. She knows too much."
"Well, she may not know that she knows."
"What are you talking about?"
"Listen, Tessa. Sheís just a kid. Itís possible that she doesnít understand what she saw."
"Youíre too naÔve, Hank. We have to get rid of her. Jessica Hart is going to wish sheíd never heard of the LA Wildlife Conservation Center."
Amanda gasped inaudibly and ran back to her room as fast and as quietly as she could.
"Lee!" She whispered as she walked over to the bed she was sharing with her husband. "Lee, wake up!" She started to shake him to wake him up.
"Amanda?" Lee said groggily.
"Youíre not going to believe what I just heard!"
The next morning Lee and Amanda were sitting at the table in their hotel room talking about what Amanda had heard. They had tried to find the couple from the night before, but they were nowhere to be found and the room they were standing in front was unoccupied according to hotel records.
"Now what?" Amanda asked.
"We have to find out exactly what Jessica knows."
"And why someone wants to kill her over it."
"Annie." Lee stated.
"Annie? What about her?"
"She could get close to JessicaÖ"
"No!" Amanda yelled. "Absolutely not!"
"Amanda, she wouldnít be in any danger, weíd be watching her the entire time."
"Lee, there is no way I will allow my 12 year old daughter to be brought into a murder investigation! BesidesÖsheís 12, Jessicaís 16, why would Jessica confide in a 12 year old stranger?"
"Sweetheart, Iím not talking about bringing Anna here. Iím thinking we should send Jessica there."
"Youíve lost me."
"How would you react if you found out that a murderer was targeting Anna?"
Amanda shuddered at the thought. "Iíd hide her."
"Exactly. And thatís what Jennifer Hart will want to do with Jessica, right?"
Amanda nodded her head.
"So, we think you should send Jessica to a safe house in Virginia." Lee said. He and Amanda had just told the Harts about the threats against Jessica.
"Virginia? Why Virginia?" Jonathan asked, skeptically.
"Because, the agency will be able to keep an eye on her there." Amanda answered. "They would never think to look for her at our house."
"Your house?" Jennifer said.
"Lee will stay here and try to find out who Hank and Tessa are and Iíll take Jessica with me back to Arlington."
"I want to go with you." Jennifer stated.
Jonathan looked at his wife curiously. "Are you sure about this?"
Jennifer nodded. "If someone does want toÖ" Jenniferís voice caught in her throat. "If someone does want to kill our daughter we have to do whatever we can to protect her."
Jonathan touched Jenniferís arm gently and nodded his head. "Sheíll be okay."
"I donít think you should tell her sheís being targeted." Lee suggested.
"Why not?" Jonathan asked.
"I think heís right." Jennifer said. "It would only frighten her."
Amanda was the only one who noticed the shadow pass the top of the steps and disappear down the hall. She decided now wasnít the time to tell the Harts that she had a feeling Jessica already knew.
"I think we should leave as soon as possible. But, weíll have to be careful. Weíre probably being watched." Lee said.
Jennifer shivered even though there was no chill in the air. "How do we get her out of here without anyone knowing?"
"The rug." Jonathan said.
"The rug?" Both Lee and Amanda asked as they exchanged confused glances.
"Do you really think that would work?" Jennifer asked.
"It worked once before, didnít it?"
Jennifer nodded. "But, wonít she wonder why weíre hiding her to get her out of here?" Jennifer asked.
"No, she already knows." All four adults turned sharply when Jessica spoke from where she was standing on the steps.
"Jess." Jennifer said softly. Jessica walked over to her and allowed a tight hug.
"Iím all packed." Jessica said bravely.
Jennifer smiled at her. "Good." She said. When she noticed the forlorn look on Jessicaís face she added. "Donít worry, sweetie, weíll take care of you."
Jessica nodded and returned Jenniferís embrace.
"I love you, Dad." Jessica said as she hugged Jonathan goodbye.
"I love you too. And, donít you worry about a thing. Everythingís going to be okay."
"I know. You can do anything." Jessica said.
Jonathan looked down at his daughter and smiled. "Not quite anything, but I wonít let anything happen to you." He kissed her gently on the forehead.
"I know." Jessica hugged him tightly and then let go. "Goodbye."
"See you soon." Jonathan said. Jennifer came up behind him and put her arms around his waist.
"Be careful." Jennifer said.
"You too." Jonathan and Jennifer shared one last passionate kiss.
Jonathan and the rug cleaner carried the rug out of the house gently and put it in the truck.
"Iím going to ride along. Donít want to take a chance with that rug."
The cleaner looked at him like he was crazy, but he agreed and got into the truck. Jonathan took one last look at the garage and got in the truck. He whispered "Good luck, I love you." To no one in particular as the truck pulled out of the driveway.
The garage door opened and Jennifer drove her car out. She made her way out of the gates and drove until she reached the highway. It seemed like hours before she reached the abandoned airfield. The only sign of life around was the private airplane sitting down the runway. Jennifer walked around to the trunk and opened it. She then helped Jessica climb out.
"Iím sure glad Mr. Stetson suggested the oxygen mask." Jessica said.
Jennifer smiled and linked arms with Jessica. Together they walked towards the airplane where Amanda and several other government agents were waiting for them.
Lee Stetson was sitting outside of the hotel in his rental car. He was watching the main doors when he saw Jonathan Hart enter the hotel. Lee cursed to himself, got out of his car and followed Jonathan into the hotel. He walked through the doors and looked around, but Jonathan was nowhere in sight. He decided to take a long shot and see if Jonathan was playing detective upstairs. He took the elevator up to the 7th floor, where Amanda had heard Hank and Tessa talking. He rounded the corner and saw Jonathan jimmying the lock to one of the doors with a nail file. Lee snuck up behind him, pulled out his lock pick and held it in front of Jonathanís face. Jonathan jumped at the unexpected movement.
"Need some help?" Lee asked, frustrated.
Jonathan grinned, took the lock pick in his hand and said, "Sure." while he proceeded to pick the lock. The door opened with a squeak and the men walked inside.
"You know, Amanda saw them out in the hall, not in a room donít you?" Lee asked.
"Yeah, and you know they were probably either leaving or returning."
"Sure, but thereís no way to know which room they were in."
"Amanda said they were standing outside room #456, right?"
"Yeah." Lee answered, a little perturbed. What did this guy know about spying? He was just a business tycoon.
"Just humor me." Jonathan said.
"I thought thatís what Iím doing." Lee said sarcastically.
Jonathan and Lee proceeded to look through every drawer and closet in the room. They were coming up empty when a thought occurred to Lee. He went over to the bed and lifted up the mattress.
"Aah, hah." Lee said as he pulled the manila folder out that had been revealed under the mattress.
"What is it?"
Lee was looking through the papers inside the folder intently. "I think thereís more to this then whatís going on at the Conservation Center." He stated.
"Why, whatís in the folder?" Jonathan asked.
Lee frowned as he handed the folder over to Jonathan. Jonathan looked through the pictures and his face only wore a mask of confusion. "These are inventories, animal inventories. Theyíre probably from the Conservation Center. Why would someone kill two people and threaten Jessica over a list of animals?"
"I donít know, but look at this one." Lee said as he took the folder and pulled out one of the papers. He pointed to an animal listed as Species #92899UN. "All the other animals have descriptions, names, even pictures. This one has a number and itís not mentioned again."
"But this is just a list of all the animals at the Conservation Center, why would they steal it. Unless, it has to do with our friend #92899UN." Jonathan said, thinking aloud.
"Exactly." Lee agreed. "We have to find out what animal it is and why itís not named or otherwise mentioned. Itís not even mentioned in the list of food they buy for each species. Either 92899UN doesnít get fed or theyíve lumped it in with another species."
"We have to get back into the Conservation Center."
"No problem, come on." Lee put the folder back under the mattress and they straightened up the room before leaving the hotel.
Amandaís car pulled into the driveway. She and her passengers got out of the car and walked into the house. It wasnít a large house, but it wasnít small either. It was an old farmhouse that had been renovated and refurbished as a present from Lee. When she found out she was pregnant with their daughter, they knew theyíd need to find another place to live. Amanda fell in love with the farmhouse immediately and Lee liked nothing more then to make her happy.
"So, how long were you married before you had to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak?" Jennifer asked.
"Not even an entire year. We could pull off a secret marriage, but we knew itíd be impossible to pull off a secret pregnancy."
"Unbelievable." Jennifer smiled.
"Thatís what my mother said." Amanda giggled.
Amanda, Jennifer and Jessica where standing in the foyer. They had just put down the suitcases when a young girl, with curly brown hair and big blue eyes came into the room followed by a smaller boy who looked to be a miniature version of his father.
"Hey, thereíre my babies." Amanda cooed as the children ran to her to welcome her home. She pulled them both into hugs. "Whereís your grandmother?"
"Right here." Dotty West called from the adjacent kitchen. Dotty smiled and walked over to hug her daughter. "Welcome back, darling." The children stood shyly beside their mother.
"Thanks, how were they?"
"Angels, of course. Now, I need to get home, you donít need me anymore today do you? Because, if you do, I canÖ" Dotty started babbling.
Amanda cut her off. "No, mother thatís fine. See you soon." Amanda kissed her mother on the cheek. Dotty whispered "I Love You" and gave Jennifer and Jessica a confused stare as she left the house.
"Kids, I want you to meet some people. Theyíre going to be staying with us for awhile." Amanda said.
"This is Mrs. Jennifer Hart and her daughter Jessica." Amanda pushed the boy and girl over to stand closer to Jennifer and Jessica. "Jennifer, Jessica, these are my children, Anna and Eric."
"Hi there." Jennifer said. "How old are you?"
"Iím twelve, heís eight." Anna answered. "How old are you?" she asked Jessica.
"Anna, we were hoping youíd let Jessica share your room while sheís hereÖok?" Amanda asked.
Anna shrugged her shoulders. "Sure." She said. "Come on up." Jessica grabbed her suitcase and followed Anna up the stairs.
"Do I haveta share my room with her?" Eric asked, indicating Jennifer. His eyes were wide with anger. There was no way he was going to let a girl in his room.
"No, sweetheart, sheíll stay in the guest room." Amanda said, hiding her smile.
"Good." Eric said. "Iím gonna go play outside."
"Okay, have fun." Amanda called as Eric walked out of the house. As soon as he was out of earshot both Jennifer and Amanda cracked up with laughter.
"Are you sure?" Tessa asked.
"Of course Iím sure. Sheís gone, they snuck her out somehow." Hank replied, angrily.
"I thought you said you were watching the house!"
"I was." Hank looked sheepish. "They tricked me with a rug."
"A what? Never mind, I donít want to know. We have to find her!" Tessa yelled.
"I think I know where theyíve taken her."
Tessa grinned. "Well, now thatís different." Tessa put her arm around Hank and she walked him to the couch. "SitÖand talk."
Evening rolled onto the Virginia hills quietly and without fanfare. Dinner had been served and eaten and now, Amanda sat in her library talking with Jennifer. Anna and Jessica had gone upstairs to bed only moments before. Eric had fallen asleep on the couch, his head lying gently on his motherís lap.
"Heís so peaceful now, youíd never believe heíd just terrorized two teenagers, fought a war, saved the damsel in distress and stormed the trenches all in time for dinner." Amanda said as she absently stroked her sonís head.
Jennifer laughed. She was looking at a picture that sat on the end table beside the couch. "Who are they?" she pointed to a picture of two grown young men.
"My sons, Phillip and Jaime." Amanda smiled, wistfully. "Jaimeís in college in Pennsylvania. Phillipís in graduate school. I think heís going to be a chemistÖhe always has liked to blow things up." Amanda paused and laughed nervously. "I donít know why Iím telling you all this. Iíve only known you a couple days and you already know most of my life story. I hardly know a thing about you. Got any deep dark secrets?"
Jennifer laughed. "Hah, no, not really."
"Itís okay, you donít have to tell me anything. Iím just being nosy."
"No, itís okay. I really donít have any secrets. Although, I could tell you about Jessica."
"Jessica? Sheís your daughter."
"Yes, but she hasnít always been. And in order to tell this story, I have to start at the beginningÖwith Max."
Jessica watched as Anna came back into the bedroom. They had both just finished preparing for bed. Jessica was sitting on Annaís bed reading a book. Anna grabbed her copy of Anne of Green Gables and sat down next to Jessica.
"What are you reading?" Anna asked.
"The Accidental Tourist." Jessica closed the book with a sigh. "This has got to be the most boring book Iíve ever laid eyes on."
"Then why are you reading it?"
"Iím doing a paper on Anne Tyler. I think Iíll just read the back of the book and the last couple pages."
Jessica looked at the book Anna was reading. "Anne of Green Gables? I read that a couple years ago."
"Me too. Iíve read it a million times. I love it." Anna smiled. "What are you thinking about?" she asked when she noticed Jessicaís pensive stare.
"Nothing." Jessica looked back down at the book, but she didnít open it.
"Come on, I wonít tell anyone."
"Really?" Jessica asked.
"Pinky swear." Anna smiled and Jessica linked pinkies with her.
"I saw something and it got a man killed."
Annaís jaw dropped. "Youíre kidding?"
Jessica shook her head no. "Do you believe in Unicorns?"
"Iím not sure. I used to." Anna answered quietly.
"I do. Iíve seen one."
Lee and Jonathan were skulking around the basement of the Conservation Center. Night had fallen hours ago and no one was left in the building. They had gotten in through a basement window that was just above ground level. It was the same way Lee and Amanda had gotten in here before. Now, he and Jonathan were making their way to the stairs. They needed to get to the area where the animals were. First they needed to find something that would tell them how the animals were organized. It wouldnít work to be searching the entire center all night. So, they made their way to Kevinís office. Lee opened the door and whispered "Watch out, there was a cage in the middle of the floor last time I was in here." The little flashlight Lee carried didnít add much light to the room.
Jonathan didnít answer him as he entered the office and headed for the file cabinet. Lee searched the desk. Both came up with nothing. They couldnít find any reference to species #92899UN."
Jonathan started to move towards the desk, however he tripped over a cage. "That the cage you meant?" he asked.
"Yeah, thatís it." Lee grinned.
Jonathan picked it up and sat it on the desk. "Why would a cage be in here?" He wondered.
"Well, Kevin did work with animals."
"Yeah, but not in his office." Jonathan said as he opened the cage. The cage was a regular cage, with bars on 3 sides and a solid floor. The floor was about 4 inches thick. Lee took the cage and began to feel along its floor.
"What are you looking for?"
Lee didnít answer him, but he didnít need to, for as soon as the question was asked Lee had popped open a secret compartment in the cage. Lee reached in and pulled out a book.
"It looks like a journal of some sort." Lee said.
"Open it up." Jonathan suggested.
Lee began to read the first page and then skimmed through a few pages before he found an interesting passage. "Itís a trainerís journal. He talks about feeding schedules and exercising the animals and breeding for the most part. Then he starts to digress. He found somethingÖhe doesnít go into specifics."
"Yeah, maybe it seems like he was breeding some palominos and he ordered a group of new horses to breed with the oneís already here. One of the horses could have had a mutated gene."
"Does he say what it was?"
"No, wait, he mentions Jessica in here."
"I thought you said you never knew Kevin." Lee asked.
"Jessica did. It says here sheíd been helping him take care of the horses. Did you know she was spending so much time here?"
"No, I knew she liked to visit the animals, but I had no idea."
"The last entry is dated the day he died."
"What does it say?" Jonathan asked.
"Jessica says she knows what 92899UN is. Iíve asked her to come and see me today."
Lee nodded his head. "I think Jessica is the key to all this. She must know more then sheís told us."
"I donít understand why she wouldnít talk to me or Jennifer about what sheís been doing."
"Well, she is sixteen. Maybe sheís trying to exert her independence. Be gratefulÖworking with horses secretly is a much better way to rebel then the ways I chose."
"Yeah. Come on, letís get out of here."
Lee tucked the journal in his jacket and he and Jonathan left the office and the conservation center without anyone knowing they were there.
Hank and Tessa watched the old farmhouse from a distance. They had been there since dawn and everything was quiet so far. The people inside the house were just beginning to wake up and move around.
"Howíd you know where she was?" Tessa asked.
"I found Jennifer Hartís car at Acer Airport."
"That place has been deserted for years."
"Decades, so it wasnít too hard to track down the flight plan of the only plane to take off from Acer Airport in 18 years."
Tessa smiled evilly. "So, now we just have to get the girl away from the rest of them."
"I have a plan."
"Well, Hank, if itís as good as your plan to find her, Iím all ears."
Lee and Jonathan arrived at the airport right after breakfast. They wanted to arrive in Virginia within the day. They knew Jessica had information they needed.
"I called Amanda, theyíre going to take a picnic to the lake and weíre to meet them there."
"Good. Did you tell her about the journal?"
"Yeah, she says Jessica hasnít said much to her or Jennifer for that matter, but that she and Annie are stuck to each other like glue."
"Really?" Jonathan questioned. "The little sister sheís never had kind of thing?"
"Maybe, or maybe Jessica told Anna what she knows."
Amanda, Jennifer and the three kids arrived at the park by the lake by afternoon. Amanda and Jennifer were setting up the picnic table. Jessica and Anna had set up a blanket under a shade tree and were watching the boats in the lake. Eric was playing with his ball when he saw his brother, Jaime heading towards him.
"Jaime!" he yelled as he ran towards him. Amanda smiled and walked over to her sons.
Jessica looked up to see what all the commotion was. Her breath stopped when she saw a very handsome young man talking to Amanda and Jennifer. Eric had run off to get his ball again. "Who is that?" she asked.
"Oh, thatís my brother, Jaime." Anna answered.
"Heís quite a hunk."
"Eww. No, he isnít, heís my brother! Besides heís way too old for you." Anna said.
Jessica laughed. "Come on, introduce me."
Jessica and Anna walked over and joined their mothers who were talking to Jaime.
Hank and Tessa watched the entire scene with great interest.
"I think itís time for a change in plans." Tessa said.
Tessa looked at Eric who was coming closer to them with his ball. No one was paying attention to him, as they were too involved with the arrival of Jaime King. Tessa paused and waited, and then when Eric was close enough she reached out and grabbed him. She had her hand over his mouth quickly, but he still managed to yell for his mother. Hank grabbed the boy and he and Tessa started running. Amanda, Jennifer and Jaime were running to catch up to them. Tessa and Hank jumped in their car and drove off before anyone could catch them.
Lee and Jonathan were walking towards the picnic area when they saw Jessica and Anna running towards them. Anna was crying and Lee and Jonathan ran to meet them. Lee took Anna in his arms.
"Whatís going on?" Lee asked.
"Some people, they grabbed Eric." Jessica said.
Lee let go of Anna and ran to the picnic area. He stopped in his tracks when he saw his wife sitting on the ground in Jaimeís arms. Lee ran and pulled Amanda into his arms.
"What happened?" He asked.
"They took him. They took our baby." Amanda cried.
Lee held his wife securely in his arms. "Who? Who took him?"
"I donít know." Amanda said through her tears.
"It was a man and a woman." Jessica said quietly.
"Did you see them? Do you think you could identify them?" Lee asked.
"Maybe, they were running pretty fast."
"Lee, we should get the police." Jonathan suggested.
Lee and Amanda both nodded their heads solemnly. Jaime held onto his little sister as they watched their motherís heart breaking.
"Weíll do everything we can to get him back for you
"Thanks Jonathan, Jennifer." No words could be found for their loss.
"Are you hungry?" It had been a while since Hank was actually with a child much less taking care of one. He had a little boy too; Henry Jr. would be about 13 now. Hank hadnít seen him since he was about Ericís age. "Thirsty?"
"I WANT MY MOMMY!"
"Look kid. It will only be for a little while. If you donít shut up, Iím gonna make you!" Tessa only wanted to spend enough time with this kid to get the other.
"Tessa youíre scaring him!"
"I donít want no more outbursts, do you hear me?" Eric stared in disbelief that all this was happening. He could feel the mean man was more caring of him than the mean lady. He began to quietly whimper, "Mister, I just want to go back home. To my mom and dad...please"
"I know you do," Stroking his hair to reassure him he wasnít going to let Tessa hurt him. "And if they play their cards right, you can go back very soon."
"But what if they donít?"
"Letís hope they do. Now you sit here quietly and donít move. Iím going to the next room to find out how to get you home sooner. Okay?"
"Okay...okay Iíll sit here like you said."
"Thatís a good boy."
Hank was so angry with Tessa for making him do this! "Itís not him we wanted Tessa!"
"Then itís what weíll have to settle with."
"How sure are you that the Harts will turn over their daughter in exchange for this child? I think youíve done it now Tessa!"
"Iím so sick and tired of hearing you tell me what you think I should do! Once we cash in with Species #92899UN weíll be set. Monday at approximately 3pm, we get our money. If you donít quit haggling me, Iíll make it that you donít see a penny of it."
"You wouldnít dare! Iím the one who found out what Kevin was doing! How dare you threaten me!"
Realizing she still needed Hank for the rest of her plan to be carried out, she was going to have to hear him out. For a while though, only for a while. Hank saw the look on her face. It would only be a matter of time before he was eliminated.
"Look Tessa, whatever you want to do. Iím taking the kid to get something to eat."
"Yeah, thatís a good idea. Grab me a bite would-cha?"
"Be back shortly."
He had to get out of there and get this kid back to the farm. If Tessa didnít have any proof of how the experiment was done, theyíd never pay her and have to deal directly with him. After all, it was he who over heard Kevin and the Jessica talking about it. He brought it to Tessaís attention! He then could pay off the loan shark he borrowed the money from to get working on this project. He had to get to Dastonís lab journal and get out of town.
"Mr. Hart, Mrs. Hart."
"Dick, Thanks for coming."
"What can I do for you?"
Jonathan didn't waste anytime getting into the specifics of the crime. They felt responsible for the kidnapping of Eric and were going to get him back.
"Do you think the kidnappers knew the family?"
"Amanda didn't mention it to me." Jennifer shivered at the thought of Jessica being in the hands of a kidnapper. She knew how Amanda must feel.
"Darling, do you think there could be some link between what Amanda over heard and the kidnapping?"
"Yes, I do. Somehow I think all of this is connected."
"Iíll do everything I can do to get the child back Mr. Hart."
"I know you will Dick. Thatís why I called on you."
"Iíll get to working on this right now and call you at the number you gave me with any info I come across." he extended his hand to his mentor, Mr. Hart. Jonathan knew Detective Dick Marcus would do all he could too.
"Now Eric, sit tight and Iím gonna run in to use the bath room okay? You eat your kidís meal. Iíll be watching you. Donít move okay? Iíll be back soon. Donít open the car door for anyone. Only if itís the police."
"Okay." Eric knew he wasnít going to see the man who he knew only as Hank again.
As soon as he was out of the carís sight, Hank went straight to a pay phone.
"Hello, 911? Iíd like to let you know that thereís a car out here with a little boy in it. Heís just sitting there. His parents must have left him there, heís all alone. Can you send someone right away? Thank you..." Hank knew better than to leave his name. Eric sees him get into another car and drive away.
"Hey! Weíve got an abandoned kid in a car!" A police officer yelled across the station. "Detective Marcus? Get over to the McDonaldís parking lot at Fort Ave and Lawrence Street right now!"
"Do we have an id on the kid?"
"No, the guy just hung up right after he told us about the kid."
"Okay, Iím on way."
Eric started to cry as he sat alone in the cold car. He watched people walk by the car and he knew they could see him crying. This time, he didnít care if anyone saw him crying, theyíd cry too if they were so far from home. Ericís tears fell softly on his cheeks as he laid down on the backseat of the car and cried himself to sleep.
It wasnít long before he was awakened by a loud banging noise. He opened his eyes slowly and jumped when he saw a man in a police uniform standing outside of the car. Detective Marcus smiled at Eric and yelled "Iím just gonna pick this lock. Weíll have you out of there before you can say Supercallafragilistic."
"Thatís a good boy." Det. Marcus said as he swung the door open. "Now, how about you tell me what youíre doing all alone in a locked car?"
Hank sat outside of the Fort McHenry gates worried. He knew Tessa was going to be angry, but he wasnít going to let her hurt that innocent little boy. Eric reminded him too much of Henry and no one would ever hurt Henry. They were hiding within the Fortís abandoned cells. Those cells were used for holding prisoners at one time, now they were just homage to things past. To a time when things were simplerÖand dangerous. Finally Hank got up the courage to get out of the car and climb the gates. Leaving the car in the parking lot he headed towards the fort.
"Whereíve you been?" Tessa yelled when Hank came into the cell. When she didnít see Eric she began to become very angry. "Whereís the kid, Hank?"
"I let him go."
"You what?" Tessa screamed.
"I had to, heís just a kid Tessa."
"So is Jessica, are you just going to let her go too? And didnít you stop to think that that little kid can lead the police right to us?"
"Jessicaís, well, sheís different, older."
"You old softy you." Tessa said snidely. "We have to get out of here."
"Why? He doesnít know where he was being held."
"How do you know that?"
"I, I umm, I blindfolded him." Hank lied. He didnít really blind fold him, but heís just a little kidÖhe wouldnít remember the way backÖHank hoped.
Lee watched as Amanda tried to sleep on their bed. It had been hours since Eric had disappeared. Lee and Amanda had just spent the day at the Agency where a search team was formed. They were both ordered to go home and get some sleep. Billy knew it would be hard to convince his best agents to stay off their own sonís kidnapping. However, he also knew it wouldnít help Eric if his parents fell asleep on a stake out. Amanda was worried sick and her body wasnít appreciating it. She refused to eat anything and Lee couldnít blame her, he wasnít all that hungry himself.
"We will find him, Amanda."
Amanda nodded. She was facing away from Lee and he couldnít see her face or the tears that were covering it. Lee didnít need to see them to know they were there. He lay down on the bed beside her and pulled his wife into his arms. He didnít say anything, no words were needed.
Jonathan and Jennifer were lying in bed in the guest room silently. Jennifer was lying against Jonathanís chest and he had his arms wrapped around her.
"It was supposed to be Jessie you know?" Jennifer whispered.
Jonathan didnít answer her; he rested his chin on the top of her head and sighed.
"When they couldnít get to her, they took Eric. Can you imagine what that little boy is going through right now? What his parents are going through?"
"I know. Donít worry, weíll find him."
"What if they try to exchange Eric for Jessica?"
Jonathan looked dumbfounded. He didnít know what he would do if that happened. "Weíll figure it out."
"I wonít let them get near her." Jennifer said and turned around so that she and Jonathan were face to face.
"Neither will I and I donít think Lee or Amanda would expect that."
Jennifer laid her head down on Jonathanís shoulder and closed her eyes. It wasnít going to be easy to fall asleep this night.
Jaime, Jessica and Anna were sitting around the kitchen table. They had juice and cookies in front of them but no one was eating. They were just sitting, watching each other.
Finally, Jaime broke the silence. "So, all this is because of a unicorn?" He asked unbelievingly. Jessica had told the police everything she had seen at the conservation center. So far, Anna was the only one who believed her, or so she thought.
"Apparently." Jessica sighed. "I feel so bad. This is all my fault."
Jaime looked at her sympathetically. "No, itís not your fault. You couldnít have expected this to happen."
"I could have said something sooner. Maybe if I hadÖ" Jessica was sure she was about to start crying. She really didnít want Jaime to see her crying.
"Stop. Maybes donít count. You canít second guess everything you do." Jaime touched Jessicaís arm gently and she smiled back at him.
They just sat there looking into each otherís eyes until the phone ringing brought them out of their reverie. Anna laughed as she picked up the receiver only to find someone had picked it up before her.
"Hello?" Lee said into the phone groggily.
"Is this the home of Lee and Amanda Stetson?" the voice asked.
"Yes, it is." Lee sat up straighter. Anna listened more intently.
"We think weíve found your son."
"Where?" Lee shook Amanda to tell her to get up.
"Baltimore City, weíre holding him here at the precinct. They found him at a McDonaldís by Fort McHenry."
"Thanks officer, tell him weíre on our way!"
Both Lee and Anna hung up the phone at the same time.
"They found Eric." Anna announced. Before she could say anymore Lee and Amanda and Jonathan and Jennifer came bounding down the stairs.
"Kids, we have to head into Baltimore. They found Eric." Lee said as they all grabbed their coats.
"Wait, let us come with you." Jaime said.
"No, we need you three to stay here."
"But, Daddy, heís our little brother." Anna pleaded.
"Jaime, Annie, please just stay here. Keep Jessica company."
"I wanna go too." Jessica mumbled loud enough for Jennifer and Jonathan to hear her.
"Jess, we need you kids to stay here. We donít want to have to worry about you three." Jennifer said. Before the kids could respond all four adults had ran out the door and into their cars.
"I think theyíve forgotten that I turned 21 two years ago." Jaime said.
"Youíre that old?" Jessica scoffed.
"Hah, got a problem with older men?"
"Umm, uhhÖNo, but my dad might." She laughed.
"Well, then remind me not to ask you out on any dates for a couple years." Jaime winked at her.
"You would ask me out on a date?"
"Sure, youíre a real sweetheartÖand youíre pretty cute."
"Ahem." Anna cleared her throat in an attempt to get her brother and new friend back on track. "I know where they found Eric."
Both Jaime and Jessica turned to look at her. "Where?" they said simultaneously.
"Díya think the people who took him are still there?" Jessica asked Jaime.
"Maybe. What are you thinking?"
Jessica grinned and told them her idea.
The Stetsons and the Harts arrived at the police station in record time. They ran inside and were greeted by a friendly looking police officer.
"Hi, Iím Detective Marcus, you must be Mr. And Mrs. Stetson?" He said, indicating Lee and Amanda.
"Yes, where is he?" Amanda asked anxiously.
"Heís in the conference room, asleep on the couch. If your husband would like to fill out this paper work I can take you back to him."
"Yes, please." Amanda said. Her stomach was turning in knots as she followed Det. Marcus back to the conference room. She ran into the room when she saw her little boy lying so still on the couch. She moved quickly and sat down on the couch beside him. Amanda inspected him carefully, if he even had one little scrape or bruise she didnít want to miss it. She took her hand and wiped the hair out his face when he stirred beneath her touch.
"Mommy!" he exclaimed when he saw Amanda sitting over him.
Amanda pulled him into a tight embrace. "Are you okay?"
"Iím ok." He answered as he hugged her back. Just then he saw Lee standing in the doorway. "Daddy!" He exclaimed.
"Hey chief." Lee smiled as he came and sat behind Amanda on the couch. He put his arms around his wife and son and enjoyed being able to do just that.
Jonathan and Jennifer walked into the room and smiled at the family reunion. Detective Marcus was close behind them. "Mr. and Mrs. Stetson, weíve read your statement and I think we should question Eric. You can both be in the room with him, if youíd like."
"Now?" Amanda questioned. "But, heís exhausted."
"I think itís important to take care of it as soon as possible."
"Itís okay, I want to." Eric said.
"Youíre a very brave little boy." Jennifer said.
"Iím not little." Eric replied, only mildly offended.
Jaime parked his car outside of the Fortís gates. "I canít believe you talked me into this." He told Jessica.
"Why is it so hard to believe? I can be very persuasive." Jessica grinned.
"I think we should call the police." Jaime said.
"Why? Because we THINK there may be some kidnappers hiding out in Fort McHenry? Theyíd laugh us out of the state!"
"ButÖ" Jaime started to say when Jessica got out of the car and headed for the gates with Anna hot on her heels. "What have I gotten myself into?" He asked himself.
They hid behind some bushes when they heard the security patrol walk by. After the patrol had left they climbed the gate as quickly as they could and hurried inside.
"Man, this place is huge." Anna observed.
"Yeah, weíre never going to find anything in here." Jaime announced.
"Oh come on you twoÖ" Jessica paused when she heard something a few feet away. "Shhh. Whatís that?" The three listened silently until they heard it again, it sounded like a door opening and closing. "That sounds like itís coming from over there." Jessica said as she pointed to the cells. Jessica started walking towards the cells before anyone could argue with her.
"Do you know where they were holding you?"
"It wasnít far from McDonaldís." Eric said. "I mean, it didnít take long to get there. There were high walls and gates and water. It looked a lot like a Fort."
"A Fort?" Detective Marcus questioned curiously. "He was found right down the street from Fort McHenry."
"Could they still be there?" Jonathan asked.
"Letís go find out." Lee said.
"Hold on. Weíll take care of it. Iíll send some men there in the morning."
Lee pulled out his government ID and handed it to the Detective. "They might be gone by then. Weíll go now."
"At least let me and my partner, Detective Smith come with you?" He said.
"Ok, letís go."
"Wait, Lee, what about Eric?" Amanda said as Eric looked from his mother to his father.
"He could stay here. Heíll be safe here." Detective Marcus suggested.
"Eric. Would you mind staying here for a little while?" Lee asked his son.
Eric shook his head no. "Go catch the bad guys Daddy and Mommy!" Both Lee and Amanda kissed Eric and hugged him before they headed to the Fort.
Jaime, Jessica and Anna stopped swiftly when they heard a neighing sound coming from inside the cell. It didnít sound like a normal horseís neigh; it was more high pitched and musical sounding. The cellís doors opened easily and with a loud creak. The neighing sound continued and they followed it. They walked down a set of stairs that took them underground. The sound echoed around them and reverbated against the thick stone walls. The darkness was frightening and Anna shuddered as she imagined all the critters that were living in that darkness. Jaime saw his sister shudder and put his arm around her as they walked. The neighing was getting louder and louder until the dark hallway came out into a bigger room. The room appeared to be empty and dark except for one shaft of bright light shining from a candle that sat on a wall. The candle was unusually bright and revealed a horse-like animal in its luminescence. The animal reared its legs and neighed again, panicking. As they got closer, they soon realized this was no horse. The animal was sheer white, with a horseís body, and white fur framing itís goat-like hooves and a hint of rainbow colors in its mane and tail. The detail that made Jaime, Jessica and Anna the most in awe, however was the long, golden horn that sprouted from its head.
"Itís a unicornÖ" Anna whispered. The horse stopped neighing and stood perfectly still as Anna and Jessica both walked towards it. It looked from Anna to Jessica, moving only its eyes. Jessica reached out and touched the Unicornís mane softly.
"Itís okay. Weíre going to help you." Jessica whispered. The Unicorn made no sound, but it nudged Jessicaís face playfully. Anna laughed and started to pet the unicorn.
"What should we call her?" Anna asked.
"How about calling her Farewell." Tessa called from the shadows. She moved into the light and said "Since thatís what all three of you are about to do."
Lee addressed the security guard at the gates of the Fort. "Are you sure you havenít seen anything unusual here in the last couple of days?"
"Iím sure, Mr. Stetson."
"Would you mind if we checked out the Fort?" Detective Marcus asked.
"Well, sure." The guard said as he opened the gates.
"Thanks." Jonathan and Jennifer said as they walked into the Fort.
"This place is huge." Amanda observed.
"Yeah, letís split up. Jonathan, you and Jennifer go towards the cells with me, Det. Smith and the Stetsonsíll check out the buildings." Lee directed.
Jonathan and Jennifer nodded their heads. "Alright. Weíll meet back here in an hour." Jonathan said as the four split up and headed in their respective directions.
"Itís so spooky here." Jennifer said as a cool breeze caused her shiver.
"Yeah, it is that. Especially at night. Come on."
Lee and Amanda were only feet away from Jonathan and Jennifer when the sound of an explosion rocked the Fort. The two police officers headed towards the cells where the explosion originated. The Stetsonís and the Harts were close behind. They opened the cell door and walked slowly down the staircase and long hallway.
"What was that?" Anna cried. She, Jaime and Jessica had been tied up and thrown in a cell adjacent to the Unicornís room. The explosion was extremely loud and had echoed in the cell as it shook violently.
"Sounded like an explosion." Jaime said.
"Weíre never gonna get out of here!" Anna cried. She was sitting beside Jaime and she scooted closer to him. If Jaime hadnít been tied up he would have hugged her, but all he could do was kiss her on the top of her head.
"Itís ok. Mom and Lee will find us." Jaime said.
"How? They donít even know weíre here!"
Jessica closed her eyes to allow the tears to fall more freely. She was terrifiedÖand feeling a little guilty. She was the one who convinced Jaime and Anna to come here with her. Besides, she was the one who Hank and Tessa were after anyway.
"Oh, mom and dad, where are you?" she whispered, even though she knew there was no way they would find her. They didnít even know where she was.
"What did you do?" Hank yelled.
"I donít know. I donít know." Tessa stammered. "I was just mixing these chemicals, Iíve mixed them a million times, that shouldnít have happened!" She yelled back.
"Well, it did happen and weíre lucky to still be alive!"
Tessa went over to the table where she had been mixing formulas together only moments before. "Oh no." she whispered. "Itís all gone."
"What is? Whatís gone?"
"The explosionÖit destroyed it." Tessa looked at the Unicorn that stood confidently only feet away. "This is all impossible. There is no way those two chemicals could have caused that explosion. I was just making a mild sedativeÖto put our three little friends to sleep in there."
"What are you saying?"
"Iím sayingÖI think weíve created a monster."
The Unicorn seemed to shake its magnificent head at Tessa and whinnied happily.
The Unicorn then reared on its hind legs and started to herd Hank and Tessa out of the room. She led them out into the hallway and wouldnít let them get around her. It wasnít long before they ran into the search party.
"What in the world?" Detective Smith asked.
"A UnicornÖI think." Jennifer gasped.
The two detectives grabbed Hank and Tessa and read them their rights while putting them in handcuffs and leading them out of the cells.
The Unicorn nudged Jennifer and then Amanda and turned around to head back where she had come from. The unicorn turned her head as if to beckon the humans to follow her. They did. The unicorn walked them down the hallway and back to the cell where their children were being held.
Amanda and Jennifer both gasped when they saw Jaime, Anna and Jessica sitting along the wall tied up. "Jaime, Anna!" Amanda called at the same time as Jennifer called "Jessica!" The women went and untied their children.
"Weíve had ballistics down in that dungeon ten times. Thereís nothing there that would even suggest how a Unicorn ended up down there. Now, I think itís time you told us the truth." Commander Jameson of the Maryland state police said. Commander Gillis of the Los Angeles police was also in the room where they were questioning Hank.
"I donít know nothing about no Unicorn!" He stated, emphatically.
"Now, why donít I believe that?" Commander Gillis asked.
"Alright, Alright. Kevin Daston did it; he found a gene, a gene that mutated horses. He tried an experiment on a horse fetus and out came the Unicorn."
"So, you killed him for his discovery?"
"NO!" Hank exclaimed. "I couldnít kill anyone. It was Tessa she did it all."
"What were you planning on doing with the Unicorn?" Commander Jameson asked.
"Selling itÖand the gene. It would have been a very profitableÖwell, it doesnít matter now, the gene is gone. It was destroyed in the explosion."
"There is nothing in Kevinís things about the gene. He obviously didnít want anyone to know about it." Lee announced as he walked into his living room where Amanda, Jennifer, Jonathan, Jessica, Jaime, Anna and Eric were waiting for him.
"He told me." Jessica said. "He told me, thatís why Tessa and Hank were after me. They couldnít duplicate Kevinís experiment without knowing what gene it was. They didnít know the gene was mutated. Kevin happened upon it when he accidentally mixed up two petrie dishes."
"Whatís going to happen to the Unicorn?" Anna asked.
Everyone looked at Anna and shrugged their shoulders.
"I have an idea." Jennifer said with a smile.
The plane landed in the jungle with a jolt. The field wasnít exactly accustomed to plane landings. The eight passengers walked out of the airplane followed by a Unicorn. The humans watched in awe as the Unicorn headed for the trees. They gasped when they saw another Unicorn come out to greet her. The two Unicorns turned and looked at the humans. They seemed to smile before they disappeared in the jungle.
"Wow." Jessica exclaimed. "What made you think of this place, Mom?"
"I donít know. I just had a hunch." Jennifer said wistfully.
Lee held Amanda in his arms and grinned.
"Who wouldíve thought it? Everyone dreams there are Unicorns, but to actually see not one, but two? Itís unbelievable." Amanda said.
Lee kissed his wife happily.
"Itís magical." Anna smiled.
Eric laughed as he asked Jaime to catch him. Eric took off running while Jaime ran after him. They ran circles while Eric tried to avoid being captured.
"He doesnít seem to be too adversely affected from all of this." Jennifer said.
"Heíll be just fine. Iím just so glad to have him back." Amanda smiled.
Jonathan put his arm around Jennifer. "What díya say we go home?"
"Sounds like a great idea." Jennifer smiled as she reached up and kissed her husband.
"Eric, Jaime, letís go!" Lee called as everyone started boarding the plane.
Jessica was the last to prepare to board the plane. Jennifer and Jonathan stood on the steps waiting for her.
Jessica whispered softly "Where do unicorns go? Where winged horses fly? Narwhals lost at sea And never seen again. Does myth And mystery lie Where the unicorns go?" After she finished she joined her parents on the steps.
"Where did you hear that? It sounded familiar."
"Itís a songÖa song I learned a long time ago. Iím glad I remembered it again, Iíd thought Iíd lost that part of myself."
"Weíre glad you remembered it too. We love you, Jessica Nicole Hart."
"I know, I love you guys too." Jessica smiled and the Harts boarded their plane.As the plane took off two Unicorns came out from their hiding place and watched as their new friends flew out of sight and into memory.