Hannah Cole jerked awake, her heart racing as she pressed her hand against her mouth to stop the scream that threatened to escape. She didn’t want to wake her dad again just because of a stupid dream, so she laid still, breathing hard into her hand as she stared at the ceiling, listening to the sound of her own wheezing sobs as she tried to force herself back under control.
It was several minutes before she moved her hand from her mouth to swipe at the tears on her cheeks, and she took a deep breath as her gaze flicked aimlessly around the room. It was softly illuminated by the nightlight next to the door, and although she felt childish for needing it, she was grateful for the comforting glow.
The familiarity of her bedroom calmed her, her eyes moving from the framed hummingbird prints on the wall to the pastel-colored wooden letters that spelled her name, given to her by her grandmother when she was still a baby. They hung above her dresser, the top of which contained her large nail polish caddy and several framed pictures of her family and friends. She turned her head to look at the picture of her and her dad on her bedside table, and used it to ground her and chase away the lingering remnants of her dream.
It wasn’t always the same nightmare, but it always had the same players.
Tonight, Eddie had been on top of her, holding her down and ignoring her screams as he forced himself inside of her, his lips curved in that smirk she hated so much. He may not have followed through on the threat in real life, but the memory of his body pressed against hers, heavy and far too close, and his hand rough on her skin, was enough for her imagination to fill in the rest.
Nausea swept through her, and she pushed up on her elbow to turn on her lamp, bringing her room into even sharper focus and reminding her of its reality, that it really was her bedroom, and not that cold basement. A stray tear slipped from her eye, and she wiped it away impatiently.
This was the nightmare that had woken her up twice since she’d come home just four days ago. There had been another one where Jackie stood by, refusing to help her, and yet another where Eddie came back and killed everybody she loved, making her watch them die before killing her as well. She couldn’t help wondering what else her subconscious might come up with to torment her, and she sighed as she threw the covers aside and got out of bed to head downstairs.
The hallway was also illuminated by a small nightlight, and it was enough to get her to the stairs, but the rest of the house was dark, and her chest tightened as she stared down into the living room, unable to make out much of anything.
“It’s just the living room,” she whispered to herself, her hand gripping the banister. “There’s nobody there, it’s just –”
A shadow suddenly appeared to move, and she slapped at the light switch on the wall, her heart in her throat. The living room light came on, showing that everything was still and silent, just as it should be, and she took a shaky breath, closing her eyes against the tears that rose.
When the racing of her heart subsided once again, she finally headed down the stairs and into the kitchen, flipping on the light as she did. She grabbed a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water from the dispenser in the refrigerator door, downed it quickly, and then filled it again. Her eyes moved to the whiteboard on the front of the refrigerator, and she stared at the countdown there, which hadn’t been updated since the morning she was taken.
Abruptly, she turned away, and moved to stand in the archway between the kitchen and the living room.
The memory of that night rose once again in her mind, every detail still perfectly clear: Eddie grabbing her, the two of them struggling on the floor, Jackie holding her down as Eddie jabbed that damn needle into her thigh. She didn’t know what he had given her, and she didn’t really want to know, but she could still remember that heavy feeling that settled within her every time he drugged her, and then waking up later with no idea of how much time had passed, or what might have been done to her while she was unconscious.
Tears stung her eyes again as she stared into the living room. Everything was back to normal, the coffee table centered squarely in front of the couch, no broken laptop or scattered books. The rug was different, though not new, just one of the two they switched out, but she had no idea where the other one was.
Turning abruptly, she took a shaky breath as she raised her glass to her lips, and found herself facing the corner of the kitchen, just beside the doors into the dining room. She didn’t know for sure, but she suspected that’s where Eddie had hidden, thinking about how he had grabbed her from behind as she walked from the kitchen into the living room.
Turning again, she faced the back door, and stared at the window. She had never seen it for herself, but Juliet had told her that the glass had been broken, and that was how they had gotten into the house.
Hannah felt a dim flash of anger at herself for not noticing the window when she had walked into the kitchen that night. She had been lost in her thoughts, and hadn’t even turned on the kitchen light, the glow from the lamps in the living room enough for her to see what she was doing.
There were so many things she had missed that night, and she wondered what would have happened if she had noticed just one thing. Maybe if she’d seen Jackie in the entryway, she could’ve run back upstairs; there was a landline extension in her dad’s room she could’ve used to call the police. Maybe if she’d seen the broken glass in the kitchen, she could have gotten to her phone before Eddie grabbed her, or locked herself in the panic room or her dad’s office. She felt certain that if she had just noticed one thing, none of this would have happened; she would have gotten away, she would have saved herself, and it would be just one bad memory of one bad night. Instead, it was a seemingly never-ending onslaught of memories and thoughts and images from almost a week of captivity, memories that kept her from sleeping at night, and randomly flashed through her mind during the day, scaring her and taking her back to those moments.
Her dad was always there for her after those daytime moments, holding her, helping her calm down, his voice soothing as he stroked her hair, telling her she was okay, that she was safe. She was grateful he was there, but at the same time felt like such a burden, knowing what this was doing to him, knowing how worried he was, and hating herself for making him feel that way. She loved him for protecting her and taking care of her, but she hated feeling so dependent on him.
The rational part of her knew it was normal for her to still be scared, but the larger part of her that hated what this was doing to her life wanted to move on. She needed to shove all of this to the back of her mind, lock it away and leave it there forever. Her dad had just over a week before he had to go back to work, and she needed to go back to school. More than that, she wanted to go back to school, and she couldn’t very well do that with all of this stuff still hanging over her head.
It was time to let it go. Eddie was dead, and she needed to get on with her life.
She finished the rest of her water, and then set the glass in the sink before heading back up to her bedroom.
Late the next morning, Hannah tapped on the open door of Eli Shaw’s hospital room as she stepped inside, her father David close behind her. Eli was sitting up in bed, eyes on his phone, but he looked up and smiled when he saw them.
“Hey! Come on in,” he said, dropping his phone into his lap. “I was just texting my mom, she’s at my apartment, getting things ready for me to go home.”
“Are they discharging you today?” David asked, sliding his hands into his pockets as Hannah sank into the chair by Eli’s bed.
“Yeah, at some point. Just waiting for them to get everything in order. My mom will be back soon, and she’ll take me home as soon as they’ll let me leave.” He ran his right hand through his dark hair with a grimace. “The best part about going home is that I’ll finally be able to take a proper shower.”
Hannah and David laughed, and Hannah scooted forward in her chair.
“You look good,” she said, pulling her sleeves over her hands. “Better, I mean.”
“So do you,” Eli replied with a smile, his blue eyes studying her face.
Hannah shook her head as she lowered her gaze to her lap. The bruise on her cheek hurt too much for her to wear makeup, and she didn’t really feel like putting it on anyway, but she doubted she looked anything close to ‘good.’ The only reason she’d felt like leaving the house was to come visit Eli, wanting to see how he was doing; it seemed like the least she could do, given that he got shot saving her.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Eli said softly, making her look up again. His smile was so sincere that she couldn’t help smiling back, and David cleared his throat.
“I’m just gonna go see if I can find a drink machine or something,” he muttered, giving Hannah’s shoulder a squeeze. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Hannah nodded, glancing up at him as he left the room, and then looked back at Eli.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
Hannah shrugged vaguely, not wanting to tell him about her nightmares. “Okay, I guess. Um, how’s your shoulder?”
“Not too bad, all things considered,” Eli said, glancing at his left arm where it lay against his chest, encased in a sling. “The doctor said it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any long-term effects, so as long as the physical therapy goes okay, I should be able to go back to work maybe within a couple of months.”
Hannah’s eyebrows knitted together. “That seems like such a long time.”
“Yeah, but I’ve got to make sure I do everything by the book. If I can’t fire a gun, I won’t have a job to go back to.”
“That’s true,” Hannah murmured. She shifted forward in her chair again, and lifted her hand onto the bed. “I’m really glad you’re okay,” she said softly. “And I’m sorry –”
A sudden loud crash cut her off, followed by the sound of an angry male voice, and she jumped so hard her chair scraped across the floor. She turned her head sharply towards the sound with a gasp, her chest tight as she stared fearfully at the door. Part of her wanted to get up and close it, and another part of her was afraid that whoever had yelled might see her and get mad at her too, and then she felt Eli’s hand on top of hers.
“Hey,” he said softly, lightly gripping her fingers. “Hey, it’s okay. Look at me.” His thumb swept over the back of her hand, and she swallowed hard as she looked at him. He raised his eyebrows, his lips curved in a reassuring smile. “You’re okay. This is a hospital; you’re perfectly safe in here.”
“I dunno,” she muttered, her free hand curling into a fist against her thigh. “Have you seen Grey’s Anatomy?”
Eli gave a short, surprised laugh, and Hannah tried to smile, but fear and anxiety were swelling within her. She could feel herself trembling, could feel the tears threatening in her eyes and at the back of her throat, and she looked up with another gasp at the sound of footsteps coming into the room. Her father had returned, three sodas in his hands, but his expression was concerned as he looked at her.
“Excuse me,” she breathed, pulling her hand from Eli’s as she stood and hurried into the bathroom.
David watched her go, his concern increasing, and then looked at Eli, who was staring at the bathroom door.
“What happened?” David asked.
“Something fell in the room across the hall, I think,” Eli replied. “The man in there is an asshole, and he started yelling, and it scared her.”
“Shit,” David muttered, his shoulders slumping. He set the sodas down on Eli’s rolling tray and stepped over the bathroom door, tapping on it with his knuckle. “Han?”
“I’ll be out in a minute,” she called, and David sighed softly as he turned away from the door.
“One of those Cokes is yours,” he said, pointing as he walked back over to the bed. “Figured you could use a caffeine jolt to get you out of here and home.”
“Thanks,” Eli said with a quiet laugh.
The bathroom door opened, and Hannah stepped out, still looking a little shaken up. Her hair was damp around the sides of her face, and David assumed she’d splashed cold water on her face.
“You okay, baby?” David asked, sliding his arm around her shoulders when she came to stand beside him. She nodded, and he gave her a squeeze. “You wanna go home?”
She nodded again, and look up at Eli. “I’m sorry –”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” he replied. “I’ll see you later, yeah?”
Hannah nodded once more, flashing a weak smile, and David grabbed their sodas from Eli’s tray as they turned to go. Hannah paused in the doorway to look back at Eli, and he smiled, holding up his hand in a wave. She waved back, her smile a little stronger, and then started down the hall with David.
While Hannah and Eli were talking in one part of the hospital, Chris Tyler, the agent in charge of Hannah’s case, was pushing into a room in another part. Tony Warren, another agent on the case, stepped in behind Chris, and closed the door as Chris walked forward. They were at the hospital to talk to Hannah’s surviving kidnapper, and Chris’s jaw tensed as he looked at the other man.
Jackie Connolly was lying in bed, one wrist handcuffed loosely to the railing, and Chris felt a white-hot flash of anger, images of the bruises on Hannah’s wrists flooding his mind. He wished he could tighten the cuff around Connolly’s wrist, wanted him to feel some of the same pain that Hannah did.
Swallowing his anger, Chris moved closer to the bed, his eyes on Jackie. The other man was pale and tired-looking, a little thinner than Chris remembered, but his eyes were sharp as he met Chris’s gaze.
“Is Hannah – is she okay?” he asked softly.
“I don’t see how that’s really any of your business,” Chris muttered, his jaw tensing. “But since you asked, she’s alive, and will be more than capable of testifying against you in court.”
Jackie’s brow creased. “Court? I don’t want a trial; I don’t want to put her through that.”
Chris frowned. “Are you saying you’re ready to confess?”
“Why wouldn’t I? I’m partly responsible for what happened to her, I’m not going to deny that. I don’t want to put her through a trial, make her go through all of that again. Whatever I have to do to keep her from that, I’ll do it.”
Chris glanced over at Tony, who looked as surprised as Chris felt, and moved to place the video camera on the rolling tray. He made sure it was properly situated and then sank into the chair beside Jackie’s bed. He gestured for Tony to turn the camera on, and stated his name, followed by Tony, and then rattled off the case identification number before taking a breath.
“Okay, start at the beginning.”
Jackie shifted with a grimace, and sighed. “It was my brother’s idea. Eddie.”
“Edward Connolly,” Chris supplied, and Jackie nodded.
“Yeah. He, um – his son Luke – um, Lucas Connolly – he was arrested a few years ago for the murder of three little girls, but he killed himself during the trial. Agent Cole was the one who arrested him, and Eddie blamed him, he thought Agent Cole had framed Luke or something.” Jackie shook his head. “He was so angry after Luke died. I hoped it would get better, but then earlier this year he ran into Hannah at her school.”
“Why was he at her school?”
“He works construction, and was contracted by the company doing renovations on some of the buildings at the university. He came home one day, saying that he’d found a way to hurt Agent Cole.”
“When was this?”
Jackie frowned, trying to remember. “Early in January, the first week, I think. I guess right after the new semester started.” He took a breath. “Anyway, he said he’d found out that Agent Cole had a daughter, and said –” Jackie sighed and shook his head. “He said he wanted to kidnap her, to teach Agent Cole a lesson.”
“Did you know he was planning to kill her?”
Jackie shook his head emphatically. “No. If I had known, I never would have helped him. All he told me was that he wanted to take her, to show Agent Cole what it was like to be without her, but he said we’d let her go after a few days. He said we weren’t going to hurt her.”
Something passed over Jackie’s face, and Chris looked down at his hands a moment.
“Why did you go along with any of this?” he asked, shaking his head as he looked at Jackie again. “Surely you knew it was wrong to forcibly take somebody from their home, and hold them hostage in your basement.” Chris raised his eyebrows. “Kidnapping, Mr. Connolly.”
“I know it was wrong,” Jackie said, his expression pained. “But Eddie – he was my brother. He saved my life, he took care of me, and I couldn’t say no.”
Jackie’s emotional issues concerning his brother would be something for one of the Bureau shrinks to deal with, and Chris sighed.
“All right, so what happened after he told you his plans?”
“We started following her around. Eddie followed her home from school one day, got her address, and we just sort of… started getting information on her. Her school schedule, what time she left in the morning, when Agent Cole left for work, when they came home. Eddie took pictures of her, her car, the people she hung out with, trying to figure out when the best time was to take her.”
“You followed her too?”
Jackie nodded. “My work schedule made it easier for me to do it during the day, since my hours were so flexible.”
“Where did you follow her?”
Jackie shifted uncomfortably. “Everywhere. To and from school, mostly, but sometimes when she ran errands, went to the grocery store, sometimes when she went out with her friends. Eddie wanted to figure out when she was alone, because it was obviously the best time to, uh, to take her.”
“What about the preparations at the house? The mattress, the handcuffs, all of that.”
“Eddie got the mattress. I don’t know where he got it; he just came home with it one day. We spent a weekend clearing out the basement, getting rid of everything that wasn’t bolted down, anything that she could, um, use as a weapon, and he put the mattress down there. I don’t know where he got the handcuffs,” he added quietly.
“Was she handcuffed the whole time?”
Jackie shook his head. “No, he only did it after she tried to escape.”
“Okay, tell me about when you took her.”
Jackie took a breath. “Eddie figured that Agent Cole would be home after her; there had only been a couple of times when he got home first. There was a house right down the street from theirs that had some renovations going on, so Eddie’s van didn’t look out of place. I sat in the van while Eddie went up to the house. We knew it was alarmed, but that they had a remote to turn it off. He waited until she disarmed it, and then broke the glass in the back door so he could get inside. After she went inside, I backed the van into the driveway beside her car, and then went to the back door. When she went upstairs to change, I went inside, and Eddie told me to go wait by the front door –”
“You ambushed her,” Chris said, not trying to hide the contempt in his voice.
Jackie shrugged. “I guess so, yeah. Anyway, when she came back down, she went into the kitchen, and I moved into the living room. She saw me when she came back in the room, and then Eddie grabbed her.” He paused, and then frowned as he murmured, “She fought so hard. Eddie was so sure she wouldn’t fight; he thought it would be easy –”
Chris stared at him in disbelief. “You thought it was going to be easy to kidnap the daughter of an FBI agent? You didn’t think this girl was going to fight for her life after you broke into her home and were trying to kidnap her?”
“I don’t know what I thought,” Jackie said, sounding agitated. “I was just going along with Eddie. He made me steal drugs from the hospital where I worked, something that would knock her out, but he only thought he’d need it to keep her quiet.”
“What did you use on her?”
“I don’t remember what it was called. I just worked maintenance. Eddie told me what to get, and I recognized the name, but I didn’t really memorize it or anything. I’d probably know it if you showed it to me.”
Chris closed his eyes, pressing his fingers to his forehead. These two jokers handling drugs strong enough to knock Hannah out; it was a wonder they didn’t kill her from that alone.
With a measured breath, he looked up again as he clasped his hands in front of him.
“How did she get the cut on her heel?”
“She dropped her glass when Eddie grabbed her, and stepped on one of the pieces.”
Chris nodded. “Okay, so Eddie grabbed her, they struggled, and he used the drugs to knock her out. What were you doing while all of this was going on?”
“I just – I was standing there. I grabbed her phone when Eddie told me to, and then he – he told me to hold her arms right before he drugged her. He carried her out to the van, and then bandaged her foot so she wouldn’t get blood in it. I bandaged it better when she woke up the next day.”
“You bandaged her foot?”
Jackie nodded. “And gave her something to eat. I’d gotten stuff I knew she liked.” He sighed, his eyebrows drawing together. “I just wanted to make her comfortable. It wasn’t supposed to be – it wasn’t supposed to go the way that it did. She was never supposed to get hurt, especially not so badly.”
Chris’s hands tensed, and he bowed his head. His earlier assumptions about Jackie Connolly were slowly dissolving, but now he wasn’t sure what he thought.
“Okay, you said Eddie only handcuffed her after she tried to escape. Tell me about that.”
“It was Friday. She said she had to go to the bathroom, so I took her upstairs, but when I went to take her back down, she elbowed me and ran for the door. Eddie was home, and he grabbed her, tackled her to the floor. They – they fought, and I could hear her screaming, and then she stopped, and he yelled for me to go get the drugs. When I came back, she looked kind of out of it, but she saw me, started crying when she saw the needle, begged me not to do it – I didn’t want to drug her, but Eddie took it from me and did it anyway. I took her downstairs, and then Eddie came down with the handcuffs. I asked him not to cuff her, said I didn’t see the point, but he thought she’d try to run again, and he cuffed her to heater by her left hand.”
“How long was she out?”
“Until Saturday night. I rebandaged her foot when she woke up, and was gonna bring her something else to eat, but when I came back, Eddie was down there, and he made me drug her again. She begged me not to, but he said if I didn’t do it, he would, and I didn’t want him to hurt her anymore, so I did it.”
“So she woke up again Sunday night.”
Jackie nodded. “Eddie told me to drug her again, but I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I told her to pretend like I did, and Eddie bought it. And then Monday –”
Jackie broke off, frowning, and Chris raised his eyebrows. “What about Monday?”
“After Eddie left for work, I went to the store because we were low on food. She was asleep when I left, and I thought she’d be okay while I was gone, but when I got back – Eddie was there. He’d been acting weird around her –”
“Weird how?” Chris asked sharply, a tight feeling in his stomach as he sat up straighter.
“Just the way he touched her, and she was so afraid of being drugged, I think she thought he might do something to her while she was unconscious. I tried not to leave him alone with her, and when I saw he had come home, it scared me. I ran inside, called his name, and when I got to the basement, he was standing next to her, and her shirt was pushed up –”
“Did he rape her?” Chris asked the question bluntly, masking the fear in his voice by speaking louder than necessary.
Jackie shook his head, guilt twisting his features. “I don’t think so. I’m almost positive he didn’t. But – but something happened. I don’t know what.” He shook his head again. “I shouldn’t have left her alone.”
Chris blew out a slow breath, feeling a small sense of relief. “What happened after that?”
“Eddie left, and I brought her something to eat. She was – upset, I guess. Different from how she had been. She told me – she said that Eddie was planning to kill her. I didn’t believe her, got mad, and left, but when I confronted Eddie about it later, he said it was true. I wanted to let her go, but Eddie said if I did, he’d make me watch when he killed her.”
“And this was all Monday morning and afternoon. What happened that night, when Agents Cole and Shaw showed up at the house?”
“I was out in the shed when they got there. Eddie kept a gun out there, and I went to get it, because I was going to let her go, and I wanted to have it in case I had to use it against – against Eddie. When I came back in, I saw Eddie was at the door, talking to somebody, but I didn’t know who. I thought it might be enough of a distraction so I could get her out, but when I went into the basement, that other agent was down there, Agent Shaw, I guess. I didn’t know who he was, and it surprised me, but she said he was there to help her, and he said he was going to take her home. I gave him the key to the handcuffs, and told them to go out through the kitchen, but then –”
Jackie’s face paled a little, and he closed his eyes briefly. “Eddie called my name. It was like I had forgotten he was there, and I got scared, I was afraid of what would happen if he came down there, and I – I fired the gun. I didn’t mean to, it just – happened. The agent ducked and the bullet hit the wall. Hannah screamed, and then everything sort of became a blur.”
“Do you remember who shot Agent Shaw?”
“It was Eddie. Agent Shaw went to pull out his gun, but Eddie shot him first. He fell, and Eddie grabbed Hannah.”
“Who shot you?”
“Eddie,” Jackie said quietly. “I told him I knew that Luke had killed those girls, and he just shot me. I passed out right after that. I wasn’t really… awake until last night, and they told me that Eddie was dead.”
Jackie frowned at that, as if it confused him, and Chris studied him quietly for a moment, his emotions storming around inside of him, not sure what he wanted to say or do.
“You knew it was wrong,” he finally said, his voice soft. “Why did you agree to help your brother with this?”
“I didn’t know how to say no. He was my brother; I trusted him. I didn’t know what he was really planning to do. If I had known he wanted to kill her, if I had thought he would hurt her as badly as he did, I never would have done it.”
“But you had so many opportunities to let her go.”
“I was afraid –”
“So was she!” Chris shouted suddenly, springing to his feet. He saw Tony edge closer out of the corner of his eye, and took a step back from the bed, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. “She was afraid of your brother, afraid that he’d rape her, afraid that he’d kill her, and you did nothing to stop him, nothing to get her out of there. She begged you to help her, you said it yourself, and you did nothing.”
Jackie took a shaky breath. “I was afraid that if I tried, he would do something to me, and then she would be next.” His voice was even, but there was a tremor of emotion behind his words. “Somehow my being there was like a barrier between him and her, and I was afraid of what would happen to her if something happened to me.”
Tears shone in Jackie’s eyes, but he maintained his gaze on Chris’s face.
“I hate myself, okay? I hate myself for agreeing to this, for not doing more to help her. I hate that she got hurt, I hate that she was scared. I hate everything about this, except her. I hope to god she’s okay, but I will not put her through a trial. Send me straight to prison for the rest of my life, I don’t care, just don’t make me hurt her anymore.”
Jackie’s free arm rested over his midsection, beads of perspiration dotted his forehead, and Chris could tell he was exhausted and in pain.
Unable to think of anything else to say, his anger at a critical point, Chris grabbed the video camera from the table and jabbed the stop button as he pushed past Tony on his way to the door. He stormed through the hallways, bypassing doctors and nurses, and realized after a couple minutes that there were footsteps behind him.
A hand rested on his shoulder, and then he heard Tony’s voice.
“Sir – Agent Tyler –” There was an exasperated sigh. “Chris. Stop.”
He did, his hands coming to rest on his hips as he lowered his head, and Tony came to stand in front of him.
“I hate calling you ‘sir,’ you know,” Tony muttered, dark eyes reproachful as he stared up at Chris.
Chris smirked. “I never said you had to.”
“Blame my mother.”
Chris’s smile widened, and then he shook his head, taking a deep breath. “It’s just hard, hearing all of that. Hannah told me a little bit, and I knew it was a lot, but just – now I know, and it’s pissing me off.” He grimaced. “And now I’m gonna have to talk to Hannah to get her to corroborate all of this.”
“I know,” Tony said quietly. He glanced at his watch. “Look, it’s lunch time. Go somewhere, grab a burger, decompress a little before you head back to the Bureau. And why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? You know Jeannie always cooks too much, and she’d love to have you over.”
Chris nodded, smiling a little; an evening with Tony and his fiancée Jeannie would be a good distraction. “I’d actually really like that.”
“Good, then I’ll call Jeannie to let her know.”
Chris nodded again. “Thanks, Tony.”
Tony smiled and clapped his hand on Chris’s arm before turning to walk back to Jackie’s room.