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Nayla's Dilemma the Ends of Justice

Nayla's Dilemma the Ends of Justice

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Published by Toye Lawson-Brown
“They had the perfect life together until tragedy struck. Will Detective Ben Smith and his team find the love of his life before time runs out? Will justice prevail for those responsible for the lies, murder and destruction that have wrecked havoc on the District Attorney’s office and its key members…?”
“They had the perfect life together until tragedy struck. Will Detective Ben Smith and his team find the love of his life before time runs out? Will justice prevail for those responsible for the lies, murder and destruction that have wrecked havoc on the District Attorney’s office and its key members…?”

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Published by: Toye Lawson-Brown on Apr 13, 2011
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NAYLA’S DILEMMA – THE ENDS OF JUSTICE

By

Toye Lawson Brown  Published By: Toye Lawson Brown

Nayla’s Dilemma – The Ends of Justice Copyright © 2011 Toye Lawson Brown

License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Scribd.com or www.toyesbrown.webs.com to purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.     

Nayla’s Dilemma – The Ends of Justice
Newlyweds Nayla and Benjamin Smith delayed their honeymoon plans for the time being. Albeit the wedding was beautiful it was also spur of the moment. Once they obtained the license and filed the paperwork their careers now stood in their way of any other plans. The Franklin investigation had become front burner and both were busy trying to build the State's case against Henry Franklin. Neither Cleveland Homicide Detectives nor the FBI had been able to located Anna Dalton and the D.A.’s office worked frantically to build their evidence surrounding the mysterious death of Ramona Franklin. The possibility of Henry Franklin walking away from a murder charge was a risk District Attorney John Kraft was not willing to take but without concrete evidence it was becoming apparent that could very well be the outcome. Nayla relaxed in the tub soaking off the long hard day. John Kraft had gotten under her skin as usual. Though John and Henry at one time were good friends, John's determination to bring Henry down made it hard for other prosecutors who faced Franklin on a daily basis. Until evidence could prove otherwise, Franklin maintained his status as an active judge. Ben came home to find the house totally dark. It was unusual for Nayla not to leave the light on in the kitchen when she knew he would be working late. The large Grandfather clock in the family room chimed as midnight arrived. Ben struggled with getting back into the long hours after returning from his leave of absence from the shooting a year earlier. His time off was longer than expected because of a bullet still logged in his body. With Isaac away for at least another week, Ben had been asked personally by the Mayor to handle the responsibilities as acting Chief of Detectives. Ben pulled a beer from the fridge replacing it after deciding he was dead tired. Heading to the master bath he quietly opened the door trying not to awake Nayla. Hearing the soft roar from the spa tub, he found her fast asleep. Shaking her shoulders lightly he whispered. “Hey, baby, wake up before you drown yourself.” “Ben---when did you get home?” She asked groggily removing the eye mask to peek at him. “About ten minutes ago,” he said leaning down to kiss the top of her head. “How long have you been soaking?”

“Longer than I expected, I got home around ten or so," she said replacing the mask over her eyes. “Well the last thing I need is to come home and find you dead in the bathtub. I couldn’t handle that so get out and go to bed,” he said stepping into the shower. “Oh okay, if you insist.” Grabbing her robe Nayla headed to the bedroom. Ben emerged shortly with a towel wrapped around his waist. Nayla admired his welltoned body; amazed how he’d healed after the shooting. He hit the gym with force to regain the strength he’d lost and to put on more muscle weight with the efforts definitely paying off. “Mmm, baby, you look great,” she said wrapping her arms around his waist. “I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on you.” “After my last encounters with thugs, I needed to bulk up. Those were tough fights for me,” Ben said admiring their reflection together in the mirror. Sitting at the vanity Nayla answered. “I’m glad that’s over with. I couldn’t deal with Bea Taylor plus this Franklin ordeal.” “Well, we’re still looking for that third person, Nayla. Until he shows up the case is still open and on the front burner along with all the other cases we have yet to solve.” “I have faith, Ben. I know you’ll get him soon and with Rob being a full-time detective now that should help with some of the burdens.” “It does help with covering the increased criminal activity in the city but it would help more if Bea would just fess up instead of being spiteful,” he said getting into bed. Nayla agreed lying next to him. “Doesn’t matter she’ll never be a free woman again and Toni and Isaac can finally enjoy their lives together.” “Baby, we’ll get our turn soon. It took them a year to get away, we’ll get away and it will be worth the wait,” he said teasing her with little kisses to her neck. “Really, Ben? Do you think we’ll be able to get away for a honeymoon or any type of vacation? Nayla sat up on the pillows. “We’re so busy now we don’t even have time for dinner together. I mean this has to be the most time we’ve spent together this week.” Ben, too exhausted to argue made the mistake of bringing up the touchy subject again. “What’s going on with you, Nayla? I thought you were looking forward to our getting away,” Ben said trying not to let his anger surface.

“Well to start. this morning you’re actually just kinda blah. “Good morning people. John is going for a search warrant for Judge Franklin’s residence today. I’m just saying it won’t be happening in the next few weeks or months. In the kitchen.  Nayla fumbled with the blaring alarm clock.” “Nayla. He turned off the light and tried not to let what happened get to him yet again. Brenda followed Nayla to her office. don’t do this tonight. Closing her briefcase. When Franklin’s attorney gets wind of this he’ll be all over my butt. “Good morning to you. why do you ask? “You usually breeze through here like you’re walking on clouds. I have Franklin’s investigation hanging over my head and you’re deep in the mix of it. Bren. All he wanted was a little affection and she had to blow things out of proportion once again.” Nayla said dryly as she greeted her colleagues. Turning over she found Ben’s side of the bed empty. “Good luck with that. Brenda and Margo were hard at work sorting through piles of documents when they noticed the stress on the usually chipper Senior District Attorney. “What’s wrong. Realistically.” Nayla sat at her desk feeling the stress meter starting to tick. “Just stuff I need to deal with nothing major.” he asked pulling her closer to him.” “Why is he doing that? We don’t have probable cause to search his estate yet. she sighed heavily before heading out the door to face another hectic day. He let her go as she moved to her side of the bed. She could slap herself for being selfish last night. she realized she had to find a way to separate work from home or risk ruining her relationship with her husband.” she said rolling away from him.” . coffee had been brewed and bagels set on the table.” Nayla shrugged her shoulders. Ben. he thinks he does and I’m sure he’ll be in to talk to you about it. Grabbing her coffee mug and a bagel.” Brenda said putting the files on her desk. “Ben. “Nayla.” Brenda said cheerfully. What do you have for me this morning?” Brenda took a seat to fill her in on the agenda for the day.“I am. Nayla?” “Nothing’s wrong. I’m really tired and sleepy.

Just as predicted John knocked on her door a few minutes later.” he said. I’m hoping we’ll find Anna Dalton to really nail this investigation. You might be running lead on this but that can be changed.” “Tom Pendleton isn’t going to stand by and let us run shotgun over his client without putting up a fight. “John. “I’m running lead on this. This investigation has dragged on long enough. John closed the door for privacy. His assertive demeanor made her uneasy for many reasons. “Look. John. I would like to interview more witnesses before we actually do that. I see Brenda filled you in. I know you’re good at what you do but I’m pushing forward with this case so we can close it.” “There is a good chance Anna is hiding out on that massive estate. even you don’t believe that! If Franklin does have anything to do with Anna’s disappearance he wouldn’t be stupid enough to hide her on his property. Nayla. John refused to back down. Nayla. John.” Taking off her glasses. Mrs. “John. Nayla. “You seem to forget who’s in charge of this office. We need to find out what he’s hiding there. I can override you.” John was single handedly turning this investigation into a bad soap opera which she didn’t want any part in.” “Yes. she stared at him. I am.” She sat back in her chair. I say we wait until we get enough evidence. Besides.” Nayla said jumping right to the point. If we go asking for warrants now and come up empty that will make Judge Walker reluctant to issue us one when we do have reason to search. “Good morning.” John said ushering himself in her office. we don’t have probable cause to search the Judge’s estate yet. make Henry start to sweat a little and then go for the search warrant.” John said sitting down. John. “Good morning. I’m not ready to search his estate. Nayla eyed him silently. Nayla. I guess you’re here to discuss the search warrant. John. “That’s why I want the search warrant. is that what you want to do? Replace me because I’m right or because your ego won’t let you follow the rules?” . Smith. “Come on.” Nayla said shaking off thoughts of strangling him with his own brightly colored tie.

“Fine.” John said accepting defeat. but I refuse to do a shabby investigation because you’re putting me under a time constraint.” Nayla stood so she was face to face with him. I’m glad your sister’s lab is doing the testing.” “John.” Nayla said. beautiful. Detective Smith is a lucky to have you working on his side. I have a call pending at the lab to see what they’ve found on Mrs. “That reminds me. Just as predicted.” John said with a slight grin. “I’ll back off and let you get back to your strategies. Bren. and talented. I’m seriously thinking of quitting after this investigation is over. You know. “You have two-weeks to get me some kind of solid evidence or I go in with my warrant. but I was wrong to underestimate you.” Nayla said rubbing her aching head. It was a pretty heated discussion but I think we’ve finally worked out one of our many differences. I don’t know how much more stress I can take.” “I agree. Brenda hurried in and closed the door behind her.” he said straightening the designer tie in a manner that seemed to annoy Nayla even more than his presence. I’ll touch bases with you later. outside. “We could hear the bickering . Nayla. rich. We’ll get Franklin but it has to be the right way so it doesn’t come back as a slap in the face to us. I’m thinking a ministers’ kid. Nayla ignored his comment as he left. this was not turning out to be a great day and she hadn’t been in the office an hour yet. He still has friends in high places and any mistakes we make will cause nothing but problems for us. John. was I ever wrong about you. Checking the clock. She’s doing us a big favor by squeezing this case in. she remembered her meeting at CPD. Brenda. I’ll give you a buzz on your cell if its anything useful. Bren. I’m late for a meeting with Ben and Bronk to go over their evidence. “Well.” “Okay.” “Boy. Brenda snapped her fingers at the mention of the appointment. all I’m asking is for you to let me do my job. I won’t put my reputation or this office on the line so you can make the ten o’clock news or we end up losing this case altogether.” “I’m sorry about that. “You run your investigation your way and let me know what you need as far as resources. Tom Pendleton is going to have his hands full when he faces you in court. Toni’s lab’s been busy lately with other cases. Franklin’s car.John backed down knowing she was right.” she said gathering her things.

Everything so far could be considered circumstantial. Nayla maintained her professionalism as a slow jealous burn crept inside her. he's with another detective but should be back in a minute if you wanna wait before we start. “I only have a few minutes for this meeting. they could be afraid to say anything fearing they might end up dead if they spill the beans on Franklin. Most women talk about their husband’s alleged affairs. “It’s worth another try. what do you mean? Never mind. “I guess I should have called and reminded you. He excused himself and headed towards her and Bronk. I’ll start compiling a new list of her so-called closest friends that seemed willing to talk at first. they have to know something. all too perfect for the drab blue uniform she wore. I’ll get him for you. I’m sorry. Karrie politely smiled as she took a seat behind a desk. Nayla. Unless we find more something more solid. Franklin’s closest friends again." Nayla said. It’s not easy to keep all that anger bottled up.” Nayla stood to see Ben standing with the female officer. she sighed.” “Nayla. Ben noticed Nayla standing in the doorway. Bronk.” Nayla said sarcastically.” Nayla sat on the edge of the desk with her back to the door. Tall and slender. Franklin is going to walk.” Ben said apologetically. Bronk. “Baby. Not to mention a certain police chief is blocking a few issues that should really be addressed. the woman was in great physically shape. He didn’t look to be discussing work related issues and she seemed to be hanging onto every word he was saying.” “Bronk. None to happy how the woman was fawning over her husband. Nayla." Bronk said. Nayla had to admit the woman was very attractive. believe me.” Shaking her head. we’ve been trying but his friends and colleagues aren’t talking. "Ben's out in the bullpen.  Bronk was seated at Ben’s desk when Nayla knocked on the door. I forgot you were coming this morning. We need to see where we stand with the evidence. . Her neatly cut black hair with its light bronze streaks matched her smooth mocha skin tone. "Maybe we should shift gears and talk to Mrs. I don't want to know about that yet. spotting Ben with the new officer. is Ben out in the field?” “Oh hey. “Hey.

"Great!" He said kissing her lightly. it’s too freaking cold to be exposed and not to mention you have to be in shape to wear these skimpy things.” “You don’t owe me any explanations. “I did forget about that. Ben decided Tarzan and Jane would be their characters. “I don’t know why Ben chose these costumes.    The weather turned unseasonably cold near the end of October as Marsha's Halloween party fast approached. “Why don’t we have dinner at Ja’Nell’s tonight? A little dinner.” she said caressing his arm.” Clinching his fist against his head. which meant each had to wear a skimpy costume. Nayla walked past the female officer who had been watching them the whole time giving her a slight wink as she passed. “Ben. come on. dancing. we were just talking. “Nayla.” he said letting go of her hand. . Ben. “Okay. okay?” He said reaching out for her arm. I have to pick up the costumes tonight. I have to get back to the office.” “Nayla---forget it.” “Why not? Ben asked disappointed at yet another turndown. They ran their last two miles before relaxing at the juice bar. Bronk and I had the meeting as scheduled--you can ask him to fill you in. “We can’t do that tonight. Nayla relaxed her shoulders before she spoke. “We have Marsha's costume party to attend remember. we can try for tomorrow. She’s new and had a few questions--that’s all.” “Let’s go in my office and talk. How about tomorrow night?” His smile finally warmed her bad mood as she gave into him. Nayla moved so he couldn’t touch her.Ben quickly picked up on her jealous tone. what do you say?” Ben tried to soften her cold stance. Nayla and Tina both left work early to get in a light workout at the gym before going shopping.” Nayla said sipping her fruit smoothie.

“Now I’m talking to you like a shrink. you have always been driven and you've really never had to look after anyone but yourself. Let me ask you a question. “He wanted to make love the other night and I told him I was sleepy. As far as his job goes. Sure. you two would look great. its stress.” Tina said smiling.” “Nayla. He’s never given you any reason why you shouldn't.” Taking a seat at a booth."What're you talking about.” Nayla took a deep breath. you need to trust him.” “Tina.” “I understand all that. “I don’t think Ben finds me attractive anymore. can I confide in you about something?” “You can tell me anything. Tina. Nayla. It looked more than just shop talk to me but he claimed he was just answering her questions. girl? What would make you think that?” “At his office today I caught him with a rather attractive female officer. I don’t---” Nayla was cut short of finishing her sentence.” Tina put down her water bottle. I’m stressed to the point I can’t concentrate on my marriage because of the issues I'm bringing home from work. You didn’t have jealous tendencies when you were dating and now you decide to develop them?” “Tina. You know in your heart Ben would never cheat on you but memories of what Manny did can linger for a long time and cause problems in future relationships. You know I will keep it between us. . Nayla. victims. “Before we go any further with this. I'm not jealous per se. What does that mean and what is wrong with me?” Tina leaned closer to her sister. If you want to keep your marriage. "Two sexy people flaunting what they got. you have to realize Ben exists and comes before your job. However. What I’m saying is I think I’m pushing him away. Why are you doing this to yourself? You’re married now. I’ve never done that since we’ve been married. and any other roles a woman might be involved." “Tina.” Tina rolled her eyes at her sister. he's in a position where he has to deal with female officers. “Are you freaking nuts. you do have some serious insecurities stemming from your relationship with Manny. Nayla fiddled with her drinking straw.

Nayla.” Nayla slumped her shoulders. Ben doesn’t deserve to be treated like he's Manny.” he said grabbing the bottle off the table. When I saw your note about the gym I knew you wouldn’t be eating much. but today that woman got to me for some reason and I inadvertently took it out on him.”   Nayla heard the football game blaring from the television in the family room. “Just grilled fish with vegetables.” Nayla smacked her lips. “Why do you and mom think I have a thing for Manny?” Tina propped her hands under her chin. She noticed the table set and food on the stove.” she said kissing him on the forehead. that might help. “Hey sweetie.” Nayla noticed the bottle of pain pills on the table. I do trust Ben.” she joked.“Just let me finish. Tina.” Tina slid out the booth. Nayla. . I shouldn’t be eating anything at all. you will stew in your own misery and that’s not fair to Ben. I’m going to hit the shower so we can go shopping. I’ll apologize when I get home. You got mad and upset but did you really tell him how you felt?” “No. nothing serious. Manny's back in Seattle and he’s not making me feel insecure about my husband.” “Exactly. in fact. but he tried to apologize. Until you learn how to get stuff off your chest. Nayla. Nayla. I told him that was a long time ago and I didn't want to get into it again. what I’m saying to you is. baby. “I have to fit in this costume. “You let me worry about your figure. “Well.” he said without looking up from the television. you always surprise me with one of your fantastic meals. “Well. I don’t believe you even like him. and from where I sit you have nothing to worry about. She and Tina had stopped for a light snack and definitely wasn’t hungry but would eat instead of hurting his feelings. “Ben. you dismissed what he did as being young and stupid. are you experiencing pain?” “I strained a muscle lifting weights. “I didn’t say you did. Manny came back in your life recently and you didn’t really say anything to him about what he did to you. All the women at that party will be jealous of you. get rid of the insecurities Manny caused you.

“This will be my little secret. I don’t want or need to know why you’re investigating John. If we put pressure on Mrs.” Changing the subject. It’s been a year and nothing has moved since my last checkup. They worked on campaigns. they might be willing to talk. don’t tell me anything about that.” Carl said closing the door. Ben kissed her neck. Ben. He wanted to search Franklin's estate but we don’t have enough evidence to warrant that.” “Humph----that’s interesting. Carl.” Ben said rubbing his chin. “I talked to Bronk.” Nayla nibbled on a piece of the grilled Red Snapper. just be careful on how you go about it.“ Ben tapped his finger on the table. Smith. Mrs. but I can spare a few minutes.” Nayla said clearing the dinner table. I’m glad you’re still here.” Hugging her from behind. Nayla. he told me about your suggestions and I think it’s a good idea. What do you say we call it a night and turn in early?” “Why.” “I’ll be alright.Nayla pulled him by the arm before he could escape. “Weren’t John and Henry good friends at one time?” “Yes. even golfed together but now John’s gunning after him like his life depends on it. what better way to start that family you've been wanting?”   Another long and unproductive day on the Franklin investigation had finally come to an end when Carl stopped in Ben’s office. are you asking me to have relations with you.” “Ben.” “That could be the reason. Mr. “I think it’s more like his career depends on it. Ben turned her attention to the meeting he missed. “I’ll get Donovan to look into Kraft's background and see what’s going on. He’s trying to show the public he can distance himself from his fellow rat packer now that trouble is brewing.” . Franklin’s friends and make them believe her husband will get off. Smith. “Ben. “You’re forcing yourself too soon after the shooting. Ben. The surgeon told you that bullet could move at any time. sir?” “Well. John is putting pressure on me to get more evidence and fast. “I’m heading out. “I think its’ our only choice. His sudden interest in nailing Franklin has me wondering about a few things other than closing this case.

making them go off one by one. The D. you’re doing a hell of a job holding down the fort for him.” “Carl. "Has Franklin talked to Nayla yet?” Ben went into suspicion mode. Where'd you find this witness and how did it just happen to slip by me and Isaac?” Carl shifted in his seat. “Yeah and I hate to say it but there could be danger involved.” Carl paused before opening the door." Ben circled his desk giving Carl a long look before he spoke.” “Really? Carl. Ben. "This morning we had nothing and now we have a witness that knows first-hand everything that happened. “I have a few contacts helping me out with the investigation and they were able to get information to locate this witness for me…us. things are about to go head to head on this Franklin case. I expect you to protect this witness. Glad you two are working for us now.A. "Either way we now have a witness. Remember to let Isaac know what’s going on when he returns next week. It was becoming apparent that was a big mistake.   . “She doesn’t discuss every detail with me but I would assume she's had contact with Franklin's attorney more so than Franklin himself. is pushing for an indictment as soon as next week and I have a possible witness who is willing to come forward to tell what happened to Mrs. Nayla is leading this case and according to her they aren’t prepared to make an indictment next week. He could kick himself for bringing these two men to Cleveland.” Ben concentrated on the words “danger” and “protect” out of Carl’s mouth. Carl cleared his throat avoiding Ben’s questions as much as he could.” “Franklin's still a judge. Ben. I think he might try to find a way to get next to her. after all this time you have a witness that is ready to talk?” Ben said crossing his arms. Franklin but is very afraid.“Look. there are rules against that." Carl said hoping his flub went unnoticed. She can't tell me everything. “By the way. He would find a way to protect this new witness but Carl’s conversation sent mixed signals to the alarms in the back of his head. Carl." Feeling the sweat beading on his forehead Carl continued. He’s powerful so don’t underestimate what he's capable of doing.

“If you don’t wrap it up.” “Oh shoot.” Nayla answered rubbing her eyes. the party starts at eight o’clock and its’ five-thirty already.” she said finishing her makeup. “It’s thirty-five degrees outside. “Nayla. Franklin’s mangled car stick. Nayla. are you going to Marsha’s party tonight?” Brenda asked interrupting her deep concentration.” “That’s what I saying--now let’s get going!” Brenda said shooing her towards the door.” Ben said with a crooked smile.” Stepping away from the vanity to reveal the daring Jane costume.” Ben said admiring her well-kept figure. They were finally dressed and almost ready to go. we’re going. She talks so much that I find myself going into a daze…sort of how I felt about Marcy . Running in the house. “You know I’ve never really noticed Brenda like that. “I don’t recall Tarzan wearing jeans. felt it showed more skin than she cared to bare in front of her colleagues and strangers alike. Nayla focused on finding a way to make the evidence the forensics team collected from Mrs.” The whole time Nayla ranted around.Nayla had been hard at work on Franklin's case since arriving at the office. Ben shook his head. I’m not walking around in a loin cloth if you get my drift.” With a sly laugh. Nayla threw her things on the table and apologized for being late. I would've been here all night. “Well Brenda will be there and she isn’t exactly dog food. I got caught up at work and lost track of time. “Yes. citing the lack of technological advancements in France's forensics to those used in the United States. “Ben. She had to admit Franklin hired the best lawyers for his defense as they objected to every piece of evidence the prosecution presented. “You should take first prize no questions asked. Brenda!” Nayla said throwing the files in her briefcase. Thanks. Plus I think Jane was much shapelier than me. “I’m not exactly comfortable with this little number either. Ben never said a word. Bren. girl. “Ben's probably wondering where I am. you aren’t going to make it. It will only take me a minute to get dressed. I’m sorry.

“No. “Nayla.   The music cranked out loud hip-hop rhymes. Don’t get me wrong.” Nayla said giving her a little wink.A. “Look at you. Ben broke out in a small laugh as Nayla shot him a look before Brenda could notice.” Nayla said doing a little spin. “He’s getting us a drink.” “Ryan is quiet and laid back and she’s a chatter box. he’s just being silly for some reason. must be the atmosphere here. “It’s about time you got here.” “I guess it’s a good thing he wore jeans instead of the loin cloth.” “Girl. Sharing the much needed laugh. I would never let him out my sight if he were my man. I asked Ryan to the party tonight.” Nayla said covering for her husband. “That’s not nice. Ever since Belle’s cookout that year they’ve been rather close. . You know. Nayla.” “Thanks. where’s your Antony?” Brenda blushed slightly. “Baby. I think Brenda’s a very nice person but man she can talk.” Nayla teased.” Ben said. baby. “Did I interrupt a private joke?” Brenda asked a little confused.” he said helping her off with it.” Nayla nudged him with her elbow.Stevens that night. Ben. it felt good as they connected for once. “That costume looks great on you. girl.” Brenda let slip. Bren?” Nayla turned to catch Ben walking towards them with his animal pelt vest open to show off his broad bare chest. I think she has a thing for Ryan. Marsha came across as a yuppie but not overly stuffy or the type to hang out with the slightly younger crowd in attendance. let me take your coat.'s office were present. not what Nayla expected from Marsha Lancaster. Cleopatra. I can almost see that working. She did. Brenda’s my best friend and she adores you. “Mmm--man.” Brenda said approaching them. I figured as much. I don’t know how you do it. “What. Nayla. however notice not many employees from the D.

“Okay. I don’t get all wrapped up in the ghost and goblin myths but I don’t have a problem with it. Holding her breath praying it wasn’t John. She excused herself before witnessing the ugly burst of anger that was soon to follow.” .” “Why is that. “Manny. You always pop up at the most impromptu times. The four mingled with guests they knew and made small talk with those they didn’t. be back in a sec.” Taking off with Ryan in tow.” “Well. “I’m surprised you would be here.” Nayla decided to lay off the wine for personal reasons. Damn.Ryan caught up with his date sporting a rather masculine Antony costume. Taking a deep breath. “Sure. winced as the annoyance in Nayla's face surfaced. Fixing her slipping top. “Hey. “No. would you mind getting me a glass of ginger ale?” She asked as she dabbed the sweat from her forehead. you look good in that outfit if I can be so blunt. Nayla and Brenda were relieved that John had not made an appearance so far. “What are the odds we would meet at the same party?” The accent was familiar as she closed her eyes briefly. the two women surveyed the crowd of people gathering in the small night club. Nayla looked up. I mean with your background and all I didn’t think you got into the Halloween festivities. You don’t want your usual wine cocktail?” He asked sliding out the booth. I think I’ll pass on the wine tonight. Nayla felt a warm hand on her bare shoulder. but I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Manny. “Uh.” she said breaking into a wide smile. Manny's hand massage her smooth ebony shoulder lightly. “Ben.” Nayla said none to happily. Nayla. She looked at Brenda whose facial expression told it all.” he said greeting her with a warm hug.” Brenda. what are you doing here? I thought you were in Seattle. “I’m playing for the home team now. Nayla. “The Houdini costume certainly fits you.” “It wasn’t my intention to be back in Cleveland. Ryan?” She frowned as his statement caught her by surprise. Nayla removed his hand from her shoulder.

if that’s possible.” Manny took Brenda’s seat uninvited. You had a chance and decided you didn't want marriage after all--remember.She tried to cover herself with her arms as Manny's eyes roamed over her. “Don’t be so sure of that! Look.” She had to bite her tongue before she spoke. Ben won. Are you here with anyone? Don't answer that--it's not my place to know what you're doing these days." Giving him a confused look Nayla asked. I can’t hang out in most places and not get mobbed by fans or jealous boyfriends wanting to break my face. “That’s what I’m trying to do. “I guess that could be a true statement. a head full of thick wavy black hair. I pretty much go where I please these days. “Nayla. You have moved on and I’m married. But unlike you. You know how hard it is to be a celebrity and have true friends. There is no need for us to keep bringing up our past or rehashing old memories. I don’t know what more I can do. “Is your husband here tonight?” Manny asked. Nayla. Congratulations on that by the way. Manny. “Of course he is. I know you and I made a little peace.” She gave a slight nod. I screwed-up and I have to live with that. Nayla. Manny." “I have tried to apologize. we do these things together. Why don’t we just keep things the way they are between us. and smooth creamy skin. “I guess you have a point there. Nayla. I married Ben because I love him not because you two were competing for my affection. We have moved on and all I want is friendship.” Rolling her eyes at him Nayla spat it out before she could take it back.” Nayla agreed with him. If I had found you in LA and proved to you I'd changed we would be together today. You forget you’re a celebrity and celebrity weddings are reported more than murders. His smile revealed perfectly straight white teeth.” . “He won? That’s not how it works. "How did you know we were married?” Manny gave a slight chuckle “I heard about your nuptials. Manny's dark smoky eyes and rock hard body filled out the rest of the man that caused her so much pain in her past.” Manny's Latin good looks had not waned over the years. I’m not a threat to him or you anymore so relax.

“What are you trying to say.” His jaw dropped. I will be more than happy to get you copies of receipts.” she said. Manny.” Ryan sat at the bar waiting for Ben when Brenda found him. Manny. whatever you do. “Don’t make it out to me. Nevertheless.” she said crossing her heart.” She pursed her perfectly painted lips. reimburse me for the wedding and I’ll call it even. I'll make a deal with you. I shouldn’t let that always be the contention between us. “I'll bring a check to your office next week---then can we be friends?” She shook her head. “Oh you silly man.Manny wasn't quit sure how to take the snipes Nayla threw at him. you’re right.” He started to laugh. “Are you serious? He wondered what her motive was. I will do it because I know how much those girls mean to you and I do want us to be friends one day. I gave a couple a lavish wedding for free thanks to you. “You got me this time. Make it out to “Girls without Mothers” they need it more than I do and you can be proud knowing you helped one young lady achieve her dream of attending college. “I honestly had no clue your parents spent that much money. and you broke it over and over.” “’Thou Shall Not Cheat’ the one commandment I believe in. Manny.” “What’s going on Brenda?” Ryan asked totally confused. “All I have to do is pay for the wedding and you will drop it just like that?” “I will drop it just like that.” he said under his breath.” She let out a slight laugh. You will never forgive me for those rumored indiscretions. I have so much other stuff I could probably use. do not let Ben go back to the table. “How much money are we talking about. They didn’t. Nayla. “Our non-wedding cost me one hundred fiftythousand dollars. I swear. “Ryan. it came out of my pocket.” “Holy cow. Nayla?” “Stop flirting with the girlfriends or wives and maybe the boyfriends or husbands wouldn't want to break your face. I guess that will always be our bone of contention. Blunt enough for you?” She said sarcastically.” . “Manny Martinez is there talking to Nayla and I don’t know how Ben will feel about that. “Perfectly. Anyway.

” Manny tipped his hat before leaving.” “I’m not gonna hit him.“How I would feel about what?” Ben said coming up behind her.” Nayla caught sight of Ben. They made their way to the dance floor as Manny watched with envy.” Manny looked around the club trying to spot her. Nayla filled me in about your speedy recovery. uh--maybe after this drink.” Ryan said grabbing his elbow. I don’t even remember what I was talking about. Out of all the Halloween parties going on tonight you choose this one to attend. “I’ll be back. Ben's jaw squared as he clinched. “Want to dance?” Ben asked her in a low tone. “Speaking of your date--shouldn’t you be attending to her needs instead of my wife’s?” “I didn’t mean any disrespect. “It was nice of you to agree to our arrangement but I’m sure your date is wondering what’s keeping you. Detective. take care. “Hmm. “I don’t need a babysitter. and I can’t let you punch him in front of all these people. Detective Smith. but I guess I should be getting back to my date. Ben. He must have sprouted wings to get to the table as fast as he did. I’m going back to the table with my wife--that’s all. Ben sat her soft drink in front of her.” Brenda blurted out in one breath. “This city just gets smaller every day. Ben. “I see your return to Seattle was short-lived. tell me the truth?” The smile from Ben’s face faded quickly. “Manny’s at the table with Nayla. Ryan. Nayla.” “Actually my date is a friend of Marsha’s.” Ben said none to happy about his wife's present company.” she said downing the drink Ryan had in his hand. like right now. She was tired of dilemmas and wished they would stop once and for all.” Ben ignored Manny's greeting. “Brenda. “Holá.” Nayla said motioning for Manny to get moving. .” “Hey. wait up. but you’re a cop. Nayla held her head down.” “Ben. and yeah I’m back. I know that. playing for the home team this time. I think I need to stop drinking.

you’re mesmerized by her and I’d say there’s more than just old friendship involved. might I offer you a little advice?” He said returning his attention to the romancing couple. She was tired and work had drained her of all of her energy. Manny shrugged his shoulders. “Ben. confident her ability to win over the handsome detective would be a piece of cake. But I will keep your warning in mind. you'd better be prepared for one hell of a fight. the marriage is shaky. If you plan on going into battle with Nayla. “I knew her back in college before I turned pro.” Karrie said. You're fooling yourself if you think that woman takes crap from anybody. since you seem to know the ice princess so well.” he said taking a sip of his drink. After the dancing and mingling.” “I can handle the singing district attorney. They are at odds with each other over a case they’re working together. old friends you might say. “Ice princess--that’s cute. we might both get what we want.” “Is that so? I happen to work with Detective Smith and he’s never mentioned you. Karrie. He had a feeling this would be the first and last date he would have with this woman. “Oh Manny. I think we should be going. “Sure. I promised my dad I would help out with choir practice tomorrow. “Manny. “What?” Manny finally turned his attention to her. Karrie.” Manny answered Karrie but never let his eyes drift away from the handsome couple swooning on the dance floor. “Doesn’t matter she’s married now. Karrie.” Karrie replied snidely." Manny's tone turned serious. “Manny. But if you continue to pursue Detective Smith.” Karrie said nibbling on her swizzle stick. "Don’t say I didn’t warn you. am I right?” Karrie prodded. It's all over the department that it won’t be long before their marriage falls completely apart.” “Manny. are you going to stare at them all night?” “I’m sorry. you would let that stand in your way?” Karrie said whispering in his ear.Karrie wished her date would pay her a little attention. Give it some time. Manny. Nayla suggested it was time to go. but Nayla and I go way back.” . “I wouldn’t bet on that if I were you.

“I thought I recognized you from this morning. you were talking to Detective Bronk.” Ben raised an eyebrow to her statement. “Ben. I’m just tired of all of this.He agreed leaving to get their coats. Her brief conversation with Karrie made her skin tingle.” Ben said breaking her thoughts. You’re wealthy and can live that lifestyle if you choose but I can’t see you actually doing it. I didn’t know you were here tonight. Karrie. Giving her salutations to her friends.” Nayla managed to give a short smile as she slid out the booth. Karrie continued to dig knowing she'd hit a nerve with Brenda but Nayla hadn't flinched. she wasn’t in the mood to converse about Manny or pretend to be interested in starting a friendship with the faked out Xenia either. Karrie. “You’re quiet and that usually means you have something on your mind. “You can afford to do that. “Hi.” Nayla said cautiously. Nayla left them to entertain Karrie. “Hey. “I know this is kind of weird but we have a mutual friend--Manny Martinez?” Karrie said biting her bottom lip.” Brenda said pulling him from Karrie’s grasp. She could sense the woman becoming a problem but wouldn't bring it to Ben's attention just yet. On the ride home.” Ryan's timing interrupted a conversation about to turn ugly. “I’m tired of the legal world. you're late. Brenda this is Karrie. Karrie waited until he left before she approached Nayla. we haven’t formally met but I'm Karrie Strong. I have so much going on in my head you wouldn’t believe it. Ryan. “Nayla.” Nayla and Brenda both had to look up to meet the eye of the statuesque woman dressed as Xenia.” “Tired of all of what?” He asked. “Hello. the stress of dealing with issues. she's new at the station. she introduced herself to us already." Nayla replied graciously. Mostly. I didn’t know you were married to Ben---I mean Detective Smith. “Unfortunately I'm not at police headquarters often but usually its a pleasure meeting Ben's colleagues when I am there.” “Yeah. I’m seriously thinking of just doing charity work and living the life of leisure for awhile.” . Nayla sat quietly.

You know how this stuff works. let me interview this person then I will turn them over to you. that idea is coming clearer to me everyday. I think you might have your break. Where is she? Give me an hour and I’ll be down.“Oh baby. “Baby. “Nayla. what is going on in that pretty little head of yours. please tell me who it is?” She sounded like a kid waiting for a surprise at Christmas. “Nayla.” “Are you serious! Who is it.” he said trying to calm her down. .” he said teasing her. He will try his best to get this witness discredited before we even get a trial date. Ben’s cell phone rang.” “Dang it. “Yes I will. but get them to me before Pendleton finds out about this. They just bought in a witness for Franklin’s case.” The twinkle in her eyes brightened as she thought about the possibility of them finally starting a family. “Yeah. Smith. Ben? Is it Anna Dalton? Don’t get my hopes up for nothing.” she said closing her eyes as he drove. Your passion for your work will keep you tied to the job forever.” he said eying her.” “What was that about?” Nayla groaned knowing he would be leaving once he dropped her off at home. Ben! All right. “I won’t know until I change and get to the station.” “This is why you will never live a life of leisure. just wait and see. As soon as this case is over a whole new me will emerge.

“Ms. She claimed she was with Mrs. Dawson. Do you remember who initiated that call. Ben entered the interview room to find Isaac waiting for him. in other words did Mrs. Detective.” Isaac said reading from the statement Carl had given him. “Let’s find out what she has to say. "How long did you wait before you reported her missing to authorities?" . “Her name is Olivia Dawson. “Toni and I came back early we just haven’t been in contact with anyone. Franklin?” “About five years. So who do we here?” Ben asked. I could hear him screaming in the background but not enough to make out what he was saying. the argument you overheard between the Franklin's.” Isaac nodded. “Ms. “It’s been two years. We’ll be interviewing you tonight. Dawson. Franklin became very upset and cancelled our plans for the day but left the loft by herself a short time later. Franklin call her husband on that day?" Isaac asked. Relax…we'll ask you a few routine questions about Mrs. she now wished she'd never made that call. Franklin. She’s Ramona Franklin’s personal assistant or I should say was. Franklin then after you've had a chance to get a little rest we'll talk a little more tomorrow.” Isaac opened the door to the room as the young woman tensed. why is she coming forward now?” Isaac shrugged. “No thank you. Franklin praised the one on one attention I would give her and she offered me a job as her personal assistant. I’m fine. she overheard an argument between the Franklin's. Mrs. man?” The two shook hands briefly before getting down to business. Tucking her hands deep insider her coat pockets.” Isaac said. how long had you worked for Mrs. "Ms. Franklin in Paris and on the day of the accident. Mrs." Olivia said. "Mrs. Dawson. Before I started working for Mrs. Franklin and I were preparing to leave out when she received a call from Judge Franklin. I’m Detective Simmons and this is Detective Smith. Facing the glass window Ben watched the young woman nervously twirl her long blonde hair. Can I get you coffee or tea to warm you before we start?" Isaac asked in a calming tone. “Isaac! When did you get back. I worked at a designer boutique. Olivia lowered her head before speaking. “You know how to do it right---slip back into town and don't let anyone know.” Olivia said as her eyes blinked nervously.

I know its Judge Franklin doing this. “I forgot all about that. Detective. “Detective Simmons. its’ three in the morning she won’t be able to get in a shelter this late. Pulling Ben aside they had to find a place to tuck Olivia away until protective custody could be provided for her. we won't let that happen. I think we’re done until you feel more relaxed. I’ll take her home with me tonight and maybe Mrs."Detective Simmons. Lofton will let her stay with them until we get her to a safe house. Olivia spoke up before either could leave. You gotta believe me!” "Is that why you came here tonight. I don’t have anywhere to go. We’ll contact you tomorrow." she wailed again." Isaac placed his hand over hers in a pacifying way. if I say too much. I called Peter and told him I was terrified of his father and what he would do to me if he found me. All they could make of the car was the license plate and that is how they found out it was Mrs.” “Good luck with that. You're safe with us.” Ben reminded him. I was told to contact any of her family immediately." she cried. "He's going to kill me. My friend has three small children and asked me to leave. “Isaac. Since I wasn't family. I know he is. “Where have you been all this time?” Ben asked finding her sudden appearance strange since he’d only recently heard of a possible witness from Carl that afternoon." Isaac felt a chill. Dawson. “I’ve been staying at a shelter. so I called Judge Franklin then Peter.” Ben said. “Yeah. "I don't want to die like that…please don't ask me any more questions about him. Dawson?" Ben asked. Judge Franklin knows I’m here and he’s going to kill me. I was staying with a friend but we noticed strange cars slowly passing the house at night. "It's okay. Olivia eyes widened as she spoke. “Can you take her?” . Peter told me who to contact here.” Isaac said after realizing she was too afraid to talk. police came to the loft around midnight to tell me they found a car over an embankment. I shouldn't have come here. I promise. I think you’d better call Toni before you walk in with this young lady and the Lofton’s are out of town until the holidays.” he sighed. He knew for sure Olivia's life was in danger." "How did Judge Franklin take the news when you called him?" Isaac asked. Olivia cleared her throat. "No. Ms. Becoming unnerved she grabbed Isaac by the wrist. Isaac rubbed his head. I know. Ms. Franklin's vehicle. "Has the Judge or anyone threatened you since you've been back?" Olivia shook her head.

“You aren’t staying. man." Ben situated Olivia at the safe house.Ben backed away from him. are you sure he didn't tell you to contact Chief Conway? I'm not sure Peter would know me or Detective Simmons were working his mother's case since we haven't spoken with him. Chief Conway was very annoyed with me when I wouldn't talk to him so he called Detective Simmons. I guess we have no choice but to take her to the safe house on Detroit until we think of what to do next. I was transferred to Chief Conway but I felt I should only talk to you or Detective Simmons like I was told. Tucking her knees under her. Just stay inside until the two FBI agents assigned to you get here in the morning. Isaac. Franklin’s lawyers would be all over her claiming she coached her. When I called. Dawson." Isaac shook his head. Before he could leave.” “Ben. Ben. "He specifically gave me your names. She is as good as dead. unless we find out how she really got to us. Why would Carl call you instead of me." Olivia dug in her purse handing Ben the information she had written down. that would make me feel a lot better. if you say so. "Damn. . Franklin has friends here and at the FBI. Carl told me she was found through a contact at FBI.” Olivia said. Ben responded in a quiet tone.” “Thank you. “No way. Nayla is the lead prosecutor on this case. she mentioned Peter gave her a contact name.” “Okay. we can’t leave her here all night. Detective. I’ll stay until it gets light out." "Isaac. knowing you were out of town? It's not adding up. We don't have any choice but to protect her ourselves. Detective Smith?” She asked.” Olivia said with a brief smile." Not saying anything else. "If it makes you feel better. "Peter said to trust you and Detective Simmons and everything would be alright." Ben raised his eyebrow in his trademark style. Olivia started to fret. “Ms. Dawson. No one followed us and there are two unmarked cars outside with officers you can trust watching you. “Ms. you’re perfectly safe here. she settled in on the sofa with a blanket.

I love you. He now had two people he needed to privately investigate.Ben stepped away to call Nayla to let her know he wouldn't be home but was otherwise okay. “We’ve been back for a couple of days but continued our honeymoon at home. This caused every nerve in his body to stand on edge. Toni. I’m at the safe house with the witness.” Settling in the wicker chair for a restless night. and be careful. okay?” “Okay. Isaac was the perfect gentleman and it was like our wedding night all over again. So how was your vacation?” Nayla winked. Belle was going to come but she can’t be here with two kids now. where are you?” “Baby. We’ll talk when I get home.” Toni purred. “I don’t want you to go into detail. it was everything I expected. Nayla sat on the stairs as she listened to her sister. “You look great. “Nayla. when did you get back?” She said hugging her sister. “Ben.” Toni said smiling broadly. Ben. “Toni.” Nayla teased. Toni kicked at the fallen leaves on the steps. I’ll see you in a few hours. Wanna go with me after practice to see them?” Toni asked. I can definitely use the help. But what are you doing here at the church?” “We have choir practice today don’t we? I told dad I would help out until Belle could find a replacement for the choir director. Toni. I’m so glad we waited to take a real honeymoon. girl. Ben wondered why Conway called Isaac. I haven’t seen the baby since last Sunday. “Sure. I have gifts that I bought from Aruba.” “Speaking of our niece and nephew.” “Thanks. but I told you it would be that way. I have to stay until FBI arrives in a couple of hours.  Nayla arrived at church for choir practice to find Toni there. “So have you told Ben he’s going to be a daddy yet?” .

This would not be good for her or the baby she might be carrying. “Toni. and I'll tell you why before you start in on me. “Everything okay. she apologized to her sister as she walked away for privacy. Ready to get practice started?” Toni didn't like the pressure Nayla was under. and downright disgusted. not yet. First we aren’t sure yet and two. slipping it in her purse. what can I do for you?” Covering the mouthpiece. Nayla?” Nayla closed the phone. as usual it's the job. Have you had a chance to interview her yet?” “No. "John. I believe FBI is moving her to another location today. Besides I want Ben to be there with me every step of the way. Toni.” Toni placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder. I hear police have a witness in custody. “If and when you find out anything. “Anyway. Nayla's body language showed all the signs of being overworked. how do you know this witness is a woman?” Nayla asked wondering how John got the information before she did. I know Detectives' Simmons and Smith have already talked to her.  Nayla got home at four on the nose. “Yeah. What has Ben told you about her?” “He hasn’t told me anything because I haven’t seen him yet. I know what I have to do but I haven’t had time. We might finally have what we need to nail Franklin.” “Nayla.” “Nayla. stressed out. John. she got started on dinner. you have to slow down or you’re going to risk complications. After a long hot shower. Toni. she was totally exhausted.” she said getting annoyed. A few hours of practice and visiting with her family.” Nayla’s phone rang.“No I haven’t. John. Ben had . I promise I will take a day and take care of everything. Why haven't you seen a doctor yet?” Toni put her hand on her hips as she lectured her sister. “Nayla. let me know right away. we haven’t had time to talk lately with this dang investigation going full steam like it is. please don’t lecture me.

“Awe. dinner will be ready by the time you clean up. “Our wedding portrait we sent to be framed came back. honey. Ben shrugged his shoulders waiting for her decision.  The club was packed as Donovan and his band played for the approving crowd.” she said. Nayla happily greeted everyone. Nayla waited before serving him a portion.P table with the other couples. “Are you serious? You just got home!” She said smacking her lips.” Ben headed upstairs. “Well. Her man. Nayla massaged his neck and shoulders feeling the tension under her fingers. Want to go?” He said relieved it wasn't the job calling for once. Ben's disheveled appearance made her chuckle inside. Isaac. you look like you’ve had a rough night. Nayla relaxed knowing Ben was finally home.” Ben’s cell rang just as she was getting dessert out the fridge.” Ben said stretching his back. “That sounds great I’m starving. It wouldn't surprise her if he had to leave to go back to work. Donovan is really getting into his music. “Hey people-what’s up. Sitting the dish on the counter. Finally settling down she sorted through the mail.” They ate dinner but didn’t discuss the Franklin matter in much detail. always neatly groomed. looked horrible.” . He’s doing another jazz set. “Its’ Donovan he wants us to join him at Ja’Nell’s tonight. Snuggles barked loudly as she scurried towards the back door. Taking their seat at the V.” Nayla said teasingly. It took forever to get the witness to a safe house and sleeping in a wicker chair wasn’t fun either.I. The wrinkled shirt along with the five o'clock shadow covering his otherwise handsome face was a look no one saw.not called since earlier causing her to worry about him. “I have and I feel it in every joint of my body. All we have to do is hang it. She'd hoped he would make it home for them to at least have dinner together. I’ll hang it over the fireplace when I’m done eating. she rarely saw him this way. you might be losing one of your men soon. “Cool.

” "I'll sign your contract for you!" Nayla said threatening her sister in a fun manner. you can improvise as you go along. Belle. “I hope not. “Olivia isn’t going to cooperate if you’re not there. Nayla sang perfectly as she improvised on Donovan's musical talents and her sister's harmony. Nayla pulled him aside for privacy. and Tina will have to do backup. Nayla! Isaac is the other detective on this case but I'm the one doing all the damn work once again!” He said storming away. To be honest. “What’s going on with the witness?” Nayla asked concerned. Can’t you help a brotha out?” Donovan pleaded. can’t we do this tomorrow?” Ben said unwilling to give up another night to babysit a witness. “So. “Hey!" Tina teased. Isaac. Ben. This is a priority case and I don’t think you have a choice.” Isaac relayed. its’ your job. However. “Donovan.” Nayla said whining like she normally does when he asks her to sing with him. honey. besides. go sit in on the interview. I can’t afford to lose him right now. I don’t really do jazz. “She’s refusing to talk to the FBI unless Ben is present. she only trusts you.” “Whatever. She had to admit it was fun and it took her mind off other worries for the moment.” Nayla said smiling as she turned to her sisters. Nayla. I was with her for hours and she didn’t reveal anything new to me. "My agent has not been contacted and I can't sing without a contract being signed first. “Ben. Nayla.Isaac gave a frown to that thought. “It’s easy.” “Baby. we need all the manpower we can get. “I’m sorry.” During a break in his session. Isaac gave Nayla’s hand a squeeze. Nayla. Donovan approached Nayla about accompanying him with a song. the night was cut short due to business as Isaac received a call from the FBI regarding Olivia Dawson.” . “I’ll see what I can do but Toni. I don’t know. we’re enjoying an evening out.” “You gotta be kidding me. Nayla folded her arms. I offered to talk with her but she wanted Ben. I don’t wanna do it!” He said pouting.

It was John's hope that an indictment would put Henry before Adam Walker. now the media was snooping around with their own questions as allegations of corruption started to surface. Nayla strongly urged presiding Judge Walker to forbid Henry Franklin from hearing any cases. Ben seems to have a way with women. Nayla was worried the case lacked the one condemning piece of evidence that could nail it shut—the testimony of Anna Dalton. Isaac. With the investigation shifting in favor of the prosecution. happy with the ruling. Anna Dalton would be the only person to provide the final piece to the whole puzzle. they agreed to continue providing those services for the young woman. . With the help of the FBI. It would be poetic justice to have the only Judge not afraid to voice his opinions about his rogue colleague decide his fate.“It’s not your fault. Franklin's disappearance was enough to keep her under protective custody until ordered otherwise. John. Adam was so vocal about his disappointment of the allegations against Franklin. Still. From the information gathered through the initial investigation and what Olivia provided. Adam Walker on many occasions voiced his concern about decisions Judge Franklin made on certain cases. The history between Walker and Franklin could be compared to water and oil--they didn't mix. John set his plan in action to file murder charges against Judge Franklin. it began drawing the attention of other judges not associated with Franklin. decided to hold off taking further action against Franklin until Judge Walker returned. but the magistrate assigned to the case felt Olivia’s knowledge of Mrs. Judge Walker was suddenly called away. Think you can give me a ride home?”   After weeks of speaking with Olivia. Nayla. To top things off. He was told by the other judges in the court to let it go. Brenda. and John put their focus on building a timeline on the Franklin's failing marriage.

the dominos started to fall with the news the Attorney General had put his watchdogs on alert. John Kraft timed it perfectly to present his evidence to the grand jury secretly. Tom decided to take the case and clear his friend of any wrongdoing. Dealing with state and county officials was a piece of cake for Tom since a number of his clients were involved in corruption.  Tom Pendleton was the city's most outspoken defense attorney. The grand jury didn't hand down indictments on a whim and Henry's lack of emotional . With the luck of the draw. might clear Henry and dump the bad publicity already being bestowed upon his law firm. He felt discrediting this witness and the lack of physical evidence from the car itself. Franklin's body cremated from the heat of the explosion. Tom was aware of the pending divorce between the feuding couple but he refused to believe Henry would kill for money. it wasn't unusual for his firm to take a case or two involving altercations outside of corruption. Tom traveled to Paris to meet with French officials to go over their evidence. If what he was hearing was true about the history between these two men. However. After the arraignment and Henry's not guilty plea. Henry and Ramona were considered good friends. Not knowing all the evidence the prosecution possessed lingered heavily on his mind also. Once Franklin's name became connected to a corruption scandal involving four other judges. Tom and his wife were the first to offer the Franklin family support. he planned to bring up the so-called star witness. Unfortunately. when news about Ramona's death came. Judge Walker was assigned to Franklin's case. then this trial was sure to be the media's circus ring and a certain loss for the defense. they weren't able to prove tampering caused the fatal accident but came to the conclusion Mrs. Tom knew what should had been an open and shut investigation was turning into the biggest mistake he'd ever made. They agreed the evidence presented by the State was enough to warrant an indictment. however. He usually defended the overzealous men and women of the business world that took possession of items that most likely weren't achieved though proper channels. With the preliminary hearing looming. Based solely on that information.

Ironically. A lawsuit. the Common Pleas Court judge assigned to the case. Ben needed to know how Peter knew he and Isaac were leading the investigation. stopped short of accusing probate officials of tampering and has ordered no distribution of Mrs. “Ramona Powell-Franklin 62. Anna Dalton. to defend the murderer of his wife's best friend. Judge Franklin dismisses his wife’s allegations as early signs of dementia and states he is not currently having any affairs with any members of the court. were in the mist of a bitter divorce when she disappeared. well Judge Franklin you’ve been a busy little man. Franklin suspected her husband of cheating. More details as the investigation continues. The Probate Court unfortunately cannot locate this second Will nor do they have any record of it ever being filed. or. First Action News learned that Mrs. well. had him wondering if turning his back on the man he'd admired for years was the right thing to do. Franklin’s untimely death. .” Ben continued to read from another news clipping. died suddenly while vacationing in Paris. “Well. Adam Walker. filed by Ramona Franklin’s family to block distribution of funds has been granted until an investigation can be completed. Digging for other sources to collaborate with Olivia’s story. Mrs. Mrs.distress over the loss of his wife.   Ben scanned every article regarding Ramona Franklin's death.” Ben printed the articles that were relevant to the case to reference to later. the case will be heard at the very court Judge Franklin serves. Franklin’s children are in possession of a copy of a second Will that was fully executed and filed around the time Mrs. Franklin. “Due to Mrs. Franklin’s biological children stand adamant their mother did not suffer from dementia or any other diseases. Concentrating his search on Mrs. Judge Franklin stands to inherit hundreds of millions of dollars from his late wife’s estate. As for Anna Dalton. wife of prominent Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Henry Franklin 63. Franklin’s assets until the investigation has been completed. Franklin threatened to reveal the names of the women Judge Franklin was involved with during a court appearance. Judge Franklin did admit to a brief fling with his former law clerk.” Ben said as he continued to read the article. her whereabouts are unknown and several attempts to reach her or anyone associated with her have been unsuccessful. Franklin’s children and the private investigator. Private investigators have been hired to look into the case of the missing Will. Mrs.

We need to get together with the Attorney General and find out why the urgency. Judge Franklin isn't a young man. Nayla.” “What? Does this mean we have to rush our case. It would give us more time to build our case since there isn't a statute of limitations on murder." Nayla said. Franklin down. "Unless---and this is a long shot. We might be able to bring in all the major players in one big sweep or at least get them to turn on each other. “What now?” Brenda asked." "True. The look on her face told Brenda this was not good news. Slamming the phone on the receiver. “You’re not going to believe this. but it’s also the defendant I'm worried about. Dawson in protective custody for weeks! No one besides us knew she was being held here.” Brenda said slamming her briefcase on the table.” Brenda said biting the tip of her pen. “The Attorney General is closer than we through to bringing charges against Franklin in a pending federal matter. I know." “Yeah. I will handle the hearing as scheduled. “I’ll call you when I’m done at court. You head over and check on Olivia. Brenda.The prosecuting team knew the next few weeks would be hectic and nerve wrecking to say to the least. Nayla?” “I hope not. Brenda. As fear overtook her. I would feel we let Mrs.” Nayla said. we can continue to work with the FBI. I'll ask John to handle that task. If they push their federal case before us we might be screwed witness wise. "What do we do? Call and get it postponed or go forward as planned." Nayla said rubbing her temples. The stress of two trials would take a huge toll on him and if he died while waiting for our trial to start. Preparing for the preliminary hearing was already turning into a nightmare with all the directions this investing was going. "We have the preliminary hearing in an hour. .” Brenda arrived at the safe house to find FBI agents swarming the small deserted house. how could this happen? You’ve had Ms.” Brenda sat back in her chair. “This could work in our favor. “Agent Tyler. she had a sinking feeling all had not gone as expected with Olivia Dawson. Nayla’s phone rang.” Nayla said in an eerily calm voice.

what do you think Ben might know about this?” “Not about Olivia's disappearance. Olivia Dawson is gone. “Damn. I just want to know if he noticed anything unusual at their last meeting. Nayla. but he was the contact person for the FBI. where is everybody today?” Isaac said agitated.” He sighed before answering her. “Hey. “Isaac. Whenever Olivia was questioned. Agent Maddox was found in the backyard of the safe house. He tried getting a hold of Ryan or Bronk. Isaac threw his coffee mug across the room. Deciding to give Nayla a visit to see if she'd heard from Ben. Nayla removed her glasses. Dawson gone. He had to find Olivia before anyone associated with Franklin found her first. we don’t know how this happened. please don’t tell me that. Isaac. Wheeler. can I come in?” “Isaac? What brings you here this early?” Nayla asked. “I needed him to check out a lead for me. Because of a lack of supervision. guess I’ll catch him whenever he shows up. “That's probably why Brenda hasn't called me back. this just blew up two years of investigation into this homicide. Like I told you. She was buried so deep in paperwork that she didn’t hear him knock. what’s going on? I know that look. Squinting her eyes at the young agent in training. we came for her this morning. but have you talked to Ben today?” “No I haven’t. “Nayla. he was there. Agent Tyler. “You know.” Nayla came from behind her desk as panic ran through her body.” She dropped her head in her hands.” she said concerned. We found Agent Maddox severely injured and Ms.“Ms. He's barely clinging to life according to Brenda. he knocked on her door to no answer. She’s in the custody of the FBI how is she gone…what did they do with her!” “I don’t know exactly how or what happened but when agents arrived this morning she was gone. “Isaac. a killer might have gotten to our only witness.” he said more frustrated. Ben’s phone went into voicemail.” .” Agent Tyler said visibly upset. Isaac opened the door a little to peek inside. “I won’t keep you.” Furious. nothing.

He thought she looked relaxed and trusted us with her safety. calm down. “Yeah I’m fine. Isaac.Nayla leaned against her chair. Olivia’s missing as of this morning. I think the call was a set up to follow him that night. “I can’t do this again!” Ben opened the door to Nayla's office to find Isaac holding his wife. Isaac?” “Ben. have we gotten that poor girl killed?” Isaac searched for a way to respond.” Nayla said rushing to embrace him.” Nayla interrupted their little powwow. “We can't think that way. "Oh my God.” Ben said putting the papers back in the folder.” he said. “Yeah. She was ready for her appearance in court. I’m not going to let this happen to him again! I was the one that encouraged him to be the liaison for Olivia and the FBI. Franklin’s kids.” “Right! That call came in a few weeks ago and this morning you can’t find him or Olivia!” Nayla said in full panic mode.” Ben pulled the articles for them to read." Isaac said. We’ll give him a visit but first things first. “Excuse me guys. you know this is going to tank my case right. Isaac scanned over the first few pages. Ben. I think Ben might have been set up. “What’s going on? Did I miss out on something? “Thank god you’re okay. he would in order to interview them. I found a few interesting articles on the internet that I want to follow-up on. “What? I saw her yesterday. “We'll get in touch with this reporter." Nayla shook her head with sudden fear. honey?” Nayla asked. Isaac? He's finally back to himself from that shooting. What’s the problem. Nayla. She did get a little spooked by a car back-firing. “Down in research. “Where were you this morning.” “I’m thinking he knows the whereabouts of Mrs. “When he came home last night he didn’t say anything was wrong or appear to be concerned about Olivia. everything was fine.” “Set up how? Is Ben in danger.” “Nayla.” . He might know more than what he actually wrote.

Isaac. Isaac could see her point. “Isaac. I'll look like an idiot because we couldn’t keep the States only liable witness protected.” she said fuming. you all need to work fast. sorry. 'If' being the key word. and I’m not trying to be mean when I say this. we might not be in this position. scheduled this morning. Olivia is our star witness! I’m supposed to go to Judge Walker now and say.” Isaac said.' It doesn’t work like that and you know it. Isaac! If we had told Judge Walker the whole story about her. if anybody can do this you can. we can’t be held responsible for it.” Nayla could feel her blood pressure reaching the boiling point. 'oops. Hopefully Agent Maddox will be able to give a description of his attacker. I don’t know how he'll react and Pendleton will definitely score points for Franklin. for another week?” Nayla said not happy about the turn of events. “If he makes it. We or FBI will come up with Olivia before then---hopefully. Nayla. “We didn’t know this would happen. our surprise witness is gone. The FBI is looking into what happened on their end. Franklin’s henchmen have a head start on getting Olivia out the way." she said giving them both a serious look. “Nayla. please do what you have to do. “I can’t promise anything at this point.” Ben said assuring her. I will talk to Judge Walker and tell him we advised you not to say anything about Olivia's full involvement with the case. knowing he was asking her to do the impossible. He indeed planned to ask for a dismissal based on the lack of physical evidence French officials were unable to retrieve from the remains of the car. They had a lot of work to do and only a short amount of time to get it done. We’re probably going to need at least a week to find her. try to get a continuance for at least a week. Sitting in the lawyers lounge. “A week! I’m supposed to stall the preliminary hearing. “Nayla.” Isaac squeezed her hand before motioning to Ben to get moving. Nayla was right about Tom. It would almost be better if he didn’t because then it would definitely mean Olivia was the target.” “Like heck we can't! We did know this could happen.” Isaac stressed. Nayla sighed. Just stall for enough time for us to find out what happened. .” Taking a deep breath.“Baby. "The sad part.

Nayla tried desperately not to lose her temper.” Nayla stood up. the only reason I asked about this particular witness is because she was placed in protective custody." Tom boasted in his usually alpha manner." Walker said calmly. Smith." Nayla said surprised.” “Judge will you please ask Ms.” Nayla said popping two aspirin. “Judge Walker. all without having the benefit of knowing who is fueling the . we’re not trying to settle a fender bender here but a homicide! Mr. “Your Honor. so share your news with us. Pendleton. Tom continued to push the envelop." "Mr.” Tom said.“Court is ready to convene. I hear the State no longer has a pertinent witness in their possession. Slipping in the question smartly. granted permission for them to approach the bench. charged with murdering his wife. Pendleton has some information to share. "Your Honor. "I request a dismissal and ask that my client be fully reinstated to resume his judicial duties. you have our attention. you knew firsthand one of my witnesses wouldn't be available to testify?" Nayla's comment took Tom by surprise. I ask you deny his request for a dismissal based on the evidence presented and the grand jury's indictment. tired of the bickering between the two.” Tom said staring directly at Nayla.” The bailiff announced. "My client has been stripped of his duties. “Judge. “Excuse me. Why is it you only seem to be interested in my witnesses and not the evidence gathered against your client over the last two years? With her hands perched on her hips she leered at him. "Could it be. She felt the nagging headache gaining intensity. Mrs. “Mr. my office presented you with everything you requested.” Tom asked. “Judge Walker. “Thank you. Adam. Pendleton is in possession of the same documents I have. I’ll be right there. Pendleton. Smith to explain what happened to the State's star witness. “Gladly. on behalf of new developments and the fact that the State doesn't have any real physical evidence. may I request a side bar?” He asked. it appears Mr. within reason.

" Judge Walker's eyes bore into Tom. banged his gavel so hard it made them both jump. That being said. Judge. “I seriously doubt you can HONESTLY explain any of this. "Are you really serious. “This was not my intention. Pendleton? If a person is being held in protective custody you know why. "Uh. "You are allowing the State to charge my client with a death that occurred in Paris? My client had not left the United States .“ Tom stuttered. Flicking her finger off her forehead. “Mr. Mr. Judge. "Ms. no I wasn't aware of that. she said.” Judge Walker. I’m warning you to stop talking! I’m denying your request because obviously the grand jury felt otherwise or else we wouldn't be here today. is your witness missing and why wasn't I informed earlier." Nayla leaned closer to him. I guess you also know Agent Maddox is on life support. Mr. she squinted her eyes. You have been in this field long enough to know how things are done. how did you know she was missing?” Walker asked none to politely. Pendleton! Again. My client also feels this person could be holding a personal vendetta against him. he instead took a deep breath before addressing Tom.prosecution with this nonsense. Smith.” Walker asked. Pendleton. Nayla bit her lower lip. Naturally the FBI and Cleveland Detectives suspect foul play. these other charges against my client should be excluded until further proof is provided. Tom placed his hands in his pockets hoping he’d hadn't spoken to soon. "Really? So you just assumed this witness walked out of protective custody on her on? Never crossed your mind it could have been anything else?" Judge Walker turned beet red." Turning to Tom." "This is preposterous!" Tom said standing before the bench. “I can't reveal that without breaking attorney-client confidentially. Pendleton. As they waited for him to explode. ignoring what was just said. Pendleton?" "If I can explain…. Why am I telling you this? You seem to know everything already. "How'd you get first hand knowledge of any of this. Mr." Turning his attention to Nayla. "Mr. furious." Tom said before Walker rudely cut him off. the initial charges against my client were about the car accident and not anything outside of that.

“I was with you. Mr. he'd never mentioned when it happed.” Tom asked knowing he wouldn’t get the truth.”   Nayla's brief victory was short-lived. "Stop! or both of you will be charged with contempt! This issue will not be discussed any further! Mrs." Tom exploded. counselor! Sorry you don't agree with that but you should have kept your mouth shut for once!" Walker said standing firmly. “Do what you have to. "Thirty days! Judge. "I expect to be notified before the start of that court appearance if circumstances change.” Tom put the phone down momentarily after Henry's slip of the tongue.” Franklin yelled in Tom's ear. Don't make me take matters into my own hands.at the time of his wife's accident! How could he possibly commit a crime halfway around the world when the evidence clearly shows no tampering was done to that car!" Nayla pointed her finger at him. sending splinters of wood flying in the air. Opening his buzzing cell phone he cringed. I have your life in my hands right now but you have to be honest with me or I'm done with you. . Pendleton! Your client is responsible for his wife's death and I will figure out how he got to my witness too!" Walker's banging stopped the arguing after the gavel broke. Tom downright defeated saw Nayla's smile as she retreated from the courtroom. Did you have anything do with that girl's disappearance. Smith. I won’t spend one night in jail. "That's exactly what I intend to prove. Pendleton. How could I possibly had anything to do with what happened last night." he said adjourning court with the remains of the broken gavel. you better find a way to get me off. you have thirty days to investigate what happened to this witness and the brutal attack on the FBI agent. “Don’t threaten me Henry. that wouldn't be good for you. Do I make myself clear. you're granting the prosecution additional time when all she originally asked for was a five-day extension?" "Yes. “Pendleton.

or I won’t be so easy next time. I suggest you two might want to take extra precaution. I didn’t like being informed that way. Judge." Sitting forward in her chair she looked directly at him. By the time I got word. "I understand Olivia was to be part of the preliminary hearing today. "Tom's aware of the discord you have for Judge Franklin. I refused to be bullied by Henry Franklin. Nayla quickly jumped. "Judge Walker. "John." Adam said before dismissing them. only Mr. Keep me posted about Ms.” Leaning back in his chair. he said. Mrs.” he asked in a much calmer voice this time. find that leak. this has conspiracy written all over it." she said. but it was his job to follow-up when a possible mistake was made. Let this be a warning. Nayla had to convince him she knew nothing. you really weren’t aware Ms. no more stunts like that." "My relationship with Judge Franklin will have no bearing on how I conduct this trial. I only found out this morning. “Mrs. Dawson and Agent Maddox.'s office since joining. but regardless.” "I understand and again I apologize for my actions in court. Smith. John. Although. “I swear on it with my life. it was too late for me to contact the court or to file any emergency documents to reschedule. Pendleton beat me to it. Judge." "No thank you." Adam nodded. “For the record.She and John Kraft sat in Judge Walker’s chambers after being called by his bailiff. Dawson was missing. This could be his strategy in getting you removed. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that.” John said. You should have contacted the court or my chambers regardless of how late you received the information. maybe we should assign you protection until this is over. "I don't know how opposing counsel got a hold of that information. Everyone on the case is working diligently to find her." "If you ask me. Smith. Adam respected Nayla's honesty and the outstanding contributions she'd made to the D. I felt it was best to attend and then tell you." . Tom Pendleton's hiding behind attorney-client confidentiality but that won't always be the case.A. It's no telling how low Henry will go.

” “Will do. Brenda. Until we find Olivia." .” Brenda said taking a sip of coffee. Nayla?” Shaking her head Nayla leaned against the window seal. “You think there might be a leak at police headquarters.” “Don’t say that. but we should be careful how we leave the office. Margo will have to make sure documents to this case are filed away and not left around to get mixed up with other files.” Brenda's mouth dropped open. Maybe we should only use Margo on this case. Brenda. we can all be suspected of leaking information. Make sure your computer is locked and all files are put away if you’re gone for a period of time. “Brenda. I hate being suspicious of the people we work with but like you said this is a high profile case and we need to keep it contained to a limited number of people. We know it's Franklin’s attorney behind that stupid complaint. or it could be here in this office. “Brenda. I can’t do this without you! I don’t have the backbone to stand up to John like you. I might be removed from this depending on how quickly we can find Olivia. boss. I want to know how Pendleton knew Olivia was missing?” She now wondered if Ben could've been right about there being a leak.” Nayla leaned forward. I want you to stay and see it to the end. I have to make sure I do the same thing. “Nayla. this was the last straw. John will try to override you on issues but stand firm and make sure things are done by the book. He’ll just can my ass and take the case over anyway. “Maybe. “Nayla. If I am.” Nayla closed the door so her voice wouldn’t carry. you don’t think John or the other prosecutors had anything to do with this do you? “I don’t want to implicate anyone without proof.  Brenda felt the tension the moment she walked in Nayla’s office. Don’t tell me you can’t do it because I know otherwise.” “I know. “How’re you doing. We can trust her and this way no other secretary will have access to those files.

closing the door behind her. it really does make you wonder what the people expect.” Nayla patted Brenda's hand and gave her a smile. She would get the information from Nayla later. not us. that is true.” Nayla said putting the last of her belonging in her briefcase.” “The jury hands down the verdicts. “I still think you should to wait and see what Judge Walker says before you succumb to defeat. We build the cases so the jury sees it our way and without Olivia or Anna. Nayla. . Nayla. but you won't be removed. spotting the box by the door. be tougher than I am when it comes to stuff like this. You know. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Brenda. Nayla.” Nayla paced around waiting to hear from Isaac about Olivia. John knocked on Nayla's door. Nayla. the thought of possibly having to set Franklin free makes me sick. I know in my gut Henry Franklin is guilty. “Aren’t you jumping the gun a little. Judge Walker is too sensible to make that kind of move. We can go to trial on what we have so far but Olivia was the key to getting that jury on our side. How crazy is that?” "Girl.” Brenda wouldn’t let Nayla down. Bren. “You'll run this office one day. “Brenda. “Excuse me. is this a bad time? Brenda left. “Okay. actually something stronger. you can do it." Brenda said. This office has put a lot of bad people behind bars lately and because of that we're being questioned. Promise me you will stay and get justice for Mrs. Nayla?” “Why wait until they’re escorting me out the door. Brenda sat next to her friend that was determined to expect the worse. Franklin and now maybe Olivia. Brenda returned with coffee for both. the Judge can dismiss on lack of evidence. deciding to deliver the news to her in person rather than in a correspondence. We work so hard to help the innocent that we forget about ourselves. This calls for more coffee. She almost felt relieved knowing she wouldn’t have to come back if Judge Walker decided to can her for losing a witness.Nayla grabbed her by the shoulders.” “Yes. I will stay and try to get justice for them. this way my stuff is packed and ready to go.

try to keep away from the court. “No. John rubbed the arch in his nose as he removed his glasses. probably for the last time.” he said looking around the office. Now we have a press conference to attend since Pendleton made the statement his client might be cleared of all charges. how are we going to do that?" John placed his hand on the small of her back as he led her to the door. Hopefully he’ll have good news for us. I was just packing the last of my things.” “I wasn’t at court. “He wants me to stay on the case?” She said stuttering.” She followed John to the media center giving Brenda the thumbs-up as they passed her office. “I wanted to give you the decision in person before we release a statement to the media. . Nayla.” “Look. None of us really should be sitting in on any hearings yet. John. Walker didn't like the way he was informed but other than that he didn't find any fault with this department or FBI handling Olivia's security” She let out a sigh of relief and thanked John for sticking by her. “Yes.” “I see that. He had no choice but to go through the formality bullshit.” he said. “Walker decided he wants you to stay on the case. Carl felt the cold beads of sweat forming on his forehead as Isaac's stare bore into him. Their conversation was cut short by a phone call. Simmons.Nayla sat behind her desk. “Walker didn’t take long to complete his investigation. John. Carl. I was at Nayla’s office this morning. Isaac and Conway watched the press conference closely. “We'll find her. As we speak.” she said bracing herself. “I’m glad Nayla was cleared of any wrong doing we need her for this investigation.” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. I have Ben tracking down a lead on Anna Dalton’s whereabouts.” Conway said switching off the television. Isaac's face turned dark as he looked at Carl. "John.” “I appreciate that. we have thirtydays to find Olivia. Nayla. Carl.

A. "There is a leak in this department. especially if Olivia turns up dead. I called you by mistake but when you answered I turned her over to you and took myself out the mix. "True.”   . As a matter of fact. I will find it and when I do there will be hell to pay. "The FBI agent didn't make it.Hanging up the phone. “We gotta talk! I’ll call you back on where to meet me.'s working the investigation didn't know Olivia was missing until I told them this morning. You talk to Detective Smith…maybe he knows what happened to your witness.” Carl said leaving abruptly. "Some people just feel they need to do the right thing. Now we have reason to believe Olivia's disappearance is not of her own making." Carl said finally making his exit. Carl.'s office has the same access to the stuff we have. Come to think of it. but the D. "Uh before you go. why did you call me instead of Ben since I was on vacation?" Isaac managed to rattle Carl a bit more. the D. You never did say how you found Olivia or why she decided to show up out the blue. You do whatever it takes to find her." "What the hell are you saying." Isaac said as his eyes locked in.A. She felt she had information on Franklin and called me. Carl." “Well keep me posted." Carl's stiffen body read like a book as Isaac picked up on it. I'm just letting you know the leak is in our department and I don't care how many heads will roll after I find it. Carl." Isaac nodded as he folded his arms across his chest." The lump in Carl's throat grew bigger. Simmons.'s office doesn't have as many people close to Franklin like our department does. "The leak could be anywhere. Carl headed to his office to make a phone call. The D. I told Smith danger would probably follow her." "I'm not crossing words. "Ben didn't know she was missing either. Isaac dropped his head.A. Simmons? I didn't know she was missing until you told me! You and Smith are the primaries on this case.

“What kind of defense attorney are you, Tom! You couldn’t even manage to get her removed from my case.” Tom shot him a look. “I don’t have Walker in my back pocket and I wasn’t about to bribe him.” Henry had a feeling the only way to win this case would be to get Nayla and her hounds completely off the investigation. She and her gaggle of nosey detectives were digging deep and the truth was not far from their reach. “I want her off my case at any cost, Tom…find a way to do it or I will. I gave you the name of the prosecutor I want running this,” Henry said fuming. Tom squared his jaw. “That guy's not a D.A. anymore, Henry. He's been demoted to a public defender. Your fifth cousin twice removed won't be on this case. Unless you got something else, we're stuck with the D.A.'s already on it. Tom poured himself a stiff drink. "If you would let Anna testify, she’ll stick by your alibi and this whole thing can be over. You’ll collect Ramona’s millions minus what you'd give Anna to keep her happy. Maybe even retire to an island in the middle of the Pacific. That is if you could stand living with yourself.” Henry unseated his hefty frame to join Tom at the bar. “That’s your strategy? Let Anna testify? In the meantime, Ramona’s selfish kids will file a civil suit to slowly bleed me dry. Did you learn nothing from the Simpson trial?” Tom was more convinced than ever his client was guilty. After Henry's slips of the tongue, he realized this man was capable of murder and possibly much more. He considered himself a ruthless attorney but to help a murderer capitalize from his crimes was against his own ethics and Ramona was a good friend and wonderful person that deserved better. “Henry, your freedom isn’t worth giving up a few million bucks or would the guilt of taking Peter and Victoria's inheritance keep you up at night?” “I’m not guilty, Tom! I raised those kids; its not my fault Ramona didn’t provide for them in her Will. I want my freedom and the money….end of story….no deals with Anna or those kids.” “Yeah, I hear what you want, Henry, but you need to know my career is not going on the line for you. You better hope Anna can stay hidden until your trial is over. Nayla Smith

and John Kraft are too smart to leave any stones unturned and you better believe they will find a way to nail you.” “You know, Tom, you're lecturing me like you’re innocent of ever doing anything wrong. Well, I would really hate for those allegations of tax evasion to surface for you again. I mean that nice big house you have in the Hamptons might have to be reported to the IRS after all. You know what house I'm talking about?” Henry said taking a sip of brandy. "Since I'm not a judge anymore and under investigation for misconduct, my cases can be reviewed at any time without any reason." Swirling the ice in his drink, Tom glared at his former friend. “Now you listen to me you overbearing windbag. If I go down you go down and so does all your gray-haired posse members backing you.” Tom stood directly in front of Henry. “I’m the only one so far that know you have Anna Dalton tucked away in Argentina. Seriously, Henry, if I found her what makes you think that group of smart detectives won't be able to do the same thing." Tom returned to his chair with a chuckle. "It would really be bad for you if she just happened to show up to testify for the other side wouldn't it?” Slapping his hand across his knee Tom continued to needle the former Judge who was not amused by the sudden outbreak of humor. “I have crap on you the authorities would love to get their hands on--right down to implicating all those involved in your corruption scheme with Magistrate Grafton. You do remember those deals right? Go ahead make the call to the IRS, Henry. My case would be nothing compared to you spending the rest of your miserable life in prison.” Henry, sweating profusely, decided to play his last card. With Tom gone, he called the one man who still owed him a favor.   “Gotcha, Judge. Now to do some digging on David Grafton.” Donovan said, putting down his headset. “Isaac, I have confirmation on our girl's whereabouts.” Isaac arrived at the audio lab in what seemed like a split second. Donovan replayed the conversation between Franklin and Pendleton to double check all three heard the same thing.

“Well, Ms. Dalton is still in Argentina. I’ll get Lopez to call the chief of PFA. We’ll fax them photos of Anna Dalton as soon as possible,” Isaac said turning to Ben. “Isaac, there’s no way Anna could have left this country or entered Argentina without passport identification. If she took a commercial flight, there would be a record of that and we found nothing.” Ben reminded him. “Yeah, but Franklin owns a private plane that can avoid normal regulations,” Isaac said with a smirk on his face. “Right, I’ll check on it,” Ben said.   A few hours into the search, Isaac checked on Ben. “Find anything yet?” “I just started, give me a minute or two,” Ben said annoyed. “Look, Ben, I know I’ve been leaning on you heavily the last few months but you’re the best I have at this.” “Isaac, you know I’m doing what I can to get this investigation pulled together but I’m one person; I can’t do it all. You have a team of dedicated detectives that can pitch in a bit more.” “I have to be careful who is working with us, Ben. Franklin has a lot of powerful people in his corner. I'm aware all you guys are stretched to the limit, but I can't take a chance in letting in new people who could be connected to him,” Isaac said feeling guilty about taking a two week vacation in the middle of a major crisis. “I’m aware of that. But with only a handful of us trying to bring down a powerful cartel of corrupt politicians, its going to take time. We can get Shaun to help run the audio tech stuff with Donovan; we can trust him and he’s good.” “Good idea, but I can do the first set of calls myself. I’ll be in the audio lab if you come up with anything useful.” Isaac settled in for a long night. He and the team had been at it for hours. It was late when he decided another hour would be all he would allow himself before calling it a night.

“Let’s grab some grub while the phone numbers run through the database,” Isaac said interrupting Ben at his computer. “We'll compare notes or call it a day; either way I’m beat.” “Call it a day? It’s only one o'clock in the morning,” Ben said shutting the computer down. “I’m not having much luck with my task either. Isaac, if I wanted to get to Argentina fast and not take a domestic flight what would I do?” Isaac started to answer before he got cut off “I would drive to Florida or another costal city closest to my destination to catch my private plane,” Ben said presenting his version of a plan. “Searching all the private air fields starting with Florida that aren’t required to use the strict regulations like commercial flights, I found two that fly to a small private Island off the coast of Argentina. I placed a call to Dade County’s police chief and Florida's FBI field office to see if they could help us out with getting warrants for their manifests.” “Damn, Ben, great work! We don’t want Franklin to get to her before we can. If he used these services before, he'll mostly likely use it again to get Anna out of Argentina,” Isaac said. “What about Tom Pendleton, Isaac? He’s got major problems with the IRS. He did put his butt on the line for us. We sorta owe him,” Ben said. “Ben, we can’t worry about that right now unless it becomes tied to this case. I doubt Tom had anything to do with the death of Mrs. Franklin or Olivia's missing. He wouldn't have agreed to help us if he did. Before I forget, I have Lopez investigating McGraw and David Grafton’s background. Whatever shows up I will pass to Conway to see how he handles it. He seems to sweat whenever I mention their names.” Ben pushed his reports aside on the table. “You know he suspects we're onto him. It'll only be a matter of time before he splits.” “Yeah. I have a plan in the works for him. I'll fill you in on that as it comes together.” The waiter finally brought their food to the table. After eating, they decide to knock off for now; nothing was getting accomplished with them being so exhausted. Nayla had finished preparing for work by the time Ben finally got home. “Ben, I can't believe you're just now getting in from work. Your hours have been crazy." Ben sat on the settee taking off his shoes. "Welcome to the life of a homicide detective, baby. We knocked off around three o'clock this morning but brainstormed over breakfast."

and no I haven’t heard anything. I don’t want you to say anything.” Brenda spat out unexpectedly. Answer me in . así es. Manny. Let’s just avoid this line of conversation until you have solid evidence to give me. “You speak perfect English.” Nayla said sitting down. “Ben. “Did you hear the latest?” Brenda asked in her usual overly-hyper manner. is that correct? “Si. undressing only to his boxers and tee-shirt before passing out.” Nayla looked over at him when he didn't answer. Before leaving the bedroom. “Okay. He didn’t know why he had been summoned and thought it had to do with him forgetting to give Nayla the check he promised." Checking her reflection once more in the mirror. Martinez. we might have a break but I can’t go into details. honey?” Nayla noticed the increased strain and fatigue on his face. Nope. Nayla barely got in the door before Brenda pounced on her. The facts have to be checked first. He was a good man and she felt she was the luckiest woman in the world to have him."Oh? What did you come up with.   Brenda waited in Nayla’s office for her to arrive. I’m Detective Isaac Simmons and you're Emmanuel Martinez. "Honey. I might have good news to tell you for once and I want your full attention. I don’t have a clue why I'm here. Brenda. The gossip she had to spill was making her feel as giddy as a schoolgirl. "You know who I am but I'll state my name for the record.” he said. “Good morning. we need to talk tonight. Do you know why you’re here?” “Fine." Isaac said entering the interview room none to happy. English please. “Manny Martinez is at the police station. Detective. “Nayla. Nayla stared at Brenda completely speechless. Manny twitched impatiently in the chair. He was fast asleep and hadn’t heard a word she said.” Manny answered. she closed the curtains and pulled the covers over him.” Manny said sarcastically. Mr. Isaac's frustrations intensified.

” Isaac's deep voiced echoed through the small room as his tone picked up. I told him the truth. Manny's feelings for Nayla were real and he didn't bother to hide it from anyone. I don't see the Lofton's as much anymore and I make sure . splashing it over Manny. What is your relationship with Judge Henry Franklin?” Isaac sat opposite Manny hoping to intimidate the sports figure. Franklin wanted you to get close to her so you could snoop through her files or get her to talk. He started asking me questions about Nayla. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you need to see the damn tapes!” Isaac s hit the table so hard it knocked over a can of soda. I swear on my grandmother's grave I’m not lying! I agree.” Manny ran his hand through his hair. I asked him how he knew about us. “Look that Judge found me when I played in Seattle. "I've been playing by the rules Detective Smith clearly set. but he never answered. Detective.” Isaac's lip flinched. I told him I didn’t. "I stay away from his wife. Detective. I'm guilty of trying to get Nayla back. Only I was doing it for me---not for that idiot ass Judge!” Isaac sat speechless. No man would admit that unless he was telling the truth. Wiping the sticky liquid off his coat. Only you didn't have a clue on how you were going to do that.” “Hmm.“We can play your game if you want. “I don’t have a relationship with Judge Franklin. “What did he want to know about her?” “He wanted to know if I kept in touch with her.” "For the love of God! I didn’t know that Judge was in any trouble until I read it in the paper. Isaac paced the room resisting the urge to throw a chair. Your intentions were not to get involved with Nayla. Manny." Manny counted off on his fingers. really? Why were you at his home last night around ten-thirty. he decided to fess up. He said he could pull a few strings for me to play in Cleveland if I was willing to pursue a relationship with her. “Come on." Manny said. The man is a judge and I wasn’t going to lie. Manny's face paled. Manny rolled his eyes. “I’m not in the mood for this crap! I’ve been up twenty-four hours and the last thing I need right now is to deal with your ass! We have you on surveillance going in Franklin’s house and leaving an hour later. Detective. Detective Simmons. including her husband.

I'm a professional baseball player and stalking would definitely be a career killer.” Donovan said shaking his head. . end of story. you can go." "She has access to everything too. Isaac.” Isaac got up from the table. Look. "You might be onto something Don. Manny?” Nayla asked. Nayla waited by the door hoping to catch Manny leaving the police station.” “Donovan. She's zeroed in on Ben the minute she started. Tell me what happened after you told him you failed to get Nayla to come around?” “I didn't tell him that. We had our conversation and I left. what do I get? I get dragged into this judge's drama and questioned about a damn crime I have no clue about. I cut him loose but track his movements. In return. we're back to square one. "You're right about that career killer comment. Just too strange if you ask me. Martinez. Carl placed her with us directly. that is too strange. I couldn’t afford to be in jail or have that kind of publicity follow me. Karrie could very well be the leak. I told him I wouldn’t harass or stalk her. his life could be in danger---he doesn't deserve to die either. You know Martinez has been on a few dates with Karrie.when I'm at the same events they're attending I'm with a date. Isaac. She ran up behind him catching him off guard. “Why were you being questioned." "Definitely do that. “His story collaborates with the tape. I'll get Mike to check into what she does on her days off. call me. She shows up out of nowhere and has been assigned to events Nayla and John attended and now this task force." Isaac said glancing to the bullpen where she was sitting. He believed Manny wasn't a part of Franklin's plot and his miniature rant just proved that.” “Mike already tagged the GPS in his car. She is the only uniform working with us on a daily basis." Isaac said popping aspirin. okay?" Donovan sighed as Isaac approached him. "I might not like the guy but since he didn't do Franklin's task. “Calm down. You're right. She caught sight of him before he saw her. What more do you people want from me!" Isaac relaxed his tone. Just in case he contacts you again.

For your information. by any chance. He hated lying but it was for her own good. "I’m here because my car was broken into and I made a police report for insurance purposes. Are you in some kind of trouble? Believe it or not.” He started to walking before she blocked his escape. “Ben’s not in the office so we can talk. you have other relatives that work here." she stammered. deciding to let it go for now." she answered.” he said finally making his escape. “Damn. Manny.   Tom had the pleasure of meeting with his client once again to go over strategy to squash rumors of motive surfacing on the internet. Clearly. "I still care about you. I'm gonna go. I wasn’t being questioned.” “Then what’s going on? She asked increasing her pace to keep up with him. You can tell me what's going on. I guess deep down you do care just a little. Nayla." he said pinching his fingers together. was the cause for it. “It doesn’t matter where. Nayla. I’m going to keep moving before your husband morphs from behind one of these walls or drops from the sky like Superman. I didn’t mean to be rude. “Are you actually showing concern for me? Whatever the case.Manny jumped.” Nayla was taken aback by his rudeness. I mean not like before but as a friend---you know what I mean. “What’s with the attitude. Ten cuidado de ti mismo. so if you don’t mind. He stopped to face her. Manny. "You take care of yourself too. Nayla! A little warning before sneaking up on a man. Apparently. Although none of these motives could be used in a court . a blog with a growing membership of armchair detectives.” He wanted to tell her everything but felt it best to keep his mouth shut. “Friend to friend--huh? Look. Where did it happen?” She asked. Friend to friend remember?” Nayla said hoping that would open him up. “I’m sorry. It’s stuff that can be replaced.” “I see. had been following the case developing their own theories for why the Judge would want his wife murdered. Manny was upset and she wanted to know if she.

“Oh hell no!” Nayla smiled as she watched the reporter reveal Anna Dalton had been located in Argentina. “I’ll have to call him later. “Wow! Can you believe she’s still alive. Nayla?" Brenda said smiling ear to ear. let’s get started with . we need to write a book about this case when it’s over. “Why would I bring trouble for you with my trial starting soon. “You called the IRS didn’t you?!” Henry moved to the far side of the room.” “Nayla. really!” Nayla laughed. Tom!” Henry stammered. “I knew she was alive. shouldn’t you be finding a way to get that damn internet crap shut down?” “There you go again. Henry.” Tom said as he hurried to his office. His eyes widened at Henry. “Yeah. you’re going down." Nayla gave a little victory dance before settling down.” Brenda teased. today’s episode for our soap opera. my friend. He was asleep this morning when I left. “Tom. Brenda. Henry worried possible jurors would read it and start to form opinions from what was being said about him.” “I’ll get back to you on that. Henry.of law. I have a feeling this is going to get interesting since Franklin’s counsel is now under investigation for tax evasion. “You backstabbing liar!” “What are you talking about!” Henry answered surprised by Tom’s sudden attack. He couldn’t believe what he was saw.” “Ben and Isaac must be ecstatic.” she said cuddling the television remote to her chest. Henry reached to retrieve the telephone when he caught sight of the news flash going across the television.” Brenda patted Nayla on the back. “I did no such thing!” “Then why are FBI agents raiding my office and home! I swear. how do you propose I shut down the internet?” Tom said before answering his cell. Bren. “Henry. if you are behind this I will make sure you go down without as much as a piece of toast for your last meal. it was the matter of finding her that had me worried. Tell me.  "Well.” “I said I had nothing to do with this.

exactly what did you hear on the phone?” Ryan recounted the conversation as best as he could.A. Specifically look for vehicles that might be speeding away or idling in or around the building. “Ryan. The office. Isaac rushed out his office. They were finalizing plans for their evening together when the call was interrupted unexpectedly. Isaac arrived to find Ryan sifting through Brenda’s office for clues. I have the movie reserved and waiting for pick up--” Brenda found herself standing before two masked men and the end of a gun barrel.” Isaac went into panic mode suddenly.'s office was very emotional for all involved with the Franklin investigation. do you know if Nayla was here?” Ryan shook his head.'s office and to send backup.A. “I don’t know.” . Brenda are you there! Brenda!” Ryan yelled. Nayla and Brenda lagged behind to tie up loose ends. “Ryan. John left early to field questions from the media and to meet with the FBI agents helping with the case. Have the sheriff’s department start searching the Justice Center's grounds. hearing a thud before the line went dead. Brenda’s purse and identification card were on her desk but no signs of her. “Ryan. I’m on my way. The victorious day at the D. “Hang up the phone now!” One yelled.” Isaac knew Ryan would not wait before storming the building alone. don’t do anything stupid and wait for us to get there before you go in. Brenda secured her desk while talking to Ryan on the telephone. pull all traffic photos. “They can’t be far. “Brenda! Hello. He called Isaac letting him know he was heading to the D. Brenda didn’t say who was around. Isaac gave orders to Lopez to get the ball rolling. Lopez. slapping the phone out her frozen hand. Throwing on his coat. Its possible they cut through the courtyard. Ryan. Nayla or any other personnel. “I’ll be waiting outside for you. littered with papers from file cabinets and desk drawers was otherwise empty. Isaac. opting to go home afterward instead of the bar with the others to celebrate.

“You were on the phone talking to her? Don't do this. Noticing he wore glasses under the black ski mask. She looked at Nayla after checking her cell phone. “We’re staying put for the time being. “Pick up the phone Nayla. No signal was available but she'd hoped the 911 call she made went through before they entered the tunnel. “You got those damn files now I want out of here and the women go with me. Find out who the blabber mouth was talking to on the phone!” Brenda froze.” he said lowly. “Take a seat for now. He went through Nayla's office looking for her personal belongings.Isaac dialed Nayla’s cell. A half wall separated them from the kidnappers.” Brenda said pointing at Nayla. Nayla and Brenda could overhear their conversation faintly as the two men moved to the front of the bigger area. she might be able to figure out where she knew him. The cops are probably crawling all over the place.” The kidnapper seemed nervous and looked over his shoulder as he spoke. The physically built man obviously was not in control of the operation but could have easily taken out the overweight partner if it wasn't for the gun tucked in his waistband.” he asked rather politely. He hoped that meant she'd left before the intruders got there. “Please tell me who you were talking to on the phone. . I'll be back. she put the phone in her suit pocket and returned to the stool. “No! I said we stay here for now! These ain’t no ordinary office workers. You don't need them anymore!” The bigger man blurted out. “Uh…I was talking with her. Brenda thought his voice sounded familiar. If he would keep talking.” The phone rang on the other end only to go to voicemail. She knew he was talking about her. Hearing them approaching. just tell me the truth…please. “Dude.” The man said shoving the files into bigger duffle bag. you can slip out through those tunnels and I'll surrender the ladies to the cops. Nayla and Brenda were shoved in a cold dirty room adjacent to a bigger cold and dirty room." He put his hand on Brenda’s arm in a non-threatening way. Brenda sat on the stool as Nayla stood next to her. nothing was there. “What do you want with us?” Nayla asked shaking.

Lester stunned she'd hit him jumped back.” “Y’all ain’t no secretaries. Nayla asked. Nayla yelled! “Let go of her! We were on the phone together!” Drawing back her hand. She didn’t believe he would help them but his actions showed he wasn't exactly a threat to them either. He will kill y'all if you don't tell him what he wants to know." Brenda finally found the courage to speak up. shorty. please! I'm not here to hurt you." Lester said raising his hands in a defensive way. "Just tell him what he wants to know. Nayla lied.Nayla jumped quickly to defend her friend. We don't really have a choice.A. he knows that much. "Look.” he said rubbing the sting from his arm. She knew lying might only make the situation worse. Lester clinched his jaw. Nayla was clearly pissing the man off and she feared it would build to a point where both of them would be harmed if Nayla didn't shut her mouth." Nayla didn’t want to reveal any information just yet. Deciding to take her chances. He now knew why she won the majority of her cases and was promoted so quickly through the ranks. This shit here wasn't s'pose ta' happen but until I can get outside ya gotta play along with me." Brenda returned to the stool as the two traded barbs with each other. I'm trying to help y'all.” Nayla frowned. "That dude in there ain't playing games. He vowed he'd never hit a woman but this one was testing his willpower. Slapping him hard across the arm." . its up to you. not really thinking what she'd do if the man retaliated.” Lester said before speaking in almost a whisper. Nayla. Lowering her voice to match his. “I promise.'s office. I'll do what I can to get you two help. "Either you trust me or don't. she waited for him to turn violent. “We're administrative assistants at the D. “Don't hit me. "Why kidnap us in the first place if you're only going to let us go? That makes no sense!" Nayla said tapping her foot. “We're supposed to trust you? Why don't you tell us who you are then maybe I will give up the information you want.

Sheriff Dell is getting a head count on the prisoners but I doubt any prisoners are involved with this. "Hey. I have to call Ben too. Isaac gave instructions to his team.'s offices. I'll figure out how to get y'all outta here somehow. He liked the people he worked with." she said.” “Where's the security officer that mans the main desk. especially Ms. “Donovan. Isaac. I don't know this guy. I really don't want to tell him Nayla might be missing. “I’m trying. He took my gun and forced me to do this shit. "Okay. Bronk. Now will you tell me what you want from us?” Lester pulled up the mask covering his face." Isaac next called for Lopez." . "Lopez. He wanted to track all the visitors that had been in the building within the past few hours. After the static. Isaac?” Donovan asked. fine! I’m the senior deputy district attorney and Brenda is also a D. “Good question. He also wanted a log of all telephone calls made to and from the D." Isaac spotted Bonk checking the security cameras. but nothing so far. Which could mean it got confiscated or she's not getting a signal. I’m going back up to check out Nayla’s office again. I’ll bet money he’s in on this if he doesn’t show up voluntarily. Donovan. if possible.A. He should be able to tell us about what time the last person checked in or out. get word out to management I’m looking for the security guard that was on duty. Brenda gasped realizing their kidnapper was the security officer in their building. You gotta believe me! Just play along like you don't know me either.” “Damn!” Isaac ran his hand across his head. Wheeler. the phone went to complete silence. take over here." Lester said embarrassed.Nayla rolled her eyes. "I even bought you a cake for your birthday!" “I'm NOT in on this.   As Donovan set up a mini command post in the lobby of the Prosecutors building. "Lester? You're in on this? You're always polite to everyone in the building. did you get anything on the phone call Brenda made yet?” Isaac asked knowing it was too soon for Donovan to gather much information. “Keep at it just in case it comes on.A.

“I don’t think so since she didn’t answer." "Thanks. before you jump to conclusions. After hearing Rob's radio transmission over the phone his only thoughts were to get downtown and fast. As he suspected Ben would be tearing through the city to get downtown.. If she’s not here I’ll be down. “Ben. “The D. Trying to keep his voice steady. Isaac paused before speaking. Standing in Nayla's office. “Let me check the house. Nayla wouldn’t happen to be home by any chance. It was empty. "Isaac. Robbery obviously wasn't the motive. he didn't know where to start. books and furniture were thrown around in a disorderly fashion.” Ben said after emptying the . Ben unlock the trunk of Nayla's car. Rob found her car in the garage. It was parked in its assigned space in the garage. she’s not there. Isaac pulled out his cell to make the dreaded phone call. Isaac asked the question that he already knew the answer. For once."Want me to call him for you. "He'll probably take it a little calmer from me knowing you’re out looking for her already. “Man." Isaac said entering the elevator. Ben?” The line was dead. Papers. did you try her cell?” Ben sat up suddenly as an eerie feeling enveloped his entire body. what’s up?” Isaac hesitated before answering.A. The only signs of her was her briefcase on the front seat. So much for his miracle as Ben picked up.” Getting out of bed Ben headed downstairs. whoever did this got her as she was leaving. Isaac. would she?” Ben answered without noticing the nervous tension in Isaac's voice. he prayed for a miracle and Nayla would answer their telephone. Her wallet has money in it and all her credit cards. Ben ended the call before Isaac could finish. “Hey Ben.'s office has been broken into and she and Brenda aren’t around. Finding the team assembled on the lower level of the parking garage. Her purse was found underneath the car with all her belongings still in it. Not the normal manner a burglar would use if looking for something specific but more like a staging. Isaac?" Lopez asked. but I need to be the one to tell him. I'm checking to see if maybe this happened after they left.” Rob radioed about Nayla’s car before Isaac could end the call. Ben.

” “Ben. He wondered if Ben would be mentally capable of working the case. Isaac spotted Toni among the crew. Let’s do what we do best. okay. “Ben. he took deep breaths to keep his anxiety levels from rising.” . Ben turned to them. She gave him that look. “Whatever! All I know is we or FBI better find whoever Franklin hired to kidnap her. that’s all I’m asking. It's been a couple of hours already. we have to keep that bit of information to ourselves. “I really don’t want tell the family yet.” Isaac said forcing himself to remain calm. As forensics finally arrived to process the scene.” "Everything we do is by the book. we gotta tell them. this is Nayla we’re talking about! How can I tell her parents this and not have a damn thing to back it up. He's up to his elbows in this shit…. Isaac. Until we can prove Franklin is connected to this." Isaac said.” Ben said. Closing his eyes. not with all the law enforcement in this family. His team consisted of good detectives that did an outstanding job at getting cases solved.” “Isaac. Isaac! My wife is missing and we know Franklin was doing all he could to get Nayla and John off the case. I know how you feel but we have to do this by the book. “Ben. Ben couldn’t believe this was happening again and started to walk away. We should hold off calling them until we know for sure she's missing. “I’m not sitting by the phone or waiting patiently for you to find my sister. Trusting his instincts. Rob sensed Ben's fears as Isaac called Rick to process the area for any possible evidence.trust me on that!" Ben said as his eyes narrowed.contents of the purse. he’s made it personal now. Isaac became concerned at that moment. We can wait twenty-four hours before we tell the Lofton's but you know that's not going to happen. Isaac caught up to him. what are you doing here?” He asked leading her away from the others. focus right now. I’m here to help so just let me do my job.” Ben said dishearten. he believed Ben would do the right thing and stay on the right side of the law despite his tongue-lashing. "Toni. “FBI is coming to help.

Letting her have her moment. "Rick.   Brenda paced the room hoping to find the slightest signal.Isaac backed off. "Toni. “We’ll rule out the people that work here and get down to business on the rest. Toni sat back on her knees. Tiptoeing to the front where it suddenly grew quiet. I thought you said Judge Franklin’s files might be the motive for this breakin?” Toni pushed back a pile of papers where a file clearly marked with the high profile name lay.” Warren said as he held the print tape exposing perfect prints lifted from the computers and file cabinets. I think they left us here to die. she found it empty except for a few bottles of water and discarded clothing laying on a table. Banging on the door Brenda started to yell for help. .” Toni bagged the file and continued to sift through the mounds of papers scattered about the office. “Nayla. “Maybe. we can handle this if you need to be with your family." Toni blinked back tears as Rick embraced her gently. I’m thinking amateurs.” Rick said. After being chewed out by his partner and now his wife. walking away was all he could do to keep from losing his temper." Rick said. “Hey guys. The rooms were dark except for the lamp that stood in the corner. She and Nayla wondered what these rooms could possibly been used for. but it could be a clue. “Maybe they forgot it by accident?” Rick suggested. I don't doubt for a minute you or anyone else here wouldn't do their best to help find my sister. Isaac didn't intervene.” Brenda said pulling at the door. I need to keep busy because once I stop my mind will wander and I'll fall apart. No windows adorned the rooms at all. “These were pretty dumb kidnappers. instead he vowed he would not rest until Nayla and Brenda were found safe.

By all means if it makes you feel better. “Excuse me?” “Nayla. We need to brainstorm and find a real way to get out of here and Lester might be our only hope. Ben can’t solve every thing you know. I’m sorry. go ahead. I’m just scared and never thought my last days would be spent like this. Nayla. “I didn’t mean what I said. but don’t you dare blame this on me!" Returning to her corner Nayla leaned against the wall and glared at her. If--when we get out of here I completely understand if you want to go back to California. Nayla got off the floor and went to her.” Nayla raised her eyebrow. That could mean problems for Lester. Let's just sit down and try to relax until he can come up with a realistic way to get us out of here. Brenda slumped to the floor. "Although I'm sure Ryan knows something happened. God. Ben might not come riding through on his white horse in time to rescue you this time. He could be looking for us and we need to make noises just in case. what the heck are you talking about? I never implied that Ben or anyone would be here in a flash to rescue us. if I'd stayed in California.” “I’m scared too.” Brenda spat before thinking. I just asked you to stop banging on the door in case that idiot is still out there. “You think maybe Ryan will ride up on his white horse and save us this time?” Brenda realized what she'd said to her best friend.” Nayla said off-handily. you’re sitting there like we’ll be out of here as soon as Ben gets wind you’re gone.” “Brenda. Brenda. ‘I’m sorry. nobody knows we’re down here!” Brenda said. but fighting amongst ourselves isn’t going to change the situation we're in." “Good! They probably are looking for us but if you keep banging on that door and that goon is still out there.” . I wouldn’t be stuck in a dirty cold dungeon waiting for my life to end because of a stupid case. “Not everything ends happily. Brenda! No one can you hear you!" Nayla shouted. you’re going to make him mad.” Nayla said hoping Lester would be able to send help. “I will! At least I’m trying. Nayla. Brenda.“Stop banging. not meaning to raise her voice. “What! You just want to sit here and do nothing! Girl. bang until your fists fall off.

“These tunnels and interrogation rooms ain’t been used in years. . closer he noticed an unused area shaded and marked as danger zones. Wheeler.” Jean found Ben standing with an FBI agent. “Mrs. they’re doing all they can. boys. let Isaac know we’re in the tunnels searching for any clues. Sheriff Dell gave them both a cowboy grin. this walkway under the D.’s building leads to tunnels beneath the Justice Center. Ryan. “Donovan. Sheriff. Bronk picked up the floor plans for the two buildings. Studying the plans. now she’s gone and the police have no clue where she is. “Bronk. Ryan.” Ben said feeling completely useless.” Bronk said disgusted. Lofton. I’m starting to think she would've been better off with Emmanuel!” Ben closed his eyes as his distraught mother-in-law buried her face to hide her tears. You know Ryan is looking for her.” Bronk grabbed the blueprints along with a couple of flashlights before informing Donovan of their mission.A. The inspectors deemed ‘em unsafe. “How could you let this happen? You were supposed to protect her. c'mere. I’m calling backup for you. “You promised she would be safe. Sheriff Dell scanned over the blue prints. They still have to be in the area. That would be the perfect place to hide don’t you think?” Ryan asked. do you know how to get down there?” Ryan asked. they will find them. “C’mon.  “Man! Nothing is showing up on these tapes. Ben!” Jean said turning him by the arm to face her. I wouldn’t have let her out my sight if I thought she was in any immediate danger.” “Sheriff. Tina tried without much effort to calm Brenda’s hysterical mother. I’ll take ya ‘dere myself.” The two families finally arrived after getting Isaac's phone call. “Hey.” “I don’t care about that. you guys be careful.” “Tunnels? Hey--what tunnels?” Donovan asked as they flew by him. “Mrs.

“The noise is coming from down this way. my mother didn’t mean that. but I do blame myself. I want you to move away from the door okay.” Tina said pulling her away. mom. you know that right. "Sheriff. he felt on it with his foot.” Bronk said running ahead of them. a banging in the distance caught his attention. it resisted. semi-apologizing for her mother. Get me out of here---please!” . “Sheriff." Kneeling down to unravel the rug. I know.” “I know it is. "Geez whiz! What the hell died in here!" Sheriff Dell said pulling his jacket over his nose.” Ben said slamming his fist on the hood of the squad car. We have to stay positive. Ryan. He motioned for the two men to be quiet as they neared the area. Tina.” Tina said. I've smelled decomposing flesh and this ain't that smell. I should’ve been here. Damn! Where could she be. Bronk located a door slightly ajar. Ryan. He would do everything in his power to protect Nayla or any of us for that matter if he felt we were any danger. Bronk.” Ryan said pulling the door shut. Tina. Ryan began yelling out Brenda’s name in hopes they'd found them safe. “There’s definitely something in this rug. “Get me out of here!” Brenda yelled pounding on the door with her shoe. she yelled. Shoving the door harder it flung open to a foul smell.” Ryan said flashing the light around the room. Using an infrared heat sensor to search for any signs of life. Tina! what am I supposed to do?” Jean cried. remember!” “I’m trying but with nothing to hold onto it’s hard.” Tina said as she waved for Belle to come take over. probably dead rodents. Spotting a rug rolled up behind the door. “Okay. Ryan. “Brenda? It’s me. and Sheriff Dell located the tunnels underneath the Justice Center. “My baby might be dead. but you can’t blame this on Ben. “Ben. I’m away from the door. mark the door and radio for a couple of deputies to come take a look in this room. “No she isn’t. “Yeah. As he slowly pushed on the door.” Moving away as instructed. stop! It’s not Ben’s fault. mom.“Mom.

you have to find her.” Ben clinched his fists frustrated. Isaac? How's he helping by dragging her from place to place while we chase them around the damn city?" Stopping his rant. “Ryan found Brenda alive but Nayla wasn’t there. Brenda and Nayla just happened to be in the office at the time. Isaac?” Ben asked. “We were split us up about an hour ago. splitting the molding around the door latch.” . but definitely not her. "Bronk. Ryan contacted Isaac giving him the information Brenda provided. they have Nayla on the move. he fired one round.Bronk and Ryan tried to kick down the heavy door but it didn’t budge.” Breaking door down. is with her. “That’s how we do it in Texas.” Brenda said crying hysterically. The missing security guard is supposedly helping Nayla. That maniac will kill her for sure. “What the hell does that mean. we need SWAT to bring a ram to break this damn door down. “Brenda. Pulling his gun.” Sheriff Dell said. “Isaac. she has my cell phone. John Kraft suddenly came to mind. fellas. She has no personal connections to Franklin other than being assigned to his investigation. He knew it wasn't good news when Isaac lagged like he was doing. Ben calmed down to rationalize.” Isaac closed his phone. We could be all day waiting on SWAT to suit up. “Stand back. His past connections with Franklin would make him the perfect target for revenge. Maybe this damn case. Lester Greene. “What’d they find. I don't know how long Lester will be able to hold him off." Ryan said kicking at the heavy material. "This can't be about Nayla. According to Brenda he's protecting Nayla. The two of them had been friends too long to know when a situation was dire. what happened to Nayla?” Ryan asked. Ryan finds Brenda shaken but otherwise unharmed. Ryan. The security guard. Taking in a deep breath before telling his already riled partner the latest. Isaac blew in his hands trying to warm them from the cold. I bet those guys were looking for Kraft.

“I’m thinking the same thing, Ben, but why separate them? It would be too risky to try to make a deal for Kraft. At this rate, they know we're onto them.” “I bet they figured out who she is. Nayla's wealthy and the security guard probably knew that. She could be used for ransom since they didn’t get the initial target,” Ben said. Isaac shook his head. “Ben, maybe not; the security guard might not be involved. The other man doesn't strike me as being the brightest bulb in the batch either. I have a feeling she’s still in the area. Our biggest problem right now is figuring out a way to get the security guard to contact us.” A call interrupted Isaac. “Donovan said Brenda’s phone just came on,” he said grabbing Ben by the arm.   “Why don't you just tell me what you want!” Nayla pleaded away to deaf ears. “Shut-up!” Eric shot back as he handcuffed her wrist to a pole. “Don’t yell at her, Eric!” Lester said vocally. “Fuck you, Lester! I ain’t playing their games anymore. I plan to dump her body as soon as I get my money!” Eric spat out hatefully. “What money, fool! You ain’t getting no money for botching a job! I told’cha to leave when you saw them there,” Lester said pacing back and forth. "Why did you take her instead of leaving 'em together anyway? You just another dumbass that's got my dumbass caught up in your stupid shit! I knew you were bad news the first day I saw you!" Lester said continuing his foul-mouthed tantrum. "Because! She’s sorta cute ain't she? She got a mouth on her but I'll handle that," Eric said in a lurid way. Their arguing escalated to where Nayla thought it might turn violent. If the gun were pulled again, Nayla felt for sure her fate would be decided sooner rather than later. If Lester survived, her chances of being freed were good but if Eric survived, she knew her life would be over.

Taking the opportunity she tried bribing him herself. If it meant saving her life it would be worth every penny. “If its money you want I can double whatever you were promised,” Nayla said butting in. Her comment quickly caught the attention of Eric. He squatted down next to her. “You got money? How much you willing to pay for your life?” She held her breath as his eyes met hers. “I have plenty. How much were you offered to kidnap me and my assistant?” “See that’s where ye're wrong, I ain’t want ya'll but things changed." Eric stood up. "Anyway you ain’t nothing but a county worker, you don’t make no real money; not the kind I want anyway.” “That’s not true, I'm from an affluent family. I can get you the money. All you have to do is let me make a call. Once I'm freed you will get the money. No questions asked.” Lester scratched the top of his head, thinking he should have told her to try bribing him earlier. “Man, look, the only well-known black family around here is Minister Lofton.” Eric stepped back to look at her again. “Well I’ll be damn--you are one of them Lofton bitches,” he said pulling her to him. “Hey, Lester, we hit the jackpot, buddy. We got ourselves a celebrity here.” Lester shook his head. “What the fuck!? Didn't you understand when I said I don't want no part of this?” Eric stood up. “You think the cops are gonna believe anything you say? You're a fucking security guard making minimum wage and we got a fucking millionaire in our possession. You do the math!” Eric said flipping his hand at him. Sitting on the floor opposite of them, Eric started laughing. "She knows our names and ain't dumb. You and me are in this shit together now and we might as well benefit from it.” Lester jumped to his feet. “I ain’t doing that, Eric! I ain’t taking no heat from any of this shit! I ain't know JACK about any kidnapping until you did it. Don't put me in on this like I knew all along.” Tired of Eric's threats of hurting Nayla. Lester felt the only way to keep her alive would be to contact Detective Smith directly. He had to think of a way to get outside and fast.

"Eric, I'm tired of you playing me for a punk. If you ain't have my gun, this would be a whole different ball game. You’re just a pathetic rich kid rejected by your rich daddy. I got news for you, I ain't letting you hurt her and you damn sure ain't about to fuck me over anymore," Lester declared. Eric glared at him, remaining in control as he lit a cigarette. “Damn, a good thing I got the gun or you would beat my ass for sure.” Eric continued to tighten the noose around Lester’s neck. “You know what, Lester, I clean up pretty good. My mother loves me and would do anything to keep her dysfunction son out of jail. Tell me, what jury would believe a black man like you over a rich white mother with lawyers on speed dial. Why don't you take a minute and think about that.” Lester swallowed hard. He didn’t think about that actually happening. Changing gears Lester decided to play the game. Nayla's eyes widened as she shook her head trying to catch his attention. She had to convenience Lester the race card Eric was dealing wouldn’t be used against him. Lester chuckled; nodding slyly to Nayla. “You got me! I will go along with you instead of going to jail.” Eric let the smoke drift slowly out his mouth before he answered. “Don’t worry I ain’t gonna hurt her. I gotta think how to get out of here.” Taking a whisky bottle from his duffel bag, he took the first drink before handing it to Lester. "Bottoms up my brotha," Lester said pretending to drink. After emptying the bottle of Jack Daniels, Lester waited until Eric fell into a drunken sleep before searching for the handcuff key. "I can't find the damn key!" He said pulling on the rusty pole hoping to loosen it. "I'm going outside for a cop, Ms. Smith. I need help." "Lester, please don't leave. What if he wakes up and finds you gone?" Nayla asked shaking with fear. "I promise it won't take me but a minute. Cops were all over the place we when left the tunnels. Anyway, he's out drunk and should stay that way for a few hours. Just be real quiet until I get back." Nayla's heart sank as Lester left. She prayed he would find help fast if she had any chance of surviving.

  SWAT, FBI and police searched numerous abandoned buildings along the Flats unable to turn up a trace of Nayla or those that had taken her. “This is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There's gotta be fifty or more abandoned buildings down here,” Carl said annoyed. “We’ll give it another hour. If she doesn’t turn up, let FBI take it from here, Isaac.” Isaac tuned around quickly. “Carl, you’re joking right? This is the senior deputy district attorney we’re looking for, not to mention the daughter of the most influential minister in this city. We can’t just give up!” “Isaac, you heard me! You have too many people involved and your emotions are taking over your judgment. You got one hour! After that call your men out the field and let the FBI handle it their way! That’s an order! We can’t afford to use up the city’s resources on one missing person." Carl softened his tone to get his point across. "We found Ms. Wheeler alive because she is the lesser of the two evils on Franklin's case. Do you really think the chances of finding D.A. Smith alive are as great? Isaac, you know damn well she's probably dead. You just don't want to admit it. Sadly I don't want to believe it either, but it is what it is.” Isaac glared at him. “I’m not walking away, Carl. I know Nayla is in one of these building. I don’t know why this isn’t important to you all of a sudden or that you expect me to believe the crap that just spewed out your mouth but don’t force my hand cause you really don't want to go that route with me!” Bronk came up behind Isaac. “I’m not giving up either and I’m sure that goes for the rest of us out here. Uh, Carl, can you afford to lose half your police force in one night?” Bronk said not missing a blink. Carl backed away from the two angry men. Out-numbered, he went back to his car without another word. “Come on, Bronk, we can split up to search the area,” Isaac said.

I haven’t talked to her since she told me about it either. “You seem to forget who is looking for her. “Tell me where she is! Where are you holding my wife? I'd advise you to talk before I accidently blow your brains out!” Ben said through clenched teeth. God I hope for once that test came back negative. These guys are going to find Nayla. Then again. “Ain’t no way to do this but to just do it. “Ben.” “You got that right. Duane encouraged both women to remain faithful and strong. If something happens to her or the baby he’ll definitely feel like it’s his fault. “She might be pregnant. “This is like déjà vu. “Don’t shoot me.” “Did she tell Ben yet?” Toni asked facing her. “I know that. Lester had a good view of the commotion centering around the Flats. . Duane. Toni.” Tina said pulling her collar up to block the cold wind. Lester immediately dropped to his knees.” Duane said placing an arm around her. Ben cuffed him. mom is blaming Ben already. please.” Duane raised his eyebrow at Tina’s remark. he lowered his head. but this fight could cost her a lot. As he stood between the empty buildings practically unnoticed. The snow fell heavier as the cold wind whipped through the streets. The flashing blue and red lights bounced off the falling snowflakes giving them a colorful sparkle as they fell to the ground. Don’t give up on her or them just yet. Tina? What's going on with Nayla?” Tina hated revealing Nayla's secret. “Tina. He can’t tell us anything if he’s dead!” Rob said pulling Lester to his feet.” Toni said embracing her sister. she'll fight. let up a little. Now put your hands where I can see them!” Ben said putting the steel of the cold gun to the back of Lester’s head.” “Tina. Detective! I don’t have a weapon and I know where your wife is!” Pushing him on the ground. since he didn’t mention it. “Why.Tina stood outside the police station with Toni and Duane.” From the alley. your sister is a strong woman. “I’m assuming not.

Isaac signaled for Bronk to cover him. Ben? This is on you. Nayla's smart and we know she'll fight for her life. there's blood smears behind the door and a few cigarette butts. Kicking the door down the room was empty but definite signs of a struggle had taken place. Looks like we missed whoever was here but not by much. C’mon. She could have left it for us to find. He wanted Ben to make the decision on what he wanted him to do.” “I copy. Bronk continued to inspect the small room. We have the security guard and he said that's where he left them. do you want me question the guy or keep searching for Nayla?” Isaac asked as he waited for Ben to make a decision. Ben. The damp basement of the abandoned nightclub showed no signs of activity. is Nayla here?” Ben asked rushing in. The only sounds heard was the falling drops of water hitting the concrete floors from the leaky pipes above.” “Don’t jump to conclusions. Look's like he's a drinker. we’re not far from there. we got that. “This is her necklace and watch.” Bronk said pointing it out.Rob relayed to Isaac where the suspect was hiding with Nayla. check the basement of the abandoned nightclub on River Road. “Yeah. which means DNA. Bronk. Bronk. Approaching the door to the makeshift wine cellar. “Isaac." Bronk said bagging the evidence. hurry if we want to find her in time. is Rick on his way to collect samples?” “Ben. looks like somebody was here and not that long ago. “Wait. . Let me talk to the security guard and see if he can tell us anything.” Isaac said as they rushed towards the building. Isaac. She never takes this necklace off." Isaac took a deep breath.” Ben caught sight of the blood on the floor. Rob. There's blood here. “No.” Ben spotted jewelry on the floor. I got blood and it’s still wet.” Isaac said putting his gun back in his holster. man. “Isaac. Ben. "What do you want me to do. I don’t see a significant blood trail or any spatter which is a good sign. “Isaac. “FBI and Lopez are questioning him now.

he and Ben would do their own investigation as planned to find what the police chief is hiding. Isaac. Nayla is a victim and I can’t have you working the case if you have other motives on your mind. My main concern right now is finding my wife. The police chief's lack of interest weighed heavily on Isaac making him more sure Conway was involved somehow. not wanting to go over a dead issue again. Carl refused to help or even return to the station. I can’t let anything happen to her.“I have to find Nayla. I know what we should be doing but I don’t want to waste valuable time with that now. “Why don' you let us look for her for now. Telling the already suspicious Detective. you’re absolutely right but you have to be on your game. “Ben. Isaac." Isaac sat across from him. I’m Detective Simmons and this is my partner Detective Bronk. The first twenty-four hours are the most crucial if we expect to find her. I trust all of you but I’m still looking for her myself. You can’t shut me out this time. "We don’t have time for small chit-chat so I’m going straight to the point. Once Nayla's found and the Franklin case closed.” “Ben. Where did your partner take the deputy district attorney?” .” Ben closed his eyes. “I don’t give a damn about that. Can I count on you for that and not getting locked up for losing your cool?” Isaac placed his hand on his shoulder. he had more pressing matters. not sitting on my ass waiting!” Isaac didn't want to pull rank just yet.” Ben shook his head. “Yeah. Ben remained on the streets searching while Isaac and Bronk did the questioning.”   Isaac made the decision to speak with Lester about the kidnapping. Ben.” he stressed. “I know that. Isaac. You trust us don’t you?” Ben nodded holding back the urge to explode. “Hell no! I’m not doing that! I need to be right here doing this. “Lester Green. but to keep him updated on any progress. Normally I would tell you to go back with the family and let me handle this but I know you won't do it.

so tell me all you know about Eric's plan! Starting with who the hell hired the two of you!” “I didn’t know about any of this. If he was nervous he probably let something slip. When he came back this afternoon. I swear to God I had nothing to with it.A. “I went outside to look for Mrs. when or where. “C'mon Lester. That's when he said 'WE' had to . he never mentioned why he was doing it? Think Lester. Smith's husband. Smith was alive when I left. Detective. that woman's life is in danger. he didn't give you his last name or anything to that effect?" "No." "He mumbled about his father cutting him off because he fell out with the family. He was clean---in a suit and tie.” Isaac refrained from grabbing Lester by the collar.” Lester turned to show the two detectives he had nothing to hide.“I told the FBI everything I know bout that guy. “I don’t know who." Isaac dug into Lester's memory. He did his thing and left about twenty minutes later." "By any chance did he mention the name Henry Franklin when you guys were planning the kidnapping?" Bronk butted in. He never got around to that before he passed out and I left.” Isaac released his grip on the back of his chair. I was determined to get her away from Eric! Mrs.” “What? He's thinking about doing a ransom?” Bronk said tipping back Lester's chair.” Lester squealed all he knew again. real nervous like. "During all that. "I ain't plan that kidnapping with him! I was forced to unlock the doors to the service entrance.'s offices. You said you want to save her. “Talk man! Time is running out! You do know you will face murder charges if she dies. he did mention he was thinking about using her to get money. "When you met him the first time. I took him to the fifth floor where I unlocked the doors to the D. He had paperwork saying he was an inspector with the county so I let him. I don't remember seeing a last name on the paper. Before Eric started drinking. "When he pulled the gun on me demanding my weapon. “Eric came to the building about a week ago." Lester said. it was like he ain't really want to do it. I found out about the kidnapping when we got to John Kraft's office.” Lester said honestly. he followed me to my car where he produced a gun and told me if I didn't help him my life was over.

but only he was gone. Smith knew I had to get help. anything new happening?” Tina said as she approached him.   “Ben." Lester leaned his head against the wall.grab Mr. Smith?" Lester's shoulders jerked as he sobbed. Detective! As for calling for help. "We're going to hold you here for awhile. Would you be willing to help us catch him?" Lester wiped his face with his shirtsleeve. "No damn it! I thought I could find Detective Smith while he was sleep…. we might need your help again. She noticed us first. "I didn't want to leave her. Wheeler in her office. "Mrs. "I'll do whatever you want me to do. Smith to abduct her?" "We took the maintenance elevators back to the service area out back. I can't let her down. Kraft. you tried to protect them however you could." "So only Ms. Detective. . You did have to leave to get help. Do you remember him mentioning any place he would take Mrs. Brenda was right. He took a couple of files and trashed the place. "You're a pretty big guy.A. "I see the position you were put in Lester. he grabbed her as she tried to run. Wheeler was in the office when you arrived?" Isaac asked. Will I go to jail for any of this?" "That's up to the D." Isaac turned his chair backward before sitting down. I don't think you will be charged but I don't have the final decision regarding that. Please find her. "When did he catch up to Ms.I had no idea he was gonna jet." Isaac dropped his head in his hands. why didn't you overpower him or motion for another guard to call for help once you saw there was trouble?" "He had a gun and mine too. can't blame yourself for that. did you notice any other guards around?" Lester said feeling guilty. Smith walking to her car." Isaac said." Isaac paced the room. Eric saw Ms. That's when he saw Mrs. Detective. not after I promised to help her.

but he does think I’m too emotionally involved.” he said looking out the window to make sure no one had followed them.” Ben said caressing the gold cross with his thumb. “Why are you doing this! I told you I would give you the money?” Nayla asked as she huddled on the cot. Remembering he'd left the water behind. Don’t even think about . I mean no disrespect but there is nothing anyone can say to make me feel different. wait and see if we are contacted about money?” Ben sat down feeling defeated.   Eric shoved Nayla face down on the dirty cot. we’re hoping she left it as a clue for us. The security guard is with Isaac now. “Yeah. We did find where she might have been held but it was empty by the time we got there. That asshole has probably spilled his guts to the cops by now. We---Isaac hopes he can get enough information about the partner.” “Did Isaac take you off the search?” Toni asked handing him a cup of coffee. Lofton already blames me for this.” Tina fought back tears. “Reverend Jim.” Toni caressed his shoulders trying to comfort him. “Can I please have a little water?” “Quit whining.” Ben leaned back against the cold wall. I know you feel helpless but you’re still a part of this investigation rather you’re out in the streets looking or sitting here with us. “I have to get supplies. He shook his head before speaking. You’ll get water when I give it to you. I found her jewelry.” Eric said fumbling in the duffle bag.“No Tina. A bit thirsty she asked for water. Nayla would never take it off willingly. Jim asked Toni and Tina to leave them alone for a minute.” He stopped talking before saying anything he might regret later. “We’ll stay here until I figure out what to do with you. I’m a skilled detective yet I’m sitting here not doing a damn thing to help my own wife. “What do we do now. Ben. “We all have one of those. Mrs. He didn’t feel like answering questions when he all he wanted to do was look for his wife. if anything happens to Nayla I don’t know what I would do. “No. “Son.

don't treat me like a person off the street that you can string along!” . “Well? What did Lester have to say. “A few hours later Eric decided to separate us. do you remember hearing anything else the kidnappers said that struck you as odd. I'm headed back to work.” Securing her hands and feet to the cot. Eric had locked her in the trunk of the car before leaving the city so she had no idea where he'd taken her. we’ll find her.” In the meantime Ben stormed into Isaac's office only to hit another dead-end.” Isaac said. “I’m fine. She could hear the wind whistling through the trees outside.   “Brenda. I remember everything they said. “No---don’t think you can brush me off like that. He didn’t want her feeling responsible for the two not sticking together. “It’s okay.” Brenda voice cracked as she tried to hold back the tears. She began praying.” Ben asked without greeting his colleague first. She didn’t know what time of day it was either since she'd been stripped of her jewelry after discovering the cell phone in her possession. I was left in that hell hole and they both left with Nayla. The cabin smelled moldy and the cold air circulating the room made her shiver. I promise.” Ryan gently hugged her. He was making sure we didn’t get hurt. hoping Brenda had been found safe and asking that she too would soon be home where she belonged. Nayla struggled to breath. I’m going over to the Lofton's to help anyway I can. he put a gag in her mouth and the pillowcase over her head before leaving the cabin. will you be okay by yourself?” She nodded as he released her." Ben said as he leaned over Isaac's desk. Isaac. Bren.escaping.” Ryan asked hating he had to go over the same questions again. “Ryan. Lester protested but failed to convince him to leave her with me. Being at the station all night had him cranky and on edge. “Ben. what are you doing here? I told you I would call as soon as I had anything. "I’m a cop. I'm telling you Lester was helping us. I swear.

“Eric Preston is the guy we’re looking for!” He said out of breath. He's involved in this shit up to his neck.” “You’re kidding!” Ben said amazed. We have to be careful how we approach him.” Isaac said. you know he won’t tell us outright where his son is. Lopez has him going through photos to see if he can pick him out. Ben. Victor Preston is wellrespected in the community. “She’s been gone twenty-four hours! No contact has been made. Brenda and the security guard make it out alive but Nayla's still missing. His presence might be able to get through to Victor. He had to leave her to get help. . man. Lester picked out his photo. He’s the mastermind behind the kidnapping. He did his very best to protect Nayla.Isaac dropped his tone and gave it to him straight. “His father is Victor Preston? This is weird. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go question Victor Preston.” Isaac made the call as Ben looked on. He did say Eric was after John Kraft.” “Ben. nothing to indicate she’s even alive!” “Ben. don’t think like that.” Lopez rushed in the room taking them both by surprise.” Isaac knew that was the wrong thing to say. Isaac typed the name in the database. He didn’t know Eric’s last name or who his connections were. Ben.” Ben slammed his fist against the wall. Lester wasn't a part of this deal. I promise I will call you after I set up the meeting. “He had nothing. Isaac jumped.” “I was right! I'm going to talk to him.”   Isaac started the meeting with the agents from FBI when Ben finally arrived to join them. Isaac!" “Ben. “My wife's gone. This is a bunch of bullshit and I’m gonna find her if it’s the last thing I do.” Lopez said stabbing the mug shot with his index finger. Ben slumped back in the chair. “Go home and rest. man. If by chance Franklin is behind this then we got our man. “What. bring it down a notch! FBI is talking to Kraft today. “Let me call Agent DiNinero and have him come along. Lopez?” “The suspect is Eric Preston.

“Okay.” Ben gave a brief nod after looking over the agenda.” Ben said forcefully but professionally. “Are we all on the same page?” “Yeah. Fighting or pointing fingers at each other isn’t going to get Nayla back. you’re here. Ben. so don’t worry about it being hard on me. we want to question him but make him think we’re looking to him for help.” Isaac said matching his ego. Standing in front of the massive window overlooking the manicured lawns of the huge estate. . do you think it’s wise to have Detective Smith in on this meeting? I don’t mean any disrespect.” Isaac responded.” “If you know why we’re here have a seat so we can chat. Detective. “I understand your eagerness to find your wife but letting us handle it would be better. I’ve been on the Franklin investigation since the day I stepped foot in Cleveland and I plan on seeing it to the end. Remember we don’t want to start any trouble with Victor Preston.” Isaac didn’t respond to Ben’s remark but instead tried to diffuse the brewing argument. I’ve been expecting you.” DiNinero said looking for backup but getting none." DiNinero said turning to him. Ben ran his hand across his face.” he stressed. it was the FBI that lost a pertinent witness in this investigation. Detective Smith. But as I recall.“Good. Agent. Mr. We tend to be our own worst enemy when a family member has been targeted. “I get what you're saying and I've seen it happen. Victor spoke without turning to face his guests. So I feel a lot better knowing I’m looking for her and not leaving it entirely up to someone else to handle. “Detective Simmons. “We were waiting on you to get here. you better believe I’m going to be at that meeting to hear it firsthand. on that note I think we should get going. They'll be with us when we meet Victor later. Agent DiNinero questioned Isaac's tactics. I want you to meet agents DiNinero and Blackmon. "But this has to be a difficult situation for you.” “Agent DiNinero.” The reception was all but warm when the four arrived. not us. Preston. The room reeked of wealth and power as Victor's confidence exceeded his girth. “Gentlemen. If there's a chance Preston knows where my wife is.

“I'll start by telling you the facts. “You’re our of your mind. Victor squinted his eyes starring at her. “First. Preston. “I stand corrected.” Agent Blackmon moved closer blocking his view of the other men. Preston. I admit. He eyed the law enforcement officials one-by-one before him. Did you owe Judge Franklin a favor and decide to get your son to help deliver?” Victor snuffed out his cigar hastily. I've supported many politicians. “Why don't you tell me what I don’t know. Agent. Eric?" Victor tapped the ashes off the tip of his cigar.A.” Blackmon leaned over returning his stare. Now that we have the pleasantries out the way. “I guess. I know you have contributed large sums of money to the campaign of a certain judge accused of murdering his wife. . Mr. I might have been to a few functions he attended over the years. what can you tell us about your son. Detective---” “I’m a federal agent. she said. had you been facing us when we walked in you would have noticed that. Preston. Judge Franklin being one of them. not a police detective!” Blackmon said slamming her hand on the desk.” “We’re good thanks.'s working on Judge Franklin's case.” “You are friends with the chief of police.” Victor shrugged his shoulders.’s?” Blackmon said folding her arms across her chest. Mr.Victor relaxed in the oversized chair puffing his cigar slowly. but that doesn’t make us friends." Straightening her suit jacket Blackmon continued." Blackmon responded. can you just answer my question please. Preston.A. Detective." “So are you saying you don't know about his connections to last night’s kidnapping of two Cuyahoga County D. "I don't have much to say about my son. "No one throws the amount of dollars like you have to strangers. She was fierce and definitely not intimidated by Victor. I’d like to apologize. "Mr. “Where are my manners. Carl Conway aren’t you?” Isaac said cutting in on the questioning. He doesn't come around that often and I'm not a huge part of his life as you probably already know. can I offer any of you anything to drink? Coffee or tea perhaps since you're on duty. Mr. your son has been identified as the kidnapper of those two D. I didn’t realize a woman was part of your team.

"What you’re telling me about this kidnapping is all news to me. his name and number is on the card. you held your composure very well.” . wondering why the Detective suddenly ended the meeting.’s went missing. “Thanks for your time. not that I know of anyway. If you have any more questions call my attorney. “Ben.” Isaac stood up retrieving the card in the process. Ben clenched his jaw as Isaac pranced around certain questions. Victor. I had nothing to do with it nor do I condone such behavior.” Ben said clicking the remote to activate the device. Like I said. I refuse to sit here and be interrogated about it. “If Eric did do what you said. Preston?” Isaac asked taking the picture for a closer look. “I never saw you move and I was standing next to you. Finding him means we need answers from you. “Yeah." Pulling a card out his pocket.A. Preston. He was so caught up defending himself that he never saw me move. glancing one last time at Ben. your son plays a big part in this case. “Look. Mr. were you able to plant the device?” Isaac asked. why would you have his cell number?” Victor feeling the squeeze removed his glasses. Hearing enough Isaac cut short the meeting. “Eric has been a troublemaker for most of his adult life. I let you in my home because I thought you were looking for Eric. He is more of a drunk than anything. If you don’t personally know Chief Conway.” Victor remained quiet briefly. He didn’t hurt people. You have yourself a nice day. or whatever your title may be. especially if you don’t want to become a part of the investigation. “Unfortunately. not to grill me about who I know and then accuse me of being part of a kidnapping. “Because you called Chief Conway the night the two D. “I owe you an apology.” DiNinero said with a grin.” he said. “Do you consider kidnapping a petty crime. Anyhow. Detective Smith. Victor watched the four gathered outside. Mr. Detective Simmons. Doing stupid petty crimes. he’s always been troubled and that’s why he kept his distance from the family. His eyes lingered on the picture of his wife and kids. he slid it to the middle of the desk.” Victor removed the photo from Isaac's hands.“Why do you need to know that?” Victor asked feeling a bit peeved.” Victor’s said. those were his actions.

“You don't remember me do you? Nayla shook her head.” Ben said walking to the car. I'm a professional. We’ll be in touch." Nayla suddenly noticed the small knife in his hand and sat up. Nayla remained silent as a shiver took over her body. Exposing the knife further. "How's life been for you after being tormented by that psycho bitch for hours. Usually those types are old fat men or ugly women trying to prove they got what it takes. situations. "Should I.” he said whispering in her ear. I ain’t gonna hurt you.   Nayla awoke out a cold sleep to find Eric sitting on the cot.” Eric moved yet closer." Nayla stiffened as the cold blade touched her skin. After we find Detective Smith's wife. “I ain’t never been with one of your kind or a celebrity before. That really sucks since I hate cops more than I do lawyers. “Are you scared of me? You ain't gotta be scared of me. especially not a big leap to the FBI. Detective Simmons. Eric traced his finger along the length of her arm. I know how to handle myself in certain DiNinero turned his attention to Isaac.” Isaac was at a loss for words." "Your ole man’s a cop. "Don't you wanna have a little fun---sump'in to get the blood moving a little?” Licking his wet lips.” he said moving wisps of hair from her face.” he said pushing her back on the cot. His smell of alcohol and tobacco sickened her. you’re pretty cute to be a D. He wasn't looking for a career change. "But a woman is a woman especially when they're damn good-looking.“Agent DiNinero. “You know. “You're only making this harder for yourself if you do this. “I look forward to working with you. fondling her through the thin garment.A. he snapped the first button of her silk blouse to expose the expensive undergarment beneath it." . I want you two on my team at FBI.

“You and me both know there ain’t no way in hell you will drop this." Eric didn't respond to her questions but continued to molest her as she tried to move away from him on the small cot. “You would think that. Nayla kicked at him before he pinned her legs beneath his. Squeezing her face between the palms of his hands he started kissing her. Placing her arms above her to stop her from fighting. I was at the church and with that dike that wanted ya'll dead. Besides. Fear overtook her as he moved yet closer to her. Sitting up quickly. In her mind she knew she had to stop the attack but didn't know how. I will walk while you go in another direction! Please. Eric used force to get what he wanted. Did my buddy recover from the slug I put in his ass?” “You're the one that shot Brad?" Nayla dragged out the conversation. please. don't!” She cried out louder. “You fuck’n bitch!” He yelled. She sank her teeth into his thick leathery hand. I ain’t rottin’ in no stinking jail for the rest of my life. “Do you really want a rape charge on top of everything else you’re facing?" Nayla tried folding her arms across her body as he groped at her. I don’t give a damn about the money or anything else. Moving down to bite at her neck. tasting his blood as it seeped in her mouth. Eric smiled as he listened to her plead for her life. Nayla's screams forced him to place a hand over her mouth. then her shoulders. exposing his yellowing teeth. you read about that in the newspaper. so I might as well get what I want before I end it for both of us. he started to beat her as she squirmed. You don't have to fear her coming after you. Nayla tried to swallow. I swear I won’t press charges. He almost felt guilty for what he was thinking about doing and knowing her father was a minister only added to his morbid arousal. Full of rage. ripping the fine fabric when it wouldn't give. hoping the alcohol would have him passing out soon. "If you let me go. hitting her as if she were a . he struck her across the face with the back of his hand. Eric tugged at her clothing. “So what.” Eric grinned. "If you're finishing the job for Bea Taylor.Feeling the bile rise in her throat.” Eric said removing his jacket. You can drop me off on the highway. "Please? If you want me to beg…then I'm begging. she can't get to you.” she said as tears escaped her eyes.

“Here’s some food. bitch! We can play rough!” He said as he started choking the life out of her." . finally succumbing to total darkness. “You are fresh enough for me. as images of her life flashed before her. You’re a hot little number to be a church girl. Your ole man might be willing to part with mega bucks to get you back now that you been gon’ awhile. Throwing that thought to the back of her mind. Nayla lay motionless on the cot. “I told you my husband will give you whatever you want. The pain rendered her helpless.” He said letting out a slight laugh. “I need to use the bathroom--to freshen up. slipping the cuffs loosely around her wrist. Spitting the blood from her mouth. she moved aside the dirty curtain to look out. she tried sitting up. “Not again.two-hundred pound man. Her body shaking from the pain that enveloped it. "Maybe next time you won’t fight. “I might wanna keep you for myself.” She moved closer to the wall as he sat down. she hurried back to the cot. “You want it rough." He ran his fingers through her hair. praying for strength and for her husband to find her. She was in the woods somewhere but didn’t know if they were local or in another state. Would have been better if you cooperated. Although he might not be man enough for you after being with me. I like my women a little dirty anyway. unable to fight any longer." Eric said throwing clothing at her. Nayla gasped for air. all you have to do is contact him. His very being made her want to throw up. Hearing footsteps.” She whispered. Nayla felt sick. Don’t tell nobody I ain’t feed you. She realized Eric had no problem killing her and wept silently. Pulling herself off the cot.” Sitting alone in the dark. Eric had forgotten to cuff her before he'd left this time. “Until I think of what the fuck to do with you. “Get dressed.” Eric said putting the bag of fast food next to her. Eric stood at the fireplace stoking the logs when she finally regained consciousness.” he started to touch her again. she bought up the money again. “How long do you plan on keeping me here?” She managed to say.

” Sharon said caressing her son's face. Sharon watched from the doorway as her son concentrated on his work.   Ben studied the maps of vacant buildings and wooded areas in and around Ohio and the Pennsylvania border. really. “I really appreciate you flying out here to be with me.Nayla held her breath as he pushed her flat on the cot. Isaac had arranged for the first of two grid searches of woods near properties owned by Victor Preston. “What is it mom?” “Sweetheart. I’m fine. He got up from the table. We have a special connection and I know I can find her. When Nayla comes home she's going to need you. we all feel that…her mother and father feel it too. may I have a word with you?” Putting down his pen he waited.” he said kissing her softly almost gentle. mom. but let me handle this my way. honey. at times disappearing for hours without contacting them or Isaac. I can feel her calling me. this is exactly how you reacted when your father died. That's what's driving me crazy! My answer is in these maps. “I can’t sit around here waiting like everybody else is doing.” “Mom. Nayla tasted the liquor as he kissed her. Ben chose not to interact with other family members but stayed to himself. “Ben.” “Sweetheart. He whispered. I know this is hard for you but you haven’t slept in days. "I ain't plan on hurting you the first time but you made me hit you. relax and enjoy it this time. I have no solid leads on where she might be. The stress he was under changed him dramatically.” “Ben. I don’t want you to go through that again.” Ben hugged his mother. She closed her eyes wishing for a quick death instead of a rescue. The search dogs had picked up scents earlier but turned up nothing belonging to Nayla or her kidnapper. Sharon interrupted him.” . I have to do this or I’ll lose my mind. please. He didn’t hit her this time but she still vomited when it was over. “They need to let me find her. mom.

startled by his outburst. honey. Why would they say such a thing knowing my parents are watching?” .” She cried in his chest. are you okay?” Duane asked hugging her from behind.” “I feel it too. days have gone by already.” Sharon kissed her son’s forehead wishing she could do more to help him. I promise I will call you as soon I hear anything. Duane. I can feel it in my heart. I’m being strong for my parents and for Ben when all I want to do is beat the crap out of the man holding my sister. Sharon tried to help but he quickly scooped them up. “I pulled a muscle working out. “Are these pills helping you find her. His bottle of pills spilled during his outburst. Ben realized he'd raised his voice to her. baby. my son is falling apart and there’s nothing I can do for him or your family.” “How is he. “Baby. I’m joining Isaac's search team to help out. Duane. Sharon?” Jean asked after hearing the commotion from the kitchen. my baby is alive. but God is telling us to hurry. Handing him the few that fell on the floor she asked. I’ll be your rock.Ben slammed his fist on the table.” “Come here.” he said hugging her.” Belle admired how the two mothers bonded together. Jean. “They have to find her. don’t coddle me because this isn’t about me right now. I’ll let you get back to work. You don’t have to be strong for anybody. “The media is already reporting that she might be dead. Ben?” Ben rubbed the back of his neck.” “Belle. “Mom.” she said hugging Jean tightly. I'm so sorry. One mother hoping and praying for a safe return of her daughter and the other mother hoping and praying her son didn't have a complete breakdown. “I know. “No. Please. I’m sorry. I’m not. “Jean. “Sharon. I didn’t mean to raise my voice at you.” Belle moved away from him. “It’s not the same! I know she’s alive and I will find her if people would just get out my way and let me do my damn job!” Sharon stepped back.

captured…. "…he would kill Nayla and himself as a last stand---damn. Jim quickly closed the check ledger. I’m really trying. “Ben. On both trips he ordered two meals.” “I’m trying. “What you got. “A fast food employee recognized Eric from television this morning. Isaac. FBI is on the way and we had to contact the Pennsylvania Troopers and Rangers. They would know the woods better than us.” Ben asked anxiously. We have a major break. Isaac. What are we waiting for? We should be heading there now.” Ben’s eyes lit up. Belle. have you seen Ben?” Tina asked. interrupting her father. meet me at the station. The restaurant was not far from farmland Victor Preston owned near the Ohio-Pennsylvania borderline. Believe what’s in your heart.” “The tactical team is setting up. A fast food worker recognized the photograph of Eric that had been on television. Isaac called Ben as promised.Cupping her chin.”   “Dad. “Last time I saw him he was with his mother. honey. He didn’t have time to explain and didn’t want to get the family’s hopes up if this turned out to be another dead end. he tilted her face upward until her eyes met his.” Ben felt defeat once again as he finished Isaac’s sentence. She said he’s been in the restaurant at least twice a day for the last three days. “That means Nayla is still alive. we gotta box him in that area. Maybe he decided to get some rest. He has nothing to lose at this point and if he is .” Ben slipped out the house unnoticed.”   Isaac got the break he'd been waiting for. Duane.. “Don’t listen to what the news is saying. We don’t want to spook Eric if he’s out there.

This is what he wants. he is trying to break us down. Dad. She even caught him crying.” Jim responded as Tina started to walked away. Nayla will be home with us before we know it. Over the last few days his strength had started to tumble. what are you doing?” Tina asked. Embracing his strong hands in hers. I believe in Isaac and Ben. If we have to pay for your sister's release I want to have the money on hand. he’s not in the house. “Baby girl. Tina knelt down in front of him. you won’t need to do that. you said ‘mattered’ instead of ‘matters.” “Didn’t you hear what the police said. "No! Dad. The stress he's under might make him snap. dad. “In my opinion--yes. He isn’t answering his cell. "So you really think he could break like that?” Tina sighed. . Nayla is everything to him and the thought of him not being able to save her could mean disaster if he finds Eric Preston first. “You're right." Jim said feeling fearful of what his son-in-law could possibly do. forcing us to give into his demands when he finally does call.” “Yes. I have to depend on them and my faith. his mom checked his room. “Tina! Baby. “Tina. Don't even think that way!" He stopped for a moment. “Dad. He’s in a position to serve and protect and he will feel he failed to protect the one person that mattered to him the most. With that said. he doesn’t exhibit that type of mentality. honey. Tina.“No. By not contacting us. It's making me willing to do whatever is necessary to get my daughter back." Tina sympathized with her dad. I heard every word and was willing to wait and let them do their job. Desperation got the better of me. If Nayla is killed and I did nothing---” Tina's face darkened. do you think Ben found something on those maps and went looking for Nayla on his own again?” “I don’t know.” Jim nodded. they're not going to let that happen. Jim removed his hands. I'm having Harold move some funds. she will.” “Honey. I’m worried about him.’ I will pray Ben uses his head and not the anger consuming him.

Belle. I'm running out of things to tell her. she was looking for him earlier. We can’t let mom and dad see us falling apart either. I'll help you with the kids. If you didn't trust him you would be at the lab overseeing everything those guys were doing. She's feeling uneasy with him. why hasn't the kidnapper contacted us for anything?” Toni asked pacing the large kitchen." "Kady is asking a lot of questions."That's all we can do for now. do you want tea?” Belle asked fiddling with the teakettle. Toni. It'll get my mind on something else for a change. that will only make it worse for them. Maybe he went home." Belle nodded.” “Toni. Belle. I can’t eat or drink anything right now. Toni managed to pull herself together. We can’t give up--not now. Will you be okay while I get the kids together?” "I'm fine. Maybe she should talk to Tina. always doing this or that. You're human and your attachment is far to much for you to see everything clear. Rick is handling the processing. Toni. "Yeah. I help solve cases for other families for a living. I'm going to check their house. “Duane told me to believe what I feel in my heart and I believe she's alive. it’s been three days. don't do this to yourself. Belle. She's putting on a strong front but she's hurting. You notice she never sits around. Belle. Toni. Kady should talk with a professional but we can't dump all this on Tina.” Belle said as she tried to calm her distraught sister. I have to remember where we come from. "We have to get ready for the prayer service for Nayla. Reasoning with him will only cause him to become more angry. dad. Most recently concerning herself with Ben's state of mind. “No thank you."   “Toni. Why can't I help my own family? I can't even bring myself to look at the evidence much less process it. “You’re right." ." "Belle." Belle said. When we lived with Nayla they became really close. What is happening with Nayla? If she is still alive. I'll meet you and mom at the church for the prayer service later.

You can't blame yourself for not staying at the office."   Eric slept slumped over the chair in front of the fireplace. she slid off the cot being as . Slipping the cuffs off her wrist." "It's my fault she missing. justice might be all I can get for these two families. carries a weapon. "John. I was so quick to celebrate that I left before making sure the two of them were safe first. "It was a victory for all of you. If Henry Franklin is behind this." John sighed." Toni said counting on her fingers. "Yeah. He was partially dressed and snoring loudly after using her once again to pleasure himself. it will be up to me to make Henry pay. He decided to reframe from speaking to the public about Nayla’s disappearance." John said with his voice full of guilt and remorse. Nayla came to the conclusion she couldn't take the sexual abuse anymore and decided it was time for her to make an escape. then you know what you have to do. but it will be up to you to bring Henry to justice and make him pay. Judith. Missing wife. God. Belle. cop. Judith squeezed her husband's hand. I am narcissistic. Judith. John. He would wait for the police and FBI to make an arrest or determine her status before issuing an official statement."She has three reason to be. It seems like when this ends. God forbid anything happens to Nayla. you have to snap out of this funk you're in if you want to help Nayla. John Kraft sat with his wife at the back of the church. He felt he owed her family that much since the kidnapping was originally meant for him.   The church filled quickly as friends and family gathered to rally and pray for Nayla's safe return. Many of Nayla's colleagues from California made the trip to Cleveland after hearing of her abduction offering to help the family however they could.

leaving himself exposed. Nayla rubbed the stinging area. He tried pulling her to the floor but she managed to evade his hands. wiping the blood as it trickle out her nose. “Bitch! Where the hell you think ya going!” He yelled. As she wailed at him. With him defenseless and withering in pain. Not knowing which direction to take. she had to catch her breath. Eric wailed as her fingernails pierced through his skin like daggers. he watch her run out the cabin into the cold dense woods. It provided little protection from the cold but would have to do. The adrenaline pumping through her veins was the only thing keeping her standing at . Eric reacted by grabbing his face. "What? Doesn’t that feel good to you?" She whispered. causing him to fall to the floor. Leaning against a tree. The floor squeaked as she stepped lightly to the door. As she reached for the door he grabbed her by flinging her to the floor. After running about a mile. Eric screamed out in pain. Crouched in a fetal position.quiet as possible not to awaken him. the heavy wool coat and lack of nutrients slowed her pace. The oversized jumpsuit he'd given her after destroying her clothing. She'd rather die from the elements than at the hands of the animal that held her captive. "I was hoping it would feel as good to you as you felt to me. “As far from you as I can get. he was nowhere in sight. Nayla threw a kick to his groin.” She knew this was not the time to be sarcastic but if the end was in sight she wasn’t going without a fight. Balling her fist. Nayla ran as fast as she could. shaking his fist as if to hit her. she looked back for Eric. Nayla spoke through clinched teeth. The pain emitting from his groin prevented him from fighting her further. Eric slapped her across the face with the back of his hand. Angered.. Eric had taken her shoes but she still had her coat and clothing.not this time. the cold hard ground numbing her bare feet. she charged towards him.. her first hit landed a direct blow to his nose. hung loosely on her battered body. you filthy piece of scum!" She said as she dug her long fingernails in deeper. she grabbed his genitals through his stained underwear squeezing as hard as she could. Glancing over her shoulder she noticed he still hadn’t moved.

I want to do this and besides you don’t have that many people out here helping you.   Isaac instructed each of his men to search the woods with a Ranger and SWAT member. he should be leaving for food about this time according to the fast food worker. Returning to the cabin. Duane. Being a runner. Nayla knew she had to get rid of the coat and find the willpower to keep moving. and in extreme pain. he nursed his aching manhood. His plan was to keep any casualties to a minimum or none at all. Its better we do this by foot and catch him by surprise. “We can’t do that. if Eric is a creature of habit.” Duane asked. you won’t get out of here alive!” Eric yelled. if possible. Being drunk. “Okay. the falling temperatures would mean certain death. Nayla shed the coat and started to run again. out of shape. “I’m with Duane. he took a swig of whiskey before placing a cold towel to his injured groin area deciding he would look for her body in the morning. Eric would definitely hear it and know we have him pinned in. “Dumb bitch! I should have killed you when I had the chance!” He yelled out loud. Nayla followed the downstream flow hoping it would lead to civilization. I don’t want you two to get hurt in case he comes out shooting. Coming across a small river. we could cover a lot more land doing it that way.” Isaac said as he looked over the map of the vastly wooded area. Detective. Eric knew he wouldn't catch her no matter how bad he wanted her back. “Isaac. maybe you and Manny should wait here.” “Isaac. Duane. I can handle myself.” . “You might as well stop running. I’ll take my chances if means finding Nayla alive.” Manny stepped forward.this point. “The cold will kill ya before I do!” Sitting on a tree stump. If she failed to find a town before nightfall. Look. Hearing twigs snapping in the distance. why not use the helicopter.

Snow started to fall lightly as she walked.Isaac let out a sigh. An K-9 officer called for them after stumbling upon an article of clothing.” Meanwhile.” Duane said putting on his safety vest. Isaac. Isaac didn’t speak as Manny stood beside him. “Stick with Ben’s team. I’m only here to help and nothing more.” “I hear ya. Looking around she knew she was lost and the river’s flow seemed to be endless. He can help with the search if it makes him feel like he’s contributing to finding her. Nayla was certain Eric was no longer pursuing her since she hadn’t heard any noises. She had never been camping or on a nature hike either. bro. Ben looked over at Manny. didn't have the chance to participate with any girl troops or go on school field trips. . Nayla. Please give me a sign I’m close to finding help. Detective.” he said walking away. now let’s move before we lose more daylight. Duane and you come with me Manny.” Isaac said. Isaac. “Are you okay with Martinez being here. Ben?” Securing his weapon. She was freezing but she had to keep moving if she wanted to find shelter before night fell. any sign of trouble take cover both of you. “This is not exactly the sign I was hoping for. Once Nayla is found I will disappear.” she said to herself. Being on the road most of her childhood. Ben’s attitude was as unemotional as the cold branches hanging from the trees. and Rob searched the thick woods near Victor Preston's Farm. Isaac approached Ben gearing up.” “Thanks for the help. “God.   Nayla rested along the riverbed sipping a handful of the cold water. “It’s okay. Removing dirt and stones from her bleeding feet. Marco. I’m sure Ben appreciates it too. she stood up. I don’t know anything about the outdoors or surviving in these elements. Manny. All she knew about the great outdoors was what she learned from schoolbooks. Limping along the frozen bank. “Manny is the least of my problems.

she got rid of the coat to lighten her load. Let him lead us to her or Eric. Isaac took the coat. “Not yet. The sun is starting to set and the heavier the snow falls the less time we get to be out here. how you holding up?” Duane finally asked him.” he said restraining the hyper animal.” Rob said. “Did they find Eric to confirm that?” She shook her head. Detective Smith! Agent Blackmon said running towards them. If she’s out here. If she is running.” Duane kicked over a pile of dead leaves.“Detective. Certain they were finally on the right path to finding her.” . “Lopez.   Ben's search team had no luck finding clues in their area. Isaac went into recovery motion. The Ranger wants to know if your wife would follow the river downstream.” “Yeah. Why would she take it off in this weather?” “Isaac. just want to keep moving before it gets dark. she’s going to need medical attention when we find her. this wouldn't happen to be her coat would it? The dog started going crazy in this area. If she continues to do that she will run into town but probably not before nightfall. let the dog go if he got a scent.” Ben broke out in a cold sweat. The dogs hadn't picked up any scents or unusual disturbances in or around the dense woods. They'd been walking in silence most of the time. The snow wasn't even disturbed. “Ben. he thinks she might be running near the river. “Yeah. I’m tired of running into dead-ends. she’s on the run! She and Tina run all the time. “I’m okay. Officer. Duane. but when. “You know we’re going to find her---don’t you. she’s out her comfort zone and won’t survive these cold temperatures. I think it is hers. but I think they’re closing in on him. "Detective Simmons’ crew found clothing of hers.” Isaac said. Duane.” “Hey. radio command post and have a chopper ready.

“Your team go in first or we can smoke him out if you want.” Isaac radioed the others to be on the lookout and not to shoot anything moving but to search all structures that could be used as shelter.Ben had to think. “If Nayla is in there.” Isaac released his grip on Eric. Detective?” Commander Jeffs asked. Pushing to get at Eric. Commander. letting him fall limp to the floor. most people do know that fact about rivers so I gonna bet she does. “How do you want do this. we need him alive in case Nayla escaped. “Come on! Give me one good reason not to kill your sorry ass!” Rob stepped in to prevent Isaac from shooting him. take cover behind those trees and don’t move until I call you. we’ll go with the assumption she knows that.” Breaking down the door. “Up against the wall you son-of-a-bitch!” Isaac said throwing Eric against the wall. “Where the hell is she. “Isaac not here. Preston!” Eric barely able to hold his head up spat out. we can make it before dark if we hurry. the men blocked his path. break down the door and rush him. I don’t want her hurt by the flash of tear gas or friendly fire.” Blackmon said running ahead of them. “I can’t honestly say if she would or not. Agent. C’mon the river is north of here. . After arming themselves. Let him lead us to Nayla first. Donovan found blood along with a pair of women’s shoes and pieces of torn clothing. the rush catches Eric by surprise. He might know what direction she took off in. She’s probably dead by now. the men took positions around the shanty abode. your wife’s a smart woman.” Isaac shook his head. He called Isaac over not wanting to think the worst. Manny.   A SWAT member spotted a cabin with smoke seeping out the chimney. she's not exactly the camping or hiking type.” “Good! Detective. Isaac's eyes widened with anger. “The bitch ran hours ago.

Nayla watched the sun's shadow ebb away from the broken window of the barn.” Placing a marker by the spot. take SWAT. Duane and Ryan with me. call Isaac and give him our location for their dogs. Rocking back and forth Nayla began to cry. Nayla came across a barn. Bronk and a Ranger with you. she drifted off to her final slumber. she huddled between two large stacks of dry hay and waited for it to be over. I got blood over here. The snow eased up.Sicken fear covered Manny’s face as he looked around the cabin at the destruction. Nayla wasn’t there. “Damn.” Ben said as the stress in his voice edged upward. almost forty-five minutes. The dogs ran towards an abandoned barn sniffing around the back. Wrapping it around herself.” Ben said. She'd never felt so alone in her life and now it was going to end without her having a chance to say goodbye to her family. Rescuers follow the dogs only to find nothing. Finding a dirty horse blanket. the dancing on the beach with the sounds of the ocean as their backdrop. saying her last prayer. “The have Preston. I’m gonna keep following this. “Let's split up and continue searching north of here. she shook out as much dirt as possible. I’ll keep a Ranger. The memories flooded back on how they met. they go off in different directions. If she managed to survive. Ryan. Agent Blackmon. . visualizing what took place hours earlier. she definitely passed through here. A smile came across her aching face as she remembered his touch. she felt for sure she would lose a few toes and maybe a finger or two due to frostbite. They only had a few hours of daylight left. letting rays of sunshine peak through the tops of the pine trees…almost like a guardian angle helping them out with flashlights. Ben informed the others of Isaac's instructions. Her thoughts turned to Ben and how she wished she'd told him every day how much she loved him and how his presence in her life changed her. Ben snapped a picture. Ryan spotted blood smears in a pile of trampled snow. Isaac said she ran about three hours ago and Eric lost her. “Ben. It seemed like forever for the extra search dogs to get to the location. We don’t want anyone else to get lost out here. Fighting the urge to close her eyes. his smell. The temperatures had dropped drastically leaving her frozen and unable to go any further. the smile that would melt her very core.” Yelling her name.

” Donovan instructed the EMT." . “You think you're bad ass and wanna beat-up somebody? Imma give you the first shot at me. “You're one lucky son-of-a-bitch. As he moved closer he saw a blanket rolled in a tight ball. “Just let me talk to him. "Agent Blackmon. “Ben.” Donovan struggled to tell him about the evidence they found at the cabin.” he said clutching his fist. The more Donovan dodged the subject the angrier Ben got. opening her eyes slowly. Climbing from the loft.   “Wait for Detective Smith before you take her. it’s me. You better be glad we found her. how about that?" He said removing the handcuffs." He said stroking her face.” Duane and Manny being the only civilians present stood back as Ben stormed past them to get to Eric. get a medic out here now!" Holding her tight to warm her. baby. “Ryan! Duane! Over here! I found her! He said taking off his jacket to cover her. I promise I won’t lose my cool. she's feisty and gave me no choice. Eric rubbed his wrists. Don. The oil and gasoline stored in the countless leaky canisters threw the dogs scent off. “Detective. or she wouldn’t have ran. before you go there’s something you need to know.Ben searched inside the barn.” Ryan and Duane remove their jackets giving them to Ben to wrap around Nayla's frozen body. Isaac dragged Eric from the patrol car. only to collapse in his arms. "Ben?" Nayla whispered. I got you. stay awake for me! Open those beautiful eyes. “I already know what he did. “Hang on. Bronk and Rob stood by waiting to intervene if needed. Donovan. he spotted the tall stacks of hay. Ben got to the patrol car before any of them could stop him. baby. or your ass would be all mine!” Donovan caught Ben before he could reach Isaac. "Don't leave me. Grabbing Eric by the collar he yanked him to him. "Yeah. Nayla. I don't know how you put up with that mouth of hers.

. Eric slid to the ground. Ben returned to Nayla. bloody. go see about your wife instead. “Baby. You can gather your men and take off. All you need is white hats to complete the look. he’s not worth it. He embraced her tightly. blood spilling from his mouth as he spat out his broken teeth. We'll handle it from here." Ben said removing his gun and badge. Shouldn't we do something?" He said looking around for interference.” he said faintly. “Man. The FBI agents didn't intervene either. “Police brutality! I want him arrested for hitting me! I gonna sue you for this shit! You knocked out my fucking teeth and broke my nose.” he said licking his lips. Believing Ben wouldn't follow through with his actions. This wasn't their call and were only there to assist with the search not to be mediators. but I think she started to enjoy it. and dirty as the EMT's treated her wounds. Commander Jeffs felt a need to step in. "Detective Smith is level-headed. "I know all bout this crew. It would’ve been better if she’d cooperated. "We can’t stand here and let him kill this suspect in front of us. She lay on the gurney." Eric's sneer and dispassionate attitude only added fuel to Ben's rage as he rolled up his shirt sleeves. "I'm not a woman and believe me when I knock your ass the fuck out. All he's doing is talking to the suspect. "Commander. Drawing back his fist he sucker punched Eric square in the face." Eric smiled. "I will tell you this." Not expecting Ben to actually hit Eric. I lost track of how many times."She gave you no choice huh? Well now the tables are even cause I have no choice but to beat the living shit out of you. Your wife's a good lay. what would you do?" Blackmon asked. he instead walked away. Donovan stopped him before he could do it again. Hell after the third or fourth time. if it were your wife. "Y’all saw that!” He said pointing to the officers standing around the car. you will know exactly what hit you!" Isaac knew he should stop this before it got out of hand. the good guys of the Cleveland police department. Ben’s anger got the best of him. Detective Smith. "You better be glad it was only your face I broke. I'm so sorry.” Throwing him against the car. you dick!" Ben pulled him to his feet." "You're not going to hit me with all these people as witnesses.

” Duane placed a hand on his shoulder. “Hey. Manny. Manny. "I have to call the Lofton's now. man. I know this is not what you expected.” Isaac hurried to turn away from his brother so he wouldn’t witness him break down completely. If she continued to come between the Smith’s marriage. Manny leaned against a tree totally enthralled. he would personally go to her commander and tell of her involvement in starting the rumors about their marriage.   Reverend Lofton stopped the prayer service immediately to announce that Nayla had been found alive. “Look at her. You can barely tell its her. “We won’t let that happen. “I knew you would come.” Isaac felt a tear run down his cheek. man?” Donovan asked his brother. He had never seen Isaac cry even when they were kids he doesn't believe Isaac ever shed a tear. Once back in the city he would confront Karrie about her intentions to do the same. Her sisters ran out the church not knowing which hospital to go to but knowing they had to get to her wherever she was." Isaac said clearing his throat. “Yeah--I’m okay. Duane interrupted his moment of revelation. As she lay beaten and broken. “You okay. he felt the true connection the husband and wife had for each other and there was no way he would ever try to come between that. Ben. . That asshole killed her even though she’s alive. If you need to upchuck I understand.” Duane said walking away. She’ll never be the same after this. Ben will keep them together and her getting justice for what that idiot did will be her last laugh.” Manny shook his head. we’re heading out.She held him tight as she cried. Jean fainted and the church nurses scrambled to get to her aid. Fighting to keep his own emotions from taking over he knew from this moment forward that Nayla was definitely off limits. It will take time but we will have our Nayla back and she will live her life again. Duane.

“Lilly. Rick just has to collect any evidence from your fingernails.” After a pause. Nayla agreed. you shouldn’t have any problems once they heal. Lilly applied antibiotic cream and wrapped Nayla’s wounds before ordering her a tray of food. Nayla waited for Lilly. “The cuts to your feet aren't that severe. I’m here for you. Nayla took a deep breath of relief. I wouldn't feel comfortable with anyone doing this but you. Lilly gave her a hug and could feel Nayla trembling as her own tears. After the examination.” “Lilly. These people were like family to her and when they hurt. You must be starving. Nayla.” “Its okay. Toni is doing all the DNA testing. she hurt. I respect your wishes but Ben has seen you already. thank you for being here.” Lilly tried to give her a comforting smile. besides he's been pacing that waiting room for hours. . Could you make sure she gets everything?” Lilly patted her legs. are you up for that now?” Nayla nodded.” Lilly said. Dirt. he knows everything that happened to me out there and I don't know if I can face him right now. don’t shut him out. You can clean your hands after he's done and then try to eat. “Lilly. Lilly blinked to keep the tears from falling. and the good news is the frostbite is mild. I don’t want Ben to see me like this.” Lilly said. Taken to a private room to escape the on-lookers. “I can get you something for your pain after I do the examination and then we'll feed you. “Thank God. Nayla. You have to remember. “Nayla. I know this isn’t your field but I didn’t want….” Lilly sat next to her. “Isaac is waiting to talk to you. dried blood and what looked like skin had gathered under Nayla’s once perfectly manicured fingernails. “Nayla. thank you again. Lilly.” She reached for Lilly’s hand. before we start is there anything I can get for you?” The pain prevented her from talking and instead shook her head.The media was swarming CityMetro by the time Nayla arrived. love sees no scars and you need him right now as much as he needed you when he got shot.” Lilly said caressing her hand. “I will take it to her lab myself. “I guess you know what I have to do and at any time you feel uncomfortable just let me know and I'll stop.

” Lilly paused after he dropped his head." “Thanks. after all. “Toni. Ben closed his eyes. she knows the drill. You know that would have made me feel a lot better too.” Lilly hugged her tightly. Toni. “Lilly.Lilly’s walk to the waiting area seemed to be too soon since the last incident. his demeanor sullen and withdrawn. Tina. She couldn't remember the last time she actually sat much less able to close her eyes. she really should be resting. “I can only imagine what was going through their minds. I can’t believe this is happening again. Rob. Two wrongs don't make it right after all.” Toni straighten her shoulders. “Any time you need me. babe?” Rob asked as he sat next to her. Just keep your questions brief. you saved my sister’s life. “I understand. . I’m always here. “When she does see it all it will be a shock to her can you handle that? Ben-can you handle it?” Lilly asked. Nayla is waiting for you and Ben.” Isaac said concerned. “Yes. She survived the harsh weather without the proper clothing---your sister is a real fighter. for your sister to survive the beatings and assault day after day. “Are you okay. how can I ever thank you for that.” “Tina. Lilly. she’s ready to talk to you. Damn. “Isaac. “Isaac. she has bruises all over her. I admire her for being able to muster of that kind of strength and beat the odds that were stacked against her.” “I can question her later if you don’t think she’s up to it.” “No. “Ben.” Lilly turned to Ben who she hardly recognized. I don't know what we would do without you. She hasn’t even seen how badly she’s been roughed up. Nayla saved her own life. The usually well-kept former model was unshaven. Lilly. I’m so sorry. you are always here for us. I’m fine." Tina relaxed against the soft leather chair. I won’t make her feel uncomfortable and I can handle it. please try not to stare. In the end they did the right thing.” Tina held his hand. Rob. I’ll have samples for you in a bit. I should've let Isaac and Ben beat that piece of shit to death like they wanted.” Rob said holding in his emotions. Lilly.” Lilly faced her best friend who stood with her head down as if deep in prayer.” “Toni.

the food began to make her sick. He replaced her stained blanket with a fresh one tucking it around her. Not sure if he should touch her or not.” she said. I thought we would find you before it got this far.” “Isaac. she asked Isaac to leave her alone for a moment. I'll leave you two alone. “Thank you. ”I’m sorry. "I'm sorry.   Isaac ended his questions fast.“Rob. this is going to take time for all of us to deal with. Isaac put his hands in his pocket. Her memory was shaky but she was able to recall certain aspects of the abduction that concurred with Brenda and Lester's statements. We can talk more tomorrow. Nayla has always been a natural fighter. Wetting a clean towel. Isaac.” she said as tears ran down her face. I think that’s enough for tonight. Nayla was not in any condition to be talking just yet. “Can you find out when Lilly is letting me go?” He noticed how Ben never flinched but .” Ben sat motionless with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.” Her voice barely above a whisper and raspy. ”Ben. This just proves that her will to live overpowered the will to give up. Throwing up after the first few sip of hot soup. As she ate. honey." she said trying to clean the mess she'd made only her wrapped hands made it impossible. I haven't eaten in a few days. I want to go home.” Isaac nodded. “I should be comforting you and here you are comforting me instead. he wiped her face.” He put his arm around her. Isaac stepped back so Ben could help immediately jumped in to help his wife. Can you give me a few minutes to clean up?" Ben quickly moved her tray aside. trying not to let his own guilt overtake him. “Nayla. Nayla.” “We take care of each other. being careful not to reopen the wounds around her nose and mouth.

That means you haven’t slept lately. Eric is behind bars where he belongs. The thought of one more beating or him---” He stopped her.” She reached for his face caressing his beard.” She managed a smile. You can’t be expected to watch over me twenty-four hours a day or give me special treatment. You belong with me and I wasn't accepting you leaving me on that jackass's terms. “I'm not staying here! I want to go home now!” He gave in as he held her hands to keep her from pulling out the IV's.” He caressed the top of her matted hair. was you would never give up looking for me and that’s what made me hold on for as long as I did. I wanted to kill him but I couldn't bring myself to do it. “You're letting your beard grow. “I tried to fight him. “Ben. Ben.” she wiped the tears from his cheek. “Let me clean up first. don’t do that.“Nayla. “Okay-okay. I don’t know where it came from at the last minute but I tore into him like you taught me. “Damn. Nayla. I’ll see what I can do.” Nayla searched his eyes as he tried to avoid hers. Nayla.” Ben folded her hands in his. I think they were planning on keeping you a few days. You’re safe with people who love you. I’m too filthy right now. “Ben. Nayla. Eric Preston is an animal and what he did to me was for his own satisfaction. please don’t. how can you forgive me for letting this happen. “The one thing I did know.” He managed to say with a smile. “Ben. "It's not your fault. Ben. I knew you wouldn’t listen and I’m glad you didn’t this one time.” She sat up pulling at the IV lines.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek but she turned away.” she said. I swear I won't leave you this time. “There was no way I was closing my eyes until I got you back where you belong. What happened to me is not your fault. . I would never blame you for this. that’s exactly what I should have done.” She fought hard not to burst into tears herself. “Shhh you don’t have to think about that.” “I knew this case was dangerous.” “Isaac tried to sit me out but you know me.” She wasn’t surprised he blamed himself. Nayla. I wasn’t waiting for permission to look for you.

I can’t.” “I know.” “I should go down and help make out the reports but I don’t want to leave her. it was his daughter lying in that hospital bed and if he weren’t a man of the cloth. she’s alive and I’m grateful for that. Reverend.” he said giving him a bear hug. I’m confident you and Nayla will move past this with time and therapy. After all. “Tina. Imma be right outside this door if you need me.” Ben sat next to Jim on the small couch. He didn’t have to hurt her like that. he would be at that jail trying to inflict as much pain on him as he did to Nayla. Tina watched her father and brother-in-law closely. Nayla had been through so much and now she had to give her more bad news.” Jim handed him a coffee. Ben. I don’t know if that feeling will ever change. “I’m going to ask if you could step outside while we talk to Nayla. It shouldn’t be long." Lilly interrupted as she entered with Dr. Never forget that.” . “I’ll let you do what you need to do. but this guy was intent on making her suffer. The one thing she learned in her years of practice was that sexual assaults could cause divorces. Nayla. He had no answers for him. Belle hugged her from behind. Ben returned to the waiting room where everyone waited to hear his version on how Nayla was doing. Rev. Ben?” “Reverend. I’ve heard a lot and seen a lot in my line of work. its going take a lot of strength and prayer to get you both through this.” Jim patted Ben on the back. "I love you. “Isaac told me to let you know he went down to the station if you need him.” Lilly really dreaded this part. “How’s my baby girl doing. son. Can you honestly look that man in his face and not want to harm him?” Without hesitation Ben answered. “I can’t get the images out my head. “I don’t think that’s wise under the circumstances anyway. To be honest.” “Reverend. Fitzpatrick. Ben.” He moved aside. we’ll help them work through it. “No.He nodded and kissed the back of her bandaged hand. Reverend Jim was the first to get to him. Nayla.

you sustained extensive trauma as a result of the assault. I think you have been through enough tonight. Fitzpatrick caressed her arm.” Dr. . Lilly asked Tina to help Nayla get dressed. What you did took guts and not many women would do what you did and survive. Unfortunately a fetus would not survive the trauma had you been pregnant. You're very dehydrated plus I'd like to keep a closer eye on your wounds. Belle had bought her warm clothing and thick slippers for her feet. “If I may say this---you are an inspiration to women. "I'll stop by on my way home tomorrow to check on you. Lilly. She was actually relieved she didn't lose a baby to a brutal rapist. Nayla lay listening not having much to say once she found out she wasn't pregnant. Lilly held Nayla’s hand as the doctor continued. “Dr.” Nayla finally replied. By any chance is Nurse Gerdy available?” "I'll give her a call. Remember he doesn’t give us more than we can bear and you’re a testament to that. I'll hire a private nurse to come in for the next couple of days. I'm sure she'll do it for you. Fitzpatrick squeezed Nayla’s shoulder gently before she left. you should try to rest for now.Tina held her sister’s hand and nodded. You really do need medical care. Belle was the optimist and she hoped she was right this time. I had to fight so he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of knowing he'd broke me down. I’m truly sorry for what you had to go through." Nayla's body ached in places she didn’t know muscles even existed. I won’t have to worry about the media hanging around or other doctors wanting to examine me. but put it all in God’s hands and let him heal you. Nayla. I can’t handle that right now. Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Smith. “I’ll let Ben know you’re almost ready to go." Lilly said.” “I really think I would be better off at home. Nayla.” “I understand. I wish you’d reconsider and let us keep you a few days.” Doctor Fitzpatrick said. “Let me schedule you for more tests in about a week to reevaluate your internal injuries and take it from there. “Mrs. They had swollen twice their size and throbbed as she balanced on the backs of her heels. Smith.” Dr.

Not all rape victims react the same. but I can listen to you and be here for you when you need me. Scanning the bruises on her sister’s body. it will fade in time. "Probably. the birds chirping confirmed the early morning hour. Looking out the window. I don’t want Ben to have to do that. Her sister needed to be prepared for what was to come. you might go through a series of nightmares or experience a bout of depression. Tell me what to do. Concentrate on the visible scars healing first then work on your psyche.” she said. “You know he would do it in a heartbeat. "Nayla. She refused to lie. the real nightmare is just starting isn't it?" Nayla asked her. I'll do anything to get my life back. Nayla. Nayla spoke softly. “Sweetie. Tina felt sick to her stomach as she thought about what that monster did to her. The sight and sounds were familiar and she promised herself she would no .Tina brushed away the dried blood and vomit that covered most of Nayla’s hair."   Nayla stared at her reflection in the mirror." "I don't want to become dependent on medications or go bananas when I see the mailman. how you accept what happened to you.” "Tina." Tina moved closer to her. Nayla saw the birds perched on branches singing away. The more you release the better you will feel. when you decide to start therapy. Tina sighed. I only ask that you not hold anything inside. I’ll go with you to get you settled until the nurse arrives in the morning. and.” Tina felt Nayla shaking as she helped her to a wheelchair. Keep a journal as your outlet. Nayla. I can't treat you because you’re my sister. we all are. The back of her head throbbed as she loosened the ponytail holder Tina had put in. You might even become afraid of Ben at some point. Your life will return to normal only take it day by day. He’s just glad to have you back. Tina. you don't need to make this decision tonight. Tina." "Nayla. It was five o’clock in the morning. It depends on your strength. “Thanks. It will be normal for you to fear going out or being alone. She applied the creams and bandages as Lilly instructed to her wounds. With treatment.

Ben placed a few extra pillows behind her head for comfort. “Tina is using one of the guestrooms for the night. you fell asleep. Still not wanting to sleep. he saw the large open sore. Blinking to clear his head. I thought you might like something light to eat. she feared this would be a dream and wake up back in that barn. Ben. Well." “Nayla. She knew she had to tell him but now the outcome would be different than what she'd hoped. I guess it’s too late for that since you're doing it already. which is a blessing right?” The expression on his face was enough for her to break down. she insisted on staying anyway. "I know. Fitzpatrick had to say. “Eric beat me so violently that I likely would have miscarried but the tests confirmed I wasn’t pregnant. “Thank you. it was ugly but warm and warmth is what she needed right now. I thought I was pregnant so I went to her for the routine tests. I'm starving but I don’t think I can keep anything down yet.” she said pulling on a pair of fluffy warm socks.longer take the birds singing as a nuisance. I didn't want you to have to take care of me all night. “Ben. Ben helped her into her flannel gown. Feeling drained physically as well as emotionally Nayla hadn't slept for more than a few winks at a time. “Hey. he grabbed a few bandages to patch her up before letting her crawl between the soft warm blankets of their bed. I’m so sorry. he started choking me until I passed out. She struggled as she continued. “Ben. I asked her to stay. Looking.” Nayla nodded as she sipped the hot sweet tea.” Ben said as placing the tray of food on the night table. cold and dying or still held captive by Eric Preston.” . Ben. I made you a bowl of my famous chicken soup. Nayla winced when he touched her back. Do you want to tell me what Dr. she survived the worst days of her life. When I did fight him. I told her I would take care of you until the nurse got here. you know what happened next.” he asked pulling a chair next to the bed.” she said sitting her cup on the tray. I tried to protect myself the first time. but he had me tired up. baby. don't ever think I wouldn't care for you. but as a reminder. The day I was going to tell you.

Finally relaxing.” “Isaac. Eric Preston would pay for what he did to his wife. If it was the last thing he did. He had a lot to process and sleep was the farthest thing from his mind right now. a scent she thought she would never smell again. .He held her as she cried. “Good morning. “You want me to stay with you tonight?” “Please! Ben. We can talk more about it when you’re ready. her body still felt cold. “Nayla.” she said pouring him a cup of the steaming hot brew. She placed her hand on his chest locating his heartbeat. she closed her eyes and went to sleep.” Toni said buttering his toast. “Where are you going?” She asked holding his arm. Ben lay awake staring at the ceiling. baby. “Good morning. Even through the flannel nightgown. a scent she was familiar with. Throwing two slices of raisin toast in the toaster. she leaned against the kitchen counter watching the snow blow across the yard. He smelled good. I’ll stay. try to get some sleep. You can’t run on adrenaline and caffeine alone. you've barely slept the last couple of days. he wrapped his arm around her shoulder pulling her closer to him. As she moved closer to him. “Yeah.” Isaac said hugging her from behind.” Her request took him by surprise. another holiday was fast approaching that she was not prepared for or looking forward to. Will you be okay while I clean up?” She felt him lay on his side of the bed. I want to question Lester again plus I still have to identify the body that we found in the tunnel last week. “Okay.” He tucked her in before leaving. I need to know I’m not dreaming and wake up back there again.   Toni set the coffee maker for the strongest brewing. You’re going to the office rather early. Totally exhausted.

What I said was out of anger and I swear I didn’t mean it. I better get to the station. “I plan on talking with mom about that little outburst.” Toni said wiping her eyes. Isaac. Jean paused on the stairs. “Jim. Jim. "I noticed you tossed and turned all night yourself. Nayla’s always been strong. I need to talk to you now that Nayla is home safe. His serious look meant he wanted to talk. She's the one I turn to when I need advice.” “I wasn’t thinking. That man almost died in this house trying to save our daughters and you said those things to him when his wife had just been kidnapped!” He leaned back in his chair. I can’t really sleep anyway not after what Nayla just went through. and outspoken. “I never thought I would see the day my wife could be so uncaring. The rest of the family. “Jean. Your mother on the other hand surprised me. Jim.” Isaac shook his head.” “You need to let him know that. I personally have to do this stuff myself. Toni crinkled her nose. Call me when you get test results back on anything. including us guys. What she said to Ben was uncalled for and to throw Manny in it. I hate seeing her like this! She'll need a lot of help in the months to come and I don't know if I can help her. you will find a way to help her. kissing her goodbye. will be there for her to lean on too. I wanted to give him time with Nayla before I brought up the subject. you know I love Ben and I think he’s good for Nayla.” Jean felt tears welling in her eye. “I'm an emotional mess.   Jim sat quietly at the breakfast table waiting for Jean to join him.” “I know what you want to talk about. She and Jim were never at odds but this time she could understand his anger with her. independent.“Don't worry about me. Toni. she was upset and letting off steam and I’m sure Ben took it as that." Toni sat at the table. Toni. I was upset at the time and I didn’t mean to say what I said to Ben.“ “Don’t get in a heated discussion with her.” . I planned on going to the police station to apologize. “Sweetheart. Jean. Honey.” he said feeling his emotions creeping up.” he said.

Everything she’ll go through will fall on his shoulders. “I have asked forgiveness from God. Detective Simmons. all six on this side along with her breast bone. Kaleigh. “If you look closer you can see ligature marks around her neck. he’ll be the one to deal with that. if he can find a way to forgive me.” she said without stopping what she was doing. He doesn’t need to think you blame him for this. any luck identifying the body found in the tunnel last week?” Isaac asked as he breezed through the coroner’s office “Good morning to you too. “I do have a few things for you. so hands weren't used to choke her." "True. can you?” Turning away. She was known as a flirt but otherwise was top notch in her field and could pinpoint the cause of death nearly one-hundred percent of the time. She didn't fight back. This was probably made with a belt. Isaac. Her ribs are broken. he has a long road ahead of him dealing with her. "KayKay she's a small woman. “Dr. Significant bruising to her torso is very visible.” Isaac said apologetically.” . and to back that up I found no unusual shavings under her fingernails. Williams pulled the body from the fridge to give Isaac a view of her findings. I compared the imprint to a leather belt. “Um-hum sure you are. When she has nightmares.” she said flirtatiously. You’d never guess she worked with the dead all day. Definitely no fingerprints were found on her neck. Kaleigh Williams. she went upstairs without anything further to say. Williams. Jim.   Dr.” Jean got up leaning forward so she was close to him. The outline is smooth. It wouldn’t take much to subdue her. the deputy coroner for Cuyahoga County had a witty attitude and a very sunny disposition." Isaac interrupted. I swabbed what I could and sent that off to the lab.” Dr. See the dark bruising here and under breast. We have a white female approximately twenty-six years of age and according to dental records she’s Olivia Dawson your missing witness. “I’m sorry. It takes a lot of force to break a breast bone.“You do that Jean.

He's probably identified most of what you’re looking for already. "Her skull has a small fracture along the left side of her head." "Is that what killed her. reports should be back in about two weeks or so. You can check with Rick. Isaac. It's consistent with her head hitting against a wall or floor. I wasn't really sure since I didn't find any fibers on her lower body or the rug. Trace is working on identifying all the evidence now. by any chance was she raped?” Kaleigh shrugged her shoulders. but I'll do it now and let you know. It's like this persons was trying to send a message. The right side on the other hand has a gash about the size of a hammer peen. I sent that to Trace also. Isaac.” “KayKay. Noticing the discoloration on her wrists he asked. KayKay?" Isaac asked." "Damn. “I didn’t test for that.” “Yeah. “Are those burns from rope or another binding material. her toxicology . she snapped in the scans of Olivia's head wounds. "I'm sure that's what did her in. Whoever did this struck her with force then took the time to place her hair neatly over the wound.Flipping the lights to the CT Scanner. nothing compared to Nayla's injuries. The wound is deep enough that it pierced the parietal lobe. “Kaleigh.” he said. she took a good beating before she finally died. before I forget.” In order for Isaac to connect Eric Preston to Olivia's death. It was hidden and carefully wrapped. So far. I’m glad your sister-in-law Also. There were fibers that I pulled from the area that could have been from a towel or some other absorbent material. I should have all the reports back from your wife's lab by then. Usually those types of kills leave the body for us to find immediately.” “Isaac. Doc. Since the body was literally frozen from the cold temperatures in the tunnel.” “Thanks for your help. he had to compare the two women's injuries. could be rope. we got it loud and clear. This one bugs me. If you can find the object. Oh. I place her death about six to eight days ago. it could have stayed there until probably mid-spring early summer before it started to smell. “Isaac. it's sure to have brain matter still on it. Olivia attack was extremely violent." Isaac said shaking his head. we should get together for a meeting in the next few weeks.

“Since you know that’s what I’m going to say. She implicated you and Fire Chief Paul McGraw in a scheme to launder money through Mrs.” Isaac said leaving the lab with more questions than he came with. Why don't you tell me what you do know and we'll take it from there. The last I talked with Olivia had to be a week before she left with my wife. slipping in Nayla’s kidnapping hoping to trip him up. I'm having the FBI's Public Corruption Squad come pay you a little visit. Reporters from all over the state of Ohio took position at the Justice Center waiting for anyone involved in the Franklin matter to enter or leave the building. Judge. If she weren’t working this case she'd probably would fall apart. “Okay I know you’re going to tell me you have no idea how Olivia’s body ended up in that tunnel. but since the police department has no jurisdiction over this particular matter. Judge. “Come on.was found alive.” Isaac drummed his thumb on the table. Isaac questioned Henry about Olivia’s death.   News traveled fast when dead bodies and politicians were involved.” “Thank you. why waste my time and yours? Nothing has changed. Simmons is working and handling this at the same time.” Isaac slid the letter to Franklin with the tip of his pencil. but Toni is determined to get justice for Olivia and now her sister. I can’t imagine how Dr. “Then why aren’t you questioning . Winston Grafton was at a cocktail party you hosted awhile back and he feels you’re holding back information---is he right?” Henry wiped the sweat from his thick brows. Franklin.” Isaac said questioning the Judge. Grafton's construction business. Detective. She and I didn't exactly have a lot of conversations together. KayKay. as he suspected the former judge knew nothing about either. you knew we were holding Olivia and she was talking. Winston since he knows so much?” “We have talked to him.

“Judge. Detective. David Grafton was being investigated for fraud.A.” Franklin shifted in his seat.D. Henry stared back. this is far from over. “Again. I can’t imagine why anyone would hurt her. Wonder why that is?” Isaac said looking him directly in the eye. I saw that on the news and was very disturbed by it. if you don’t mind.” Isaac produced pictures of Nayla. Detective. To make sure the wire hadn't malfunction. People you’re involved with are disappearing or turning up dead. “I don’t have my reading glasses with me. Isaac stood.” Isaac read the portion of the letter that accused Franklin and Chief McGraw of setting up David Grafton to take a fall for them. Now before I answer anymore of these absurd questions. “Nayla Smith---the D. “I meant to say “is”…. Did you hear about that?” Henry slid the pictures back in Isaac's direction. what does that have to do with me or McGraw?” “Was?” Isaac said stopping him midsentence. Detective Simmons. Judge. . I have no idea what you’re talking about.” “Yeah.” “Let me read you the highlights.” Rob waited in the car for Isaac. Smith and would like to think I was instrumental in getting her to join the D. “That’s interesting. you’re right about that. I would like to have my attorney present. I happen to be very fond of Mrs.” “I’m sure as my digging gets deeper I’ll find out who would want to do that to her. As you can see people aren’t exactly flocking to me these days. “That’s all nonsense. he replayed the tape to listen to the interview.’s office. When’s the last time you spoke with Magistrate Grafton? He and his family seemed to have vanished in thin air.” Putting the materials back in the folder.A. Judge. have your attorney call me when he gets here.Henry held the paper away from his face trying to focus on the wording.” “Dig all you want.---you know who she is right? Well she was kidnapped about four days ago but we found her last night. “Yes.look I haven’t spoken to David or any of my colleagues since these charges against me came about. I had nothing to do with any of this stuff you are talking about.

sweetheart. What’s the problem.“So what do you think. Can you ever forgive me?” Ben closed the file he was working on crossing his hands over the top to block Nayla’s name. “He’s lying through his teeth. I want to apologize for what I said to you. Rob. those are pretty deep allegations. Lofton. but I never meant to hurt you like that. Her injuries aren't consistent with Nayla’s. Tensions were high that night. “May I come in?” Ben was surprised to see his mother-in-law. Pictures of Nayla were placed on his desk along with other family photos. I don’t know what came over me that night. “Carl is questioning Eric Preston but I doubt he will talk. “Yeah. You were right though. Lofton. Mrs. “Mrs. I am supposed to protect Nayla and I failed to do that. This was the first time Jean had ever been inside a police station. what can I do for you?” He asked offering her a chair. all I can say right now is we need to get back to the office before our only two suspects connected to Nayla and Olivia end up dead. “What’d you say? Why the hell is Carl questioning my suspect?” “He said you probably couldn’t face him right now and he would do it to save you and Ben the grief. “Of course I do.” “Whoa!…man. “Ben. Awards and certificates adorned the walls of the small cluttered office. Isaac?” Rob said. Isaac. what’s your proof?” “Rob. Carl is technically in charge of this case. He knows what happened to Olivia. Something is up with our esteemed police chief and I plan to find out exactly what that is.” Isaac pulled to a stop. We already know they weren't assaulted by the same person but we can at least try to prove the same person hired these guys to hurt these women. boss turned murderer if I can prove it.” . She noticed Ben had shaven the beard but still looked tired and withdrawn. Have you noticed he didn't involve himself in the investigation of the kidnapping.”   Jean knocked on Ben’s door.” Rob said. Rob.

ma’am. What can I do to help you?” Her voice was warm and for a moment. He truly was a forgiving person.” Ben managed a smile. “I think she would enjoy a visit from her mother. I know company is the last thing she wants right now even if it is her mother. “That’s good. I’m worried about you.” Giving Jean a smile. Belle and Duane are with her. I know we never really got close and I want to change that starting now. You look so stressed and you’re still healing from your own injuries. She needs all of you.” Jean took his hand. I was so out of line with the comment about Manny.” Sitting back in her chair Jean shifted gears.“No.   . “I always felt you were better suited for Nayla and I still feel that way. I always had it in the back of my mind something like this might happen when we traveled but not once we got out the limelight. Jean now saw why her daughter was so in love with him.” She said dabbing the tears from her eyes. I expect rough patches with Nayla’s healing but we’re taking it one day at a time for now. I’ll walk you out. “Ben. she will need a lot of help and I want you to know I’m here to do whatever I can. Ben. “Mrs. I love you like a son and I promised Sharon I would keep an eye on you so please stop being so formal and call me Jean. I had to come in and finish my reports.” She let out a sigh of relief. thank you for coming by. Lofton. “Ben. dear.” Jean tried to hold back the tears. Mrs. I won’t lie to you.” Jean leaned forward so her hands were across his. “Is she home by herself now? “No. she reminded him of his mother.” “I can’t imagine my baby going through this. you do protect my daughter.” “Well I better let you finish up so you can get home. I will stop by to check on her. Speaking of my daughter. My driver is probably wondering when I’m coming back anyway. “I’m holding up okay. Lofton. he embraced her small frame. Ben held out his hand to help her out her chair.

I know I should have called first.Nayla sat at the kitchen table while Belle fussed around. “I’m sorry. Belle and Duane had been at the house since Ben left that morning promising him they would not leave until he returned from work. “Here you go---a nice hot cup of tea. Nayla?” Duane asked. or throwing something is what you feel like doing. then do it. Maybe you should come back another day.” Belle said as she knelt beside her. don’t ever apologize for that. what’s wrong?” She asked in a panicked voice. Nayla tried to cover herself from his gaze. “Are you expecting anybody today. “Could you give her these and let her know we’re thinking about her. You both have other things to do. “You know you don’t have to baby sit me. shouting.” John said handing Duane the flowers and fruit basket he had with him.” Duane said not letting John enter the house. Belle. Kraft. I’ll see who it is and get rid of them. “We aren’t babysitting you.” “Honey. Johnson. “Can I help you?” John immediately recognized the famous athlete standing before him. like taking care of your children or working. Mr. she was not used to people fussing over her or being around the house. I can’t seem to stop the waterworks lately. Belle had a worried look in her eyes.” Nayla bit a small piece of the sandwich Belle had made for her. He didn’t hear them come up behind him. Nayla. Although Nayla adored her sister. “I totally understand. Nayla shook her head.” “She really isn’t up to receiving visitors just yet. You get it out and if screaming. who is it?” Nayla said softly. I just want to make sure you have what you need until Ben gets back.” Belle said sitting the pot on the table. Nayla was surprised to see John standing there. as long as I don’t dream. Duane moved aside so she could see. John stared at the bruises on her face. Belle.” Belle handed Nayla a tissue.” Belle massaged her sister’s shoulders. “I’m doing okay.” “Duane. Duane entered the kitchen. The doorbell rang unexpectedly making them jump. . Duane opened the front door to find John Kraft standing there. “Mr. “John.” He said. I’m here to see Nayla if that’s possible. “You both stay here.

I’ll bury that bastard when I get my hands on him.” he said rubbing her shoulders.” She squeezed back. “I love ya both and thank you for caring about me so much. we’re just finishing up dinner preparations and we’ll be out your hair in a few. Nayla. so much so that John hardly believed it was her. but I’ll be back as soon as I can. “Nothing’s wrong. “Ben." Feeling awkward John felt he should leave. Beside. Nayla. As the days passed he still struggled with accepting Nayla's abduction.” "Don't even think about that. “Are you okay?” Nayla nodded. confident. I want you to take it easy and not worry about the office or rushing back. thin. John. frail. Nayla.” The cars lined the driveway as Ben drove up. I can’t stay hidden in this house forever. give my regards to Detective Smith. but I don’t want to impose on you and Belle. Nayla. They had prepared and set the table for dinner.” John said blinking after realizing he had been staring.“My god. Duane closed the door and turned to her.” He squeezed her playfully. and perfect in every way.” He took a step towards her as she moved behind Duane. everybody what’s up?” He said cheerfully. I'm sure I'll be meeting with him soon. overwhelmed. He was used to her being fashionable. I eventually have to face the public again. I still have an investigation going on. “Hey. Duane. “Thanks. Duane. “Between the reporters and phone calls. We have it covered and I promise to keep you updated on what's going on. "I won't keep you from your visit with your family. “Thank you.” Tina said rushing around. I guess I’m feeling a bit . The family visiting was good for Nayla and he had to put his best game face on before going in the house. not like this.” “You can stay with us if you need to get away. Nayla’s appearance was different. He and Nayla had butted heads often but he would not wish what happened to her on anyone. Nayla. “You and Ben are more than welcome if you change your mind. Can you promise me that. Nayla relaxed her shoulders as she leaned on Duane and Belle for support." John left with a sinking feeling in his heart.

” Ben lifted the lid off the gumbo pot simmering on the stove.” Ben headed upstairs leaving them to putter around the kitchen. “I think that’s a good idea. heading to the medicine cabinet.” “Oh please.” he said. “I think I’ll check on her before dinner. but you didn’t have to go through the trouble. I’m the strong one yet I feel so useless. he was filthy and he forced himself on me like I was a piece of trash!” She started to shake her hands hysterically. “Ben. baby. “Baby. stop---please listen to me…” Ben said trying to comfort her. “She went upstairs for a bit.“Tina.” “Don’t do this to yourself.” He went to touch her as she pulled away slightly. “No! I didn’t deserve this! I remember every disgusting thing he did to me! I can’t be with you knowing that!” She got off the bed. You’ll have food for the next several days.” She crossed her arms as she set up. how can you look at me and feel anything for me? I look at myself in the mirror and see all these damn bruises over me--knowing what he did to me! God. I feel so silly. “She will. “I think I'm ready for help. I thought I could block this out myself but when I close my eyes I relive it over and over again.” He put the aspirin on the table and sat next to her. You have to take it one day at a time like we talked about. “Hey. She sat up turning on the light. Nayla.” Nayla sighed.” Belle answered.” “Let met get you a couple of aspirin. instead. I’m nursing a bad headache. My family is downstairs trying to make things as easy for me as possible and I can’t face them. He found her lying in the dark. “He shattered my very being and he should have killed me when he had the chance. “Where’s Nayla?” He asked. I get to die this slow painful death every day!” . the laundry is done and the dog has been walked and fed for the night. You have enough on your plate as it is. I could have made dinner for us. everything smells great. Maybe Tina could recommend a good therapist and we can go together. “Don’t do that please. God. Ben. Ben. “Yes. Ben. it’s the least we could do. can I come in?” Nayla removed the pillow from over her head.

Its’ taking every ounce of will power not go to that jail and break Preston’s neck. leaving him on the outside again. He jumped back not sure. Let me tell you a story none outside my immediate family knows but Belle. Ben didn’t hear Duane come out. dressed really nice and dated often.Ben shocked at her outburst keep his voice calm and low. Having two brothers at home to deal with was hard for her.” he motioned for her to get back in bed. My parents would tell us to be sensitive and understanding if she lashed out suddenly. She thought the therapist would blame her since she was outgoing. those scars will heal. let me to talk to her. Sharon and Jean waited at the bottom of the stairs. This is gonna take time but with the right treatment. she’ll start to get better. if he should go to her or leave as she’d asked. go downstairs and wait for me. how’s she coping now?” “She’s hooked on drugs because she refused to get professional help. shattering it. Please---just go away and leave me alone!” She picked up a perfume bottle. Nayla’s sisters were standing at the door when he turned around. I am looking at you. please don’t say that-just lie down and relax. baby. “Here…I think you can use this. “Nayla. “Look at me!” She shouted at him running to the mirror ripping the sweater off her shoulders to reveal the deep purple scars. “Nayla. Ben. She’s a beautiful woman. you just need to go now and save yourself the trouble of telling me you want a divorce later. I feel so damn guilty right now.” “Duane. Now my mother says she comes around only when she . Tina came in to help. throwing it at her reflection in the mirror. “Ben. Nothing is going to change the way I feel about you. just like Nayla. Standing on the deck.” He handed him a shot glass of scotch. My sister Kendra was a rape victim. Ben. Belle couldn’t stop crying long enough to make a sentence. Sharon's embrace comforted her son as he held onto her. “It’s not enough alcohol in the world to kill what I’m feeling. ever!” “Everything is going to change. Duane.” “Its’ only been a few days.” Tina closed the door.

“Man. I know he loves me and yeah he will stay and take care of me like a good man would.” “That asshole violated her to the point she thinks I feel differently about her or blame her. Ben. but I can’t be sure I’ll ever be the same again.”   Tina sat next to Nayla after getting her back in bed.” Before Duane could finish what he was saying. Belle came to the door to see what’d happened. “Tina. but are you willing to try? You have to make a decision when your recovery starts. you have to make sure Nayla gets professional help. Nayla will realize she wants you around. Ben hauled back and punched a hole in the paneling of the deck wall. “Stand behind your badge and don’t do anything stupid. Ben. “That’s understandable.wants a meal or a hot bath. Belle. Duane stopped her before she could come out.” “You’re being a bit presumptuous in making that decision for him don’t you think? Did you hear what he said to you or did your tantrum block it out?” “Tina. She won’t be able to cope without it and no matter how much she pushes you away stay with her and take the verbal abuse if you have too. “Nayla.” Ben downed the drink staring into the cold darkness as he listened to Duane. Duane. man. I’m saving him the trouble of leaving on his own. none of us can do that for you. I wish I would have stayed around for my sister. “Let him do what he has to do.” Duane leaned over the railing. Belle has been trying to get Kendra to move in with us but she’s too far-gone. don’t let that happen to Nayla. He’s gotta get it out before he kills somebody and better that wall than a person. Nayla.” Tina held her hand. Tell me why you lashed out like that. We can be here .” Nayla swallowed the aspirin Ben had sat on the table. How am I supposed to stand behind my badge knowing he might have succeeded in breaking her?” “You have to find a way for your sake and hers. talk to me.

” . do you want me to make the call?” He said looking up at her from the microscope. the blood swabbed from your hand matches the blood found at the church last year. It will be painful but you have to relive it in order to get on with your life. but I suggest you do the first couple of sessions by yourself and when you get comfortable talking about it then Ben can join you.twenty-four hours a day or you can hide up in this room. He’s hurting just like you and you both need each other in order to deal with this. Isaac. c’mere! Do you see what I see?” Toni said looking for a second confirmation before getting too excited. “I want to start therapy.” Nayla curled up in a ball. leave him alone for now.” she said wiping her eyes. “No. and Ben said he would go with me. He has his own anger issues to work through. She knew for sure she didn't want Ben out her life but she also knew she didn’t want him to be unhappy or miserable because of her not being able to deal with her attack. DNA samples came back to Eric Preston and not only that.” “I guess I should apologize to Ben.” Isaac said after seeing it was the lab calling. this one’s personal. I have and it will blow you away. “Rick. Can you honestly say you want him to walk out your life and never come back.” Nayla didn’t answer. “Say you have something good for me. Toni. Tina stroked her hair. Coming to terms with it and learning how to place your anger is your key to recovery. Rick. Eric Preston is our third suspect.   Toni finally caught the break she'd been waiting for. “Nope.” She said dialing Isaac’s number. Tina. Nayla. “I sure do. I want you to think about this. “Baby.” “That’s good and I will help you find a good doctor. Toni. none of which is going to change what happened to you.

“Great! I’ll have Brad look at mug shots again to try to identify him. what can I do for you. Toni?” She winked at him before returning to her microscope. “Sir. “I believe I do.” “Thanks babe. anything coming back to him?” “Nada. when he comes in. Carl?” Clearing his throat. he’s telling the truth when he said he didn’t touch Nayla. Adam sighed heavily as he sat behind his desk. not answering his question. since you’re presiding over Eric Preston’s preliminary hearing.Isaac perked up. “Judge.” Hanging up the phone Toni continued to dig for more evidence. What about Lester Greene. he’s been a generous contributor to our biggest political leaders. trust me.” “Hmm okay. “Fine. get him over there to work his magic for us. Bet you lunch he could get it with no problem. between hearings. “She’s more into Warren. I believe you may have benefited from one or two of his contributions--haven’t you?” Finally catching the judge .” Rick stared at her for a moment. Carl had to convince Walker to side with him. why?” “I’m working on a hunch here. you’re a lifesaver. “Rick. You know his father is Victor Preston. “Do I really wanna know this plan.” Judge Walker said as he continued to walk at a fast pace.” Carl said. it will only take a minute and you’ll be interested in what I have to say.” Adam entered his chambers. I was wondering if maybe you could go easy on him. “Chief Conway. There was no love loss between Walker and Conway and this case was making that statement truer as it dragged on. just the man I need to see. this really isn’t a good time.   “Judge Walker. see you later tonight. Williams to give us samples of Olivia Dawson’s blood?” Rick cringed when her wheels started to turn and it involved him. Do you think you could use your charm and get Dr. do you still have those unknown samples from Brad Fisher’s jeans?” Rick scratched his head.

whose side are you on? Why are you fighting for Preston’s kid so hard. Victor's powerful. He did rough her up a bit but if we can convince him to turn over states evidence then maybe we should try to cut him a deal. Has Victor gotten to you?” Carl wished any other judge but Adam Walker had gotten this case. “States evidence against what? What the hell do you know.Adam leaned back in his chair.” . I’ll take my chances with Victor. Adam glared at him. He didn’t play politics or favorites and trying to bribe him was definitely a mistake.” Carl stood to make his point. Adam.” Adam stunned by Carl’s request blasted him. “He didn’t harm Ms. I will personally take pleasure in nailing your ass to the wall.” Carl tugged at his tie nervously as the judge continue to berate him.” “Good. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean when I say that. Adam rolled his chair closer to make sure he heard correctly. “Let me say one more thing. Carl. Carl. “Nothing really. Flipping his pen on the desk. if I find out you're hiding any evidence connected to this kidnapping. Adam. maybe you should concentrate more on helping them and less on Victor Preston’s son. Carl! Plea deals go through the district attorney’s office and I highly doubt John Kraft will be interested in cutting anything for Preston except the rope after he’s hung. “I’m not fighting for Victor’s kid. cleaning them with the end of his tie. All I’m asking is maybe you could take into consideration Preston’s father---” Cutting him off. “What the hell are you implying. You don’t know what you’re up against here. “Out of curiosity. “I can understand John not wanting to cut any deals but it will be awhile before this trial comes up. Wheeler." Adam said sternly. Now if you’re done. Conway?” Carl removed his glasses.” Adam stopped him before he could leave. I’ve offered my services to help him any way I can. Adam. “Victor’s son is accused of a very serious crime and you want me to go easy on him?” Carl jumped to Preston’s defense. "You can let him know his son will not be receiving special treatment from me and I won’t be bribed or coerced to do otherwise.” “Carl. I though I could be a peacekeeper for both sides and I stand behind Detective Smith one hundred percent. I have matters to attend to.

but I’ll be okay. I know you’re new here but let me give you a little advice. Did you need something?” Ben asked a bit annoyed by her presence. Ben jumped out his chair grabbing his suit jacket. but if you need to talk. “Man.” .”   Karrie got up the courage to knock on Ben’s door. knew the botched kidnapping would be the bullet to hit him in the back.” Rob said as straight forward as he could be.” Ben leaned back in his chair.” Isaac burst in Ben’s office unannounced. it’s been a rough couple of days. Taking those women was a dumbass thing to do. Ben. Ben. It can’t be easy for you right now and people seem to forget that the husbands suffer just as bad as the wife in these types of assaults. he had interrupted her visit. she gave Rob a puzzled look. we got a lead wanna roll?” Isaac caught Karrie’s facial expression when he came in. Detective Robinson. “Right behind you. “This ain’t going down like we planned and we need another strategy. here it is---Ben is off limits. he had to find out first-hand what went wrong that night. Putting her hands on her hips.” “She’s lucky to have you for support. Karrie. Karrie. Karrie. “No.” “Okay.” Rob overhearing the conversation between the two cornered Karrie in Ben’s office. Making a call to his contact to clear any lose ends. She sat down across from him. Now get your ass in gear and meet me at Edgewater in an hour. I’m here. I don’t wanna bother you but are you okay?” “I’m fine. I’ll talk to you later. “Sure. “Karrie.Finally escaping Walker’s fury. obviously. “Headaches this early?” “Yeah.” he said putting the cap quickly on the aspirin bottle. “Thanks. Caught off guard Karrie responded. Isaac. Karrie. “Hey. I’m only checking on you. I’ll take whatever I can get. “We were just talking.” “Nayla’s a strong woman and I have no doubt she'll pull through this. Carl.

” “Like what?” Ben asked surprised at Isaac’s elusiveness to give up more information. “He’s up to no good.” Rob rolled his eyes at her. Detective. “Are you serious---why didn’t you tell me this before!” “Ben. Why would he bring you here if he knew what type of cop you are?” “Beats me.” Karrie clicked her tongue at him. He wanted me to call our men off the search for Nayla and let the FBI handle it as a missing person case. he’s connected with Franklin and we have to prove it.” Rob’s face darkened with anger as he moved closer to her.   “Where’re we headed.” Ben felt the heat rise in his face. I just have to figure out what he’s doing or how he’s connected to these two cases. I don’t know Carl that well. Little did he know I wouldn’t play the puppet he was looking for. He’s making it seems like we were close back in New Jersey and that’s not the case. I don’t have a THING for Detective Smith---he’s very married. He probably thought I would jump at the job opportunity and he would have me in his pocket. Ben. If I had said anything he would have got wind of it and changed directions. Everybody around here can see you got a thing for Ben. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Ben. Karrie.” .” Karrie didn’t respond as she brushed past him. “I didn’t want to say anything back there but I have a hunch Carl is hiding something. I’ve been a cop a long time so don’t try to play coy with me. Isaac?” Ben asked. It’s that conversation I want to talk to you about. His wife suffered a horrible trauma and you being a woman should sympathize with that but here you are trying to take advantage of it. I could hear that. “And you care about that? I know what I see. “This will be my one and only warning to you---leave---Ben----alone.“Yeah.” “Isaac. I got a plan that I hope we lead us to what we need to nail Franklin’s ass and get Carl in the process. this man claimed to watch your career over the years.

maybe she can tell us how she hooked up with Preston. Ben shook his head. Ben. there is no way he can afford to live the high life like he is without some kind of backing.” Ben said. but greed will make an honest man crooked in a minute and even though he is Chief of Police.”   Isaac laid out his plan to trap Conway as he and Ben waited in the park. “Donovan. “I never thought he could be involved but you never know a person I guess. He was only able to identify Eric as the other man with them but knew nothing else about him.” Donovan said disappointed. Ready to meet our new PI? . “You left me hanging like you didn’t trust me. I have another PI working the case with us.” “Isaac. he’ll pick up on that in a heartbeat and he knows Mike.” Donovan and Ryan's interview with Brad didn’t go as planned. “True but we gotta find a connection before Franklin and Preston both get away with murder. man. Ben. “Well that went peachy! At least we got Eric in connection with the assault at the church. he’s smart and has dangerous connections. Isaac. “Maybe but he won’t pick up on two tails. we get Mike to follow Conway. to keep the façade up she won’t identify Preston and she sure as hell won’t do anything if she thinks its helping the Lofton family. and why are we here of all places?” Ben said looking around the deserted area. we could be opening up a whole new can of worms.Ben sighed heavily shaking his head. You could’ve told me this before now. If what you're saying is true. man. she’s faking it and if she says anything out of the ordinary she knows the gig will be up for her.” Ryan suggested as they left the prison. that's your plan. man? Carl’s a seasoned cop from the old days. “Ryan.” Ryan nodded in agreement.” “Yup. maybe we should try talking to Bea again. “It’s simple. “What’s your plan." Isaac said looking at his watch.

you took all the good ones with you. he might be involved in a hit and kidnapping of two district attorneys?” “Barb.Barb waited at the far end of the park for Isaac to show up. dude. Barb. and he’s smart. Detective.” Barb shook Ben's hand. this is heavy. “So what can I do for you.” Taking the file from Isaac. that’s a good way to get your ass killed!” Barb snapped in her heavy Jersey accent. “Are you fucking kidding me. “Damn. this Detective Ben Smith. man. My unit is stretched to the breaking point and I don’t want to bring anyone in who might be close to Conway to tip him off. “I thought you had those California good looks. “Barb---man it’s good to see you again. . I was recruited from Los Angeles.” “Miss us--hell. This might be the case to get her new PI business off the ground since leaving the New Jersey Police Department. it will be two of you just in case he does sense something is going on. he’s a former navy seal and is damn good at concealing himself but he worked with us on another case and Conway is familiar with him. Barb.” Isaac said giving her a hug.” Barb nodded. he’s second in command of the unit and will be your contact if I’m not around. Barb flipped through the pages. Is Bronk and Ryan still on the force?” “Yeah they’re still sticking it out and doing a good job. are you home grown?” “Unfortunately no. Detective. one of the attorney’s is my wife. a hot police chief. guys?” Isaac started off by handing her a file folder of information. “Barb.” she said embracing him. Oh. but I do miss the Jersey folks. I think he may be corrupt and behind two unsolved murders we're working on now.” Ben said with a grin. “Dude.” Reading the report on the kidnapping. Barb. Life is good here. “Good meeting you. The other PI is Mike. “Do your best to follow him but try not to be caught. “What’s going on buddy! You're still looking good.” Isaac said. we need you to tail a police chief. Barb's eyes bulged. “Juicy shit here.” Ben said handing her Nayla's file. You two are sure this cop is involved?” “I'm betting my career on it. “I can’t complain. “Gotcha--when will I meet him?” They heard a rattling in the trees when Mike emerged.” Barb laughed.

I don’t want him tipped off by you asking questions. "Okay. Isaac?” “Yeah. I knew she would go through rough periods but not take it out on you personally.” Barb said with a smile. “Talk to me.” “I can get it out of her. “Now that we got that out the way. that’s gotta be hard. let me think about that after we finish this first. I’ll leave you two to figure out how you’re going to handle the tail. She's committed to a mental institution but she’s faking it." Barb said following behind Mike. “We have to get back to the station. I want to keep this on the down low so don’t call me at work and use the cell phones I gave you.” “I’ll be there.” he said not wanting to go into detail about what happened with Nayla. Barb. Mike will take you to your hotel and we’ll meet at my house tonight around eight. Isaac waited until Barb and Mike left before questioning his friend. let me talk to her. Ben?” “Nothing. I know you might not be able to make it.” Isaac dropped his head. Lead the way partner.“Sorry all. “Yeah. Last night she told me to leave. Isaac. Barb. she ain’t feeling me these days. Ben. and I’m still carrying a slug to remind me of that luck. Isaac broke up the meeting saying they would get together later. If Conway is connected to her.” Ben said sadly.” “Damn. I just have to prove that too. Ben.” . what happened between you two?” Ben leaned against the car. Isaac. It’s to the point I don’t know what to do anymore.” “Barb. “Man. “Is Bea still here. no paper trail between the four of us got it?” Barb had one question for Isaac about their former comrade. man you’re having a run of bad luck here ain’t’cha. I’m usually quieter than this. see you guys later. “What’s going on.” Mike smiled as he greeted his friends and made his introductions to Barb. “Ben. Ben and my brother Donovan were the cops she shot.” Ben said wincing from the pain. but I can fill you in later.

that’s okay. “My mom and her mother have been with her all day so maybe she’ll be a bit calmer. . “I didn’t know you would be up this late. “Hang in there. “Well when I get home I’ll find out what egg shells I need to avoid. “She’s not taking her attack out on me.”   Nayla finished cleaning the kitchen when Snuggles scrambled towards the back door. We better get going. Ben.” Ben leaned against the refrigerator. Ben was surprised to find her in the kitchen. “Well we both know what a handful Mrs. man. I had a meeting at Isaac's place and Toni fixed dinner for us.” he said hanging his coat. but she thinks I see her differently. I know how hard this is for you and you know you can talk to me anytime.” He rubbed his head in anguish. “Nah. I ate already. “Oh okay. you know you don’t have to leave every time I come in a room but I'm going to the study to work anyway.” he said playing with the cap on the beer bottle. I try to stay my distance and let her do what she has to do.” Somewhat disappointed Nayla started to leave.” Isaac chuckled.Ben tossed a rock across the water watching it skip across the chilly ripples. I figured I better put it away.” “Thanks. Do you want me to warm it for you?” Nayla said trying to be polite. I left your dinner in the oven but when I didn’t hear from you. “I haven't been sleeping well lately. most likely she won’t care if I’m there or not anyway. The late hour had her wondering where Ben had been since he hadn’t bothered to call to say he'd be late. She couldn’t blame him for not calling or wanting to come home after the way she’d treated him. Lofton can be at times. I’ll go upstairs and get out your way.“ Isaac felt bad for what Ben was going through. “Nayla.” Ben sighed heavily.

I’ll probably go back to California. I would think about Ben and how we met…that kept me filled with hope that I would see him and my family again. Nayla. what happened to you is not your fault or God’s will. “That depends on how quickly this case is cleared. Why don’t you try to get a good night’s sleep. The shame I feel in me!” Sharon embraced Nayla. its’ after midnight. “Its okay sweetheart.” .” Tears poured down her cheeks. when do you plan on resting?” She asked sitting back at the table. He took a long swig from his beer.“Ben. I prayed for death every time that piece of filth touched me but that didn’t happen. Sharon held her tighter. or what you think Ben thinks about you.” She dabbed the tears from her eyes. Sharon. “Well I think I’ve said enough. You will rise above this to carry on with your life.” Sharon released her hands. Nayla. Ben hasn’t been this hurt since his father died. I promise you will. I can’t.” “Sharon---thank you. I know you don’t know me that well and would feel uncomfortable confiding in me but if I may say something?” Nayla nodded offering her a chair. He gave you the strength to fight and you're here because of that. letting her empty the pain she'd been holding in for days. "How can Ben care for me knowing what happened when I can’t stand myself. Sharon stood in the alcove waiting for Ben to leave. “Oh God I can’t live like this anymore. “My son is all I have and I think of you as my daughter.” Closing her eyes. he’ll feel you don’t need him. fears. we aren't going to be defeated." Nayla's voice cracked. I love Ben with all my soul. Sharon sat. “Sharon that man robbed me of every ounce of dignity I had. Nayla. Please don't do this to him. I can’t think of a good reason to stay here if we aren’t together anymore. Ben wants to help you out of love not pity. If you keep pushing him away. “Honey.” “Sharon. sweetheart.” He got up from the table before letting her respond. “Nayla. Sharon tried to hold back her tears as she took Nayla's hand. he feels so guilty about what happened to you and blames himself for not protecting you. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here. It’s not Ben I’m running from…It’s myself. you let your brother-in-laws comfort you but not your husband? You have to go deep and pull out the love that brought you two together and let that overshadow your scars.

Nayla. He had a hard time adjusting to this person who seemed small. Before making it to the kitchen.” She said moving closer to the door to watch him. She poured herself a cup of coffee feeling the depression starting to set in. Thanks for making the coffee. “I was up early. Ben.” she said attempting to sound upbeat.  Nayla tossed and turned most of the night and now the sound of scraping interrupted her sleep. after that. What about you?” “I have choir practice today but I don’t know if I’m going to go. Snuggles played happily in the piles of snow as Ben worked on the far end of the deck. It was the weekend and Ben would be around the house unless he decided to work or hang out at the gym. but I’m supposed to meet Donovan at the gym.” Ben answered. Ben came in as she finished her private pity party. no big deal. She leaned against the counter waiting for him to come back. Deciding to make everyone a nice hot breakfast. She promised herself she wouldn't be distant and to start repairing the damage to her marriage. “I painted the wall at the end of the deck. “Good morning. do you want me to drop you off if you’re afraid to be alone?” . she could smell the aroma of fresh coffee. “Good morning. He had chosen to sleep in the guest room again. If this were a typical Saturday.” he said lowly. I’ll probably stop by the office. weak. Nayla dressed and headed downstairs. She had succeeded in driving that wedge all the way in and Ben was thinking of moving back to California. His muscles bulged from his tee shirt as he lifted the heavy toolbox on the shelf. She had to admit she loved him and she would fall apart if he moved back to California. she looked out the window. I was going to surprise you and your mom with a big breakfast. not the woman he knew. Ben moved around her to grab a cup of coffee. Getting out of bed. “What’re your plans today? I saw you working in the yard this morning. “Nayla.” he replied as he put his work boots in the utility room. they would be lounging around watching television or snuggling like newlyweds but now they were estranged and it was her fault.

“So are you and Ben. “I’ll be back around noon. Belle. now he was unhappy with her. the night he had his blowup with Marcy Stevens. “She and Isaac had plans this afternoon so she couldn’t make it.” Nayla said. I’ll come back after my workout and get you and mom.” Belle said wishing she could take it back.” “That’s okay.” Ben's tone was unemotional and to the point. They are still in that honeymoon stage and should enjoy time together. you leave me no choice but to guess. plenty.” Belle turned to her sister. Please except my apology. “I didn’t mean anything by that. Will that be enough time for you to make it to practice?” “Yes.   Nayla arrived at the church with Sharon in tow waiting for the members to swarm her with hugs and comforting words but to her surprise everyone kept a cool distance and let her get comfortable. She had only seen him look this way once. During the break. Nayla bit her lip to keep from cursing herself. She remembered her promise to tell him how she felt.She hesitated to sit with him and remained standing. Belle picked up DJ and went back to the choir room. You know they’re still on honeymoon phase.” He knew not to make any suggestions. Ben.” “There’s nothing wrong with being scared. Nayla sat with Belle to catch up on events. “I guess I didn’t hide that very well. It was business as normal for the moment. I haven’t been out in a few days and this will be hard enough as it is. “Where’s Toni?” Nayla . Nayla. If you have more errands just let me know. If you don’t tell me what’s going on. Nayla. Tina and Belle directed the rehearsal While Nayla played the piano with the other musicians. and I can’t tell you how to deal with this because I don’t know how you feel day to day. I would like that. I don’t have to be there until later this afternoon. asked. “I won’t have anything else after that. I’m out of line. I know. If you wouldn’t mind.” Before Nayla could answer.

Nayla picked up her bible and stared at the large mahogany cross as tears filled her eyes. “You took a lot of aggression out on that bag. Ben. “Donovan. "Look.” Ben waited a minute before saying anything.   The gym had gotten crowded by the time Donovan and Ben started their workout in the weight room.” Donovan said moving away from him. Closing them. That’s not in my nature.” “Don’t sweat it. He didn’t attempt to talk to her." Donovan said. We can see how her attack is affecting the both of you.” . he held her hand. didn’t mean to hit a nerve. please help me…. she started to pray. “I am trying to deal with it but all its doing is making me bitter and I don’t like being bitter. “My bad. You two belong together. "Father God." As her father sat next to her. you got a lot to deal with. you don’t handle that crap well. “I wish people would stop asking me that! Nothing’s wrong with me. “I owe you and the team a lot. Donovan.” “Look man. Nayla squeezed her dad's hand as she rested her head on his shoulder and cried her heart out. but we won’t sit around and let it tear you two apart either. Donovan. sorry. but instead he started to pray with her. Tina watched from the hall as her sister finally took the steps needed for her recovery. you all saved her life.” Donovan said picking up a set of hand weights.Growing tired of people watching what they said around her. Ben. your wife was assaulted. man. Ben sighed. Reverend Jim knew he wouldn't be able to heal his daughter physically but he had all the tools and time it would take to mend her broken spirit. is everything okay?” Donovan asked jokingly. I didn’t mean to snap at you. okay!” Ben snapped. you and Nayla are family. you feel helpless and being a cop.

“Donovan. She’d been a little too touchy for him lately. “Hey.” “C’mon. what’re you doing here?” Donovan put the weights back on the table. man. “Well there are some things that should be kept apart. “My passion is music and that’s what I wanna do.“Nah. “I asked around about the best gym and they referred me here. “Why be separated when we can all work out together.” He sat on the bench to pack his bag. the unit won’t be the same without you. You only get one life and one chance to do what you want with it. “Wait up. “I try. I’ll meet you out front in a bit.” “Okay I’ll be out front. "Ben. Don. it was a team effort and all of us. I’m coming. Ben wish Donovan would have stayed. you’re so damn hot.” “What a surprise seeing you two here.” “Detective.” “That’s interesting….” Karrie took his conversation as an invitation to stay and chat. Don.” Karrie said interrupting their conversation. Karrie. Ja'Nell’s offered me a permanent gig and I’m seriously thinking about taking it. Moving over on the bench. this case is over. I’m hitting the showers.” “Go for your passion.” Donovan repeated as he shrugged not getting Ben's hint. “Karrie. I didn’t know you worked out here. It could be a lot more fun…you know….” she said squeezing the muscle forming on his bicep." Grunting Donovan revealed his plans to Ben. wished we could have found her before anything happened to her. I’m quitting the force and focusing on my music full-time.pitting the men against the women.a lot of the guys work out here but the women use another gym across town. Karrie. Ben. he didn’t want to be alone with Karrie. baby.” She was close enough for him to smell her perfume. I have to pick up Nayla. not just you.” Ben said. are you purposely avoiding me?” "After . man.” Ben shot him a look." he said to her. he threw the last of his gear quickly in his bag. I gotta get going.

we could be so good together. Karrie! attracted to you like that!” Karrie got off the floor quickly before anyone saw what happened. hearing himself getting loud. Its’ not my fault if you took it the wrong way. I wouldn’t believe the rumors if I were you. Why not take advantage of what I’m offering you.” Believe me or not. Taken off guard.” Karrie pulled off the sweatshirt covering her leotard. and there are rumors going around the station that will be happening real soon.what the hell are you doing. “Whoa!…whoa!…. “You and me. I can make damn sure we never cross paths again!” Gritting his teeth. she was a member of his squad. we only have a working relationship--do you understand me! If not. He’s just biding his time until she dumps you.” He only nodded trying hard to avoid looking at her. I’m married! “I also know your wife can’t satisfy you. exposing her slender muscular body. making her fall to the floor. I don’t want her to be too overwhelmed on her first full day out.“No. “So you’re not flirting with me or going out your way to make sure I have what I need at the station?” “Karrie. why the hell would you even go there! Manny is supposed to be your man. Karrie knew she would be risking her friendship with Ben but this was the perfect opportunity to get him interested. “As far as my marriage is concerned. she straddled him.” he said. I’m not . I called myself being helpful.” she said placing her hands on her curvy hips.” His eyes bore into hers with fury. Pushing him back on the bench. Baby. “Damn woman. Ben.” she asked in a sultry voice before drawing him in a passionate kiss. “Karrie. He couldn’t believe she was propositioning him. but I have to get Nayla from practice. “Ben. I know you've felt the heat between us. after all.” “Seriously? Manny only has eyes for your precious wife. “It’s good to hear she’s getting out. Ben shoved her off him. What are we going to do about it. he leaned closer to her.

Karrie sat on the bench trying to avoid the stares from the members that had witnessed the scene. At home. “Its’ not to late to bring him back. They were made for each other and she had to prove that to them. She caught Donovan shaking his head as he turned away.   “Can I drop you and Sharon off at home.” Ben walked Tina and Belle to their cars before returning to Nayla and his mother. Detective? I don’t believe you have that authority. I have to go. Ben followed her up and went to his room. He stays out until he thinks I’m asleep and he has moved into his old bedroom.” “Nayla. “He’s here. Nayla. “Its’ strained.” Just as Nayla was about to argue her case. He must be running late at the gym.” Tina pulled her sister to a more private area. . Karrie! Stay the hell away from me or you will find out just what I can or can’t do. Tina. “Ben is supposed to be back for us. Nayla shook her head. Ben pulled up. “Yeah right. She had to do something to get them back together before she left town. Tina. Nayla went upstairs to change. Its’ been one year and my marriage is over already. “Might be too late. stop it! Had you not been kidnapped none of this would be happening and you know it.” he said snatching his bag from the floor. “Are you two finally talking?” Tina asked hoping for a positive response. Nayla?” Tina asked her sister. “Are you threatening me with my job. He told me he was thinking about going back to LA if we divorced. I think I pushed him to the limits this time.” “Oh I don’t make threats.” “You’re not going to let that happen are you?” Tina asked matter-of-factly.Karrie stiffened as she felt the sting of Ben’s wrath. If you really want your marriage you better fight for it like you did your life. Tina. Sharon witnessed both go their separate ways.” she said putting her gloves on. he won’t even look at me.

Ben decided to do the treadmill in the exercise room. I think I just need to lie down and rest for a bit. wiping the sweat from his face as he slowed his pace to a stop. “Nayla.” He sat on the floor with a bottle of water. “It was okay. but can I get anything for you first?” “No. Nayla took the water and fresh towels to the exercise room. muscular.” she said with a smile. “How long have you been here?” He said. . he’s in the exercise room. He had his eyes closed and didn’t hear her come in.” “Sure. “I didn’t know you were planning on finishing your workout at home. She loved how Ben moved on the treadmill. “Why didn’t you finish your workout at the gym with Donovan?” He decided being honest with her was the best way to handle the situation.Since his workout was cut short. honey. Putting on his iPod. “Only for a few minutes. “It got interrupted and to be honest it wasn’t the best workout I’ve had. she had with her.” She got off the bike and sat across from him. Their conversation was more of a question and answer session rather than a conversation between a newly married couple. The pain in his side stabbing at him as he tried to keep it hidden. His body was lean. “How was choir practice?” He asked continuing the small talk. I’m not feeling well right now.” Nayla said not looking up. She got on the exercise bike and started to peddle. After a few minutes.” “What happened?” She asked curious now. he turned up the music and started to run--feeling the tension easing as he got in the groove. Sharon. would you mind taking these things down to Ben. “Why didn’t you say something?” She shrugged her shoulders closing the book to give him her full attention. he saw her on the bike. I played the piano and did a little soul searching with my dad. The incident with Karrie had him worked up and burning off the tension would be relaxing. and relaxed as he ran in a rhythmic motion. opening the book. Sharon caught Nayla leaving her bedroom.

as if she didn’t hear it correctly the first time. I’m running you to another woman. Ben. She realized for the first time just how much she was rejecting him. She repeated herself again. “We already established that. waiting for her to unleash another ambush on him. “Ben. only you won’t let me do that for you!” His voice picked up in volume as his anger took over.” Nayla felt her palms burning.” . Everything was cool until Donovan left and she started accusing me of flirting with her. I didn’t want you feeling uncomfortable around me not because I couldn’t deal with what happened to you. She really pissed me off and you know that’s not how I am. I was only trying to be honest.” “Nayla. “You know I don’t blame you. I didn’t tell you so you could blame yourself for this too. “What am I feeling? For the hundredth time I don’t feel pity for you. I appreciate your honesty. I see the woman I love. Do you really blame me for what happened?” He finally let it out. she’s throwing herself at me. Nayla. it was loud and ugly. “What have I done?” He sighed. “What are you talking about. Next thing I know.” He remained seated wishing he hadn’t said anything now.” Nayla waited a minute before facing him.” She got off the floor snatching a towel from the stack. why are you pushing me away? I try to be here for you but you accept help from everybody but me. “I moved out the bedroom to give you time to adjust.” he said taking a drink of water. when I look at you. he asked. Leaning against the wall. “She kissed you?” “Yeah. He had to know the real reason why she was rejecting him.” “Ben. Nayla. I just know what you’re feeling. Contrary to what you think.” Her response had him ready to make a quick exit. “Look. Nayla.“Karrie showed up. you haven’t done anything. “Karrie kissed you?” He glanced at her clutched fists. I had to put her in her place. the woman I married and promised to take care of. kissing me and crap.

” He opened his arms to her and she moved into them without hesitance. “You know what. our marriage isn’t based on just sex. I was trying to protect you when all I was doing was tearing us further apart. Everything you said about me is absolutely true. baby.” Her eyes became teary. but can you honestly tell me you can live in this house and share the same bed with me and not have that part of our marriage present! I want you to think really hard before you answer. “I don’t think you do. “You don’t need to protect me. I love you. Ben. “Wait! Ben! I don’t want you to leave--I do need you. Nayla. I promise we will overcome this. Tell me what you want me to do and I will do it!” “Ben. I don’t want to fight about this anymore. Baby. you’re not the only one that feels that way!” She shot back at him. I am being selfish and one-sided and I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do anymore. “I feel we have more than just the sex part of our marriage too.” She moved so she could look directly in his eyes. what will you do? Will Karrie or another woman handle that for me?” “Nayla. shutting me out in the process. but I don’t know what kind of wife I can be to you now and you deserve better than just half of me. .” Her voice was soft as she spoke between sobs. because you want to do it all on your own.” he said moving towards the stairs. “No. I had no idea I was hurting you this way! Honestly. I took a vow to be here for you for better or worse but its obvious you can’t stand by what you vowed to do. but do you trust me enough. “There have been nights I wanted to comfort you when I heard you crying but I knew better. ”When I can’t make love to you. I’m going to take a shower and get out of here for awhile. Let me help you so we can get through this together. to stand beside you and help you through this?” It was his turn to search her eyes for truth. I can and I’m willing to wait as long as it takes because I love you here first!” He said softly as he pressed the palm of his hand against his heart. Nayla. embracing him tightly. We have a deeper connection than that or is that just the way I feel?” Frustrated he folded his arms across his chest to keep from punching the wall. God. “Believe me when I say I know what rape can do to a woman.He paused to regain composure and to lower his voice.

what’s going on? I got here as soon as I could. “Eric is dead?” “Yeah. “Don.” Isaac ran his hand across his face.” Ben held his breath. I’m going down to the jail to see what’s going on. why?” “Preston turned up dead at bed check. “Ben. I wouldn’t have reason to question Preston without you or Ben with me. I need to talk to you now!” Isaac almost yelled. I need to talk to you for a minute. “Isaac. Rob looked at Isaac sensing something was very wrong. Conway is saying you’re the last one to see him. “What’s up. Isaac?” Donovan asked confused. “Conway thinks Donovan is responsible?” “Ya gotta be freakin’ kidding me! Donovan wouldn’t have a reason to visit Preston and he was with me most of the afternoon. I’m--” “Don. I got a call from the jail.” Isaac said.Sharon closed the door after hearing the heated argument end on a positive note.” Ben found them at the bar.” Ben said stressed.” “Hold on.” Donovan said plopping on the barstool. Seems like someone took care of Eric Preston for us. “Did you see Preston before you clocked out tonight?” “No. “Let me get down to the jail and find out what’s going on. “Yeah makes no sense. . check the logs.” “Why is Carl implicating me of all people. I wasn’t at the jail at all today.” “What the hell!. I wasn’t at the jail today and I’ve been here the last two hours with y’all. bro. Smiling to herself she felt she had completed her mission and could go home knowing all was right between them again.” Donovan said visibly upset of the accusation. Isaac.   Isaac interrupted his brother talking with Rob and Duane at the bar. I finished my paperwork after my workout and left from headquarters.

Preston wouldn’t turn against his own father risking him to lose everything. “Barb came through for us this time.” “Isaac.” Ben leaned against the bar trying to conceal the shooting pain in his side.” “Yeah I know. “Ben. Isaac. It would be too obvious to say you or me did it so he’s going after a family member no one would suspect. Preston’s a bad seed. we know Donovan didn’t do it and his alibi is iron clad. Have you seen a doctor?” . I can’t imagine this is sitting well with him right now.“You and I know that but because Donovan’s close to the investigation and the last one to leave the station tonight.” Isaac paced back and forth trying to think. Ben stayed seated on the floor. “Is he going to point fingers at his own men in order to justify the killing of a rapist and murderer! I say good riddance and thanks for saving us taxpayers a lot of money.” Ben said. “True but Preston’s father is a big player in their political arena.” Isaac shrugged his shoulders. can I get a word with you in private. “We knew the odds of Eric Preston being involved with Franklin for Olivia’s death were good but why have him killed. As he straighten up he suddenly slumped to the floor. Isaac?” Ben asked. we can’t let this crap fall on Donovan. “I told you Carl was dirty.” Isaac said moving to the far end of the bar. calm down. been causing me a little pain lately but I’m okay. Preston would have gone down for kidnapping and rape and not even have to mention Franklin or Conway as the people that hired him.” “What the hell!” Ben said surprised. “I think the bullet moved. I’ll get the others to meet us at my house ASAP. “Ben! what’s wrong?” Isaac said scrambling to help Ben off the floor. Conway’s definitely involved.” “Whose side is this guy on?” Duane asked not knowing the full extent of Carl’s involvement. “What are you thinking now. We gotta get a game plan together. Isaac. “Carl went to Judge Walker to try to convince him to go easy on Preston.” Isaac help him to a chair as Rob and Donovan rushed over.” “Duane. Ben.” Isaac took a seat. That’s why I don’t get knocking him off. “I think you have more than a little pain. I don’t think Victor would blink an eye if he suddenly disappeared and stopped making trouble for the family.

” Ben took off his jersey so the nurse could prep him for the scan. He'll be out of commission maybe two weeks if he doesn’t overdo it. “Do what you have to do. “I understand that and had you not been hard-headed you wouldn’t be here now. Nayla thumped Ben on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. completely healthy this time. if we get that bullet we can compare it to the other ballistics and finally seal our case against Bea. The pain was bad enough that he shut up and did what was told for once.” Isaac said. Baker.” Ben whined. "What did I tell you to do if you got pain all of a sudden? We’ll get a CAT scan and see where our little friend has landed and determine if its safe to remove him now. Lilly. you don’t know where it slipped either. Nayla.” she said to him. “Dr.” “Lilly told you this could happen if the bullet shifted. “Will you be able to handle this.” Able to stand Ben put his foot down.” Lilly said sarcastically as Nayla nodded in agreement with her.” he said catching his breath. Help me get him to the car guys. Nayla can stay with me and Toni until you get yourself together.” “Ben. “If you’re in this much pain. I have cases to work.” Rob said reasoning with him. “Ben. definitely in good physical shape. You’re going to the hospital and that’s an order. Ben.“Nope and I definitely can’t leave Nayla alone now. So you just relax and let the surgeon evict your houseguest. Lilly turned to Nayla.” Lilly scolded. strong. I just want him . “I’m not going to any hospital and that’s final. “Ben. you can’t protect her if you’re dead. baby.” Betty answered smiling.” Nayla shrugged her shoulders. I'll take a few pain pills and I’ll be okay in a minute. the things we see sometimes.” “Lilly. I don’t have time to be laid up again. You’re so hard-headed. “Ben I could hurt you. he’s healthy. Lilly giggled after seeing the nurse’s eyes widen over his perfect form. Betty?” She teased. why did you tell me the pain was from a pulled muscle?” “At first I thought I did pull a muscle from lifting weights.

“Yeah but he’s married so prep but don’t linger. do you two do this to all your male patients?” “Nope. “Do I have to wear gloves?” Betty said winking.” Betty said laughing. Nothing is wrong with you or our family.” “Don’t go there." Lilly said meeting Nayla in the waiting room. Nayla. "We were talking about finally taking a vacation and now this. hard-headed guys. Nayla. he has a wife out in the waiting room.” Toni said to her. you got that right cause if you were. I'm going to talk to your wife now. damaged. Hopefully no acids have cause damage to the bullet.” Ben reminded them as he broke up their joke fest. Lils?" Toni asked. you’re leaving me with Nurse Feel-A-Lot?” “You’re in good hands. "I could really use that bullet if its not .” Lilly reminded her. Ben." “Darn it!" Nayla said pacing the waiting room. “Hey.” “We are doing a lab work up to make sure there is no infection. “This is actually something we knew could happen. Will we ever find peace or is this how our lives are going to be all the time? Just full of drama and dilemmas?” Nayla asked. But poor Donovan is being dragged through hell because of me. "Okay. he’s going to be fine.” Lilly eased Nayla’s fears of thinking the worst. Remember that. I’ll be back after I get your scan results. “We’re running a CAT scan to see if the bullet actually moved or just being annoying. Toni. “Lilly. “Honey. I’d have to say you’re definitely prime rib rare to the touch. “Nayla. A small incision to pop out the bullet and in a week or two. I’m not a piece of meat on display here. If it has moved I’m going to have the surgeon remove it. either. Ben.” “I know that. he'll be good as new and not so cranky since the pain will be gone. here's the deal on Ben.” “What about infection. Toni. I swear something is wrong with me.” Lilly teased as she left the exam room. only the good-looking.” “Wait. Betty. hugging her sister.

Trevi. I’m married to a scientist so I know scientist sometimes keep samples for research or journals." The young assistant coroner said with a smile. “Damn! Is there any chance you kept anything off her body. Ms.” “When did he do that?” Isaac flinched. "He was down here asking questions about her and I asked him to have you call me because I had the rape kit results back. I need a copy of that report when you get a chance. This is important and I wouldn’t ask you if it weren’t.  Arriving at the coroner’s office. "Anyway. Dawson wasn’t raped. Trevi pulled a file from her drawer and handed it to him. Take a look at the bruising around his neck. what are you implying?” “Look.” she said handing him a pair of latex gloves.” Isaac bit his lip. “Can you tell if it was self inflicted?” Pulling the victims head back to rest on the cold stainless steel. Dr. Harris. We're trying to catch a murderer before he kills again.” “Thanks." Harris revealed. Harris. He took it and said he would save you the trip. your prisoner was strangled to death. it wasn't going to be specific to this case but just research. Harris? Maybe to do research on later or for educational purposes?” Dr. “We might have that puppy on the table. before I forget. Isaac.” Isaac raised his eyebrow. But whoever did kill her was a sick puppy. “Two days ago. what happened to our prisoner?” “You’re ruining my love life too.” “Chief Conway already picked it up. Trevi took offense to what Isaac was saying. Harris shook her head. I have to change the names to protect the victims but I didn’t get a chance to change Olivia’s so everything in here is correct. Isaac leaned closer to the body. “Sorry to get you out of bed. Harris. Let me know what you find out. “I'm writing a book.” . “Oh Isaac.” Isaac said removing the gloves. it’s consistent with a hanging. Harris Trevi examining the body of Eric Preston. Dr. Isaac found Dr. “I’ll have to go in and see how bad the trachea is damaged to determine that. but unlike Kaleigh I forgive you. Detective Simmons.” Isaac said pleading. “Isaac.

” Rob said getting up to leave. “It was eight-thirty-four this evening. but why him is baffling me. he's gone for the night. Detective. when I came back from break.” Bronk said shaking his head.” Rob said as they turned back. he’s definitely being set up. and you just saved my ass. but could I have that back when you're done?” Isaac smiled as he planted a kiss on her cheek.   Barb's emergency call had Isaac racing from the corner's office to meet her. Bronk. “There’s no way Donovan was here.” “So you didn’t actually see Donovan at all?” Reggie shook his head. “Good luck with that book. He had the task of tracking down the source that claimed Donovan was at the jail earlier that evening. . get it and let's go. “I dunno know. man?” Rob asked. Donovan was at the bar with us. there was a note taped to my computer saying Officer Donovan Simmons was in with Preston. sure I did.” “Good looking out. The alarm went off in Cell Block C and I had to check it out.” “What time did the alarm go off?” Reggie pulled his log. Rick can process it for prints. “I'll make sure I get it back to you. Reggie said an alarm went off around eight-thirty.” Rob pulled Bronk aside. we should get that note that was left for Reggie. let’s check out Carl’s office.” “Yeah. you know Donovan wasn’t here tonight. Rob. who was here.Isaac took the file. do you have Carl in sight?” Isaac asked.” “Rob. Doc. “Wait.”   “C’mon Reggie. “Detective Robertson. “No I didn’t. “Barb.

Kneeling over his body Carl picked up the shell casings and Jefferson’s cell phone. Jefferson fell face down in the snow groaning.” “You have Victor to deal with. I ain’t kill his kid. The other devices have already been planted in their vehicles.” Parker Jefferson was the man to call when a desperate situation arose. Jefferson.” Jefferson pitched the cigarette in the grass.” “Right! We couldn’t break him out as planned so I told my guy to wait until he was isolated to grab him! I don't make mistakes like that. You botched the kidnapping and now this. Jefferson. If I remember correctly. “You had the order to break him out. Mike is trying to get closer to see if he can hear anything. Victor is not a happy man and when he’s unhappy life as we know it will be limited. “Damn. “I’m outta here. hearing the gunshots. we still have Victor to deal with. Fearing retribution from Victor. he’s talking to a guy in the park. Jefferson to die. you hired that idiot son of his to kidnap that DA.” Pulling his arm away Jefferson started to leave as Conway stood there.” “Wait a damn minute. Conway lit the cigarette before Jefferson could. Isaac. Isaac.” “What’s that noise? Jefferson. It ain’t my fault he couldn’t tell a man from a woman. Carl. your boss just shot this man in the back.” Carl grabbed his arm. Kinda late for a picnic.” “I don’t think they're planning a picnic. Can you pick up any conversation?” “Negative. “Eric Preston is dead. Conway. it ain’t me or any of my associates that took out Preston. Conway pulled his gun and fired two shots striking Jefferson in the back. “We’re in a dark ass park in the middle of the fucking night so there’s bound to be shit lurking. Get to your business so I can get the hell out of here.“Affirmative.” Jefferson said pulling out a cigarette. Barb. Barb.” Carl exited the park leaving . He wasn’t supposed to be killed. waited unit the coast was clear before she approached a dying Jefferson. were you followed?” Conway asked nervously. you better get here quick. “Don’t walk away from me. What happened at the jail tonight.

“Yo man.” Mike said.” Nayla said.” Isaac rolled his eyes upward before getting in the car. “So far. I gotta get to the hospital. go home to Belle and kids. “Is he still alive?” She asked.” Barb applied pressure to Jefferson’s wounds as Mike ran to help her. but disappear as soon as you point them in the right direction. “I could use some coffee. Toni’s asleep I’m not going to wake her for that. “Isaac.” Duane stretched as he got up. “Yeah I got good pictures. I’m telling you he’s lying here bleeding out. I have EMS rolling. you better get rescue out here if you wanna save this man. Demetrius. “Duane. “When I hear he’s okay I will think about it. Barb and Mike emerged from the woods. “How bad is it. He has two GSW’s to the back that probably clipped a lung. This case was taking on a whole new life. Toni and Duane waited for news of Ben’s surgery. he’s alive but for how long is anybody's guess.” Isaac said. Look out for them. Can you and Mike collect any evidence for me?” “No problem but I saw Conway scoop up the casings before he left. He's bleeding pretty heavy. .   Nayla.” "Keep him alive. Barb. did you get pictures of this shit?” She asked. Isaac arrived as the EMT’s started working on Jefferson. I’ll be fine plus I’m staying with Ben when he gets out of surgery. Demetrius?” “Isaac.“Barb.” “I’m almost there.” Nayla told him. Conway is gonna have a hard time explaining this. so get moving. Belle understands that I can’t leave you and Toni alone. did I hear you right? Conway shot the guy?” Isaac said picking up speed to get to the park that was still a few miles away. I’ll be right behind you. how about you?” “That sounds like a good idea.

so don’t say anything to me about it. “Um yeah. I really don’t want to go into that now because you just might be the DA to handle the case and if I fill you in it might come back to haunt us later. We don’t know why Preston was killed or who killed him. .” He spotted Toni sleeping in the chair.” Isaac nodded. “He was so busy placating to me. What is this hoopla about Conway framing Donovan?” Nayla asked. “Conway is dirty. Isaac. Lilly!” Nayla said. Nayla.” Nayla agreed.” “That was fast. Let’s just wait and see what happens. its’ not about you being afraid.” “I understand.” Isaac found Nayla in the private waiting room. We have a strategy in place to trip him up. I’m not afraid anymore. I have a life outside of my home and I want to get back to it. “Well its over and he’s in recovery.” “Nayla. I swear you men are so freaking stubborn when it comes to your health. I hope that he'll bounce back fairly quick and be able to help close this case. “Don’t beat yourself up over it now. “Where’s Duane?” “He went to get coffee. I can’t afford to lose him right now. Nayla. Belle is trying to hold down the fort with the kids and he’s sitting here holding my hand.” “You think Brenda and I might still be in danger? Isaac. call me on my cell if you hear anything before I get back. I can handle myself. You can give it to Toni when she wakes up. I told him he should go home. Nayla and we’re working round the clock to get who did this. I asked him about the pills and he always had an excuse and I believed him. I should have paid more attention to the signs. any news?” “Not yet but its’ only been about forty-five minutes since he went in. Isaac.“I’ll be back in a few minutes. I can’t continue to hide. Here is the bullet all in one piece as promised.” “Speaking of that.” Duane returned as Lilly came in with news of Ben’s surgery. I wish Ben would have paid more attention to his health. I know how determined he is to get Franklin. “Hey. he put his own pain aside.” Nayla sighed. Isaac.

” Lilly said giving them all hugs and kisses before departing. The duty nurse came in to check Ben’s vitals. “Everything is perfect. Would you like a sponge bath after breakfast?” Ben quickly refused. I didn’t mean to wake you but I have to check your IV and get your vitals. Depending on how he feels when he wakes up.” “How’re you feeling? Any pain or unusual discomfort?” “No. “Good morning.” Her smile was bright and warm. “I’m sure they do but--” . Smith. Isaac smiled.” he said blushing. Mr. it’ll help to get the blood flowing. nothing like that.” Lilly said. he can go home sometime tomorrow afternoon. “Now will you all go home please! I will call you when we get home tomorrow. Smith.” Nayla collected their coffee cups and ushered them to the exit doors." Nayla said relived. I can manage to take a real shower on my own. She removed the bandage covering the incision. “Thank God. I’ll have his discharge papers prepared tonight. Baker is discharging you this afternoon.” Giving her his model smile Ben still declined.   Nayla slept comfortably on the chaise lounge.” Ben still groggy focused on what the nurse was saying.“I know! It was right on the surface and with one suction it popped out. “I’m awake.” Ben hadn’t yet realized Nayla was asleep in the room. I’m off tomorrow and will be sleeping in myself but if you need me call me. His private room is ready and you can go up when you want. just a little fog-headed." Nayla said with a giggle.” “Nayla. "Now I can send these people home to get their rest. Mr. "Can I wake my wife before I go?" "Yeah. The private suites were more like mini hotel rooms offering better amenities. get your wife and get her to bed too. I think I'll pass on that. “Your vitals look good. I’ll check your incision. if everything is okay Dr. “Are you sure. I give nice massages with my sponge baths. Yeah.

” Ben said trying to get up.” he said with a warm smile. Mrs. Are you really feeling okay this time?” Changing the subject. Ben this is not about me. You made me see things a lot differently. “Well. back where it belongs. Smith. If our love can withstand this test then I'm more positive than ever we will be together forever.” Nayla responded. “Take it easy big boy. Smith. “Mr. By the way I have something for you.” he said taking a sip of coffee. would you like breakfast? You’re going to need your strength to take care of him.” “I didn’t see you lying over there. “I’m sorry.” Nayla said startling them.” . “You don’t even like golf and I think we have time for the apron strings and screaming kids. She chuckled. One of these days kids will be pulling at your apron strings and screaming to the top of their lungs while I go play golf to get away from the noise. It’s amazing what you get when you’re paying triple for a special room. But I have you to thank most of all.” she said fiddling with the silverware. you can bring the stuff in.” he said holding her hand. “C’mere. I’m ready to go. are you okay?” Ben asked caressing her cheek.” She slipped his wedding band back on his finger. I’ll bring your breakfast tray. I didn’t know you were in the room. Mrs. “I’ll make a special batch for you tomorrow. Nayla. She moved past the nurse to sit on the edge of his bed. Doing this one step at a time with the therapy is helping me. “Coffee will be fine thank you. you've been doing great these last few days. “Nayla. God knows that’s all I want right now. have you been here all night?” Ben asked. “Of course I have. Why wait till this afternoon.” Ben pulled her down beside him. I wasn’t going to leave my husband in his time of need. I’ll be happy just to have a day with no drama.“Nurse. Smith. “That actually looks good.” she said kissing the back of his hand. “I’ve been here every minute.” The nurse said slightly embarrassed. “Baby. she lifted the lid from his food tray.” “Yeah but nothing beats your homemade pecan pancakes. I’ll give it to him.” “I gotcha. “I’m fine.” she said winking at Ben. “There. when we leave this time I’m not coming back here no time soon. Ben.

Shelia. Carl? You know Donovan wasn’t at the jail yesterday. Isaac had him admitted under an assumed name to protect him in case Conway learned he was still alive.” Isaac said not acknowledging Carl directly. “Because he isn’t from Cleveland.” “Is his wife still with him?” Gerdy asked folding her arms.” “I know he’s your brother. where’s your brother?” “Donovan is off today. “Wait. I’ll go check it out.” Shelia said not comfortable with Gerdy’s orders. Isaac. “You know we want him for questioning in Preston’s murder.   Jefferson survived surgery but was so far unresponsive. Gerdy?” Shelia said resetting the monitor. Give them a few minutes then give him his discharge papers. and you’ll do what you can to protect him but we have a corrections officer placing him there last night. Gerdy lowered her clipboard. “Isaac. His nurse started towards the room. that wife of his would’ve been out here by now. “Phfff. he doesn’t need to be here.” Isaac glared at him. Reset the alarm and sit down.” Gerdy said jokingly. “How long are we going to play this game. Trust me when I say the only thing wrong is those two being hot for each other." Shelia said sarcastically. they’re just making out. “Yes and he was fine a few minutes ago.” “Why can’t I find a man like that. “Oh yeah. if anything was wrong. Smith’s room? Gerdy asked.” . don’t bother checking then. is that Mr.” “Gerdy.The alarm from Ben's room went off at the nurse’s station. he just had surgery maybe something really is wrong. Sheila.” Gerdy let out a hefty blow of air. "She’s in there and didn’t appreciate me flirting with her husband. “Honey. Carl stormed in Isaac’s office.

Don’t cross me or your ass will be out looking for another job and your flunkies you bought with you. stay out of my way. you’re wrong. “Tell me. you seem to forget I bought you here.” Isaac stood up to tower over the little man. I talked to the CO. “I don’t know yet. Carl. if you think for one minute you’re going to pin this rap on me or any of my men. It’s no coincidence the suspect in your sister-in-laws abduction ends up dead and you all are working the case. Isaac. He had to have that bullet removed. feeling a little agitated bout something? Could it be Victor breathing down your neck?” Carl stepped back. He’s in the hospital. Carl. What makes you think it has to do with this case. Just to let you know. Didn’t think I would be this way did you?” “I’m warning you. Carl! What in God's name do you think you can do to me?” Isaac eyes were hard as steel. I’m hoping the body I found in the park last night will lead me to his killer. You know he didn’t kill Preston.” “Your brother is on desk duty until we clear this up.” Isaac chuckled at his remark. You were on duty. you didn’t hear about it?” “Dead bodies show up in parks around here all the time. “What body?” “I had a call about a DOB last night.” Isaac--losing his ability to stay calm asked bluntly. Conway didn’t answer as Isaac’s took his stance against him. “You really are reaching for straws. but when I find out you’ll be the first to know. By the way. why are you so hell bent on framing my brother for Preston’s murder?” Carl flinched.” “I’m not in your way. Isaac. Carl. “Get the heat off Donovan because you know he didn’t do it or I’ll have to question your motive in trying to frame him. he never saw Donovan last night. I’m working a murder case.“Carl. Carl. Man it must be hard to be a goldfish in a big tank of sharks. Donovan has an ironclad alibi that can be backed up by me and at least fifty other people. “What’s wrong.” Carl stammered.” Carl froze momentarily. “Don’t fuck with me Simmons or—“ “Or what. Ben won’t be in for a couple weeks.” . “Are you questioning my authority.

I bet the first place he goes is to the morgue. My little muffin probably missed me last night. “Thanks for taking care of her.” Nayla said hugging her dog. “Hey they sprung you already?” “Yeah it wasn’t major surgery. A little nip and it came right out. “I know you two want to talk.”   Donovan was the first to greet Ben upon his release from the hospital. When he sees that isn’t Jefferson he’s going to freak out.” . Donovan.Carl's expression dropped further. that will be another case closed. The citizens of this city will be thrilled to know me and my flunkies are doing such a great job. “Cool man. I'll be upstairs if you need anything. “Yep now all we gotta do is watch him try to get out of it.” “It dislodged. “KayKay will have a nice surprise for him when he arrives. its good to see you upright again. Ben. “Why? I thought the doctors said he could manage with it. “That’s exactly what I want him to do.” Rob said sipping his coffee.” “Have you heard anything?” Ben asked.” Isaac said patting Carl on the back. “I think I got his cage rattled. “Yeah. I just let the dog out. I would’ve walked her but I didn’t want your neighbors calling the cops on me. Rob.” Isaac said with a smile. it was a shooting at the park last night and according to Isaac the shooter was none other than Carl. She’ll call us if she finds anything.” “Carl doesn’t know Jefferson is alive. Once ballistics is done. Let’s head over to the park to collect more evidence. you’re one tricky s-o-b. “Feels good to clean up crime quickly.” Isaac took a cleansing breath through his nose.” Donovan said with a grin.” Isaac said entering Rob's cubicle.” Ben explained.” “Isaac. He was definitely smarter than he thought and realized he had made a mistake bringing him here. Conway knew it would only be a matter of time before Isaac had it all figured out. Toni has Jefferson’s car at her lab.

“Get the heck out of here, Don. Who was the victim.” “Some cat named Jefferson Parker. Mike and Barb followed them but couldn’t really hear the conversation. Guess Jefferson was leaving when Carl shot him.” “Has Carl been arrested?” “Nope, he doesn’t know the cat is still alive. Isaac thinks this dude might be the hit-man that took out Preston so he’s letting Carl sweat.” “Damn. What about you? Has Carl given up the concept you killed Preston?” Donovan leaned back in his chair. “For now, but I’ve been assigned to desk duty and limited access to the case.” Ben had to think for a minute. ‘That doesn’t make any sense, you’re not connected with the murder. Why is Isaac letting Carl bench you unless he’s making him think….nope, he’s waiting for Carl to make a mistake.” Donovan suddenly put his credentials and gun on the table. command, Ben, I’m turning my gun and badge over to you.” “Don, don’t do this, man, you’re a good cop and we need you.” “I can’t do it anymore, Ben. The incident last night was the final straw. Do you know how hard it was for me to stay here last night and not go to the jail? I don’t belong on the force. I only joined to get my parents off my back about a career. My heart is with my music and it took Nayla’s kidnapping to let me know police work is not my calling.” “I can’t make you change your mind, Don, you have to do what’s right for you but can you wait until this case is over?” Donovan paused before he spoke. “I guess I can do that. I don’t wanna leave y’all short on man power since you’re out for now.” “I’m back in a week and thanks for sticking it out. You really should talk to Isaac about your decision. I don’t wanna be the one to tell him why you’re leaving,” Ben said giving Donovan back his stuff. Donovan started to lay out his future plans. “I will. I might head to New York if things don’t pan out at Ja’Nell’s.” “Don’t do that, Donovan.” They both turned to see Nayla standing in the stairwell. She had tears in her eyes. “You’re second in

“Uh, Nayla, I didn’t see you there.” Donovan stood up as she came in the kitchen. “Donovan, I don’t want you to leave especially because of me,” she said. “Nayla, that’s not the reason I’m leaving.” “Please, let me finish," Nayla said standing in front of him. "I’m sorry I can’t make any of this go away. Donovan, I don’t have any brothers and I think of you as my little brother. The thought of not being able to see you or have you nagging me about singing would be devastating. Please don’t leave Cleveland. I’ll use my connections to get you started in the direction you want to go with your music. I’ll do whatever you need me to do but I can’t let you walk out of my life, not like this.” Donovan somewhat shocked, stood dumbfounded. His family wasn’t close and

definitely didn’t show emotions towards each other. He and Isaac were the only two that emitted human compassion towards others. shrugged his shoulders. Walking over to her, he hugged her. “I’m not going anywhere, sis. You’re family and I love you guys too much to leave you.“ She held him tight. “Thank you for saving my life, Don.” He felt tears coming to his eyes as he kissed the top of her head. This is what family togetherness felt like. There was no way he could turn his back on this.   “That was a little emotional,” Ben said, getting undressed to shower. “I meant everything I said, Ben.” “Baby, you can’t make him stay if he doesn’t want to.” “I know that. Ben, I wanted him to see he has family that care about him, not just Isaac and Toni. Are you jealous?” Nayla asked tilting her head slightly. He gave her a grin. “No, I’m not jealous.” Nayla leaned against the bedroom door to tease him. “Yes you are. Honey, I have to watch women throw themselves at you all the time and you’re having a problem with me hugging Donovan.” He looked to Ben for an answer. Ben only

“I don’t have a problem with you showing affection for Don. Baby, I’m not the jealous type; maybe Manny gets under my skin a little. “Before you go stomping Manny, I was nineteen years old when we met. My feelings for him now are nothing more than friendship,” Nayla said sitting on the bed. “I do appreciate him assisting you all with the search.” He sat next to her. “I guess he’s not so bad. Those other women you mentioned, are wasting their time, because I only have eyes for you.” He kissed her slow and tender. “Ben, you just got out the hospital.” “And that matters how?” “Mmm I guess it doesn’t.”   Conway checked the body at the morgue; it wasn’t Jefferson. He didn’t know what Isaac was up to but he had a feeling Isaac knew something and he had to find out what. Jefferson’s car wasn't at the park or the impound lot. Now Carl wondered if he’d actually killed him or just wounded him enough for him to get away. Victor Preston called his cell again. “Carl, what’s going on? I’ve been calling you all morning.” “I’ve been busy, Victor, I do have a police department to run.” “What are you doing about my son and the cop who killed him?” “Victor, that cop didn’t kill your son; I believe a man named Jefferson took out Preston and is framing the cop. Whoever hired Jefferson did us a favor. He was killed last night in the park, his body was recovered this morning.” Carl lied. Victor paused before he spoke. “We need to talk in person, Carl. I’m finding your change in stories to be unbelievable.” “I’m telling you, Victor, your son was in danger to begin with. “Get over here now, Conway, or you will be facing danger! God knows I wouldn’t want anything to happen to your daughter or grandchild.” “They don’t have anything to do with this, Victor.”

“You should have thought about that before you had my son killed!” Conway had to get his family out of town and fast.   Eric paced the small basement waiting for his father. He had to get out of town before anyone realized he wasn’t the dead son of Victor Preston. His hunch told him those two detectives might have that figured out already. How stupid could the Sheriff be to put him in the same cell with his twin brother Steven. He hadn’t seen or spoken to his brother in three years and now he was dead and it was because of him. “What took you so long?” Eric said attacking Victor as soon as he entered the room. “Shut-up and listen.” Victor spewed.” It’s because of you we’re in this mess. I have a private plane waiting to take you to New York where you will catch a flight to Africa to the Seychelles Islands.. My contact will meet your plane and give you new identification.” Eric questioned Victor’s actions. “How am I gonna get on a plane with a dead man’s ID? Don’t you think they’ve figured it out by now?” Victor glared at his son. “As of today they hadn’t and that’s a chance you will have to take. Now get your stuff and get out of my life for good, Eric. You and your brother have been nothing but a disappointment to your mother and me.” “Dad, its not my fault that Steven was killed. I wasn’t even in the cell at the time.” Victor became enraged. “You’re the son's of a prominent businessman and you both opted to live your lives like common thugs. How dare you say it wasn’t your fault! All this is your fault! Only you could be stupid enough to kidnap the wrong county official. Instead of letting her go you beat her and sexually assaulted her!” Victor said throwing a duffle bag at him. “That wasn’t supposed to happen. I was drunk and she provoked me. I swear I didn’t mean to hurt that woman.” Eric pleaded to his father. “You’re pathetic! I can’t stand to even look at you,” Victor said smashing his cigar so hard it cracked the clay ashtray. “Were you drunk each time you had your way with her?"

Victor paced slowly around Eric shaking his head. "Her husband is a detective! Her father is a well-respected minister that I've worked with on several occasions. Both will stop at nothing to get you once they know you’re alive. I suggest you learn the language and get used to the food in Africa. God knows you will never step foot back in the United States again; at least not alive.” “I was doing your judge friend a favor, dad! He came to me about Kraft. You should be pissed at him not me!” Victor pressed his finger to Eric’s chest. “I’ll handle Franklin personally for involving me in this mess. As for you, I don’t ever want to see you again and don’t try to contact your mother or sisters; do you understand me!” “Yeah, I understand you. This shouldn’t be any different than my childhood. You didn’t want me and Steven then and you sure as hell don’t want us now. I won’t fool myself into thinking you’re mourning Steven’s death either.” Eric picked up the duffle bag unzipping it. It contained a passport, money and other necessities for him to start a new life. Victor gave him a quick grin. “I did more for you than your real father ever did. The ten million dollars I’m spending to get rid of you is a small price to pay in my book.” Eric looked at Victor stunned. “What do you mean my real father!” “You don’t honestly think I would sire such degenerates like you and your brother!” He took off his glasses, wiping them clean. “I should turn you in myself, that way you and your father can rot in hell together.” “Who are you talking about, dad? Who is my real father!" Eric said demanding to know. Rearing back on his heels Victor tugged on his suit jacked before revealing the long-time secret. “I’ll tell Henry you said goodbye.” Eric stunned by the news stood silent. “Henry Franklin’s my father? You’re lying! Mom would have told us that!” “I married your mother when Henry dumped her; never thought twice about her being pregnant. You and your brother have caused nothing but problems for her. Steven is gone

now and you’re about to be out the picture. Your mother can finally get the peace of mind she deserves and concentrate on what really matters--your sisters.”

Eric felt his heart sink. Henry Franklin probably didn’t have a clue he was a father and it wouldn't make a difference anyway since he was going to trial for murder. It was obvious now why he and Steven were so different from Courtney and Maryann. Victor was right he was a disappointment to her and the best thing he could do was leave. “No contact, Eric. You have enough money to live comfortably if you don’t blow it on booze and cheap women.” “Yeah, whatever, Victor. pleasure already.” Before boarding the plane, Eric sealed the box and dropped it in the mailbox. If Victor was bold enough to have his brother killed, the least he could do was avenge Steven’s death. Relaxing on the plane as it taxied down the runway, Eric smiled to himself. His detailed letter and videotape to Detective Smith would give him everything he needed to get Henry Franklin, Victor Preston, and the powerful cartel of corrupt politicians that ran the city.   Ben’s first day back on the job picked up where it left off only with him feeling better and pain free. John arrived at Ben's office as requested. "I'm here as summoned, Detective Smith, what can I do for you? He said taking a seat. Ben closed the door before starting their conversation. "John, you are aware that Nayla is planning on returning to work soon." "Yes, I got her email telling me she would be coming back next week I believe. Is that a problem for you, Detective?" John asked concerned. "John, you need to block her return. I know that sounds bad but she could still be in danger and with her at the office and me out on the streets, there is no way I can protect her. You know that kidnapping was supposed to be for you and until we find out who killed Eric Preston, Nayla could still be in danger." John took a deep breath. "What do you want me to do, Detective. By the way, you're making it sound like I need to watch my back too." I would thank you, but I can see you're getting enough

"You do, John. At this point, it would be too risky to try another kidnapping attempt on you, but you should be aware of your surroundings. As far as Nayla goes, I need you to fire her temporarily or better yet, get her to quit." John sat forward. "Are you crazy! She built this case and if I fire her, we might as well let Henry go free. She is the only person that can bring Henry to justice, Detective, not only that, if I let her go the media will have me tarred and feathered. They don't take well to women losing their jobs after they’ve returned from such an assault. I don't mean any disrespect when I say that, Detective, but there has to be another way to protect her." Ben stood up. "John, calm down. Let me try to explain why I'm doing this. What do you know about David Grafton?” John's face frowned. “Not much really. He’s a magistrate judge who tried to run for a permanent seat but failed. What does this have to with Nayla? "I'm getting to that, just humor me for a minute and answer the question please." Ben said. John relaxed. "Okay, I'll tell you what I know. His father, Winston Grafton, is a retired businessman but still active in the community. Come to think about it, Winston and Franklin golfed with Conway often.” Ben crossed his arms. “Didn’t you golf with those guys at one time?” John nodded. “Yes, I did. I admit we all hung in the same political circle but I started noticing things and decided to separate myself from them.” “What kind of things, John? Did you know Franklin had problems in his marriage or had a mistress tucked away?” “Detective Smith, I know you've done your homework regarding my connections with those guys, but I stopped hanging out with Henry when he didn’t seem concerned about Ramona. He was taking her death all to lightly for me.” “Is that right?" Ben picked up his coffee mug. "Not concerned enough for you to start any kind of investigation though. Her kids came to you for help and you did nothing for them, John.”

“Not true, Detective, I told them I would talk to Conway about it. Conway and Henry are friends and Conway wouldn’t even talk to me about the situation. I had my suspicions but this all took place in Paris where I had no jurisdiction or right to investigate Ramona's death." John became agitated. "In actuality this should have been investigated by the FBI in the beginning but Henry declined to involve them since he said was it was an auto accident and the Paris authorities handled it. Can you tell me why the questions concerning David Grafton?” “He’s missing. No one around housing court has seen him or heard from him or his wife in weeks?” Ben asked waiting for a response. John raised an eyebrow. “That's news to me. I don't deal with David since he works with housing matters and I do criminal.” “By any chance did Judge Franklin step into that position before he was removed from the bench entirely?” “Ben, I don’t know but I can get you a copy of his calendar prior to his removal from the bench if you think that would help.” “I’d appreciate that, John, whatever clues we can get will be helpful. Fax that info to me at this number.” Ben handed him a card. “Not a problem, Detective, I’ll get on it right away.” Ben stopped him before he could leave. "John, I need for this to stay between us. I'm just getting back and have a pretty heavy load going right now. Detective Lopez will be contacting you for any follow-up on Judge Grafton. Make sure you don't leak any of this to anyone especially Nayla. Telling her to step away from a case because of the danger factor is like giving her the green light to charge in full steam. Your firing her or making her quit is the only way we can keep her safe." John dropped his head. "Right, Detective. What about Ms. Wheeler. Is she safe for now? "Brenda shouldn't have any dealings with this case either so reassign her or make her take vacation time. She will be a witness when this comes to trial. I hate asking you to do this but I think you get the picture now." "That I do. I will find a way to piss Nayla off. It shouldn't be hard since I'm not really one of her favorite people anyway. I'll be in touch, Detective," John said leaving.

we haven’t touched that case in weeks. “Umm.  Nayla sucked in the fresh air before heading into the D.A. I’m going to talk to John. “You’re back?” Brenda said surprised to see her. “She’s back!” Brenda said as she and Margo toasted coffee mugs. have you talked to John lately?” ”Not since I sent him the email I was coming back.” “I wish I could but I’ve been working domestic cases that clear up before they ever make it to court. I'm supposed to meet with him later this morning. “Welcome back. Nayla.” Throwing her briefcase in her office.'s building. I didn’t know you were coming back today. took all the files to his office.” Brenda said. Nayla. Nayla stormed out to confront John.” “This is unreal. “What do you think you’re doing. “Good morning ladies. Now I know we aren’t going to be able to get caught up in a day but I have been working from home and I know you two have been working with John so we can start there. did you bother to read it?” “He removed me and .” “I sent you an email.” She stood at her door wondering what was wrong with them. She hadn't stepped foot in the building in two months and wasn't sure how she would react to being back until she actually sat behind her desk. Brenda.” Nayla straightened up.” He looked up to a see Nayla standing in his office. “Yes ma’am and we have lots to catch up with.” Nayla breezed through to her office as usual.” Margo sat twirling her finger through her long hair. John? I thought we had an understanding that I would working the Franklin case once I came back. If he thinks he’s taking my case from me he has another thing coming. “Tell me that’s a joke. “Nayla.

John.” “Do I? I only know what you said. John. we’re working a high profile case and names keep popping up that could easily lose this case for me. I had to take control of the case before it slipped away and Franklin walked!” Nayla’s eyes burned into his as she spoke through her teeth. Had you been here that night. Nayla. Your brother-in-law has been named as a person of interest in Eric Preston’s murder.’s office now?” He didn’t answer. we wouldn’t be having this conversation now would we!” “That’s not what I meant. I know it’s been hard for you lately. “Look. “I don’t have any dealing with Victor and I don’t appreciate you thinking I do.” “You’re unreal!" Nayla said pacing. John!" Nayla said closing the door behind her. I’m the District Attorney and it’s my job to make sure this office runs smoothly. do you think my image is bad for the D. do you?” “Nayla.” “Bull. "You look me in my face and tell me how you have my back then you proceed to stab me in it at the first chance you get. John? Is Victor Preston pressuring you now?” Getting angry John didn’t want to reveal the truth to her.A. “Answer me. you know that. Why are you really doing this.“I guess I missed that one. What kind of press do you think that would bring to this investigation?” She glared at him. “I will get you the rest of my files.” She walked out his office without letting him say another word. I’ve done all the leg work and now you want to take it from me just like that!” “That’s not true.” He took off his glasses and sat back. Nayla. "We had an agreement and you knew I was working on this at home. John! As far as the press. I did what I had to do.” Nayla's body shook with anger. Nayla. You haven’t been able to fulfill your duties. I know what’s going on over at the station. “Donovan has been cleared of any wrong doing concerning Eric Preston and I’m sure you know that. . “I’m so sorry I got kidnapped instead of you. I decided to take the case because now you will be a material witness. Nayla.

I thought I could deal with the pressures of this job but obviously I’m not doing that very well so today is my last day here. . Gathering her composure. I can’t do this anymore. “You know you two have been my backbone these past few years. I still want to do that. Neither of them approached her as she slammed her door. my best friend. You made this case and now you’re going to let him have it just like that?” Brenda said as she felt tears fill her eyes. so be it. Nayla? This office won’t be the same without you. because I have a feeling you’ll be back to finish what you started. she decided this was the last straw and she wasn’t going to play the politics that came with the job. can you promise me that?” The messengers arrived to take her things to her car.Brenda and Margo overheard the conversation just as everyone else had in the office. she asked Brenda and Margo to come into her office. Brenda. My marriage was suffering and you. “I came here with you because I thought we could clean up the city. I don’t need this kind of pressure when I can do others things with my life.” “Nayla. but I want you to be careful and watch yourself. you can’t let him do this to you. I have to go. it doesn’t matter as long as the result is a conviction—either way we win. was almost killed. but this is it for me. John watched from his window as she drove away. I’m going to stick around for now. I work for the county. it has taken more from me. “Brenda. If he wants the glory. Throwing her personal belongings in a box. Margo. Nayla. and accolades then. “Yeah.” “Don’t count on that. Typing out her resignation. I did what I was asked to do for this particular investigation. Margo said as she started to weep. He hated the fact he had to let her go in order to save her life but she had suffered enough and he wasn’t about to let her die for Henry Franklin. she made a copy for the mayor and called the messengers to pick up her boxes.” “So you’re really leaving." Brenda sat quietly. I’ll help you find employment within the Lofton organization if you like. It had already cost her too much and it was time she took control of her life once and for all. as hard of a decision as it is. I want you and Brenda to know if you decide to leave. I’m tired of the power struggle and I’ve given my best to this job but in actuality.

that’s about it. “I love it when a plan comes together. Isaac. Lopez. We’re trying to keep this under wraps for now. Lopez. He’s been following leads on the whereabouts of Judge Grafton and his family. I actually like being a part of your team. make sure you’re there when they land. I will know it came from you.  “Hey boss we got her.” Isaac said returning the same grin. I’m not in his back pocket. “You’re kidding me.” Isaac laughed. I don’t want her to meet a fate like Olivia did.” “You are aware he’s a flunky for Victor Preston? The Mayor has warned him numerous times about being seen with him.” “Look. how close are you to Carl?” Isaac had to know if Lopez could be trusted.” Lopez had a grin the size of Texas on his face. Lopez. Even though Ben is back. Take only Bronk. Isaac. “Look I need to know I have your complete trust because the shit is about to hit the fan and if this gets back to Conway.” Isaac eyes lit up.” “Isaac. I know Carl is responsible for Preston’s death and he’s definitely kneedeep in this Franklin mess somehow. “I didn’t know that tidbit but I’m waiting on Judge Walker to sign my arrest warrant for the attempted murder of Jefferson Parker. “I wouldn’t say we're close at all. Argentina’s finest tracked her to a motel last night and turned her over to the US embassy this morning. “Lopez. but you handle the follow-up your way. “You want me to do Ben’s job? I’m glad you have the confidence in me. Lopez. but Ben’s a daredevil and I’m too old for stunt work. “Yeah he’s a little extreme.” “Soon as I get confirmation I will be there.” Lopez started to leave when Isaac stopped him. Rob.” Isaac closed the door.” “What about Donovan?” . I don’t hang out or golf with him if that’s what you’re asking. I had a problem when he overlooked me to bring you here but I got over it. John Kraft gave him information that still has to be checked out. We work together. he’s not yet one-hundred percent. “Anna Dalton is enroute as we speak. or Ryan when you head out.” Lopez said.” Lopez leaned back in his chair.

Trevi did the autopsy. not make things harder for you guys. “I’m starting to spend more time with you guys than my wife and quite frankly people are starting to talk. Williams make a positive identification before signing the death certificate?” Ben asked. yet the cards are stacking up against Eric Preston and Conway. “If Toni hadn’t discovered this. We’re only trying to do our job.” “I know. I want Donovan with me so I can keep my eye on him. “I hear you. Isaac.” “I’m not blaming the lab. it takes time but because you have people involved you care about. we would have closed the case thinking Eric was dead. “I have a few questions for her myself if she would return any my calls. I'm blaming the coroners’ office for not making the discovery. She was now on a mission to identify the dead twin brother. bro. Its not like Dr. Williams to do sloppy work. “Don't tell me you think they got to her too? We can’t afford to keep having people disappear on us like this. why didn’t Dr. Isaac. I feel your urgency for getting that closure. “I understand.” Ben gave Isaac a worried look.” he said with a half grin. If I don’t hear from Dr. Dr. “Isaac. Rick nodded in agreement.” Isaac said with disgust in his voice. Rick.” Rick said. “Every time I think we get a step closer we get thrown back two steps.” Isaac said. Rick. Until this is over.” “I think she might be on vacation.” Isaac said.” Ben joined their conversation. Isaac threw his hands up in frustration.   Toni finally had all the test results back since finding the body wasn’t that of Eric Preston. Plus. Conway is suspicious that I’m onto him. man.“He’ll be working with me. Franklin’s trial is starting in a few weeks and we have nothing concrete. She asked Rick to call Isaac to fill him in while she went to the coroners’ office. I’m blaming myself for not being able to outsmart these assholes once and for all. Good thing my wife works here or I would never see her. My worry is Victor will . Williams in a few days. I’ll send a couple of uniforms to her residence. which is unlike her.

” Ben butted in. nail clippings. did you notice the hair? This guy’s hair is a lot darker than Eric’s. If Victor has the body cremated we still have enough DNA to do whatever testing I can think of. Isaac or your ego. I specifically remember Eric having lighter color hair and more straight.” Rick explained. Rick. We know for a fact Eric had an alcohol problem. "All our evidence proving that's not Eric will be down the drain…no pun intended. “Uh you two forget you’re working with brilliant scientific minds here. “Voila! I have hair samples. “Not to burst your bubble. Isaac. “What are the odds of that happening. the body didn’t smell of alcohol. I could kiss you!” Isaac cheesed.” Rick said strutting to his station. “Good catch.” Rick said bowing. Like Ben said everything should be the same including hair. “Rick. Take a closer look at their features. since this is a twin everything will match won’t it.” “Rick. “Au Contraire my good friend. Alcohol abuse takes a toll on the body so hopefully the twin was a druggie or had some other addiction. man. ample amounts of plasma and other bodily fluids on ice.” Isaac said. For both brothers to be in jail at the same time says they weren’t model citizens and second.” .try to cremate the body before we make the identification. Even if they are identical twins there is a slight chance a few traits will be different. Now maybe this twin was vain and didn’t like his hair. skin tags and last but not least. I will screen for toxins when I do the biopsy on the liver.” Ben said.” Rick pulled Eric’s mug shot from the folder. “Pretty good according to the reports I got from the coroner. as loving as that sounds. “This is why I'm sure they’re not identical twins." Rick listened to the conversation between the two detectives before intervening. Luck might have it one twin could be carrying some type of genetic deficiency or disease. Warren did notice scarring on his arms and legs which means he was a drug user and not really a heavy boozer.” “If he has the body cremated we're screwed big time. Rob is getting a warrant to keep Victor from removing it from the morgue.” Rick said showing them photos. We can thank my right hand man Warren for this. a simple thank you will suffice. “Detective. Rick?” Ben asked confused. especially the eyes.

It was an honest mistake. “Ben! Seriously. Rick and Isaac watched Ben throw his private tantrum. Changing into a satin and lace negligee. Nayla tended to last minute details. Ben? When I confronted Eric. Now unless Eric wears color contacts. he headed up the stairs. she sprinkled the . Isaac. Putting his ear to the door. The autopsy report has green eyes for our deceased twin. she unpinned her hair and fluffed it out. He’d talked to her that morning and she didn’t mention leaving work early. “Nayla.” Rick said removing the sharp objects out of Ben’s reach. you need a real vacation. Christmas decorations sat in the middle of the floor untouched. The kitchen was empty except for Snuggle laying in her bed fast asleep. “On the arrest report Eric’s eyes are blue. He headed to the living room. Lighting the candles around the tub. I agree with you on that. identical. Whatever happened to good ole fashioned gang wars!" Ben said dropping his head on the table. conjoined— ugh---its too much. “Nayla. you here?” He called out. Pulling his weapon.Ben compared the two photos against the arrest report. these boys aren't identical but fraternal twins. it too was empty. Rick put his hand on Ben’s shoulder. Ben checked the family room. how did we miss this?” Ben said looking at Isaac. are you up here!” He called out louder. This is my expertise so I look for these specifics just like you look for your clues. the last thing I thought about was looking at his damn eyes. Ben.” Isaac said sarcastically. he listened for any unusual sounds. The door was closed. “Did you look at his eyes. “Yeah. “It really is a detail you overlook until you have a body in front of you. First checking the spare bedrooms and offices he headed to the master bedroom.   Ben pulled into the garage to see Nayla's car. after this is over.” Isaac said leaning back.” “I don’t know if my brain can take any more of this! Fraternal. I’ll run samples on the hair for chemicals but I doubt this dude was into hair dyes.

Looking at the clock it was almost four-thirty he said he would be home around five. “How long have you been here?” “Since this morning.” Moving away from the subject Ben admired the silky attire. I have tell you something.” she said smacking her lips. are you alright?” He asked looking around the large bathroom. Enough time had passed that Nayla wanted tonight to be special for their first time together since her attack. Ben looked around at the romantic setting she’d prepared. “Ben.” “Why. Ben had waited patiently and never pressed her for anything other than hugs. He pretty much told me I've been ineffective these past months and lost focus on the case.” “I didn’t hear you come in. I was busy in here and have the music on. Nayla jumped to her feet startled as her heart pounded. She had yet to tell him about quitting her job. Nayla? Did Kraft say anything to you cause you to do that?” “Ben. “Who the hell does he think he is?” . He sat down his wine glass.” he said kissing her. Bursting the door open to the bathroom Ben ran in with his gun drawn. “I’m fine! What’s the matter?” “I come home and can’t find you anywhere downstairs. She was ready to be a wife to him again and her therapist agreed that she should make the first move. “What is it?” “I quit my job today.” she said. Nayla relaxed against him in the warm bubbly water.” “You did all this for us? I apologize for scaring you but when you didn’t answer my mind wandered. she hoped Ben would come straight home. you look beautiful. “What’s all this?” “I thought I’d surprise you with a romantic bath for two. “Nayla. After all her hard work.rose peddles in the swirling water. “Baby.” Ben pretended to get angry.” he said putting his gun away. he took over my case and reassigned Brenda and Margo to Domestic Relations.

I gave him a piece of my mind along with my resignation. Can you do that for me?” She asked concerned.” “I’m on my way.” She turned the semidecomposed skull towards him trying not to separate it from the rest of the body. doesn’t mean I have to be happy that John Kraft is getting the glory instead of you. it read a little after three. you can always count on me to be by your side no matter what.” she replied. I think I can handle anything.” “I need you to see this to the end. maybe in a way he’s right. Smith. “Baby. it’s me. Now he’s going to take credit for a conviction he didn’t lift a damn finger for. but up until that time. KayKay?” Isaac asked. which meant this was not a good call. “If I had to guess Isaac. He looked at the clock. Ben. That ordeal took a lot out of me physically and emotionally. Just put them away so we can move on.” “I love you.” She snuggled against his chest. Ben. “It’s okay. Mr. Smith. that takes balls. Mrs. “I love you. .She tried to calm him down.”   Ben’s cell ringing woke him from a deep sleep. We still have to convict Franklin and get justice for Ramona. that’s all I’m asking. I would say about two or three months from the stage of decomp the body is in. He stroked her hair.” He looked over at Nayla who was fast asleep. “Detective Smith.” “Nayla. Nayla. Without you pushing and digging. I thought I was doing a good job.” “You were doing a good job.” he whispered.” Ben said in a deep voice. “Ben. baby. we wouldn’t have any evidence. Isaac we found David Grafton at the South Chagrin Reservation. Blunt force trauma to the head could be what did him in. “How long do you think he’s been here. “With you by my side Ben. “I’m your husband and support any decision you make. I’ll do my job. He didn’t feel a need to wake her as he left quietly.

any signs of his wife and kids?” Ben said approached him. he probably won’t talk. KayKay. If this was done by the same person. Rick came upon the scene kneeling over the shallow graves brushing the debris away lightly---not to disturb any evidence. I’ll let you know more once I get him on the table.” Ben said “This is Rob’s area of expertise. we might have more bodies. With Conway missing in action Jefferson might be willing to reveal more than he's letting on. why can’t these crimes take place in the summer. Isaac was stunned at the find. Isaac sighed. The first one probably in her late thirties to forties.” Isaac said stepping out the puddle of ice forming under his feet. why different dumpsites? I think we should to talk to Jefferson. the other slightly smaller so I would guess early teens. he’ll get him to talk. “Hey Detectives.” “That surprises you that people don’t want to get involved? Anyway. Man. “Definitely two females. “I think we found them. However by mistake or on purpose the killer left David Grafton’s identification on him. but if Victor Preston is behind this.“Yeah something big definitely hit him on the head.” Ryan called out from the woods. get flood lights and Rick out here. “A couple of hikers found the body earlier but waited before calling us. The crime scene people are coming.” “Isaac. “What the hell? Ryan. Crime scene technicians worked quickly to pitch tents to preserve any evidence that hadn’t been washed away. what do you think?” Rick looked disgusted.” “True. Ben’s here and I have to fill him.” “I’ll get Rob on it.” Isaac said.” KayKay said. “Rick. The male is probably . it’s freakin’ freezing out here. Olivia was found in the tunnel and Grafton on the opposite side of town. could be a no-win situation. hopefully they can find the object around here somewhere.” Three makeshift graves lay under piles of dead leaves and snow. “Isaac.” Ben said. “Thanks. “Nothing yet. I’ll talk to you later.” Isaac said. over here. The cold rain falling made their recovery efforts difficult. I don’t get people being scared to call us when they stumble across scenes like this.

Isaac. “How is that possible?” “Yep and according to the letter. The older female is wearing clothing more fitted for a mature woman. I hope to find that out. “Isaac.” he said. Rick. you know we should give the wives a call to let them know we’re okay.” Rick said smoothing the shirt out to read the slogan written on it.late teens early twenties. “We’re almost done here. the jewelry would most likely be taken and not left with the bodies. Grafton was a cohort of Franklin’s. We've been gone a long time without checking in with them. The bodies are very decomposed. I don’t think Eric Preston did this by himself.“ Ben suggested. The emblem looks like a band of some sort. “Judge Walker received this letter written by David Grafton this morning. “Are you sure this is from David Grafton.” Lopez said. These bodies are in bad shape. The crime scene people can take it from here. “I don’t know.” “Pretty sure of that.” “Damn.” “Isaac. “I think its safe to say we know who they are. we should start with Franklin's list of goons first. Lopez stopped Isaac and Ben before they got in the door. “Simple. “Yeah. Dr.” Isaac said looking up at the full moon. you might be right about that. he’s saying a lot about a certain police and fire chief.” Ben said. The male on the other hand has the clunky sneakers and a tee shirt. do you think Preston had this whole family killed?” Rick said looking over the shallow graves. Rick.” Isaac said standing up. Isaac. The other female has bangle earrings and clothing for a younger girl.” Isaac asked. Lopez?” Lopez shrugged his shoulders. . “Got a major problem. how are you able to give an age range just by looking at them. “That’s what it says. If this were a robbery or a professional hit. I’ll call her back. Williams will know more when she does her preliminary.” “It’s dated two months ago and Walker received it today?” Isaac repeated.” Isaac took the letter. Eric is a rapist not a murder.

“Ben. Isaac. this is deeper than I thought.” Ben rubbed the stubble on his face. man. what are you talking about?” “When Victor called Conway to express his anger about his son being murdered that put Conway in a position. “Tell me what you’re thinking. “He’s implicating them in a lot of stuff here. “Eric got greedy by kidnapping Nayla and Brenda blowing the top off the original operation. the work was sloppy and they left too many clues. money laundering. I know it seems like that but Nayla and Brenda are vital to this case now.” “Isaac. Ben. Conway knew it would only be a matter of time before we knew it was him that killed Eric. Ben. When Carl couldn’t implicate Jefferson. wake the troops for a meeting.” Ben said.Ben took the letter from Isaac. do you think we would be looking for Kraft’s killer?” “Most likely.” . Isaac.” “Eric was only supposed to kidnap Kraft until Franklin’s trial was dismissed.” Ben said annoyed. Victor made a mistake and now that can of worms you mentioned has been opened and its up to us to close it.” Isaac said rubbing his hands together. Victor got pulled into this after Eric’s so-called death. The list goes on to name names and places of meetings. Corruption. “If Nayla and Brenda hadn’t been at work. he had to find someone else to blame so he tried to say it was a cop connected to the case.” Isaac sat behind his desk.” “Lopez. here’s Jefferson’s name as a hit man. We couldn’t let that happen. This caused Victor to go after Conway for involving him. Now Victor is out for revenge for being dragged into Franklin’s web of murder. “Ben. So not only did Victor put it out that Conway was involved. I'll call the FBI to get over here. Whoever killed that family was not a professional hit man. If that hadn’t happened we wouldn’t even know about the corruption scam.” “It’s comforting to know that I had to lose a part of my wife in order to crack this damn case. bribery. “Only Preston wasn’t buying it being Donovan. Carl would be using our department to do his dirty dealings. We’re going to need lots of coffee for this mission. As they returned to the station Ben was still a little in the dark.” Ben interrupted.

Isaac. including me. if Nayla feels her life is in danger. I’m the last person she would expect to keep anything from her. "You're asking me to keep lying to her and that ain't cool. . “When she finds out I’m the one that had John get rid of her. I hope to God all this secrecy will be worth it. John did what I asked him to do and took the case from her. Franklin’s family and also to bring closure to his own family once and for all. Isaac felt bad for Ben. I didn’t have the heart to tell her John knew that kidnapping was meant for him and this was his way of protecting her. not after all she's been through.“I’m aware of that. He never mentioned Nayla’s rape until now and he could tell it still affected him.” Isaac said. my marriage will be history. "You put me in a bad position. She should be used to having those guys around since they practically lived with them when they toured.” he said grabbing his jacket. She wants these guys caught and it’s our job to get them for her.” Ben said." Ben held his head back in disgust." Ben stood up. Toni gave me the names of their former bodyguards. “Ben. “We almost have this wrapped up. slamming his chair against the desk. "When she finds out Eric is alive she will hit the ceiling taking everything in its path with her. but how am I supposed to keep it from Nayla that Eric Preston is on the loose.” Isaac said. she’ll lock herself away. Isaac. How will that be good for her. We can keep a better eye on her if she’s home. I had to act pissed off when she told me she quit. I'm telling you this is how we have to handle this until we catch them. Ben. “Well. its not her job anymore. This way she’ll stay mad at John and not feel a need to rush back to work. Ben sighed. What am I supposed to say when the bodyguards show up out of nowhere?" Ben shook his head. She’s just now getting comfortable with being out in the public again. You will think of something to tell her about the bodyguards.” Isaac had to find a way to make Ben understand what he did was right." "You did what you had to do.” “We have to let her keep thinking that.” “Isaac. Ben. man.” “We’ll get protection for Nayla. I lost a big part of her because of that damn rapist. she’ll never forgive me for this shit. He wanted to close this case for Mrs. she will get her job back. Ben.

“Sounds like you had a full day. Tina came by with Belle and the kids and we hung out. not able to make eye contact with her. This case has taken a completely new twist. Lopez’s voice blared on the other end. we could end this fairly quick if she’ll cooperate. Tired. “You’re the reason I survive out there.” she said pouring him a cup of steaming coffee. baby. “I figured you’d might be hungry. sorry I didn’t get a chance to call.” Nayla nodded as she followed him upstairs. “Cool.” He held out his hand when he stood up. I’m sure he’s running from Victor. he came out the half-bath to find Nayla fixing him a plate of food. with all these people disappearing will we even have any witnesses to give to Kraft?” . Do you have any leads on Conway yet?” “Barb lost him at the airport. “I’m just glad you’re home safe. cranky and hungry. Guess I'm not that hungry after all. “We got Anna in a safe place and hopefully she’ll do what’s right and testify against Franklin. Lopez. He picked at his food.  It was nine o’clock in the evening by the time Ben got home.” She rubbed the back of his hand. But in other news the fire chief is now missing in action. His cell ringing jolted him from an otherwise restless sleep. I think I’ll grab a hot shower and hit the sack.” Isaac sat up trying to clear the cobwebs from his head. “Has everything been okay around here?” Nayla saw the stress on his face.   Morning came no sooner than Isaac’s head hit the pillow. “Everything is fine. “Yeah I am.” He squeezed her hand. She wouldn’t press him for information on why Tiny and Hughes were sitting outside their house all day. you’ve been at work for hours.” she said.” he said sitting at the table. “Can you lay with me until I pass out? I just need to be near you.

I think I need more than coffee to get me going today. “Don’t do this again. She and Isaac hadn’t be intimate in weeks.” Toni said putting the cup on the nightstand. but this case was wearing on every fiber in his body. baby. “I don’t know if I should. Give me an hour and I’ll be in the office to discuss this with you. Toni stood in the doorway concerned about her husband. a little exhausted maybe. I know I haven’t been around much but neither have you.” With her arms folded. Don’t make me have to worry about us. “Thanks.” His deep breathing mellowed. I guess I am too wrapped up in this case. He was too young to be graying around the temples. Not moving Isaac threw an arm over his head.” He sat up letting the bedding fall enough to reveal his bare muscular chest. “Yeah.” Isaac closed the phone and laid back on the pillows.” “Isaac this job is killing you. “I bought you a cup of coffee. I completely forgot. Toni. We are so close to finishing this. “Damn.A. remember. We are in this together.Isaac held the phone to his head in disgust after that news.” She stood next to the bed pulling her robe together for warmth. I know you want to get these people but at what expense?” “What are you talking about. I promise I will make it up to you if you give me another chance. you’re exhausted and have lost more than just sleep. baby. she frowned at her husband. Toni. Isaac. you’re in the office buried in files or on the phone. did you remember we had dinner reservations last night? I waited two hours for you!” Toni's temper remained even but she wanted him to know she was mad that he was ignoring her. His weight loss and distant demeanor had her worried he’d taken on more than he could handle. .” she teased. “We have evidence against Franklin and with Anna and Jefferson in custody the D. Staring at his handsome face made it hard for her to be angry with him. You’re never home and when you are.” “Isaac. maybe I should have dinner with him instead. She couldn’t wait until this case was over and just maybe she could talk him into an early retirement before his job killed him. Toni? I’m fine. shouldn’t have a problem putting him away. Toni bit her lip. the delivery guy has been flirting with me lately. Gus. “I’m starting to wonder if you even notice me around here anymore. Lopez.

” she said with a little victory dance. Let’s get over there before she changes her mind again. I have more pressing business to take care of right now.” Agent Blackmon cornered them in Isaac’s office. “You’re kidding! This is the break we needed. I’m going to the hearing.” She stopped to exchange greetings with Agent Blackmon. Dalton to talk and she’s ready to make a deal.” “Lopez can wait. let me see if I can deliver in thirty-minutes or less. “Yes. baby. I totally forgot. I think your presence will really help our case if you came with us. what can we do for you?” Isaac asked. “Oh. I didn’t think you would actually be going to the hearing. you’re both here this morning. “We got Ms.never mind…like Isaac said. why are you here---what’s wrong?” Ben asked her as she entered Isaac’s office. he maneuvered himself until she was beneath him. that seem to upset her.” Ben said pulling her aside.” Isaac said equally pumped. “Detective Smith. she whispered between kisses. “Ya know every time I get called in on these meeting…. I want Eric to see he didn't break me and I'm more determined than ever to put him away for life. “Is that right? Well. let’s go see what she has to say. she’s only doing this because I told her about Detective Smith’s wife and Olivia Dawson. She turned to Ben.” Nayla stopped by the department on her way to court unaware Ben and Isaac were meeting with Agent Blackmon that morning. “Your office was empty so I thought you might be with Isaac.” . “Um.” Responding to him.Pulling her down on the bed.” he said pulling the covers over them. “Agent Blackmon.   “Good. “Nayla.” Ben hesitated for a minute. Isaac. Ben. “You told Lopez you would be at work in an hour. “The preliminary hearing was rescheduled for this morning remember?” Nayla said realizing she had interrupted a private chat between the three.

Ben? Is that why I have my former bodyguards back all of a sudden? Does Brenda know. “Please tell me you wanted me to know and disagreed with them about keeping it from me. I knew it was wrong for us to keep it from you but we didn’t want you to panic. Isaac?” Ben couldn’t take seeing her hurt and left the room. baby but--” Ben tried to find the words to tell her. “Baby. . The body recovered from the jail was his twin brother. It took Toni and Rick awhile to figure out the mystery surrounding the body.” Agent Blackmon said jumping to Isaac’s defense. “That monster is out there somewhere and you were going to let me believe he was dead.“I would go with you. Eric’s twin brother. We were more worried about you since you suffered the most.” Isaac said kneeling in front of her. When she looked him in the eyes she knew he wouldn’t be able to lie to her. Smith. How could you lie to me about this!” She cried out. Ben.” Nayla froze. I asked Ben not to tell you. “Nayla.” she said with a sad look in her eyes. Toni even thought it best we not say anything until she was sure. “Nayla. we only had you in mind. Trust me. How long were you going to let me think he was dead. I want to see him. what?” She said as he fumbled over his words. “Why didn’t you tell me when you found out. Brenda knows the truth. We don’t know where Eric is right now. she felt around for a chair. We have reason to believe his father got him out before police could identify the body as Steven. Feeling faint. Ben returned to the room to face her. “Where’s Ben. “Ben. He hated lying to his wife and knew this would happen once she found out. A tear ran down her cheek.” Nayla said taking a tissue out her purse. Nayla slowly to face him. One being Eric Preston isn’t dead after all. we are certain Eric has left the country. Nayla pulled her hand away not wanting to be touched. there have been some new developments. “Mrs.” Isaac said holding her hand. as she closed her eyes not able to look at either of them.

Isaac and Agent Blackmon gave them their moment by leaving the room.” He handed the letter to him putting the tape in the VCR. “What the hell is going on?” Isaac said as he ran in. “This stays between us until we can verify everything. “It’s over. in all my years of law enforcement I have never seen such a powerful coupling. He and Isaac watched the tape as Eric stated this was to be used as his confession. I didn’t want you to start living in fear again. Isaac still in shock stared at the blank television screen. the Lofton women are strong. Eric had taken enough from you. man. As he started to read the letter. independent and most of all forgiving.” Stacy said smiling.” Isaac said. I didn’t want him to take all of you. “Damn I'm glad she has that support.” Agent Blackmon said to Isaac. I’m not just saying that because I’m married to one either. Baby. he felt his pulse race. please forgive me. In the bottom of the box was a letter addressed to him. Baby. she held him tight as he nestled his head on her shoulder.“Nayla. you were getting out and back to yourself.   Ben finally opened the box that had been on his desk for more than three days. He would not be returning to the United States for fear of his life but everything he was saying was true and would be outlined in the letter. Eric appeared on screen. its finally over. “Wow. “I’ll have Toni run the letter for prints to make sure they belong to Eric. The box contained a videotape that was not labeled. When you fall in love with them. . “Stacy.” he said so softly that only she could hear the sincerity in his voice. He yelled for Isaac to get in his office. He looked for a name or return address but nothing but a postmark from New York was stamped on it. I honestly did want to tell you at first.” Isaac said realizing he had been neglecting his own wife lately. “You’re not going to believe this. you are with them till the end. Then I saw your progress. we were only trying to protect you. Wrapping her arms around his neck. If this tape disappears we’re done.” Ben took the tape out the VCR.

A. She has me worried with her back and forth decisions. man.” “Franklin’s not going to consent to a DNA test. you can thank your son for bringing you down. Jefferson isn’t budging on that issue. Henry?” Tom paced the room. she either really cares about Franklin or she’s scared out her mind of what he might do to her if he’s set free. As far as Anna goes. to offer Jefferson a deal but we might have to go that route.” . you know we have to go to the D.A.” Isaac put in a call to Rick. that could take weeks to generate.” Henry said. We don’t have that kind of time.” “Isaac. Victor’s not as smart as he thought. I had no idea she was pregnant when we parted ways.” “Ben.“Isaac. Eric and Steven Preston before going to Kraft. stop worrying.   Henry Franklin sat at his desk knowing his time was about up.” Ben stressed. There's no way I can get DNA proof Kraft has dismissed. “That was a long time ago. “Why didn’t you tell me about you and Victor Preston’s wife. with this.” “Yeah we get our convictions for Victor and his crew but we still need to get Franklin for Ramona’s death. we already have Eric and Steven’s.” Isaac assured him. before Victor married Beatrice.” Ben said stuffing the videotape in his briefcase. “Who would have thought Eric would be the one to bring down the cartel. “All we need is Franklin’s DNA. “Well. “Well right now we got the strongest evidence we’ve had in months against these guys and we need to let John know so he can get word to the Mayor about this other stuff.” Isaac said smoothing down his neatly groomed goatee.” Ben put the letter and envelope in an evidence bag. Tom stared out the window wishing he could jump to end it all. “I want a DNA profile on Franklin. I hate for the D. “We’ll inform the right people as soon as I have backup to go with it. I got this bro.

they did find something.Henry pounded his fist on the desk.” “Think again. “You were an attorney for how many years? The prosecution has an ironclad case against you." Tom said laughing." Tom held his finger up stopping Henry from speaking. you can't stop em' till the very last one falls. You played the game for two years.” “I'm just supposed to give up now. “Yes. Tom.” Tom shook his head in amazement. “That boy has done drugs for the better half of his life.” “Henry. You didn’t even try to get any of this dismissed." “I will not admit I killed anyone. Henry. they don’t have anything on me concerning Ramona’s death and whatever evidence they have is very circumstantial. .” Henry said smiling back. Henry! Starting with Ramona's car accident and ending with that kidnapping!" Tom broke out in a merry chuckle. I do hear things and I know they couldn't find anything on me. Have everything the prosecution has retested and with the right results this time. Tom. not one trace of a drug or drop of alcohol. Whoever you hired to knock off your boy left behind a crucial piece of evidence and its singing like a bird. God only knows what they have to say about you. That first domino has fallen and once they start. In your case. Tom slammed his fist on the desk. "Because of your greed. He might have been a drug user in the past. are you listening to me? They have forensics showing your son was clean. a lot of other people are going down. can’t you throw that in your defense. "This is what I want you to do. Tom. Tom? I didn’t know I had a son and I can’t change that if I wanted to. This trial is supposed to be about Ramona! Not about my past relationships and not about some botched kidnapping either!" Henry tapped his thumbs against the table.” Henry’s face swelled as he tried to lay blame on poor representation. but no drugs were in his system. Henry! The FBI has Anna Dalton. they have two song birds just waiting to tell it all. "Victor should have kept his mouth shut." Tom said backing away from the desk. "Wait you haven't heard the best part yet. They also have Ramona’s children. get our own forensic testing. "Nothing persuades a jury more than a person sitting on a stand and telling all your dirty little secrets first hand. the gig is finally up.

he squinted.” Toni said relieved. I’ll call if I get anything. I personally hope you rot in hell. Isaac needs it now. Henry. Toni. “Are you feeling okay. I could use the break.” Tom's leer turned cold. why don’t you go home and get some rest. You were nothing before you met me and look at you now! Big time defense lawyer with numerous wins and all because of me!" Henry grabbed the letter opener from his desk." Tom didn't blink as he spoke. Rick. "I expect you to be at that trial as my attorney and we better win or you will live to regret it. You're nothing but an old man trying to remain in power by bullying people. I will not be a part of that. if possible. "You killed three people for your own selfish needs.? You look a little flushed. I might not be able to say anything against you but I can resign and as of this minute I am no longer your attorney. Tom. Now you get to sit on the other side of that bench and feel what its like to have those twelve people decide your fate. "You better be thankful for client confidentially laws. "Only thing I regret is being involved with you. “Are you sure. “Hey. Henry. You’ve been at this for hours.” “Don.” “Cool.” Henry's face went blank. I have a letter that Isaac wants prints ran on ASAP.“I did everything I legally could.” . “Go home. He would deal with Tom after the trial was over. I better get this to Rick. “A little tired but other than that I’m okay. She rubbed her temples. 'You're going to leave me just like that! After everything I've done for your career.” Rick began helping her clear her work area. you’re sixty-five years old facing a death penalty.” Donovan said feeling her head.   “Toni. but even I have my morals!" Tom said angrily.” Rick said. we can handle it. Donovan came in the lab just as she was about to leave. Pointing it at Tom." Henry could only watch as Tom let the door slam behind him. Rick will handle it I’m leaving for the day. Toni.” she said standing aside so he could enter.

“What's in it. its from Eric Preston. “This is way more important than my headache.” “No and I don’t think that will ever happen.” Ben said hitting the play button on the machine.” “Unfortunately that’s not the case but he’s nowhere near Cleveland. Ben offered her a seat on the sofa. “By any chance is he going to turn himself in.” Donovan said. I don’t know.” Ben said sitting the vacuum against the wall. we have proof of that now.” Nayla relaxed her hands briefly. I should have something in a few hours.” Ben slid the tape in the VCR but didn’t hit play. Normally I wouldn’t do this but you worked on this case and got the majority of the evidence against Franklin so I thought you were entitled to see it before a jury. “Ben. Nayla.” “I think he would want you to go home if you aren’t feeling well.” Her body tensed when Ben mentioned Eric’s name. we’re trying to see if Eric Preston really sent it. “Oh my God. All I know is its supposed to be from Eric Preston. “I’ll call Isaac as soon as I get any results. I received a letter and this videotape with Eric confessing to the kidnapping and rape. “I got a package a couple days ago only I didn’t open it until today. Donovan?” Toni’s curiosity got the best of her. When did Ben get this?” “Toni. “I’m all ears.” She took off her coat and went to straight to work. “What are you doing home in the middle of the day?” “Baby. “I didn’t read it.”   Nayla stopped vacuuming after seeing Ben. Toni shook her head.” she said. I have to talk to you. That’s the . urgency.” She took the letter from him. please tell me he’s been caught. He also implicated his father and others in a whole bunch of stuff we didn’t even know about.

Ben raised an eyebrow.” “Tom’s a lawyer. he can sue Tom. Ben. if Franklin ever found out about that.” Ben said.” “Are you going to tell. information and I hope John doesn’t know either. I’m so glad I won’t be involved with that ordeal. stop and don’t tell me anymore of this please. “Yes. he knew what he was doing. In the process of doing so. Baby. He won’t be disbarred for that. He’ll strike the corruption until an investigation can be done by the FBI. but Judge Walker will want to see it. I’m just glad its’ over. Nayla switched off the tape. Ben wrapped his arms around her to comfort her. “Me too but we still have to get this admitted as evidence. Ben. she’d seen enough. Even though I’m not working this case. Now I know you don’t like to do things underhanded but Tom assured us he would not be Franklin’s attorney by the time this came to trial.” she said leaning against him. he will definitely fight this. The IRS is threatening him with prison time for tax evasion." “You know Tom will be off this case before it comes to trial.” Nayla shook her head. All he did was mention Argentina and Franklin let the rest out the bag. I heard that. The woman was the same age as his daughter for god’s sake!” I can’t know how you gathered all your He agreed to help the FBI get Franklin to admit Anna was hiding in . “Ben. I will be a witness. “He might defend the guilty for a living.” Nayla’s mouth dropped open. Nayla.” Nayla paced. but he handed us Anna Dalton. we got a lot more than we asked for. Nayla. Nayla?” Ben asked annoyed “We promised to get Franklin and it looks like that will happen.Nayla didn’t feel any relief after watching Preston express remorse for what he did to her and the role he played in helping Bea Taylor. Argentina. he saw Olivia’s body. He will pay the back taxes and maybe be suspended for a while but he’ll be back in time to help his cronies fight the corruption charges.” Nayla said throwing her hands in the air. “I’m okay. The only good thing he really did was lay out in great detail his father’s part in a corruption scheme and the kidnapping. “If I know Tom. “Really.

Nayla. I’m just not cut out for this anymore. I try to police the same way but sometimes we have to look at other options in order to solve a case. Ben held her close to him. His own woes had him temporarily suspended from practicing law which .” she said with a laugh. “Until then I guess I will have to get used to Tiny and Hughes being my bodyguards again. Ben.Nayla stared out the window. I swear to that. Tom did what he felt he had to do. “I wouldn’t ask you to be any other way.” Turning around to face him. baby. Tom Pendleton withdrew as counsel for Henry and resigned from the law firm. don’t make me feel bad for being a lawyer with integrity. Ben. “Tiny and Hughes better remember their roles and not try to get to close to this body. I promise Eric will not harm you ever again and I will never stop hunting him. John will get justice for Ramona and Olivia but Eric will live the rest of his life a free man while I continue to fight the nightmares. What if he decides to come back to finish what he started. She finally spoke.” “I guess Tom does have a heart after all. If he steps down as counsel for Franklin then I guess no harm will be done.” She sighed.” he said pulling her down on the sofa. “I’m not going to rat Tom out. I built my reputation on that and that’s how I intend to leave it. Do you know how long its been since I’ve had a bodyguard. not turning to face her husband. Ben?” She said feeling a chill come over her. Ben looked into her eyes. “You weren’t supposed to be the target of that kidnapping. Realizing she hated politics more than ever.” Placing his hands on her shoulders.   Henry Franklin tried to plea deal at the last minute but as expected John rejected it. John felt it would be best if a jury decided Henry’s fate and not have their past friendship come into question by accepting a plea deal. “My whole career all I ever wanted to do was make sure people that were harmed got justice. No evidence was planted. Tom realized he was defending a murderer and couldn’t let Franklin walk for it. I didn’t want all this other stuff that came along with the job.

“Nayla. John turned around to greet to her. Nayla sat in the front row behind the Prosecutor’s table to make sure Franklin knew she was there. “Nayla. Kraft. Adam motioned for her to sit with John.” She looked at him confused. Without your hard work and commitment.” “I cleared it with Judge Walker. With his wink she moved to the second chair next to Brenda.’s office anymore and I'm a star witness for the prosecution remember.” He agreed. “Mr. he feels the same as I do. I know we haven’t spoken since you walked out my office that day and I want to explain that. She looked to the back of the courtroom for Ben. “I dreaded and looked forward to this day. as well as masterminding the death of Olivia Dawson and FBI Agent Thomas . if you would let me.” He nodded slowly not sure of its actual meaning.A.’s assisting you. it was probably the best thing you could have done for me and I need to thank you for that. “Thank you. Her response was cordial and came with a smile.meant he could watch his former colleagues try to defend a client that had every card stacked against him. we wouldn’t be sitting here now. The evidence the State will present to the court during this trial. “Yes. will prove Henry Franklin once and for all was responsible for Ramona Franklin’s death. “May it please the court. but as far as that day goes. Judge Walker entered the courtroom. Nayla. and that would be you and Brenda. is guilty of the most heinous crimes imaginable.” He looked away from her for a moment. you may begin your opening statement. I think we'll get the outcome you worked so hard for.” John said sounding sincere. you belong at this table. Nayla. we’re here today to prove the defendant. you look radiant. With court about to begin the bailiff ordered the packed courtroom to settle down. I never wanted to let you go but I felt it was the only way to keep you safe. “I don’t work for the D. Henry Franklin. if that is possible. “I would assume for the other D.” Walker said sitting down.A. John. As Nayla stood with the rest of the attendees. do you know why I left these two chairs open?” Nayla shrugged her shoulders.

Franklin was behind the kidnapping of two of our very own Prosecutors. Knowing this would leave him in a bad light with his peers and possibly penniless. Mrs. Coincidence or planned?" John said posing the question to no particular person. it could take the better part of this day just to get through the first stack. Exhibit 2 will show the layout of the tunnels beneath the Justice Center and how it came into play with the murders of Olivia Dawson and the kidnapping of Nayla Smith and Brenda Wheeler. wishing he could burn him alive. This forensic report will prove that Eric Preston’s DNA found on her body will match the DNA of Henry Franklin. “I’ll give you a motive to start. exposing all his dirty laundry. Reminding him it was just the opening statement and he would get his chance to address the jury.Maddox. Henry Franklin. “The evidence I have to present is so extensive. Our forensic experts will testify how this DNA report came to light and why it is important for this jury to hear it.” Dean Howard started to object but his colleague stopped him. Henry Franklin sat stoic glaring at his former friend. a prominent judge. . but Ramona was wealthier. Henry set his plan in action to get rid of her—there ladies and gentlemen is your motive. The flashy animations John gave weren't going over well with Dean Howard as he sat impatiently waiting. Ramona Franklin was worth more to Henry Franklin dead than alive.’ Why did Henry Franklin kill his wife of more than twenty-five years." John said pointing to the binders and folders stacked on the evidence table. “Over the next few days the State will be explaining Exhibit 1. I will also prove Mr. Nayla Smith and Brenda Wheeler.” John shook his head before revealing the evidence he planned to use against Henry Franklin. John continued. and with her out of the picture he could continue to live the lavish lifestyle he had grown accustomed and not share that wealth with Ramona's children. a snag came along when Ramona grew tired of Henry’s affairs with other women and Ramona decided to divorce him.” John returned to the table. is far from poor. exposing two exhibit stands. "First I will begin with ‘why. Franklin and to Olivia Dawson. This exhibit will outline a direct connection between Mr. However.

you'll get your turn to question his evidence once he’s done! Mr." Adam banged his gavel to bring the court back to order. as well as the FBI agent that was protecting her. Mr. these twelve men and women will hear from witnesses how Mrs. I object!” Dean Howard said standing quickly to his feet. Franklin’s last days and the argument she overheard the Franklin's having on the telephone that very day. please keep your dramatics to a minimum and stick to admissible evidence. Franklin’s car to skid off that road.” “Your Honor please! Mr. we had evidence that was far better than Mrs. you are not permitted to imply or argue in your opening statement. My client had no knowledge Ms. Now instead of one death. Howard. Mr. This is a court of law not a television show. Franklin went on her annual vacation to Paris but this time failed to returned because of a terrible vehicle accident. Cleveland Homicide Detectives had three unexplained deaths to solve. Kraft. “Just because my client worked in the Justice Center it doesn’t make him knowledgeable of its' structure or what lies beneath its structure. Was this really an accident or did Mr. Ms. So stop it!” He was growing tired of the nitpicking already.” “Sustained." Walker ordered the court reporter.John continued to work the room. I'm sure you're aware of that. He could have knowledge of those tunnels---." John gave a long pause. Kraft has the floor for now. Dawson was even in the United States or that she was under FBI protection until it was reported she had been found dead. John quickly responded. which was never recovered from the wreckage. Franklin arrange to have that accident happen? Without her body.” . "Before she could do that. Kraft. This young woman was ready to come forward to tell us about Mrs. Dawson met her demise. However. “I withdraw that for now. "Henry Franklin on the other hand worked for more than thirty years at the Justice Center. Franklin herself. “Overruled! Sit down. "Mr. Kraft is once again being overly dramatic and arguing hearsay!” Howard said sternly. it will be hard to actually say what caused Mrs.” “Your Honor. Why three instead of two? That will be explained as this trial moves forward. Getting back to Mrs. We had a witness who knew what was happening with the Franklin marriage. Franklin. Franklin died as a result of the car accident. "Paris officials strongly believe Mrs. please strike that from the record.

He had read over her materials very thoroughly and used the information just as she’d prepared it. Her testimony about how their affair prompted the divorce had him twitching in his seat." Anna Dalton slowly took the stand avoiding eye contact with Henry as she repeated the oath. Mr. Anna now felt she was doing the right thing after learning Henry could be responsible for Olivia's death and fearing she would be next. Henry wrote her name on the pad placing a check mark next to it. “Of course I will. He hatched out a plan to get rid of his wife that almost worked until little incidences such as dumb co-conspirators blew it all apart. "Ladies and gentlemen over the course of this trial. "You know they can see what you're writing over here. Paris officials had a car that was so badly mangled. John took a moment to regain his composure before finishing. John felt he had the jury on his side. the State will call witnesses to the stand that will testify to the fact that Henry Franklin is nothing more than a cold-blooded killer. "What do you think you're doing!" Dean whispered as he tore the paper from the pad.   With only a few days left before the State rested." . It will be up to you to decide if you agree with me.John smiled and turned to the jury. Howard is correct. His opening statement definitely got the attention he was hoping for." Walker again warned the two men to stay focused on the opening statement and not to comment on things that couldn't be proven. It was as if she were standing before the court delivering the opening herself minus the theatrics. they couldn’t reconstruct it to find out if it malfunctioned or if it was tampered with. I intend to prove it was tampered with by the defendant.” Nayla took notes quietly as she listened to John work the room. Howard. "This next witness will settle once and for all why Mrs. Her reluctance to testify for the prosecution changed after hearing of Olivia's demise. If Henry's eyes could shoot daggers Anna would be dead. I call Anna Dalton. Franklin had to die. Mr.

"Tell me you weren't making a hit list. He told how his mother tried to be the good wife only to be demeaned by Henry at every chance he got. Lester's lack of details about the events leading up to the kidnapping and the harsh cross-examination from Dean Howard left John no choice but to call Nayla to back up Lester and Brenda's testimony. don't write anything okay! Especially anything emphasizing a witnesses name with a marker. Is that enough incentive to get you motivated to do your job?" Henry said Dean glared at him. Henry. Ending his cross-examination. Dean. its just her name. The plan seemed to be working until Lester Greene testified. Are you planning on having Anna killed." "You win my case and I can make sure you will never be the low man again. "Don't do me any favors. Peter to the stand. Henry. planned to nail Franklin without calling Nayla to the stand. Dean. Howard had the sinking feeling he was running out of options. John stalled by bringing other witnesses after Brenda and Lester. You'll never make it in this business.A. I wouldn't be defending you.'s office couldn't look into the death of his mother."Relax. low man on the totem pole always loses." The State called Ramona's son. it doesn't mean anything. The woman had the mind of a steel trap. Peter presented letters that left instructions on what to do if anything happened to Ramona unexpectedly. feeling his swag. if possible. "How can you be a defense attorney if you don't even trust your clients. She recounted every word exchanged between Lester and Eric. Brenda also knew which buttons to push to get a juror reaction to add fuel to the fire for Franklin's certain demise. Brenda's testimony was strong and emotional. Had I a choice. . Is that why you wanted the pen and paper?" Henry grinned." Henry said. Dean tapped his finger on the table. Among those letters was the letter from John explaining why the D." Dean felt an eerie feeling come over him. "Look. Clearing Lester of any wrong doing in the process. John. She painted a well-detailed picture on what took place that night." "You were dropped in my lap. Dean Howard was unable to rattle Brenda's cage no matter how hard he tried.

I'm having a panic attack just thinking about it. Out of respect for the States witness as well as her family. "Take a few deep breaths and let it out slow. Henry's face fell when Isaac stated Jefferson recovered and would testify for the State. he revealed that Jefferson Parker was alive. Her confidence was falling as she thought about reliving the nightmare she worked so hard to put behind her. The darkest days of her life were about to be told to every stranger in the courtroom. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. are you okay?" She asked clutching Nayla's sweaty hand. Nayla tried to gather her composure. "Nayla." Nayla said as her breathing became rapid. I call Nayla Smith." Brenda whispered in her ear. I ask. Nayla nodded slightly as she rested her hands under her chin. You will hear first-hand what transpired that night and the nights following her kidnapping." Ben saw the exchange between the two women and moved from the back of the room to sit behind his wife. that this order be put in effect immediately. John promised he wouldn't make you feel uncomfortable. the Senior Deputy District Attorney of Cuyahoga County to the stand." "John promised to go . I don't know if I can do this. However upon Howard's cross-examination of Detective Simmons. Placing his hand on her shoulder he could feel her trembling. Brenda leaned closer to her. Counsel for Franklin immediately requested a recess until they could process the new information. girl. Don't let Franklin see you With her hands sweating. Before we begin I would like to ask the Court to please close this courtroom to all media and non-family members. easy on me but Franklin's counsel didn't. Just tell it like it happened. we got this in the bag. Nayla. noting the only evidence defense didn’t have was Jefferson Parker being alive.” John waited to see if Howard would object before he continued. Nayla rubbed breakdown. "Brenda. the handkerchief between her palms to dry them. John stood before the jury. "What we are about to hear is not only very graphic but disturbing to say the least. giving one last glance to Nayla before speaking.Howard felt the need to discredit the evidence the detectives had collected since they were related to one of the parties involved. Walker refused.

How would you feel picking up a newspaper or turning on the television and there is your daughter's most horrifying nightmare being broadcast over the airwaves. Dean hadn't thought about it that way and keeping certain information from the public might be a good thing after all. your Honor. this will be a closed proceeding except for one sketch artist to be appointed by the Court. From this point forward. I can issue a gag order for the whole trial that way none of the testimony that has been heard thus far will be released. I'm dismissing the courtroom. However.Howard jumped to his feet. I will have you removed and charged with contempt. Lastly. this Court will not tolerate your being ignorant to the rules. Smith's testimony and will allow your request. Smith's testimony be sealed once the trial is over. Adam stepped in before the two got out of control again. "As jurors in this court." Walker turned his attention to the jury. Mr.don't you think?" He said as he moved away from Howard. I suggest we address Mrs. only the portion of the testimony relating to the actual sexual assault!" John's words were directed at Howard but his eyes lingered on Franklin. "In fact." Howard asked in a pissed off manner." "So. please escort everyone out but the jury and court reporter. "I object! Requesting an order like this so late in the trial is ridiculous! The people have the right to hear all the testimony! This isn't fair to my client who is defending himself against very serious charges. Your Honor. "If you like. Smith's testimony. Bailiff. Conclusions being made before an outcome has even been reached can be bad for your client…." Adam's tone switched. Howard. in other words you're granting the prosecution a closed courtroom this late in the trial. Mr. how can we possibly come to a fair conclusion if only bits and pieces of the events that took place are heard!" John stepped toward Howard. there is nothing I can do to stop it from being published. Kraft. The courtroom will reopen for final judgment. If I hear you have or have reason to believe you have breached this order. "Gentlemen." Adam said sternly. Howard. "I’m not asking for everything to be withheld from the public. once this becomes public record. please! I understand the sensitivity of Mrs. I am ordering each of you not to discuss or repeat any of Mrs. I hope I have made myself clear. if not you better speak up. . to the people of the media that are present today and pretend not to understand the common language. "Tell me something. Mr.

"This will be the last interruption for today. "If it pleases the Court. This was the last thing he wanted to do to her." Howard said abruptly. The nature of this witness' testimony is sensitive and should be kept as private as possible.” John helped Nayla to stand like she was an invalid. Honor.I'm sorry. Kraft this once. I know this will be difficult for you. Nayla sat confused amongst the chaos. He knew he had Franklin but was even more glad the courtroom would be reopened when he showed Eric Preston's video testimony. “Are you ready to do this?” Lowering her head she nodded. You have one minute to explain yourself and to stop making a spectacle out of this trial or I'll physically remove you from the courtroom myself!" "I apologize for my outburst your. Taking a breath Nayla focused on the jury as she relived her ordeal once again. Such a request should be denied this late in the trial. but at least no one would hear it except those that needed to. I would like for the media to be allowed back in after Mrs. Howard. Ben comforted Reverend Lofton as he dropped his head in his hands to most likely block the images. Smith's testimony. The horrified look on Jean's face told this was the first she'd heard the extensive details . he meditated briefly. Before bringing Nayla to the stand. I want you to take your time and if you need a break just let me know. As he prepared to have her relive those four days of horror. I wish to retract what I said and explain. Testimony already heard had been reported and only a few witnesses were left to testify on both sides before the closing arguments started." As the onlookers were hustled out the courtroom. John gave Henry one last wink. Smith.John slapped his hands across his face in disgust. She didn't know what John had up his sleeve but obviously it wasn't going as planned as he slumped back in his chair shaking his head. John. “Let’s do it before I lose my nerve. John sat next to her. I don't see any reason for a gag order to be issued for the remainder of the trial. He knew Howard would manage to screw it up. "Mrs. If you can. Mr. we'll start with the evening in your office." Judge Walker halted the mass exodus. I agree with Mr. "No! Wait…." John's voice was soft as he began to take her through that night.

Adam understood and motioned for John to continue. Nayla caught sight of her parents leaving. your Honor." "Let me make sure I understand this. Dean stood to start his questioning. "I have no questions but wish to reserve the right to question this witness later if I need to. "You don't want to direct any questions to this witness now that you have a chance? Mr. “Ms. He hated knowing he had to defend a man accused of murdering two women. Howard. Most of the women were in tears and even the men were stunned after hearing what transpired.of her daughters kidnapping. "Again. Dean Howard rubbed his temples. are you sure you want to pass now that you have the opportunity?" "Yes.” Trying to stop the shaking. Mr." She said looking down at the floor. Clearing his throat Dean began. Although he had read the statements and saw the crime photos it was hearing it straight from Nayla's mouth that made it all real and sickening. He caught Tom eying him through the glass door." "Mr. He was fairly certain there would be no convincing the jury his client was innocent after the testimony they just heard. Howard. "I'm done. she shook her head. you had a number of objections." Howard said. "You can ask. Tina couldn't console her crying mother and had to take her out of the courtroom. John tried to control the anger raging inside him. “No I need to get it over with now or I won't come back tomorrow. Smith. He usually bounced out his chair before Kraft could even say he was done. Mrs. Reverend Lofton leaving with them." Walker said surprised. but I can't recall the witness for her to testify before an open courtroom on this particular part of her testimony." Shaking his head Judge Walker replied. Closing her eyes images of Eric flashed before her. Smith. do you wish to question the witness?" Adam asked Dean remained seated this time. John returned to his seat. Howard. They'd talked about the case before Tom resigned and was aware of what he had to do. Adam felt a break was needed. we can recess until tomorrow if you'd like. I'm sure. I feel a cross-examination at this time would be detrimental to my client. thank you." . She felt this man would torment her until the day she died. I ask the Court to allow me to recall this witness later if needed.

that testimony was very damaging as well as moving and if I crossexamine her now with half the jury as emotional as they are. Mr. Mr. "Are you purposely trying to throw my case!" "Look. "Okay. Beginning to realized his life as a free man could possibly be over. failed to carry out the mission." The jury listened as Eric confessed his involvement and how Victor Preston and Lester Greene were pulled into the mix. Smith you may step down. Glances from a few jurors went towards Henry giving John a warm feeling of victory but he knew nothing was over until the final verdict was read. If I could ask the jury to please listen closely to the videotape I'm about to show you. grasping for breath. The courtroom erupted in laughter as Walker shook his head. Henry Franklin employed his own son to help him carry out his dirty deeds. John recited. Franklin. " John took position in front of the large television. you are sure as gone. please call your next witness after the courtroom has been reseated. I want to make sure everyone can see the television undistracted."I understand and won't have any questions regarding this portion of her testimony." John leaned against the jury stand. Mr. thereafter we'll recess until morning. would you mind diming the lights. Eric Preston is alive and this is his videotaped confession. "We knew all along you were full of hot air." Dean could feel the heat burning off Franklin as he returned to his seat. he felt his heart start to palpitate. "Ladies and gentlemen. even he had to chuckle.   . Unable to resist. "I call my last and final witness. Franklin had his son eliminated only he didn't realize he had identical twins. "What the hell are you doing. Henry clutched his chest. Mrs. so shut-up and let me do my job!" Howard said with such authority Franklin didn't respond but kept quiet as instructed. Kraft. he opened his mouth to speak but only a loud blasting burp escaped. "When Eric Preston a/k/a Eric Shultz-Franklin. Howard!" Franklin growled." Henry's expression was priceless." John placed the videotape in the machine. Bailiff. Fearing death was near.

we'll still be working with the FBI until this thing is over. Just think two years ago you were busting gang wars and now have to chance to head up an elite unit. "I understand us bringing in a few of these guys on the list but some of these jokers are out of our jurisdiction. "Anyway. Unfortunately these two cases are tied together by the same players so we'll let FBI know where to find these people if we come across them first. two job offers. “I think he'll do a good job. “Since you're bringing up the subject of job changes. Guys. "That’s cool. this is what's happening.” “Isaac." He said passing out information on the key suspects. the one thing you don't have to do is warn me about what we do." Isaac nodded.Isaac gathered his troops for one last task." Isaac paused slightly. “I heard Lopez is up for Conway's job. You know." Ben said raising his hand. Toni confronted me again about neglecting my duties at home and she was right. the Attorney General's office is continuing their investigation of the fraud allegations that were brought up recently. Getting away from this drama would be a nice change of pace but I don't think she wants to leave her sisters. That's all I got for now. Does the FBI want us to intervene for them?" "Ben. none of us should be caught offguard. I'm ." Isaac said as he dismissed his unit. You seem to forget I've taken my share of beatings since coming here. the mayor wants you for my position when I leave. "I have a question. that job will take a lot out of you. I let the job control what came first in my life. They want to round up these individuals before they can skip town. watch out for each other. I think he deserves it. LAPD actually contacted me about coming back as a lead detective in the high-profile crimes area. "Wow. I have to warn you.” Ben wasn't surprised by Isaac's acceptance of the offer. I talked to Toni and I think I'll take the position at FBI. We have made some enemies and until we get them all behind bars. "Okay. He's been here long enough and proven he’s not in bed with Conway." Ben said sarcastically. Nayla is still licensed to practice in California and her beloved charity is there. I’m still on the fence about it but I have to make a decision soon. how you feeling' about that?” Isaac shrugged his shoulders. Ben relaxed in his chair.

First I'm too young and. a hard-working judge who made it his mission to hand out sentences befitting the . "Cool. bro." Ben laughed.not sure I want to be Chief of Detectives. man. My girl has suffered enough and a little pampering will do her a world of good. I have a travel agent on standby waiting for me to say when. "I agree with you on that. Sounds like the travel agent is doing all the work."   As the trial neared its end." "Ya know. "You thought we were hated as cops wait until you present yourself as a federal agent. I wouldn’t step over the other guys waiting in line for the position. I guess now is as good as ever to see if I can play with the big boys. Nayla has talked about Hawaii before. The anti- government haters hunting us like rabid animals…. man. Isaac. second. What matters is we can get away from the rat race and leave all this stressful crap behind for a few weeks. "Let's book a first class vacation to Hawaii. I'll call and add you two right now. "So much for you doing this on your own. The Court listened as first John did a persuasive and powerful closing argument. before I do anything. For once let's surprise them by making all the arrangements. I am good. Judge Walker prepared himself for powerful closings from both sides.” Ben propped his feet on the desk. “Yeah." Isaac pulled a pamphlet from his drawer tossing it across the desk." Isaac said looking for the phone number. fun and relaxation. Ben. Then Dean Howard got up and described his client as a upstanding citizen who gave time to charity. Two weeks of sun. The FBI would be a nice challenge.” "Its’ not about age. mostly to get Nayla away for a much-needed vacation." Ben teased. Once the jury comes back with a verdict we can be on the first plane smoking out of here. Seriously. "Ash. "Whatever.” "Oh you think so?" Isaac said chuckling." Ben raised his mug. I wanna take some time off. the sound of doors being slammed in our face. this might just work.hmm something to think about. its’ about being good and you’re good at what you do." Ben said.

"What's going on." John said turning away so Dean wouldn't catch onto his words. The reactions from the jury showed there was no way they were believing any of it either. With no character witnesses to call or anyone willing to back up Franklin's alibi. This case is as good as over. Isaac and Ben's sudden departure from the courtroom caused a small disturbance forcing Dean Howard to stop midsentence as the men rushed out. Adam caught her smile and returned it with a barely noticeable wink of his own. We knew Carl skipped town but the FBI has tracked his movements out west. Nayla whispered to John. "Are you saying what I think. Dean Howard and his team had the task of trying to win this case without putting Henry Franklin on the stand. Judge Walker signing the warrants gave Nayla the boost of confidence she needed to continue with her career. Howard's problem. as well as a devoted husband and father who put nothing before his family. eager to learn more about the events unfolding wished Dean Howard would pick up the pace. John?" Nayla said moving closer to him. Not only Victor but for Carl Conway and the fire chief. Nayla.. John? The two of them flew out of here like a fire had started. With the closure of Franklin's trial in sight she definitely knew she would stay in the They just haven't . All this time Nayla couldn't read which direction Adam leaned." "I think the shit has hit the fan. She had to at times bite her tongue to keep from yelling "liar" at each mention of Henry's good deeds. though was that the majority of character witnesses for Franklin had reneged after seeing the videotape from Eric Preston. John thought it laughable and smirked at the poor attempt by Howard to make Franklin look saintly.crimes committed. The last thing Howard needed was to actually watch Henry stumble as Kraft tore him apart bit by bit. "Yep. As we speak Henry's cronies are in the process of being rounded up. Nayla. Leaning back in the chair a smile broke across her face. "Adam signed the warrant for Victor Preston too?" John nodded. pinpointed where out west. Nayla doodled on her legal pad as the defense attorney strung along his closing argument. He didn't actually side with either party therefore making it hard for all involved to get what they wanted.

"Instead of worrying about my affairs you should make sure your résumé is updated. you've heard all the evidence. Henry?" The relationship between client and attorney was failing fast. Common sense would lead us to believe . She would expand her California practice by opening a Cleveland office that would include a specialized area for battered spouses. Putting the theatrics aside. You can resume your bickering after court has adjourned. Can you say the same? Can you live with what you've done. after what seemed like hours. a widow after only three months of marriage. Taking his seat next to Henry. Mrs. Your reputation won't be worth a damn once I'm finished with you. he let the human side of himself emerge. Kraft will now present his final rebuttal. You and Tom steered my case right to the prosecution and I will get you for that!" Henry placed his beefy hand on Dean's shoulder pulling his ear closer. That path led him to a lengthy career as a judge for this very county." The courtroom quieted as John's voice echoed." “Ladies and gentlemen. She smiled before mouthing to him "go get 'em. "Mr. Grandchildren won't enjoy the love of their grandmother. But because of this man. "I hope you have your affairs in order. I would like to end this today if possible!" Adam said banging his gavel." John said pointing to Henry. Henry. Maddox. "Lives have been destroyed. Dean Howard finished his closing." Dean narrowed his eyes. I don't see this being a positive outcome for you.legal field only not as a prosecutor. Dean sighed. Franklin started out as a defense attorney. you are scum and if losing my career means I never have to defend another person like you----let’s just say I can live with that. Dean. John was loving every minute of the self-destruction happening at the defense table." Henry tried to keep his voice low as he scolded the stressed out attorney. Adam stared at the two men having their private balking at the expense of the people. "If you two don't mind. he checked over his notes while waiting for Judge Walker to allow him to address the court in rebuttal. Olivia Dawson is dead at twenty-six. "If I go down you can kiss your law career goodbye. Finally. Franklin's lawyer try to spin that evidence the best he can. "Mr. Smiling to himself. "Tom was right. You've heard Mr." John squeezed Nayla's hand.

"This woman will live every day of her life knowing what Eric Preston did to her. "How can you enlist the help of your own flesh and blood to commit a crime and then kill your own flesh and blood to cover it? The State has proved over the course of this trial that you can't. The witnesses the State presented before you. She was nervous as she held Brenda’s hand under the table.that a man of his status would know the consequences of creating such an outlandish scheme. "Not one of these women weigh over a hundred fifteen pounds but look at the force of the violence bestowed upon them." John paused to give the jury time to digest his rebuttal. None of us can imagine what it was like to go through what she did to survive but she managed to survive unlike the other two victims. Nayla was surprised to see all her family sitting a row behind her. Franklin was the mastermind behind the events that followed after that. is justice for those that have suffered because of this man. All this death and carnage was for money. proved without doubt Henry Franklin was responsible for the death of his wife. Pacing before the jury he continued. When is enough money ever enough? Ladies and gentlemen.”   The courtroom filled fast as news of the jury returning with a verdict came in. It is now up to you to decide if Henry Franklin should be punished for causing that pain---that suffering--that torture to so many families. he put his hand gently on her shoulder. Did he actually meet with the men he hired to carry out his deeds and fail to realize just how extremely violent they were? Did he realize these were women and not a man that could possibly stand up to his attacker? I ask the jury again to take a look at the pictures of these three women!” John said pointing to the boards with the photos. all I'm asking when this ends. Isaac and Rob stood at the back of the courtroom with Donovan and Ryan." Walking over to Nayla. . Ben. The State also proved Mr. Ramona. Thank you. Henry Franklin wanted them to suffer and suffer they did.

I'm especially sorry for what you went through--no one deserves that.” . As the Foreman read off the four counts of murder in the first degree and the two counts of kidnapping. with each being followed by a guilty verdict.” John said smiling. He didn’t think they'd win all six counts. Nayla turned to John and hugged him and then to Brenda.A. you will be remanded into custody until sentencing.” Walker said banging his gavel for the last time. Foreman will you please read your verdict as counsel for the defendant has his client stand. “We did it! We got justice for Mrs.” Peter said. He had a feeling Franklin's new defense team would fight the sexual assault charges on appeal.” Henry said with a scorn. I just hope the sentencing will be justifiable as well.” She said almost jumping up and down. John agreed. Ramona Franklin’s children stopped over to thank the prosecuting team. I’m so happy right now I could scream. They were grateful for their help in getting justice for their mother. Do you understand?” “Yes. “Henry Franklin. Mrs.” Henry stood next to Dean Howard looking pale. This concludes this court proceeding. I understand. Mr. The D. Please be cautious when speaking with the press and not give any details to testimony that was restricted. Franklin and Olivia. He finally gave up until things settled down and he could continue.Judge Walker spoke loudly so all could hear. Kraft. “No need to thank us. Peter gave Nayla and Brenda a hug. I think now our mother can rest in peace and so can Olivia. Smith. “I understand the jury has reached a verdict in the case of The State of Ohio verses Henry Franklin. “I would like to thank the jury for their dedication to this matter and you are hereby dismissed from the courtroom. thank you so much for restoring our faith in the justice system. withered and very worried. “I’m so sorry for what my step-father did to both of you. Smith. The courtroom erupted in applause as Judge Walker tried to regain control. Peter. which caught them both off guard. Have a good day ladies and gentleman. Mr.'s office also had a personal stake in nailing that scumbag. beaming over the verdict. Henry weaved back and forth with his head down. “Ms.

“Dad. Ben. “He hurt a lot of people and changed lives tremendously.” Tom Pendleton asked to speak to Nayla for a minute. this celebration is for the whole team and that includes you and Margo.” Peter said taking his sister gently by the arm to meet with the press. I knew it would be tough for Henry to beat the rap. please join us. You know how proud I am of you. “You don’t even have to say anything.” Tom nodded his head. After all. I’ll call for Margo to meet us there.” he said with a smile. She saved the last hug for her dad.'s office. Nayla.” “The chips didn’t fall that way this time but maybe you could represent me with my tax problems if you decide to leave the D.” “That sounds great. “Thank you all for being here. Kraft. and eat. If our office can help you with anything. Did you really expect it to be any other way?" Tina asked. I wish you and Victoria the best. “John. I think it would have been more of a challenge for him to go up against you instead of your colleague though.” Nayla said before turning to John. “I wanted to congratulate you on the victory. I like the challenge of the . Nayla noticed her family waiting patiently for her.Nayla returned his hug as he squeezed her. I admit I've made a few bad choices during my career but for the most part. "We have Ja’Nell’s reserved with the champaign on ice so let’s finally breath. we got him. baby girl.” “I would love to join you. You’re a brilliant lawyer. I’ll be in touch. just let us know. its written all over you.” “Thank you again. If you'd quit representing scum you could be sitting on top of the legal world. Peter.” She just held him. Isaac. Tina. All we can do now is try to piece together what is left of our lives and move on from there.” “Thank you. You don’t know how much it meant to me to have your support.” He looked in her eyes and could see the relief. relax. everyone on this team never gave up and we got him. Tom. Mr.” “We're family. “Thank God it’s over. “Maybe but the scum deserves representation. Tom. We better get to the celebration before they start without us. Nayla.A. He spoke before she could say anything.” He joked. but this was all John. “I don’t think so.

my firm in LA could use you. before being extradited back to Ohio to stand trial for his part in the murder of Steven Preston and for the attempted murder of Parker Jefferson. She pulled him aside for privacy. Reverend Lofton. He felt he had to do the right thing and once he was removed from Henry's case he had no obligation to him. “You offered him a job?” Her father said puzzled.” “Nayla. Tom. Henry’s going to appeal but my firm will not represent him. “Dad. Would you at least think about joining the other side?” “You’re a very special person.” Tom said before leaving them alone.” Her father said not questioning her any further. if you say so. he gave up information we never would have been able to obtain. In this instance I think…no I know the better person won. “Good luck. can you trust him---okay. Let’s go before your mother starts to worry. Smith.defense. Carl Conway. She'll also face federal prosecution for her part in the corruption scandal. Parker Jefferson awaited trial for the murder of Ramona Franklin. Mrs. Law enforcement officials arrived at the office of Victor Preston.” Nayla put her hand out to shake his. had been located in Montana living on a compound. Anna Dalton faced charges for tampering with Ramona's second Will.S. I’ll definitely give you a call when I’m reinstated. authorities until he ran into the bounty hunter Winston Grafton hired. This was his way of helping Ramona who was also his friend. . Eric Preston was apprehended on the Seychelles Islands where he thought he was out of reach of U. take good care of her.   Epilogue The FBI and Cleveland Homicide Detectives worked fast to round up Franklin’s comrades. Olivia Dawson and David Grafton. and he died from a heart attack as Isaac slapped the cuffs on him. I hope you can clear up your legal issues and if you decide to join the good guys.

Last but not least. You may email Toye Lawson Brown at www.toyebrown@netzero. I appreciate all the help it took to bring this novel alive. . himself. First I’d like to thank Wade Mitchell.blogspot.booksbytoye.   Acknowledgements I would like to thank a few special people for their help.   TOYE LAWSON BROWN A native of Cleveland. It allowed me to escape from the day-to-day grind of work and stress and into a world of fiction where I decided how the day would end for my characters.com to read up on events happening in her world. I have dabbled in many hobbies over the years but writing has always been my passion. my family who willingly read pages and pages of raw material. Ohio. The Cleveland FBI Public Corruptions Unit for taking the time to walk me through their procedures.As for Henry Franklin. sentencing will resume as soon as he recovers from the shock of actually being found guilty. A great lawyer and friend who helped with the legal portion of this book.net or visit her blog www.

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