Authors: Ann Mullen
As soon as we came up to the bridge that crosses the
close to Mom’s house, a set of
flashing lights caught my eye. We pulled into the driveway and saw a
deputy standing beside his car. He had a clipboard in his hands. I put two and
two together and looked at Billy.
“Don’t panic,” he said, before I could get a word out. “I’m
sure everything’s okay. The police are probably doing a house-to-house search
for those missing kids.”
“Yeah, and a few minutes ago you said it was probably just an
alcohol check. I think I might have a reason to panic now, don’t you? Those two
missing kids might be Benny and Carrie.”
Billy parked next to the patrol car and shut off the truck
engine. He turned to me and said, “Whatever the problem is, we’ll handle it.
Let’s try to remain calm.” He opened the truck door, stepped out, and extended
his hand to me.
I slid over to his side and took his hand as I climbed down.
“Billy, I’d hate to think of what I might do if someone hurt one of Claire’s
“Jesse, you’re getting ahead of yourself. We don’t know a
thing yet. Come on, let’s go inside and find out what’s happening.”
The deputy stepped into our path. “I’m afraid you can’t go in
I caught him off-guard and brushed past him like he was
invisible. “I don’t think so, pal,” I said. “This is my family, and I’m going
I’m sure he wasn’t expecting that kind of behavior from someone
my size. I weigh every bit of one hundred and sixteen pounds fully clothed, and
he was the size of a Mack truck—all
deputies are. They’re large, loud,
and tough. Criminals beware!
Billy blocked the stunned officer. “Our family lives here.”
Billy is a Cherokee Indian and someone to be reckoned with.
He’s over six feet tall and weighs about one hundred and ninety pounds, and
it’s all pure muscle. Nobody messes with him.
The officer stepped back and let him pass.
Claire ran up to us as soon as we walked through the front
door. “He stole my children, Jesse,” she cried. Her eyes were puffy and it was
obvious she’d been crying for a while. “That lousy creep came to the house
while I was gone and took them. He told Mom he was taking them to the Dairy
Queen in town for ice cream, and he never came back.”
“It’s okay,” Billy said. “We’ll get the kids back, Claire. He
won’t get away with this.” Billy put his arm around Claire and tried to soothe
Mom was in the kitchen talking to two policemen. She held a
photo in her hand. When she saw us, she yelled across the room, “Billy, Jesse,
I’m so glad you’re back.” She handed the photo to one of the officers and
walked to the living room. “This is my fault! I believed Carl when he said he’d
bring the kids right back. He lied to me!”
I gave Mom a hug. “I’m sure you didn’t think Carl was stupid
enough to do something like this. Now tell me everything that happened.”
As the two officers walked to the front door, they assured
Claire that they would do everything possible, but in the meantime she might
want to contact a lawyer. “This situation could get ugly,” one of them said.
“It usually does. We set up a precautionary roadblock, something we usually do
when we get a call such as this, but you said that your husband has shared
custody and visitation rights, so there’s not much we can do right now. Sheriff
Hudson will be in contact with you as soon as he finds out anything.” They took
the photo and left.
“I can see this is going to be nasty,” I said as we all sat
down at the kitchen table. “What on earth possessed Carl to do something so
stupid? I’m sure he’s well aware of the fact that we’ll come after him.” I
looked at Mom and then at Claire. “Hey, where are Athena and Thor?”
“I let them out a little while ago,” Mom said. “They’re
probably off in the woods somewhere.”
“What are you talking about?” Claire asked. “We’re not going
after him; that’s the job of the police. Besides, I don’t want my kids to get
Here we go, again, I thought to myself. After all that has
happened to us in the past year, you’d think Claire would have more sense than
to rely on the police to come to our rescue. Most of the time they do the best
they can, but in real life, their best is not always good enough. I must admit
that Sheriff Wake Hudson and his
deputies are better than most cops.
I actually think they care about the victims. Most cops only care about two
things: throwing the bad guys in jail; and staying alive. I can’t blame them
for that, but I do feel they should realize that not all people are bad.
There’re some of us out here who really are innocent when we say we are. They
should be able to distinguish between the two, but I guess that’s impossible.
Everyone is fallible, and at some point in their life they’re liable to err. I
know I did. I killed someone. Actually, I killed two people at the same time.
It was self-defense. There was never any doubt about that. Yet, I have to live
with that knowledge for the rest of my life. It’s not a good feeling. However,
if I ever had any doubt about my ability to summon up the nerve to kill
someone, I don’t anymore.
“If we want to get the kids back, we have to go after them,”
Billy spoke up. He looked at Claire. “We can’t just sit around and wait. For
all we know, Carl could be planning to leave the state. If he had the gumption
to come here and take your children right out from under your nose, there’s no
telling what he might do. We can’t leave this in the hands of the police. No,
we need to handle this situation ourselves. We’ll bring your kids back home,
Claire. I’ll call my brothers.” Billy got up from the table, walked over to the
phone on the wall, and then picked up the receiver. “The Blackhawk brothers
will bring your children home.”
Claire jumped up and paced the floor. She was upset and
anyone could see that she had her reservations about the possibility of a
rescue by anyone other than the police. She kept shaking her head. “Wait a
minute, Billy. I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.
I have confidence in you, but these are my kids we’re talking about. What if
something goes wrong? We need to talk about this.”
“What’s there to talk about, Claire?” he asked her. “The more
time we waste, the less likely we are to get them back. If we move now, we can
catch him when he’s at his weakest moment. If we give him time to set up his
defenses, we’ll never get through to him.”
“I have custody of the kids… shared custody, but they live
with me,” Claire said. “He has to give them back. The law’s on my side.”
Her words hung in the air. We glanced at each other.
“Claire, I think we have to put our trust in Billy about
this,” Mom said. “We all know that the law can only do so much. I could tell
just by listening to that deputy that this case is just like all the others he
sees. Did you hear what he said about this happening all the time? He said we’d
probably have to go to court to get the kids back. By then it’ll be too late.
There’s no telling where Carl will take them. Do you want to spend the next couple
of years in court trying to get Benny and Carrie back? I don’t think so. Let
Billy go after them. He’ll make sure they don’t get hurt, won’t you, Billy?”
The familiar sound of two dogs barking caught my attention. I
went to the utility room door and opened it. Athena and Thor came barreling in.
They barked, jumped, and licked at me as if they hadn’t seen me in months. They
were ready to go home. I could tell from the look in their eyes that they had
missed me. Two seconds later, they had forgotten about me and were asleep by
“You have my word on it,” Billy said as he walked over to
Claire. “I promise you nothing will happen to Benny and Carrie. Let me go get
them and bring them home.”
“Okay,” Claire said. “But you’d better not pull one of your
crazy stunts, Billy Blackhawk. I don’t want to see you and my kids running
through the front door with the cops hot on your tail. Be discreet, and don’t
“I promise,” Billy said. “I’ll bring the kids back and Carl
won’t even know they’re gone, until they’re home safely tucked in their beds.”
Night had settled in. The snow from the last storm had
melted, the ground was soggy, and the air was cold. After Claire had drawn up a
detailed diagram of her house in
and gave it to Billy, we gathered up
Athena and Thor, and headed home. Billy and I discussed the situation on the
way, but he refused to let me be a part of the plan. He said that he and his
brothers could do the job.
“You can get a little rest and then go back to your Mom’s, or
you could just stay home and do some research on the computer,” he said. “We
still have Brian Cherry’s case to think about.”
“You’re out of your mind. I’m not staying home and I’m not
going back to Mom’s house.”
“You’re not coming with us!” he said, loudly as he walked up
the porch steps. “As soon as my brothers get here we’ll decide how to handle
this operation. I don’t want any interference from you!”
I was furious. We’d been married a couple of weeks and he was
already trying to tell me what to do. I grabbed my duffle bag and along with
the dogs, followed him inside.
“Why can’t I be a part of this? It’s not as if there’s any
danger involved. Carl’s a wimp. He won’t give us any trouble.”
“He already has.”
“All we have to do is go to his house and take the kids.”
“We might have to take them by force. Who knows what could
happen? No, `ge ya, I think you need to stay out of this one. You’re too
“And you’re not?”
“I can be objective,” Billy replied. He dropped his duffle
bag on the floor and went to the phone.
“Hogwash!” I said. I walked over to the thermostat on the
wall and turned up the heat. “It’s cold in here. We need to build a fire in the
“I’m serious about this, Jesse. I don’t usually make demands,
but this is different. You’re too emotionally involved and that alone could get
someone hurt. I have to think of everyone concerned. Please trust me and let me
My anger subsided. Billy was right. Besides, there’s no
telling what I would do if I lost my temper, and Carl has always had a way of
pushing my buttons. Even after he made that pass at me at their wedding, I
tried to forgive him and like him for Claire’s sake, but as time passed, I saw
him for what he really was—a low-down, cheating scumbag who only cared about
himself. All he had to do was be in the same room with me and I’d get crazy.
Every time I looked at him, I would get a yucky feeling in my stomach. I think
if I could just whack him in the head with a baseball bat, I’d feel so much
Thirty minutes later, I had a raging fire burning in the
fireplace, and the dogs were cuddled up next to it. A knock at the door echoed
through the house. Billy’s brothers filed in, one by one. Jonathan, the bounty
hunter, Daniel, the car dealership owner, and Robert, the owner of the Rising
Sun Restaurant, didn’t waste any time showing up. That’s one of the many things
I love about Billy’s family—they are always there for each other, no matter
“Come on in and sit down, guys,” I said as I opened the door
and gave each one of them a hug. “Billy will be right out. He’s changing
“This is a heck of a thing for you to face as soon as you get
home from your honeymoon, huh?” Daniel asked.
“What can I say? People do crazy things.”
“You’re not kidding,” Jonathan said. “Two days ago I was
after a guy who had jumped bail, and when I tried to handcuff him, his
girlfriend attacked me. She won’t no bigger than a mouse, but she managed to
sink her teeth into my arm.” He held up a bandaged arm for me to see. “I had to
get a tetanus shot.”
“People do some weird stuff,” Robert chimed in. “I got a call
from an old man who wanted to know if anyone had found his set of false teeth
in the restaurant bathroom. It seems he took them out because he had food stuck
under them, and he wanted to rinse out his mouth. He forgot to put them back
“Did you find them?” I asked.
“Yeah, one of the waitresses put them in a plastic bag. The
guy sent someone to pick them up that afternoon. The young lady said her
grandfather was too embarrassed to come get them himself.”
“I’m glad you all could come,” Billy said as he walked out of
the bedroom. He shook each one of his brother’s hand. “We need to jump right on
this problem before too much time passes. I don’t have to tell you that the
longer we wait, the harder it’ll be to find this guy. Have a seat.” He motioned
for them to sit at the kitchen table, and then he looked at me. “Jesse, would
you mind making some coffee, please?”
“I’ll be glad to,” I said. I’d come to terms with Billy’s
demand. I decided to do as he said. I reached up and kissed his cheek, and then
whispered in his ear, “I love you.” A big smile appeared on his face. I winked
at him as I walked to the kitchen. “You can have your way on this one because
we’re newlyweds, but next time I won’t give in so easily, Billy Blackhawk.”
Since Carl had moved back into their house after Claire and
the kids had moved out, we had the advantage of having an inside view of the
layout from Claire’s descriptive diagram, and we also had the code to the alarm
system. We wouldn’t be dealing with unknown turf. Even though I had only been
to their house a couple of times, I still remembered the hidden room behind the
wall in the library—something that even Claire had forgotten about until I
mentioned it. What better place to hide two children if someone came looking?
A precise and detailed plan had been hatched out. Billy would
go to the front door and talk to Carl, stalling him while his brothers slipped
in the back way. The operation would be a breeze and nobody would get hurt. And
if Carl proved to be a formidable foe, they’d just stick a gun in his face. One
way or the other, they wouldn’t leave without Benny and Carrie.
“Assuming that this was a last minute decision on his part, I’m
guessing that he’ll take the kids to his house just long enough to rest up and
get his head together and then he’ll head out again. But if he planned this out
in advance, he probably won’t be at his house. Chances are he’ll leave the
“Carl has a summer house in
and a cabin somewhere in
His parents left both places to him in their will.” I added my knowledge to the
conversation. “At least, that’s what Claire told me a while back. She said
she’d never seen either one, but was sure they existed because she’d seen the
real estate tax bills. She asked Carl if they could spend their vacation at the
once, but he refused. He claimed it
made him sad… memories of his dead parents and all that bull. I think he’s full
of crap. He probably made the whole thing up. He’s a cheating husband. If they
That last little tidbit about cheating husbands was ignored.
“Having more than one place and each being so far apart, does
create a problem,” Jonathan said as he sipped his coffee.
“Yeah, that’s a lot of ground to cover,” Robert added.
“We’ll worry about that later.” Billy turned to me and said,
“Call Claire and find out all you can about those other two places and then
search the net for anything else you can find. Check and see if the sheriff has
called her. I’m sure that by now he’s called the D.C. Police Department and
they’ve already been to Carl’s house. That deputy was right. If Carl’s there,
I’m sure he told them that his wife knows he has the kids and that it was
prearranged. Call me as soon as you talk to Claire.”
“Are you taking your truck? You know the phone in it isn’t
working right. You don’t have a cell phone and mine isn’t charged enough for
you to use. How will I reach you?”
Billy rattled off each of his brother’s numbers as I quickly
wrote them down on a notepad.
“Jonathan’s driving my truck while I catch a few winks, and
Robert will be riding with Daniel. I’ll call you as soon as we get to D.C. Give
us about two hours.”
“What if I call Claire and she says the cops went to Carl’s
house and he wasn’t there?”
“We’re still going to his house to see for ourselves,” Billy
replied as he got up from the table and headed to the front door. “He could be
I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a quick kiss.
“Be careful. Call me the minute you have the kids.”
“You know I will,” Billy said. “Take care of my little
warrior.” He patted my stomach.
“Your little princess is going to be fine,” I said. I blew
him a kiss as he walked out and closed the door.
Athena and Thor jumped up from their spot by the fireplace
and ran up to me. They both looked as if they knew what was going on and they
didn’t like it one bit. Thor barked at the door and Athena howled behind him. I
knew they were going to be my shadows until Billy returned. I shooed them back
over to the fireplace as I sat down on the sofa, thinking about what my next
step would be. I looked around the house.
Even though this was once the house Billy had shared with his
first wife, Ruth, and their two boys, it was now our home. Most women would
freak out at the idea of living in some other woman’s house, but not me. I
didn’t have a problem with the past memories of this place, because Billy and I
were going to make new ones. The way I see it, this was Blackhawk land and
belonged to the woman who loved her man enough to keep her family going, and to
make each day as happy as it can be. Ruth relinquished that right a long time
ago when she left Billy. I, on the other hand, was ready to dig in.
Billy and I live at Number Two, Bear Mountain Road in
A graveled driveway leads to our secluded, two-story log cabin, and our home is
surrounded by woods and wildlife. I love the privacy and spectacular views.
Mountain tops line the sky.
Like so many other places in this rural area,
Bear Mountain Road
is a private road leading into a
large area of private, family homes. In this case, all the homes were part of
the Blackhawk Compound. There are seven such homes, and each sits on several
acres of land. There’s one house each for Billy, his three brothers, and two
sisters, and at the end of the road is the home of Chief “Sam” Standing Deer
and Sarah Blackhawk. Billy said his folks planned it that way. I can’t blame
them. They have a big family and this was one way to keep them close, except
for Jenny and Beth. The great outdoors wasn’t so great as far as they were
concerned. They have their own house on the compound, but they live in the city
with their families.
“Wow, what a great place to raise a child,” I said to the
dogs as I got up from the sofa and walked to the kitchen and then back to the
living room, turning off lights on my way. I left a single lamp burning on the
computer table. I stretched out and looked around the room. The fireplace was
such an added comfort to my chilled body. I guess being pregnant not only made
you sick, but also caused your thermostat to get out of whack. I’ve had my
share of nausea in the past month, and I’ve definitely had a problem with my
body temperature. Mom says that will all change after a couple of months. We’ll
see. She told me to forget about being pregnant and just take care of myself.
She said to eat right and after I’d reached my third month, I would be safe.
That was a scary thing to be told. Since this is a first for me, I guess I’d
better listen, at least until I’ve done some research on the subject. “Are you
Athena’s ears perked up. Thor rolled over and threw his legs
up in the air—his tongue hung out of his mouth.
“I’ve had a long trip. I’m going to lie down for just a
minute and then I’ll get up and call …”
I dozed off for what seemed like just a little while, only to
be awakened by a bark from one of the dogs. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The
room was dim and the fire had died down to a bed of embers. The soft glow cast
shadows on the walls. I looked over at the clock above the desk.
“It’s eleven-thirty! I can’t believe it!” I yelled. “Why
hasn’t Billy called? He should’ve called by now!”
I jumped up from the sofa and ran straight to the phone on
the kitchen wall. I grabbed it and did the first thing that came to mind. I
dialed Mom’s number. I tried to get my head together as I waited for her to
What did I do with that list? I looked around and caught
sight of the notepad lying on the kitchen table. I reached over and grabbed it.
After waiting through only two rings, I hit the clicker to end the call, and
proceeded to dial the first number on the list. After much static and hissing,
an electronic message came on and said that my call couldn’t be completed as
dialed. I tried the number again. This time, the phone rang and rang, but to no
avail. Nobody was answering. I dialed Jonathan, the next number on the list.
Again, a message came on, but this time it said that the wireless customer was
unavailable at this time. That meant that Jonathan had turned off his cell
phone. Why would he turn off his cell phone unless he was in the middle of
something? I dialed the last number on the list as my stomach did a flip-flop.
The phone didn’t even ring. I dialed it again and still got nothing. Now I was
really in a tizzy. I hung up the phone, walked over to the refrigerator and
then opened the door. The cold air blasted me in the face as I stood there and
waited for the hot flash, or whatever it was that had hit me, to pass. I
reached in and grabbed a can of soda, popped the top, and walked to the kitchen
table to sit down. I took a big gulp from the can. My hands shook. I had to get
it together. I mean, how bad could it be? Carl is a crybaby wimp and Billy is a
girl’s knight in shining armor. There was no contest! Billy could handle
anything. Everything was fine. I was sure of it! I had to call Mom. Now that I
think about it, why hasn’t she called me? She calls me on a regular basis. She
even called me on my honeymoon. Something must have gone wrong! No, if
something had gone wrong, I would’ve heard about it by now. Isn’t that what
they always say? I took another sip of my drink and then went back to the
phone. I dialed Mom’s number, and after several rings, she finally answered.