Protecting Her Secret Son(5)

By: Regan Black

“They smashed the gate like Hulk,” one of the twins reported, while his brother nodded.

“I was over there—” she pointed “—at the sink, watching the boys play while I cleaned up breakfast. And...” She coughed again.

“Take your time.” Shannon urged her to sip the water.

Rachel obliged. “One of them had my boys,” she continued. “The other was hauling Aiden off the swing, toward the gate.

“There was no time to react. I grabbed my phone to call for help, but it was too late. The one with the twins kicked the door in and shoved his way inside with my boys.” She went over and laid a hand on each head. “He pushed them through the basement door. I screamed and he sprayed something in my face. Knocked my phone out of my hand.” Lost in the recollection, she stared at the cracked phone screen.

“How long ago?” Daniel prompted.

“Two hours, maybe?” She squinted at the oven clock. “No, a little more than that. We’d just had breakfast.”

Shannon’s vision blurred with tears. Two hours was a big head start. “They only called me a few minutes ago. They could be anywhere with Aiden by now.”

“Did he say anything?” Daniel asked.

“Told me not to make a report or—or else.”

Daniel’s nostrils flared and Shannon had the feeling he was suppressing a string of choice words and opinions unfit for the ears of little boys.

“Did they say anything to you guys?” Daniel asked the twins.

“They were bossy,” the first twin replied.

“And mean,” his brother added. “They smelled like spaghetti.”

“Seriously?” Daniel cocked his head.

The boys nodded in unison.

Rachel shrugged. “Maybe. Whatever he sprayed in my face made me groggy and choked me. I woke up on the landing, the boys crying over me and trying to wake me up.”

“You always wake up when we cry,” one twin declared.

“We can take you to a hospital,” Daniel offered. “Get you checked out.”

“I’m fine,” Rachel said.

“The cough may be more related to the spray,” he said. “You shouldn’t take the chance.”

“Not now, not today,” she insisted. “What are you going to do?” she asked Shannon.

What could she do? “I’m not sure,” Shannon confessed, staring at her phone. “I won’t report it,” she promised Rachel.

“You have to,” Daniel countered. “The kidnappers are gone, coming back isn’t smart.”

She shook her head as Rachel gasped in fear. “I believe the threats. I won’t put this family at risk.” She pulled Rachel into another hug. “I don’t know why this happened, but I don’t want you in the middle of it.”

“The men this morning put me in the middle of it. You’re one of my best friends. You and Aiden are family. Whatever you need, we’ll help.”

Moved beyond words, Shannon could only hug her again.

Daniel pulled out his phone. “I’m calling one of the guys to take care of this door and the gate.” He turned the phone to Rachel. “Is there someone else to stay with you when he’s done?”

“My husband’s traveling on business. He won’t be home until next week.”

Shannon caught the flare of concern in Daniel’s dark blue eyes. “I’d feel better if you could go somewhere else for a few days at least. You shouldn’t be here alone,” she said.

When Rachel agreed, Shannon helped her and the boys pack while Daniel and one of the Jennings carpenters she didn’t normally work with repaired the damage. She kept expecting another message from the kidnappers, some proof of life or a demand she could work with, but nothing came through.

She leaned against her car door, trying to smile as she waved to Rachel’s boys as the family left their house to visit her mother a few hours away in New Jersey. “At least they’re out of harm’s way. What now?” she murmured, at a complete loss.

“You need to call the cops,” Daniel said flatly.

“I can’t. You heard Rachel.”

“They took your son,” he said, incredulous.

“I know!” She bit her lip against another outburst.

“What aren’t you saying?”

“He called,” she said. “When I got here. When I walked into the backyard, he called and said...” She couldn’t get the words out. “He said he’d send Aiden back to me in pieces if I involved the police.”

“Oh, Shannon.” He rubbed her shoulder.

The immense sympathy in those two words overwhelmed her. She didn’t know if she should lean into him or run away. “Thank you for helping her and fixing everything.”

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