Robbie Cummings grabbed his coat and went to the living room to see if his dad was ready. Before he got a chance to talk to his dad, he heard some small running footsteps. "Robbie, Robbie, please can I go with you, pleeeease?" Robbie turned around and looked at his eight year old brother Nicky and smiled. "Nicky, I already told you I can't this time. I'm meeting a couple of my friends at the mall and we're going to a movie."
"But Robbie?" Nicky was starting to go in full little brother whine mode. "You always go to the movies with them. I'm your brother. You should go with meeee!" Nicky crossed his arms and frowned at his older brother. Robbie bit on his lip to keep from smiling, knowing that if he did, Nicky would get angrier. He put a hand on Nicky's shoulder. "Nicky, I promise you that tomorrow I will go with just you, no one else. Just you and me. Is that okay?" Nicky looked at him as his frown started to fade and was replaced with a little smile. "You swear? Just you and me? Cross your heart and hope to die?" Robbie nodded as he crossed his heart. "Stick a needle in my eye. Just you and me and you can pick the movie, but it has to be one that mom and dad will allow you watch. Deal?"
Nicky's smile grew and his anger disappeared as he stepped forward to hug his brother around the waist. "Thanks Robbie. I'll pick out a good one you'll like too." Robbie hugged him back. "Whatever you pick will be fine. We'll go during the day and maybe we can go to the arcade for a little while after the movie." Nicky stepped back and started jumping up and down. "Yay!" He moved back to hug his brother. "You're the best big brother." Robbie smiled. "Well you're the best little brother."
Their dad, Garrett, entered the living room and smiled at his two sons hugging. He was so glad that they got along. He had worried that when Robbie had become a teenager that he would ignore his little brother, but he never did. Sure, Robbie spent time with his friends, he still made sure he spent time with Nicky. Even though Nicky was seven years younger than Robbie, it never seemed to make a difference to Robbie. "Ready to go Robbie?" The fifteen year old looked at his dad. "Yep. See you later Nicky. Remember, tomorrow, you and me." Nicky nodded vigorously, a big smile on his face. Garrett gave Nicky a pat on the head as he followed Robbie outside to his car.
It was just a short ride, only a couple of miles, but since the movie started at six pm and wouldn't get out until a little almost nine, Garrett told him he would drive him there to meet his friends and pick him up after the movie. He pulled up in front of the mall and Robbie jumped out. He looked at his dad. "Thanks dad. Oh and I told Nicky, I'd take him to a movie tomorrow." Garrett nodded. "I heard you when I walked into the living room Robbie. Thanks for doing that. He looks up to you. I'm proud of how you treat him. You always hear about brothers not getting along especially with an age difference like yours, but I'm blessed with you two."
Robbie blushed and dropped his head in embarrassment. "He's my little brother. Yeah he can be a little whiny at times, but he's still my brother." He looked to the side. "Oh, there's Roger and Gary. I'll see you later Dad." He started to close the car door. "Love you Robbie." Robbie paused a moment and smiled at his dad. "Love you too dad." He shut the door and Garrett watched as Robbie ran over to greet his friends. He watched them as they headed into the mall before he pulled away from the curb to head back home. There was a smile on his face. He thought to himself. 'Yep, I'm lucky.'
Braeden walked along the dark street. It was an unseasonably cool November evening, but it didn't seem to bother the teen too much as he walked down the street. He didn't have any destination in mind, he just needed the time to think. The last few years had been a time of a lot of changes for him. He tried not to think about the time, but sometimes everything just sort of piled on him and he felt that all he could do was go for a walk to get some air and clear his head, even if it was cold air.
His walk took him away from the dark street and into the brighter lights of The Strip. He had been walking for a couple of hours and had lost track of where he had gone in his aimless wandering. He hadn't planned on walking to the strip, but now that he was there, the lights and everything brought him out of his dark thoughts for a little while. He watched the people having a good time as they walked along the strip and went in and out of the casinos. He also watched for those who walked the streets with less than charitable designs. He saw that there were a lot of both types this evening walking the strip. However, the ones who were there to have a good time outnumbered the others.
Las Vegas had always been his home and even with the changes in his life, he still liked walking along the strip, especially at night with all the casinos brightly lit. His spirits lifted a little as he joined the sea of humanity walking the strip. He decided to head toward Fremont Street. On the way, he stopped a couple of pick pockets. One of them suddenly tripped and landed against his mark. When the man turned around he scowled at the young man who quickly retreated and apologized for bumping into him. The man checked for his wallet and when he found that he was still in possession of it, he glared after the clumsy young man and rejoined his friends. "What a klutz. C'mon guys it's early, let's go get a drink." His buddies laughed and nodded. Braeden smiled as he watched the pickpocket run off.
The second pick pocket was younger, in his late teens. Braeden bumped him when he moved up next to his mark. The thief fell to the ground. Braden leaned down and helped the older teen up and then guided him to the shadow near one of the legs of the Eiffel Tower outside Paris Las Vegas. "Uh, thanks man." Braeden smiled. "No problem. You know what I was thinking, I think it's a bad night to be a pick pocket. You should call it a night." The young man looked at Braeden with surprise and then he looked around to see if anyone else was near enough to hear the younger teen. He realized he was older and even a bit bigger than Braeden and he reached out to grab Braeden's shirt and scowled at him. He leaned in close. "Listen you little shit. Mind your own fucking business or you're going to be out of the hero business…permanently."
While he was threatening Braeden, the pickpocket had reached into his back pocket and pulled a switchblade. Braeden heard the opening click and glanced down at the young man's other hand. When he looked back up to the teen's scowling face, Braeden said nothing for a few moments and then smiled slightly. The pick pocket didn't even see him move but the young man felt a sudden numbness in his hand and the knife dropped to the ground from his now nerveless fingers.
He shook his hand a couple of times trying to get the feeling back into it. His other hand tightened and he scowled at Braeden. "What are you some kind of Kung Fu kid or something?" Braeden smiled at him and nodded. "Or something." Braeden again moved quickly and the older teen found himself turned around and his face pressed against a wall and deeper into the shadows, his arm was bent so far up behind his back that his shoulder was nearly separated. He started to cry out when Braeden's other hand clamped on his mouth.
"Listen Terry." The older teen's eyes widened when he heard the boy say his name. "Yes Terry. I know your name and I also know some other things about you. That AM/PM late night robbery a couple of weeks ago, the burglaries last month. I could go on if you want but I don't feel like standing here for the next hour or so talking about your list of petty crimes. I don't think that being a thief is for you, because you're not very good at it. Now I'm going to uncover your mouth and if you make a sound, I will dislocate your shoulder and then cover your mouth again. I will then begin to break some more of your bones, one by one. You know there are 206 bones in the human body. At some point, I'll break enough of them that you'll pass out from the pain. I understand fingers really hurt when they break, and there are a lot of bones in each hand that can be broken. I will then leave you laying here until someone finds you. Needless to say, the police will probably get involved and will probably have to check your fingerprints which are also on your knife. They might be interested in looking into what you've been doing and since you are so stupid, they'll probably connect you to some of your activities. You probably don't want that. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Terry nodded and Braeden uncovered his mouth and the older teen let out a breath but kept quiet. "Good. Now Terry, I'm going to let you go and if you think that means you can try to take me; let's just say you'll have only 205 broken bones left and the number will drop very quickly every time you try something. Is that understood?" The teen nodded. "Say you understand and make me believe it." Terry spoke through clenched teeth. "I understand. I swear it." Braeden looked at him and then stepped back. The teen turned around with his other hand massaging his distressed shoulder. He eyed the younger teen who stood calmly before him. Braeden didn't even look like he was ready to fight. Braeden watched the man with a slight smile on his face. Terry started to bend down to pick up the switchblade and Braeden shook his head. "Nope. You should leave that there." He paused a moment as if something occurred to him. "No, on second thought, why don't you gently kick it over here." The older teen stopped and then kicked the knife over to Braeden. The younger teen quickly bent down and picked up the knife while keeping his eyes on Terry. He took the knife into his hands and snapped the blade off before tossing them back to Terry.
"Okay, now you can have it." Terry looked at Braeden and still massaging his shoulder, Terry turned and walked away. Braeden watched him until he was swallowed up by the crowd.
Braeden decided that he had enough of the strip for now. His run in with Terry had soured him a little. So he turned around and headed away back the way he'd come. He turned down a street and a flapping paper attached to a telephone pole caught his eye. Well not exactly the paper but what was underneath it. He walked over to the pole and pulled the paper to the side so that he could see the other paper that was underneath it. The notice underneath had been there for some time and although faded it, what was on it could still be made out. It had probably gotten some protection from the elements because other papers had been posted over it. He could see that there were several layers of notices of shows and other events. He reached out and carefully pulled on the paper. It was as if it had been plastered to the pole and it tore as he removed it. He looked at the image on the paper for several minutes. When he looked up, a tear dripped down his cheek.
He folded the paper and put it in his pocket. He turned back to the strip, quickly walked to Sahara Avenue and once he was on the opposite side of the main drag and had left the lights of the strip behind him, he started running. When he reached, Grand Canyon Drive he turned north until he neared Clarence Piggot Elementary School. He stopped and glanced at it before turning into one of the nearby neighborhoods and walked up one of the streets. Although he didn't keep a close eye on the calendar, he remembered that this was Thanksgiving weekend. As he walked up the street he remembered other Thanksgivings in his past. Not that he had celebrated any for the last few years. There was no reason for him to celebrate it anymore.
Finally, he reached the house he was looking for. Like all the houses in the area it was a two story home, only a few years old. He stood in the shadow of a tree and looked into the front window of the house. He saw a family, parents and a young teenage boy decorating the Christmas tree that was standing in the front window. He knew it was a real tree, not an artificial one. He believed he could smell the pine fragrance as he stood there in the shadows and watched the family.
He heard him before he felt the hand gently land on his shoulder. He didn't need to turn around to know it was Grayson. Neither spoke as they both watched the family for a few minutes. "C'mon Braeden. Let's go home. You don't want to be here. You know the rules. You can't go back; you can only go forward." Grayson's hand on his shoulder gently pulled him away. He wanted to resist but he knew the rules too and let himself be led away. Grayson put his arm across Braeden's shoulders and led him to a nearby SUV with darkly tinted windows.
They climbed into the back and Grayson gestured for the driver to take them home. Grayson looked to be about 25 years old. He looked at the teen sitting beside him with sympathy. Braeden looked out the window on his side as they drove away.
Inside the house the teenager turned away from the window and finished hanging up the ornament he was holding. He looked up once again when he heard a car drive by and saw a dark SUV. He watched it drive from sight until his mom tapped him on the arm and handed him another ornament to hang up. He took it and turned to find a place for it. Once he had it hung, he glanced outside once again before turning away from the window.
No one said anything on the drive back to the house. The car stopped at the gate of the large house and the driver pushed a button on the dashboard that opened the gate. When it was opened, he drove up to the large house. When he stopped the SUV, Braeden and Grayson got out and went inside the house. Grayson guided Braeden into the sitting room and gestured for him to have a seat.
"How did you know?" Grayson looked at him and shrugged. "I happened to be on the strip conducting business when I felt your anguish and followed the feelings to you." He looked at Braeden for a few moments before continuing. "I wanted to make sure you didn't do something stupid. Why were you there?" Braeden reached into his pocket, pulled out the folded piece of paper and held it out. Grayson walked over to him and took it. He unfolded it and looked at it. He then sat down next to him. "I understand. It's surprising that it was still there. I haven't seen one of these is some time." He looked at Braeden who met his gaze. "I know. I know the rules. I wasn't going to do something stupid, trust me. It's just that it's hard sometimes." Grayson nodded. "It is, but you need to stay away. You can't go there."
"I know. I think because it is Thanksgiving weekend and finding the paper, I just felt drawn there." Braeden paused and leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling. Grayson got up and went to the fireplace in the room. He took a long match from the mantle and lit the paper before tossing it into the fireplace. "I think I need a change of scenery." Grayson turned away from the burning paper and looked at Braeden and nodded. "Perhaps you do. Maybe it is time for you to go somewhere else. I can send you to one of our places in Chicago, New York, Boston, DC, Miami wherever you'd like. I'm sure we can find a place where you could help."
"How about California?" Grayson looked at him and thought about it for a few moments before nodding. "I think I can find someplace for you out there. You can work with one of our teams out there. I will let you know tomorrow. For now, why don't you take it easy? Get something to drink and relax in your room." Braeden nodded and stood up. "Thanks Grayson. I owe you a lot." Grayson walked over to him and placed his hands on Braeden's shoulders. "You have repaid me. You have learned a lot and have been very helpful here. I hate to see you go, but perhaps being away from here will be good for you." He gently turned him around. "Go rest. I'll talk to you tomorrow." Braeden started out of the room, but looked back. "Thanks." Grayson nodded and made shooing motions at him. Braeden gave him a slight smile and left for his room.
Grayson walked to his study and picked up the phone. When it was answered he had a friendly smile on his face. "Good evening my friend…I'm fine…How are things?…Excellent. Glad to hear it. The reason I called is that I want to send someone to you. You remember Braeden? You met him the last time you were here….Yes, him. Well, I think he needs a change of scenery and I was thinking I could send him to you to work with the teams there….Yes, I think he'll do fine out there…He's too close out here and keeps getting drawn in….Yep, that's what's happening. He needs some distance for now….Good, I'll send him on the jet in the next couple of days…Thank you my old friend…I will see you in a couple of months when I'm out there…Goodbye and thanks again." Grayson hung up the phone, pleased with himself.
Once the door to the plane was opened Braeden waited while the crew opened and extended the steps for the plane. He thanked them as he left and saw that there was someone at the bottom of the steps waiting for him. The guy looked only a little older than him. He took a breath and could tell the difference in the air right away. It was different than Las Vegas, the air was not as clean, but then again they were at the airport, so that probably had something to do with it. But still he could feel the difference.
His greeter held out his hand as Braeden stepped off the plane. "Hi Braeden, I'm Matt. I'm here to take you to the compound and help you get settled in." They shook hands. "Thanks." He followed Matt to the nearby car. They got in the backseat and moments later they were leaving the airport.
The drive from Bob Hope Airport to West LA did not take very long. The traffic was light since it was midnight. As they drove over Cahuenga Pass through the Hollywood Hills, Braeden saw the lit up buildings of Downtown LA. The LA basin was spread out below them as they drove through the pass. The driver got off at Hollywood Boulevard and then turned north and headed into the hills. He slowed as he turned into a gated driveway as the gates opened. As they drove inside the gate, it closed behind them.
When they stopped, Braeden saw several other cars and SUV's parked in the concrete area. The house was huge. "Here we are. Come on, Mister Almanza would like to meet you." Braeden nodded and followed Matt into the house. He went to grab his bags. "Don't worry about them, Romy will bring them up to your room." Matt put his arm on Braeden's shoulder and led the teen into the house. Braeden marveled at the inside of the house as they walked through. Grayson's house was real nice, but there was more of an elegance to this one. The art and design of the rooms was high class. They walked through the house and then out to the back yard. Braeden saw a few other people around the place, a couple looked younger than him by a couple of years, up to some who appeared to be in their late twenties. In the back Matt led him past a large pool and then along a path to a covered patio area that was perched on the edge of the hill overlooking LA.
Sitting on a comfortable lounge chair was an older man with dark hair swept back from his forehead. He seemed to be talking to a couple of young men. When he saw Matt and Braeden he nodded to the young men and they left. He got up and smiled. "Ah Braeden. So good to see you again. How was your trip?"
"Fine, thank you Mister Almanza. Thank you for having me here." Salvador Almanza gave a small gesture that indicated that it was no trouble. He looked at Matt. "Matthew get Braeden a drink. Come sit down and let's talk." Braeden followed him to the chair and sat in the one that Salvador indicated for him to take. Matt handed a wine glass to Braeden.
Braeden smiled slightly, "Thanks." Salvador waved his hand. "Thank you Matthew. Give us a few minutes, then you can return and conduct Braeden to his room so he can get settled in." Matt nodded and walked away. Salvador waited until Braeden took a sip. "How is the drink?" Braeden nodded. "Very good, thank you sir."
"You know why you are here and what will be expected of you?" Braeden nodded. "Yes sir."
"Good. Grayson told me that you have learned much in the last few years working with him and said you needed some distance." Braeden nodded. "Yes sir. I just needed to get away from Vegas. At least for a little while."
"I can understand that. "We'll keep you busy here. There is always something that needs our, particular attention. But don't worry about that for now. Take a few days to get settled in. I'll have Matthew show you around so you know the area that we cover and where to go. I'm sure you'll fit in fine." Salvador looked out over the city below him. "I've always enjoyed sitting here and looking over the city."
"Yes sir. It is a beautiful view." They sat in silence as they sipped their drinks. A few moments later Matthew returned. Salvador looked up and smiled. "Ah Matthew, good. Why don't you take our friend here to his lodgings and help him get settled in. Tomorrow night, take him out on the town so he can see the sights."
"Of course Sal." He looked at Braeden. "Let's get you settled in." Braeden put his wine glass down and stood up. "Thank you once again Mister Almanza for having me here." Salvador smiled at him. "I'm glad to you have here, young man. I hope you will be happy while you're here." He then turned back to his view and sipped from his wine glass. The two left him and headed into the house.
Braeden was walking along the edge of the UCLA campus. Other members of his team were in other parts of the campus. There had been reports that a few students had gone missing recently. There were no clues anywhere other than their roommates had reported them missing. Their last known locations had been on campus in the early evening and Mister Almanza had asked Braeden if he could take his team to the campus and look around to make sure it wasn't one of their people causing the problem.
He was at the edge of the Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden, and was dressed like a college student with a UCLA Bruin hoodie on and wearing jeans so that he wouldn't look out of place. He had the hood up and was wearing a backpack. He brought the concealed mic that was in his sleeve up to his mouth. "Anything you guys?" He heard several negatives in his earpiece, before he spoke again. "Okay. Keep your eyes open. I'm at the botanical gardens. I'm going to look around inside."
It was early in the evening in mid October and he didn't expect anyone to be here but he had to check it out. Because the garden was closed, he had to hop the fence to get inside. The fence was no obstacle to him. He didn't expect to find anyone inside but it was part of the university and didn't hurt to look everywhere that he could. He headed toward the south end of the garden. As he walked through the garden, he could hear the occasional car pass by on the street that ran along the east side of the garden. The west side was the university. The street was quiet for the most part and he didn't hear anyone walking along the road at this time of the evening. He was quiet enough that even if there had been someone inside the garden, they would not have heard him. He was about to leave when he thought he heard something farther south from him. He moved quickly and was still unheard as he headed that way and stopped to listen. This time he heard it again. He kept moving forward and came to the south entrance of the gardens. The sound he heard was just beyond the entrance in the area known as The Triangle. It was a green area just outside the garden entrance where two streets converged to make a triangular shape.
This time when he heard the sound he could make out a young voice. "Let me go." It sounded like someone struggling and he thought he could see some movement through the trees and bushes. He quickly hopped over the fence again and made his way toward the movement. He could hear a struggle and then the sound of a fist hitting someone. When he got to the area, he could see a larger person standing over a smaller person who was lying next to a bike. Braeden scanned the man and saw that he did not appear to be the one he and his team were searching for, but the man had done a lot of things that he had not been caught for. All of them involved attacking kids and this appeared to be his next victim.
Now that he was near, he could see that is was a kid as he suspected. The man reached down to pick the kid up and the kid tried to fight him off, but he seemed to be dazed by the blow the man had obviously delivered a moment ago. The man hit him again and the kid seemed to go limp. Braeden lost no time and jumped out. His movement startled the man who dropped the younger kid and turned to face Braeden. The man reached for his waistband and Braeden gave him no time to pull the gun that he had hidden.
He leaped across the intervening space faster than the man could see and grabbed the man's arm. With a quick twist, there was a loud crack as the man's arm broke. He opened his mouth to let out a scream, but Braeden's hand clamped down on his mouth cutting him off. He looked the man in the eyes and said, "You're done hurting kids." The man's eyes widened when he saw the smile on Braeden's face and he tried to break free but with only one good arm there was nothing he could do as Braeden let his fangs drop and bit down into the man's neck. The man stumbled backward, but Braeden was locked on. In moments, the man dropped to his knees and then to his back as Braeden finished with him. He stood up from the body and wiped his mouth with a handkerchief.
He lifted his sleeve and spoke into the mic again. "I need someone to grab a body."
"Did you find the one doing this?"
"No, but someone just as bad. He was pedo grabbing a kid off the street. He was going to hide the kid's bike in the bushes, then put the kid in his car he has parked nearby and take him somewhere else to have his fun. I just need someone to dispose of the body. We'll leave his car here. We'll let the cops figure out why his car is here. I'm going to make sure the boy is okay."
"Got it. Be there in a sec."
"What happened?" Braeden turned around and saw the boy was sitting up, looking around. Braeden gave the boy what he hoped would be a reassuring smile. The boy started looking around a little frantically and then he spied the body of the man lying beyond Braeden. His eyes opened wide with a shocked look on his face. "Is….is he…dead?" He looked up at Braeden and he could tell the boy was still a bit scared. He glanced behind him and nodded. "Yeah, he is. I couldn't let him hurt you. Are you alright?" Braeden moved closer to the boy. The boy was still staring at the body and absently nodded. He looked at Braeden and at that moment the light from a passing car shone through the trees and lit up Braeden's face. The boy's eyes opened wide and he shrank back. "You…you're a…." the boy fainted. Braeden put his hand up to his face and felt something sticky on the side of his mouth and cheek. He looked at his hand and saw there was blood there. "Dammit. He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket again and wiped his mouth.
He heard someone coming and stood up to face whoever it was, but relaxed immediately. It was Jazzy, Jasmine, from his team. She was an older teen girl who had been turned a few years ago. "Hey Bray. This the stiff?" She kicked the body and he nodded. "He was going to kidnap this kid and after using him for a few days he was going to kill him and dump the body up in the mountains. Apparently he's done it before, so that's one less low life on the streets and I was able to get something to eat." Jazzy walked over to the man and looked at him. "So I guess he's not the one that's been making people disappear." Braeden nodded, "At least not the college students. They're too old for him." She looked around. "So we're going to be out here tomorrow night too?" He nodded. "And the next, and the next, until we find out if it is one of ours or not. If we find out it's a human we'll either wrap him or her up in a nice little package and leave him where he can be found, or we'll take care of it ourselves. Depends on what Sal says to do."
Jazzy nodded and pointed to the boy. "What about the kid." Braeden let out a sigh. "I think he saw me, not sure though. There was a little blood on my face and a car's headlight lit up my face and he passed out. Maybe he'll forget about it or think it was a hallucination." He thought about it for a few moments. "We'll drop him off his home. He lives in the neighborhood just over there. Let's get these two in the SUV. Put the bike on top of asshole here in the back and drop them off at his house. Once we do that we'll head back over here to continue the patrol after we drop the kid off. Maybe we can just drop the kid and his bike off on his porch and ring the bell. I don't want to leave him lying out here." She nodded and bent over to pick the man up and throw him over her shoulder. "Kay Boss."
Braeden picked up the kid and the bike and followed Jazzy to the edge of the trees and bushes. They checked to see if anyone was in sight and then quickly ran to the SUV parked nearby. She dumped the body in the back and then tossed the bike of top of him. Braeden put the boy in the backseat and hopped up next to him. Jazzy got in and started the SUV. She glanced over her shoulder. "Where to Bray?" He gave her directions and they were soon on the boy's street. He had her drive past the boy's house and stop just around the corner, where the trees blocked some of the street lights, making it darker where they parked.
"Jazz, get his bike, I'll take the kid. Just put it on the front lawn. I'm going to put the kid next to the door and ring the bell. Get ready to get us out of here quick." She nodded and went to the back of the SUV to grab the bike. Braeden got out and picked the kid up and led the way to the house. Once she put the bike down she went back to the SUV and waited while he brought the kid to the door. He was just about to put him down, when the door was flung open.
"Is that you Bobby…" Braeden looked up and saw a woman in her late thirties in the doorway. "What happened!?"
"I, um don't know ma'am. I found him by The Triangle. He, uh, told me where he lived and I helped get him home." About this time the kid started to stir. "Come in young man." She then turned her head and called out. "NICKY!" Braeden heard heavier footsteps. "What's going on Lace?" The man pulled the door open wider and he saw his son barely conscious and he went on the porch to pick his son up. Lacey looked at this older teen who had helped her son. She reached her hand out and placed it on Braeden's shoulder. "Please come in and tell us what happened."
"That's okay ma'am. I should be getting home." When he spoke, the man stiffened for a moment and turned to face his son's benefactor. What he saw caused him to tremble and his face paled in shock. When the man spoke, he sounded a little like a young boy. "Robbie?"
Braeden looked up and when he met the man's eyes, his mouth dropped open. "Oh my God! Robbie?"
Braeden hadn't seen those eyes for about thirty years and he thought he'd never see them again. The eyes were a little older and had experienced more, but they were still familiar to Braeden. He had gone away so that he would never be tempted to look at those eyes. "Ni..Nicky? Oh….shit!" Braeden pulled away from Lacey and ran off. Behind him he heard the man yell after him. "ROBBIE!"
Braeden hopped into the SUV. "Get us out of here." Jazzy didn't say a thing. Since the SUV was already started, she was able to speed away immediately. Braeden saw the man standing in his front yard, still holding his son, as he watched the SUV disappear into the night.
"What happened Bray?" He shook his head. "Nothing much, I just wanted to get out of there before they started asking too many questions. Just as I was about to put the kid down and ring the bell, his mom opened the door. She must have heard us. At least the kid will be alright. Hopefully he won't remember anything about what he saw or thought he saw. Maybe he'll just think he imagined it."
Back at UCLA they parked and got out. "Let's finish this up. Make another sweep through the campus and then we'll call it a night and head home." She nodded and disappeared into the night. Braeden walked in the opposite direction and tried to lose himself in the job he had been tasked with. He kept coming back to the look on the man's face when he turned around and saw Braeden. It brought back to him how long it had been for him.
Back at the house, Nick stood in his yard looking at the rear lights of the SUV until it turned a corner and disappeared. "Dad?" Nick looked down and saw his son's eyes were open. He smiled at him. "Hey buddy. Are you okay?" The young teen nodded and Nick set him on his own feet. The boy looked around bewildered. "I think so. What happened?" Nick put his hand on his son's shoulder and guided him to the house. "We're hoping you can tell us? Go with your mom and let's get you something warm to drink. Then we'll talk. I'll put your bike away." The boy nodded and followed his mom into the house.
His mom took him to the kitchen while she made the hot chocolate and started a pot of coffee. Nick came into the kitchen and sat down across from his son. He saw that his clothes had dirt and grass stains on them. "Why don't you go change while Mom's making the drinks?" Bobby looked down at himself and nodded. "I'll take a quick shower too. Be right back." Nick nodded and the boy went upstairs to his bedroom.
Nick continued to stare in the direction his son had gone until he felt Lacey's hand on his shoulder. He shook his head and looked at her. She handed him a cup of coffee. She sat down and looked at him with concern. She could see the pain in his eyes. "What was that about Honey? Who was that kid?" Nick shook his head. "I don't know. Hopefully Bobby can shed some light on it. I don't know who the kid was, but when I heard his voice, I could have sworn it was my brother Robbie's voice. He sounded exactly as I remember him. And when I turned around, and saw him, I was shocked because he looked just like my brother did thirty years ago when he disappeared."
Nick wiped his eyes as he remembered those days after Robbie's disappearance. There were police and all the flyers he helped put up, hoping his brother would be found. But Robbie had disappeared without a trace. At first the police tried to say he was a runaway, but there was no evidence of that, so they treated him as a missing person, not a runaway. Nick had overheard the detectives talking to his parents one night after a few weeks when they thought he had gone to bed. He didn't understand it then, but later he put it together. They were talking about Robbie maybe having been taken by a child predator and that there was a good chance that he might be dead now. The trail was cold and they had come by to tell Nick's parents that unless something new came up, they had hit a dead end and they didn't know where else they could go with the case.
His parents never gave up hope that Robbie would come home one day. After Nick graduated and got his degree, he started working as a Financial Advisor with a company in California. Eventually he was offered a management position in the financial department at UCLA Medical Center and had been there ever since. He was now the Vice President of the financial department working under the Chief Financial Officer for the Medical Center.
All this ran through his head as they waited for Bobby to rejoin them. "It was just a little shocking to hear and see someone who looked and sounded so much like Robbie. Maybe Bobby knows his name. He's only a little older than Bobby. Maybe he knows him from school. I know it can't be him. That would be impossible. Robbie would be around 45 or 46 years old. So of course, it can't be him."
"Can't be who?" Nick looked up at Bobby as he came into the kitchen and sat down. His mom got up and fixed him a cup of hot chocolate. She looked at him and turned his face. They could both see a bruise forming on his right side of his face. She frowned. "Are you okay?' He nodded his head as he blew on the hot chocolate. "Yeah, I think so."
"Bobby can you tell us what happened?" Bobby took a sip. "I was riding back from Derek's house and was by The Triangle waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street when someone grabbed me and my bike from behind and pulled me into the bushes. I was trying to get away but the guy who had grabbed me, hit me a couple of times and things got kinda fuzzy."
"Who grabbed you?" Bobby shrugged, "I don't know, some big guy. Like I said it was fuzzy. I remember someone getting the guy off me and then he picked me up and I don't remember anything else until I was here."
"Do you remember anything about the teenager that was with you?" He shook his head. "Not really. I think he stopped the man, but I was out of it and don't really remember much else." Nick nodded. "I'm going to call the police. If there is some man kidnapping kids, they need to know about it." Nick got up and picked up the phone.
"911? I want to report an attempted kidnapping of my son…..Yes he's seems to be okay, he's here with us, but he's just told us some man tried to kidnap him on his way home from his friend's house….He told us it was at The Triangle, near the Botanical Garden….Yes, that will be fine." They heard him give the 911 operator their address before hanging up.
He looked at his family. "They said they'll send someone over to take a report. Why don't you go watch TV while we wait for the police?" Bobby nodded and took his drink to the den. Nick joined him in the den. "Bobby, do you know who that teenager that brought you home is? I mean does he go to your school or have you seen him around the neighborhood?" Bobby shook his head. "I don't think so. I don't remember much about him. That guy that grabbed me really hit me hard." Nick nodded his head. "I think we'll take you to see the doc tomorrow. We'll want him to check you out and make sure you don't have a concussion or anything. Do you have a headache?" Bobby nodded. "A little one. It's not too bad."
"I thought you might, so I brought some aspirin for you." Bobby looked at his mom who was holding out a couple of pills and small glass of water. Bobby took it and thanked her. She joined them and they watched TV until the police arrived.
A couple of police officers arrived a short time later and they led them to the dining room table so he could ask Bobby about what happened. He noted the large bruise on the boy's face.
"Hi, I'm Officer Andres Escarrida. This is my partner Officer Anthony Reusch." They shook hands with them. "I'm Nick Cummings. This is my wife Lacey and this is our son Bobby, er, Robert." He smiled at Bobby. "Well, I'm here to take your statement Bobby, you don't mind if I call you Bobby? Or would you prefer Robert?" Bobby shook his head. "No sir, Bobby's okay." He nodded and Nick gestured for them to sit. Bobby sat between his parents. The two officers sat across from the family and Officer Reusch opened his notebook. Officer Escarrida gave Bobby another smile. "Can you tell me what happened Bobby? I'm guessing that mark on your face is a result of the attack?" Bobby put his hand up to the large red mark on his face and nodded. "Okay Bobby. Tell me what you can remember."
"Yes sir. I was coming home from my friend Derek's house and was waiting for the light to change so I could cross to Hilgard near The Triangle, when someone grabbed me and my bike from behind and dragged me back into the trees. I tried to fight him off, but he was a lot bigger and stronger than me."
"Can you tell me anything about the man? How tall, or how about how much he weighed? Or anything else about him?" Bobby was quiet for a moment. "I think he was over 6' because like I said he was big and strong. A lot stronger than me. I really didn't see much of him, because I think that when he got far enough inside the trees, he hit me a couple of times I think and then things got kind of fuzzy. I really didn't get a good look at him when he did that, just that he was big."
The officer nodded. "So how did you get away from him?"
"Some guy helped me, I think. I really don't remember much. I think I blacked out, because the next thing I remember was my dad carrying me into the house."
"Can you tell us anything about this guy that helped you or anything else that you saw?" Bobby shook his head. "I'm sorry, I don't really remember anything else." The other officer made some notes. Officer Escarrida turned to Nick and Lacey. "Did you see this guy who helped him?" Lacey was about to say something but Nick spoke first. "No Officer. My wife thought she heard something out front and called me. We went to the door and we found Bobby laying at our doorstep and his bike on the lawn, so I picked him up." Lacey glanced at Nick wondering why he didn't say anything about the older teen who had saved their son, but he gave her hand a slight squeeze trying to convey to her not to say anything about the person who saved Bobby. The officer saw the look between the couple. "Ma'am, did you see anything else?" She hesitated a moment but then shook her head. "No Officer. I didn't."
He looked at Nick. "Are you sure you didn't see anything sir? Since your son mentioned someone helping him, wouldn't you want to thank the person?" Nick nodded. "Of course and I hope you do find him so that we can thank him personally for saving Bobby, but we didn't see anyone else, just Bobby." The officer looked at Nick and he was certain there was something that he was holding back. Maybe he had seen something but for some reason he didn't want to say anything. Nick got the feeling the officer knew he wasn't telling him everything and thought maybe he could give a little information out and the officer might be deflected. "Oh, wait. I just remembered something. When I picked Bobby up, I heard a truck or SUV or something like that speed away. I looked around to see if I could see anything and I thought I saw something like that turn the corner and disappear. It was kind of dark and I couldn't make out any details other than it was dark colored and the trees nearby blocked the streetlights from shining down on it."
The officer made a couple of notes. "Do you remember which direction the vehicle went?"
"It turned right on Hills just off Le Conte. That's as far as I could see it. I was more worried about Bobby so I went inside with him after that." The officer nodded. "Mister Cummings. Can I ask what you do?" Nick nodded. "I'm VP in the financial office at UCLA Medical Center." Reusch wrote that down and then he looked at Lacey. "And you Ma'am."
"I'm a History professor at UCLA." He nodded as he wrote down her answer. Officer Escarrida looked at the family and although he wasn't sure whether they had told him everything, it seemed that he had everything that he was going to get for now. He pulled a card out of his notebook and held it out to Nick. "Thank you for your help. I'd like to ask one favor though. Would you mind having Bobby show me where this happened? I'd like to look at the scene right away. We'll need to get a crew out there to look the place over for any clues." Nick nodded. "We'll get our coats and be right behind you."
They all stood up and went to the front door. Moments later the garage door opened and they backed out of the driveway to the street. The police car then led the way to The Triangle. They both parked and got out. "Okay Bobby. Why don't you lead us to where it started?" He turned to his partner. "Grab some tape out of the trunk so we can block the area off." Anthony nodded and went to the trunk while Bobby led the way to the crosswalk he was at earlier.
"I was sitting on my bike here and then I was grabbed and hauled back into the bushes right here I think." Andres stepped up with his flashlight sweeping the ground. He nodded as he noticed some drag marks in the grass. He looked at Bobby. "Can you tell me which direction you were dragged from here?" Bobby looked into the dim filtered light under the trees and then pointed in one direction. "I think that way." Andres nodded. "Thank you." He started walking into the trees and bushes with his flashlight sweeping back and forth. He noted a few drag marks probably from the bike being dragged. Anthony caught up with him and the two of them began searching the ground.
At the sidewalk, the family watched the flashlights moving back and forth as the two officers searched the area. "Why didn't you say anything else Nick?" He shook his head. "I don't know, but I don't want them searching for that guy. I don't want him to get in trouble. He saved our son and I'm just not sure they need to know about him. We'll talk more when we get home."
Anthony was a little bit ahead of Andres when his flashlight swept over something that caught his eye. "Andres. I think I found something." Andres walked over and looked at what Anthony was looking at. It looked like some blood. He knelt to get a closer look. "Yep, blood. Okay call it in, we'll need Forensics to come out and do a sweep. Once you call it in, start taping off this whole area from where they kid was grabbed on up to here."
Anthony nodded and headed back to the car. Andres went back to the family. "Thank you for your help." Nick noticed the other officer talking into his mic holding a roll of caution tape in his hand. "Did you find something?" Andres nodded. "I believe so. We'll get a team out here to do a search for clues." He paused and looked at Nick. "Are you sure you can't remember anything else Mister Cummings?" Nick shrugged and shook his head. "I've told you all I know." Andres handed him a card from his pocket. "Well, if any of you remember anything else, especially you Bobby, please give me a call." Nick took the card and shook hands. "Thank you Officer. We'll be sure to call if we remember anything else."
Andres watched them walk to their car and head back home. He turned back into the trees and stopped near the blood spots. He widened his search of the area as Anthony taped off the crime scene. He found some more scuff marks. Some that looked like where the teen was but there were others that looked like some sort of struggle. Thirty minutes later he turned the scene over to forensics and they headed back to the station to write their report.
Back at the Cummings home, Bobby was a bit tired with everything that happened so he went up to bed. Nick and Lacey sat down in the living room. "So you said that you would talk about it when we got home." He nodded and stood up. "I'll be right back." Their house was a large two story home with a pool. Both did work at home at times, so two of the five bedrooms had been turned into offices for each of them. Nick went into his office and searched among the book shelves until he found what he was looking for. It was an old photo album. He carried it back into the living room and sat down next to Lacey. She watched him as he opened it and started turning the pages slowly. He stopped at one page and handed it to her. She looked at the open page and her mouth dropped open. Staring up at her was a smiling teenager that looked pretty much like the teen that had saved their son. The same light brown colored hair. The eyes in the picture, though they were the same color, were different than the eyes of the teen they had seen with Bobby. Those eyes were more shadowed, older maybe.
She looked at Nick who was sitting with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him. "That's my older brother Robbie. Robert Braeden Cummings." He nodded. "Yeah, that's why I wanted Bobby to have that name. I wanted him to carry on my brother's name. He disappeared when he was 15. I was 8 at the time. He went to the movies with his friends one night and he never came home. I had already gone to bed but was awakened by a knock on the door. So, I left my room to find out what was going on. I saw the police talking to my mom and dad. Mom saw me and took me back to bed and tucked me in. I found out the next day that my brother was missing."
He gave a weak chuckle. "At first I was mad at him, because he promised me that he would take me to any movie I wanted that day. Just him and me. I thought he was ditching me for his friends and didn't want to keep his promise to take me to the movies. I didn't really understand what had happened but my mom explained it to me and when I realized what was really going on, I started crying. I loved him so much. He always made sure he spent time with me. Even playing kids games with me even if they were probably boring to him. He was never mean to me. Oh, we had arguments, but he was never mean. And he always kept every promise he made to me."
Nick looked up and she saw the tears on his cheeks. "He was the best big brother anyone could have and I miss him so much. I helped my parents put missing person flyers around the city. We were always hoping he'd come back home. Over the years around his birthday which is July 18th, Mom still swears to this day she knows that he is out there somewhere. She says because a mom just knows. He'd be 45 this year."
He looked outside through the front window. "That boy that helped Bobby is so much like him. When I heard him speak, my knees went weak for a moment, because he sounded just like Robbie. It was as if Robbie was there again. And when I turned around and saw him." He shook his head. "I couldn't believe it. He looked just like Robbie. Everything was the same, except he looked like the same fifteen year old brother that I remembered. Then he called me Nicky and ran off. That is what he always called me…Nicky."
She went turned the pages back to the front of the album and looked at pictures of the two boys together when they were younger. Sometimes with their parents or by themselves or with other boys. She then started turning pages after the school picture of Robbie and found a folded white paper. She opened it and saw it was one of missing person flyers that Nick had spoken about. There was a color picture of his brother, his age, height, weight, what he was wearing last and when he was last seen. She had vaguely known about him because she had seen pictures of him at Nick's parents' house when they had visited. She asked about him once and was told about he was Nick's older brother that went missing one night. Nick didn't seem to want to talk about it, so she let it go and it had slipped her mind.
"I wonder?" She looked at him. He had sort of a hopeful look on his face. "Maybe that boy is Robbie's son. That might mean that he lives around here somewhere. Or maybe if he's older maybe he goes to UCLA."
"But if that's true, then why wouldn't he let you know where he is. As much as he loved you, wouldn't he want you to know he was okay?" Nick's face fell. "Oh. I hadn't thought of that. But still how else could there be someone who looked so much like him without being related. Maybe? Oh, maybe Robbie died of something like cancer after his son was born and his son lives here with his mom. I mean that's possible." She nodded. "Yes, it is. But if that's the case how are you going to find out?"
He stood up and starting pacing. "I don't know exactly, but I could easily check for enrollments at the university. Somehow though I don't think that will be the case because he looked too young to be a university student even if he was wearing a UC…LA hoodie. He was wearing a UCLA hoodie. Well maybe he just looks young for his age. He might be a new Freshman at the university."
Nick went back and sat down next to Lacey. "And if he's not, with everything on the internet these days, it's harder for someone to be off the grid, so maybe I can hire a private detective to find the boy and maybe my brother or at least news of him." He looked at her. "I have to try Lace. If there is any chance that he is a connection to my brother. I've got to look." She hugged him and nodded. "Of course. If he is your nephew, you have to find out about him." She handed him the photo album and he started reminiscing about the pictures and shared his memories about them with her.
At a parking structure near The Triangle, Braeden felt someone come up behind him. He knew who it was so he didn't turn around. He and Jazzy watched the police searching the area where they had rescued the kid for clues. Neither said anything for a few minutes. Braeden checked his watch. "Call the others, we should head back." She nodded and contacted the rest of the team as she walked to the SUV. Braeden watched for a few more moments and then he looked beyond to the nearby neighborhood to where he knew his now grown up little brother lived with his family and shook his head with regret. He turned around and got into the SUV as Jazz started it up and they drove back to their home.
The next day at work Nick started searching through the student records. He searched by last names, hoping he'd find someone named Cummings, but found nothing. He tried searching by combinations of his brother's name for student names and parent names. He found plenty of Roberts, several Braedens, and even a few Cummings, but when he brought up each record none of the students matched the description of the guy he had seen the night before. For those records that had any of those names for the parents, none of them seemed to match how old his brother would have been. By the end of the day, he hit a dead end. So, it appeared the guy did not go to UCLA. The only thing he could think of was to see if he could hire a private investigator to search for him. The problem was that he knew nothing about hiring one. He started a search on the internet to see if he could find one.
When he entered 'Private Investigator' in the search engine he got so many hits that he didn't know who to choose. For the next hour, he skimmed through the list but couldn't decide who to choose. Finally, he decided to just choose one. They were probably all pretty much the same. He opened the website for Spirit Wolf Security. He read through the website and saw that they seemed to have a good reputation. He read that they offered a lot of different services. Bodyguards, security consultants and private investigation. It sounded good so he called them.
"Good afternoon, Spirit Wolf Security, how may I help you?"
"Hi, I need to speak to someone about finding a missing person."
"Certainly. Let me connect you." Moments later Nick was connected.
"Good Afternoon, this is Jeff Gant."
"Hello Mister Gant. My name is Nick Cummings."
"Well, Mister Cummings, how can I help you?"
"I'm hoping you can find someone for me. A young man, a teenager I believe, at least he looked like one when I saw him. Maybe mid to late teens."
"You say he is missing?"
"Yes, well, not exactly. You see this teen saved my son from something terrible and before I could thank him, he ran off. I need to find him, to thank him for what he did."
"Okay. We can try. What other information do you have? A name, description, where he's from, anything like that?"
"Well, I'm not sure exactly. You see, well, would it be possible to meet with you and maybe explain myself better?"
"It doesn't sound like you have much to go on."
"I know how it sounds, but if you would at least meet with me. I think I can explain it much better if you do."
The man was silent for a few seconds. "Very well, Mister Cummings. When would you like to meet?"
"Would it be possible for you to come to my house this evening and meet with me?"
"Let me check my calendar." Once again there was a few seconds of silence. "I can do that. What time?
"Would six be okay?"
"Yes. Please give me your address and either I or one of my associates will be there."
"My address is 905 Manning Avenue in Westwood. Near the UCLA Campus. Thank you Mister Gant. I will see you this evening."
"Good afternoon sir."
Nick hung up and sat back. He hoped that whoever came to the house would be willing to take the job. He glanced at his desk clock. Almost four. He had completely lost track of time in his search and had gotten nothing else done. He decided to head home a little early. Making sure he had everything in his bag, he left his office saying goodbye to his secretary.
That evening they had just finished dinner and were cleaning up when there was a knock on the door. Nick went to the door and opened it. "Hi, I'm Jeff Gant from Spirit Wolf Security." He invited him in and they shook hands. "Hi, I'm Nick. Let's sit in the living room." He introduced Jeff to his wife and son. Nick excused himself for a moment while he retrieved the old photo album.
"Well, Mister Cummings, you asked if we could find a missing person. What can you tell me?"
"The other night, my son was almost kidnapped and this teenage guy rescued him and brought him home. Before I could get his name or anything he ran off and left in a dark colored SUV."
"So you hope we can find this young man?" Nick nodded. "Well yes, but there is more to it than just that. When I saw him, I was shocked because he looked exactly like my older brother who disappeared 30 years ago when he was 15. We never heard or saw him again. I think it is possible that this guy may be the son of my brother, because he looks and sounds exactly like him. I think that if you find my brother, you will find this teenager and vice versa."
Jeff was quiet for a few moments as he digested what Nick had told him. "I take it the police were called in on your brother's disappearance?" Nick nodded. "Where did this happen?"
"Las Vegas. That's where I was born and raised. My parents still live there."
"You say this was 30 years ago? Do you know what date?" Nick reached into the album and pulled out the flyer. Jeff looked at it and made some notes. "That has everything that I know about it. The picture is my brother at 15. The teenager that helped my son, looked exactly like that. That's why I think he might be the son of my brother. I can't believe someone could look so much like him without being related to him."
Jeff finished writing down the details he needed and then handed the flyer back to Nick. "Mister Cummings, I will see what we can find out. I'll contact Las Vegas PD and get what info I can. Do you think that your parents might have some additional information that might help us search?"
Nick shook his head. "I don't want them to know that I'm doing this. So please don't contact them. If you think there is something only they could tell you, please contact me and I'll see if the information you need is worth getting their hopes up." Jeff nodded. "Okay, we'll keep them out of the loop on this for now. Give me a few days and I will give you a call to let you know what we can find out." Nick walked to the door with him and shook his hand. "Thank you Mister Gant for doing this." Jeff nodded. "I can guarantee nothing. We may only find as much as the police did, but I promise we will do our best and run down any lead that we can find." Nick nodded. "Anything you can find out would be appreciated. Even if it is a complete dead end." Jeff nodded and walked to his car.
Braeden and his team continued to patrol the area of the campus. They widened their search to include the surrounding neighborhoods. Everything they found pointed to a human behind the disappearances around the university. Whoever it was hadn't done anything lately. Maybe he or she had moved on to find other pastures, so he was going to talk to Sal when they got home that his team had not found anything that pointed to one of their kind as being the culprit and that it was probably some human low life.
When his team got back home he met with Sal and gave his assessment of the situation with the disappearances. Sal listened to his reasons and then agreed with him. He then told him that he and his team had the next few nights off.
The next evening when he woke up, there was a note that Sal wanted to speak with him. He thought that maybe something had come up and Sal was going to tell him to gather his team for a job. He found Sal in his favorite place away from the house looking out over the city.
"Ah Braeden. Nice of you to join me."
"Good evening sir." Sal waved to the chair next to him. "Please sit. I have something to talk to you about." Braeden nodded wondering if he was in trouble. Sal chuckled and shook his head. "No dear boy. You are not in trouble. I just received some information concerning you. It appears that someone has been working over the last week or so trying to find information on your whereabouts. I recently heard from Grayson. He said that a private security agency has been looking into your disappearance with the police department back there. They have been talking to them about you and what info they have on your case. They said they had been asked to investigate the disappearance to see if they could turn anything new up on the case."
Sal glanced at Braeden and saw he was staring out at the city although Sal could see he wasn't looking at anything. "I'm sorry sir. I think I know who it is."
"Nicholas Cummings. You're brother I believe." He looked at Sal silently for a few moments and then nodded. "Yes sir. I think it's my brother. That kid I saved last week, I didn't know he was my brother's son and when I got him home, my brother saw me and I think recognized me. I ran off a soon as I realized he saw me, but I guess he knew it was me and is now trying to find me." He was silent for a few moments. "I'll start packing my things, so you can transfer me away from here."
Sal shook his head. "No. I am not sending you away. Unless, that is what you wish?" Braeden shook his head. "No sir. I would prefer to stay here if I can." Sal nodded. "Very well. Let us see what would be the best course of action. Check with me tomorrow evening. For now, go and relax. Have a nice night."
Braeden stood up and gave a little bow to Sal. "Thank you sir." Braeden left him and decided to go into town. He thought of going clubbing. Although he did look underage, he had a driver's license that said he was over 21, so it was never a problem to get into any of the clubs, he just got carded any time he ordered a drink. He even parked near one of them, planning to go in, but stopped before getting out and instead pulled out of the parking lot and drove around for an hour or so. Before he knew it, he found himself near UCLA. He knew he shouldn't but he couldn't help himself. He parked in a parking structure at the campus and walked to his little brother's house.
When he got there, he took a good look at the house. It was a very nice two story home, surrounded by trees. It looked like his little brother had done well for himself. He was very happy for him. Moving carefully, he snuck around the house, sticking to the shadows made by all the trees around the home, so that he could try to look inside. He could see Nick and his family watching TV. He found that he couldn't pull himself away and he sat outside the house and watched them. He saw his nephew say goodnight to his parents and go upstairs to his bedroom Braeden guessed. He watched until it looked like Nick and his wife decided to head to bed as well. Braeden got up from where he had been and walked away.
Nick told Lacey he would be right up, he just wanted to make sure the house was locked up for the night. As he headed to the front door to make sure it was locked, he thought he saw something outside and opened the door to look. He thought he saw someone walking down the street and walked further outside to try and get a better look. He saw the figure walk under a streetlight as it headed to the campus. The figure looked to be about the size of a teen and he almost called out to the guy but held back, not sure what he would say to him. He started back inside, but stopped and looked toward the guy again. The figure was just disappearing from sight and he almost felt like maybe he should run after him, but again, he thought it was just wishful thinking or maybe hoping it was the teen who helped his son. He watched until the guy was out of sight and then shook his head. He chalked it up to wishful thinking. What had happened to his son brought back all those feelings he had for his older brother. He closed the door and locked it, then wiped his eyes that had gotten damp because he was thinking of his brother. He stopped by Bobby's room to look in on him. The boy was sleeping soundly and that brought a tender smile to Nick's lips. He closed the door and went to join his wife.
Detective Harold Clark looked through the file on his desk. He was looking at a missing person case, but due to new information it had been given to him as a possible homicide investigation. The man, Thomas Bailey, appears to have disappeared about a week ago according to what they had found out from his job when they contacted them. No one had called the department and reported him missing. Some blood found at the site of an attempted kidnapping was traced to the missing man because of a charge against him in the past, they had his DNA in the system. Then his car was found nearby. The car was reported by the UCLA Campus Police because it had been parked in the same place for several days. When the license plate was called in, Thomas Bailey's name came back.
Because of the blood evidence and because of the interviewing officer's report, he thought at first that the man had perhaps been scared off by this mysterious guy who had stepped in and stopped the attack, but now with the blood and then the car being found nearby, it was looking like it may have turned from just a missing person case to a possible homicide. This mysterious guy, who supposedly was a teenager may now be a murderer.
Thomas had a rap sheet of mostly petty crimes, but there was one charge of sexual assault on a child years ago, but it couldn't be proved, so the DA had dropped the charges. Detective Clark had talked to the man's supervisor just that morning and found that he had not been at work since the day of the attempted kidnapping. He closed the file and picked up the search warrant for the man's home, which had been delivered to him that morning.
An hour later Detective Clark arrived at the apartment building in Reseda. He found the manager's office and showed the man the search warrant for Bailey's apartment. He knocked on the door and announced himself. When no one answered, he had the manager unlock the door. Harold had the manager wait outside as he did a sweep of the apartment. When he found it to be empty he went to the front door and told the manager that he would let him know when he was done. He closed the door, put on some gloves and started looking for clues that might help lead him to the missing man.
There wasn't much to see in the one bedroom apartment and nothing that gave him an idea of where to look for this man. The apartment had a small kitchen with a table nearby. In the living room, there was a TV with both a VHS and DVD player, couch, and coffee table. On the coffee table was a laptop and next to it were some bills and a couple of magazines. He turned the laptop on and saw that there was a password needed to login. He would have the lab see if they could get in, there might be information in it that would help them locate the man. He passed by a small bathroom and gave it a quick search, nothing there.
In the man's bedroom, there was an unmade bed and some clothes hanging over the back of a chair in the corner. He searched the dresser and it held pretty much what you'd expect. It was when he got to the bottom drawer of the dresser that he paused. Inside he found several pairs of folded up underwear, but these were not the underwear of a man Bailey's age. They were boy sized underwear, briefs and boxers. He even found some girl's panties in the drawer. As he searched through them he could tell since he had kids of his own, that the sizes would probably fit boys and girls between the ages of around 10 up to early teens. These were not new in the package underwear, they had obviously been worn and in fact once he looked at them more closely, none of them had been cleaned since they had been worn, as far as he could tell. It was if whoever had owned them had removed them, folded them up and put them in the drawer.
His mouth went a bit dry as he realized what he may have found. These might be trophies. He knew this may prove to be a bigger case than just a possible homicide or missing person. He continued searching the room to see what else he could find. In the closet, he found something else, a laptop. It was sitting on top of a couple of large boxes. He pulled them out of the closet and turned on the laptop. It was an older one and did not require a password. He set it on the dresser and started searching through it. It didn't take long before he found what he thought he might find. Pictures of boys and girls in various stages of dress. After looking at several of the pictures. He pulled out his cell phone and called into the department to ask forensics to send someone out to search the apartment. When he hung up, he went to the two boxes the laptop had been sitting on.
Opening the first one he found camera equipment. There were a couple of tripods, a couple of still photo cameras. One was film and looked like it was probably 20 years old and one a more recent digital camera. Also in the box were a couple of video cameras. Again, one that was one of the big VHS cameras from twenty years before and one a digital video camera. He moved that box to the floor and looked in the second box that was underneath it. That had what he had expected to find. DVDs and VHS tapes. He pulled a few out and noted that each one had a single name on it. Adam, Greg, Melissa, Hank, etc. He suspected that it was the name of the child who was featured on the videos or pictures. He stood back up, let out a breath and looked around not quite believing what he had just found. He shook his head, there were some sick puppies out there and it made him glad that he had chosen to be one of those who took down those sorts of animals.
Later that afternoon, Harold finished his report and took it to the Lieutenant's office. Lieutenant Duncan was on the phone and when Harold knocked on his door, he looked up and waved him in. Harold walked in and the Lieutenant pointed to the door and gestured for him to close it. Harold closed the door and stood in front of the desk. Duncan pointed at the chair and gestured for him to sit down.
"Yes sir. I understand, I will let him know. Goodbye sir." He hung up and looked at Harold. "Good job today Clark. That was some find. Forensics is going to sift through everything and we think it is going to help us solve some cold cases. I would like you to work with them to find out who those kids in the pictures and videos are. They've just started searching and they've found a couple of matches to missing kids. I have a feeling that all of them will probably be found to have been killed by this Bailey character."
"Yes, sir. I had a sinking suspicion that that may be the case, when I saw the trophies and then the pictures and tapes." Duncan nodded. "Is that your report?" Harold nodded and handed it to his boss. Duncan scanned it and nodded. "Excellent work all around. Because of you, I think there will be some families that will finally be able to get some closure. It will be hard for them and no I'm not going to have you inform the families. There will be too many I fear, so I'll have missing persons handle the notifications as the evidence is uncovered. My hope is that they will find information that will lead to the bodies, so that the families can have a body to say goodbye to. But anyway, well done."
He placed the report on his desk and looked at Harold for a moment before proceeding. "That was the Captain on the phone and he asked me to extend his own thanks for finding this. He also told me that you can close the case on Mister Thomas Bailey. He said that he received word that the man was being sought by the FBI for kidnapping and transporting minors across state lines. They cornered him a couple of days ago and he decided he did not want to go quietly and was killed. So, one more low life off the street."
"Where did they find him sir?" Duncan shook his head. "The Captain didn't say, he just said to pass on his congratulations on a job well done and that you were to close the case on Bailey." Harold looked at Duncan for a moment and then stood up. "Um, thank you sir. I'll go check with forensics and see what they have so far on the missing kids." Duncan smiled at him and stood up holding out his hand. "Good idea. Let me know what you find out."
They shook hands and Harold went back to his desk. He was puzzled. It seemed too neat to him and left him with questions. Why was the man's car left at the scene of his recent attempted kidnapping? Why was his blood there? Admittedly, there hadn't been much there, so he couldn't have been badly injured, but why didn't he retrieve his car. Maybe he had another one and used that. Harold could understand with all the police around the area soon after the attack someone coming to get a car parked nearby could have aroused suspicion especially if he was injured. He thought about talking to Bailey's boss or maybe the apartment manager again, but dismissed that thought. He'd been told to close the case, by the Captain.
"Clark. I thought you were going to go to the lab?" Harold looked at his boss and nodded. He grabbed his jacket and started to leave. "Oh and Clark, make sure you give me any files you have on the Bailey case." He stopped at the door and looked at his boss for a moment before nodding. "Yes sir." The man gave him a satisfied smile and watched him leave the squad room before returning to his desk.
A well dressed man carrying a briefcase walked into the offices of Spirit Wolf Security and asked for Jeff Gant. He was directed to the investigation department and left with the secretary. "Good afternoon sir. How may I help you?" The man smiled and pulled out a card. It read
Donald Crowder, Esq.
Anderson, Crowder and Bell, Law Offices.
"I'm Mister Crowder and I have some information concerning a missing person's case that your company had recently taken on. I believe Mister Gant has taken the lead on this case. I would like to talk to him about it if he could spare me a few minutes?"
"Let me check to see if he is available." She picked up the phone and pushed a button. "Jeff. There is a gentleman out here that says he needs to speak to you about a missing person's case that you're working on. Do you have some time to see him?" She nodded and hung up. "He said he can see you. Go on in." The man smiled and thanked her as he walked over to the designated door and went in.
Jeff was just closing a file on his desk as Donald walked in. He stood up and went over to shake hands. Donald handed him a card. He looked at it briefly before placing it on his desk. He motioned for Donald to take a chair while he sat down behind his desk. "I understand you have some information for me on a missing person case?" Donald smiled and nodded. He pulled a file out of his case and opened it as he sat back. "Yes, I understand you have been making inquiries into a missing person?"
He glanced down at the file for a moment before continuing. "One Robert Braeden Cummings, age 15. Last seen 30 years ago in Las Vegas?" Jeff nodded. "Yes, his younger brother asked us if we could locate him, because of an incident involving his son." Donald smiled and glanced down at the file again. "Ah yes, Mister Nicholas Cummings whose son Bobby was recently attacked but saved by an unknown person. This person bearing a very close resemblance to his missing older brother. Said resemblance being so close, that he believes that this unknown person may be related in some way to his missing brother and he hopes it will lead to his missing brother." Jeff was a little shocked that this lawyer seemed to know so much about his case. "Um, yes, but what is your interest in the case?"
"I represent someone, who would prefer to remain anonymous and requests that you turn over what you have so far to me and we will take it from there."
"Who is this someone? Is it the missing brother?"
"I'm not at liberty to divulge that information."
"I have an agreement with Mister Cummings to provide him with the information. He should know why you wish us to stop this investigation."
Donald nodded. "Yes, I completely understand." He reached into the file and pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to Jeff. He saw it was a check and his eyes widened when he saw the amount, $500,000. He looked at the man who was smiling. "That is to cover your company's costs incurred so far and for everything that you have on the case."
"As I said we have an agreement with Mister Cummings and he has paid us for our work."
"Yes, of course I understand. The reputation of Silver Wolf Security is well known and highly respected and we would not besmirch it by causing you to not hold up your end of the agreement with Mister Cummings. My company will be contacting him and giving him the information he wishes to know. The person we are working for wishes to do that himself and will be contacting the family within the next few days once we look over what you have collected to see if it matches what our sources have found."
"You mean, you have been looking into this case as well?" Donald nodded. "Yes we have and our employer asked us to approach you and ask that you let us handle it from this point forward. There is some sensitive information involved with this and our employer would prefer that Mister Cummings receive the information directly from him."
Jeff looked at the man and wondered if this employer was the missing brother. He picked up his phone and pushed a button. "Hi Joyce. Is Jake in? Could you ask him to come to my office if he's available? Thank you." He hung up and looked at Donald. "I have to clear this with my boss." Donald nodded. "I understand."
A few moments later the door opened and a tall powerful looking man with long dark hair walked in. Jeff and Donald both stood up. "Thanks for coming Jake." He pointed to Donald. "This is Mister Crowder. He came in today to ask me to turn over the files on a missing person's investigation that I've been working on for the last week or so."
Jake walked over. "Jake MacLaren." They shook hands. "Donald Crowder. Very pleased to meet you Mister MacLaren. Your reputation proceeds you." Jeff handed Jake the check. He was surprised when he saw the amount. "So Mister Crowder, what is this about?"
"As I explained to Mister Gant. My employer wishes to deliver the information that your company has collected along with what he has concerning this missing person that you are searching for, personally to Mister Cummings. The check is to cover any expenses that you have incurred so far, plus all files and documents that you have on your investigation. He wishes to have you close your investigation and allow us to take care of the rest of it."
Jake glanced at the check again before appraising the man before him for a few moments.
"This is a very unusual request and I have a concern that the person who contracted with us to find this information, either will not get that information or may possibly be in danger because of this information. As you said we have a highly respected reputation and I would prefer it stay that way. If we turn this over to you, how do I know that you will follow through? You obviously are trying to buy our silence as well as our files." He cocked an eyebrow.
Donald smiled. "Understandable precaution. I assure you that we will finish what you have started and will make sure Mister Cummings has what answers we can give to him."
"Will this knowledge cause him to be in danger?" Donald shook his head. "No. I give you my word, he will not. In fact, you are free to contact him in a few days and check with him if you like."
Jake was glanced at Jeff and then handed him the check. "Okay, but you can be sure we will check with him and if we aren't satisfied that you have held up your end of the bargain, we will be checking out your company." Donald nodded. "That will not be a problem. I only ask that you give us a few days to get all our ducks in a row as they say and then you can contact him. Say, November 1st? We will have been in contact with him and shared our information by then."
After a moment, Jake nodded. "Very well. We will contact him then."
"Excellent." He pulled a flash drive out of his pocket and handed it to Jeff. "If you would be so kind to copy everything you have on this case to this, and erase your copy of the file, I think we can conclude our business."
Jeff looked at Jake who nodded. "Let me know if there are any problems Jeff." Jeff nodded as he slotted the drive into his computer and began copying the file. Jake left and when the copy was finished he handed it to Donald. "Thank you and please thank Mister MacLaren for me. We will take it from here." Jeff walked him to the door and watched as he left the office.
As he got into his car he made a call. "Please let him know I have the files. I am on my way to the house now to deliver them." He hung up, started the car and drove away.
Braeden came downstairs after waking up and getting dressed. He went out to the back yard and was looking for Sal, but couldn't find him. He did see Matt and walked over to him. "Hey Matt. Have you seen Sal?" Matt nodded. "He had a meeting he needed to attend."
"Did he say when he would be back?" Matt shook his head. "Nah. He didn't say. Why?" Braeden shrugged. "He told me that he would speak to me tonight about something."
"If he gets back early enough, he'll let you know. It depends on the business he has to take care of tonight."
"Okay, I'll just hang around the house and relax in case he needs to find me." Braeden turned back to the house and went to the library. He stopped by the kitchen to grab a drink and then settled down in the library to read for a while.
Sal came back a few hours later. He found Braeden lounging in one of the easy chairs in the library, reading a book. "Ah there you are." Braeden looked up as Sal walked into the library. "I just wanted to let you know that I have a couple of items I need to finalize tonight and then tomorrow after you wake up, come find me and we'll talk." Braeden nodded and Sal left the room.
When he got up the next night he went looking for Sal and found him in his usual place, out back in the covered patio that overlooked the city. Sal smiled when he saw Braeden. "Hello Braeden. Have a seat." Once Braeden was sitting down, Sal handed him a folder. "Take a look at what is in there." Braeden nodded and opened it up. The first thing that greeted him was a copy of the missing person flyer about him from 30 years ago. He glanced at Sal to see if he could tell whether Sal was upset or anything, but Sal just sipped at his drink as he looked out over the city. Braeden kept reading. He saw police reports about his disappearance and notes about the interview they conducted with his parents and his friends. There was also information about the current investigation about his nephew's attempted kidnapping. He saw notes from a company called Spirit Wolf Security concerning his whereabouts. When he finished looking through everything, he closed the folder and looked at Sal.
"I'm sorry sir for the trouble I may have caused you." Sal turned to look at him and shook his head. "Nonsense. You have nothing to be sorry for. You did the right thing for that boy. There is no way you could have known he was your nephew. However, because of that, your brother has asked a private security agency to see if they can find out what happened to you as you can see from the file. They are an excellent company and its possible they may find something, so we have stopped them from doing any further inquiries but I have a feeling your brother is going to prove to be determined to find you. That could be bad for our people if he is persistent."
Braeden got scared. He didn't want anything to happen to his brother. "I'm sorry sir, I'll go far from here. You can send me out of the country, I'll be happy to go if it will keep my brother safe. Whatever you want sir, I'll do it."
Sal looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. "And if I told you that you had to dispose of him and his family, since they all saw you and it seems like your brother is determined to find out what he can about you?" Braeden looked at Sal and his mouth dropped open in shock. He started shaking his head in denial. "Please no, sir? Take me instead. Please leave them alone. I'll do anything sir. If I'm not around, then there won't be anything that he can find and then you can let them alone." He was pleading with Sal. The man looked away and sipped his drink. Braeden was prepared to get on his knees and beg Sal to kill him instead of his family when Sal looked back and shook his head.
"No, I would not ask that of you. That would be against this group I lead here. We don't kill innocents, but your brother's questions could cause us some problems. I take it when you were young, you were close?" Braeden nodded as he wiped the tears that had threatened to fall when he thought his brother and family might be killed. "Yes, I love him very much and I've missed him. I didn't realize how much until I saw him again." Sal nodded. "I thought as much. You know we cannot afford to be exposed…" Braeden interrupted him. "Yes, sir I know. Like I said I'm more than willing to be sent far away. Out of the country even and he'll never find…." Sal frowned at him. Braeden stopped and looked down muttering "Sorry sir."
Sal didn't say anything for a few moments he just looked at Braeden with his head bowed.
"I have been doing some research about your brother. He has done very well for himself. He's had some good investments work out for him and is a VP in the financial department at UCLA Medical Center. I'll give you an example of one of his successful investments. He bought 5,000 shares of Tesla stock when it was somewhere around $17 a share. He sold half of it when it was about $260 a share. He made over half a million on that one deal alone and he still has 2500 shares of stock which is currently trading for about somewhere above $180 a share, so he is still ahead. So, the company would have to go out of business for him to lose money, but my bet is that he would sell the remaining stock and get out before that happened and still make a ton of money. That is only one of the deals he has made. He seems to have a feel for investing and I'm surprised he isn't working for some investment company or even be running his own such company. He seems to have a knack for it."
Braeden was surprised to hear that and he also felt some pride in his little brother's accomplishments. Inside he was saying to himself. < Way to go Nicky. > He looked up as he heard a chuckle from Sal. "What is funny sir?" Sal waved him off. "Nothing to concern yourself with. Since we know he will probably be persistent in his search for you, we only have one choice." Sal looked at Braeden and he started to get scared. Sal put on fake accent and a whispery voice. "I'll have to make him an offer he can't refuse." Braeden was confused. He had heard the quote before but couldn't place it off hand. Sal frowned. "What, you never saw The Godfather." Braeden shook his head. Sal let his head drop and shook it. "What is the youth of this world coming too? One of the best movies of all time and you've never seen it. Well, we'll have to fix that some time. What I'm talking about is ask him to work for us and put those skills of his to work for our benefit. And of course, his as well."
"Work for us sir?" Sal nodded. "You know we do have humans that know about us and work for us and with us." He had never given it much thought, but he was aware of it. He rarely had any dealings with the humans that worked for the vampire community as it wasn't part of what he did. A change came over him as he realized what this could mean. He would be able to reconnect with his brother. He looked at Sal and smiled. "Yes sir. Anything I can do to help convince him, I'll do it." Sal nodded. "I thought you might say that. So here is what we'll do." For the next hour Sal told him what he was prepared to offer Nick if he would work for them.
Nick was a little anxious. It had been almost two weeks and he had not heard anything from Mister Gant. He figured he would hear something by now, but he knew the case was an old case and he was certain that finding leads for a thirty year old case would probably be extremely difficult. The door opened and Bobby came in still dressed in his vampire costume that he had worn to a Halloween event that was held at his school. He was waving to someone outside. "Bye guys." He was about to close the door when Nick heard some kid's voices.
"Trick or Treat." Bobby grabbed the bowl of candy that was near the door and held it out to the trick or treaters outside. There were several 'Thank Yous', from the kids and Bobby closed the door.
"Hi Mom, Dad." Bobby walked over to one of the chairs and flopped down. "So did you have a good evening?" He nodded. "Yeah it was a blast, but I'm tired now. I'm going to go upstairs and get cleaned up and out of this costume." He glanced at the door. "Unless you want me to man the door." Nick and Lacey both shook their hands. "No, we'll take care of that. Go clean up." Nick glanced at his watch. "It's getting late anyway. There probably won't be too many more trick or treaters coming anyway. I'll give it a little while more and then turn off the porch light. All the little kids should be done by now so there's probably a few middle schoolers and if they miss out because we quit giving out candy, that's okay. They're getting a little old to be out trick or treating anyway." Bobby nodded and went upstairs to his room.
There was only one more group of kids who came to the door and he had been right, they all looked like they were around 12 or 13 years old. He didn't say anything about them being too old. They were having fun and besides he had plenty of candy. He looked outside and saw that the streets seemed mostly empty of trick or treaters so he turned off the light and rejoined Lacey on the couch.
About 15 minutes later, the doorbell rang and he heard someone say 'Trick or Treat'. Nick frowned and got up. "What the hell. The light's off. Isn't that supposed to tell them we're closed." Lacey just shrugged. There was something else about the voice. It sounded kind of a like a kid's voice, but fake somehow. If this was some older teen trying to sound like a little kid, he was going to politely tell them that the light being turned off meant they were out of candy. When he turned on the light and opened the door, he scowled a little bit. He was right it was some older teen. The boy on the porch was standing there with a bag over his shoulder. He was dressed pretty much like any other teen would be dressed. He was wearing Levis and jean jacket with a t shirt underneath. On his head was an old faded ball cap.
Nick let out a sigh. "Didn't you see the light was out? That means we're done giving out candy. Besides, aren't you a little old to be trick or treating? Who are you supposed to be anyway?" The teen looked up and smiled. "Your big brother." Nicks eyes opened wide as he took in the sight of his brother Robbie. That's when he realized that the ball cap he was wearing was from UNLV where their dad used to take them to watch football games. He looked up and down taking in everything. Here was his brother, with the same friendly smile that he remembered. The only real difference he could see were his eyes. There was something different there that he couldn't figure out. He tried to say something a couple of times but nothing came out, finally in a weak voice. "Robbie?"
"Hi Nicky." The two brothers looked at each other. Nicky completely shocked and Robbie smiling with his hands in his pockets. Lacey had gotten curious about why Nick was still standing at the door and got up to join him. "Nick, honey. What's going on?" Nick glanced at her and then at Robbie. "Wha…how…I don't understand."
"Maybe you should invite me in and I'll explain." Nick stared at him dumbfounded still for a few more moments. "Oh, uh, yeah, sure. C'mon in." He stepped back and let Robbie come in. Once he was in, Nick was still staring at Robbie while holding the door open. Robbie turned and giggled a little. "You should close the door Nicky. And maybe sit down before you fall down." Nick seemed to get himself together and nodded as he closed the door. He gestured to a chair and stared as he watched this teenager walk over and sit down in a chair. He slowly walked over to the couch and stood there for a moment before sitting down on the edge. Finally, he looked down and shook his head. "I need a drink." Robbie giggled again. "Yep, I can believe that." Nick looked at Lacy and she nodded and went to a sideboard in the dining room where they kept what little liquor they had.
Nick looked up at him and his eyes were wet. "How is this possible Robbie? I mean, you are Robbie?" Robbie nodded. "But that's not possible. You look exactly the same. You should be in your mid 40's, not 15." Robbie shrugged. "It wasn't something I planned either. But it is what it is. By the way, I go by Braeden now, but I guess you can call my Robbie." Lacey came back in and handed Nick a glass. He nodded and took a drink.
"I don't understand. I mean it was you that I saw who rescued Bobby, not your son or some other relative." Robbie shook his head. "Yes Nicky, it really is me, and that's why I'm here tonight. To explain what happened." Nick took another drink. "Okay." He then stood up. "Wait, I've got to call mom and dad." He started reaching for his cell phone on the table near the couch, but before he could get it, Robbie was there and had the phone in his hand. Nick looked between Robbie and the chair where he had been sitting. "What the hell? How did you do that?" Robbie shrugged. "That is part of what I'm going to explain. You can't tell them Nicky. At least not yet. Maybe someday, but not now and not until I say so. In fact, if anyone is going to tell them, it will be me. For now though, they cannot know."
He stared at Nicky for several moments and when their eyes met, Nick could see that difference, that strangeness he had seen before. Only now it was more pronounced and he nodded. "Okay, I won't." Robbie was still staring at him. "I mean it Nicky. They cannot know. If they did, it would not be good for anyone, at least not now and possibly not ever. If they knew, none of you would ever see me again either. You need to give me your word or I must leave and you will never see me." Nick nodded. "Okay, I promise I won't say anything unless you say it is okay." Robbie looked at him a few more moments before grinning. "Cross your heart and hope to die?" Nick was at first shocked and then he smiled. "Stick a needle in my eye." They both chuckled a little. "So what happened?"
They heard footsteps coming down the stairs. "Hey mom, dad, I thought I'd…." He stopped near the bottom of the stairs when he saw there was someone in the living room with his parents. When Robbie turned around and looked at him, Bobby's face went white as his mind filled with images from that night. The body of his attacker lying still and this teenager coming toward him with blood on the side of his mouth and two long sharp teeth. Robbie gave him a friendly smile. "Hi Bobby." Bobby pointed at him. "You! But you're a, a…" And then he fainted. Robbie was a blur as he rushed to catch the boy before he fell down the last few steps and hit the floor. Nick and Lacey just stared in wonder at him. Robbie easily carried Bobby in his arms, even though the boy was almost as big as he was and sat down in the chair with Bobby on his lap, his head lolling against Robbie's shoulder. He looked at Nick and Lacey. "I think what Bobby was going to say, was…I'm a vampire." Their mouths dropped open and their eyes widened even more.
"You're a…vampire? But how can that be? There's no such thing. That's impossible." Robbie shrugged. "I assure you, it is very possible. Otherwise how can I still look like this? We stay the age we were when we were crossed over." Nick looked at the teen, cradling his son in his lap and even as he shook his head to deny it, the evidence was staring him in the face.
"But how? I mean I know I asked that, but I guess what I want to know is how it happened." Robbie looked at his nephew and smiled.
"Okay. I believe you know when it happened. It was that Saturday when I went to the movies with Roger and Gary. We had a good time, the movie was good. We headed out to wait for our parents. Roger and Gary's parents showed up to pick them up and I realized I had totally spaced and I was waiting for Dad. I waved as they drove off and then I thought I'd go and look for a pay phone to call him. I finally found one and I was just starting to dial when the phone was knocked out of my hand. Then someone grabbed me.
I tried struggle but his grip was like iron. The person dragged me into the shadows. I couldn't call for help, although I tried as hard as I could, but he had a hand clamped over my mouth. Then I felt him bite into my neck and I started getting weaker and weaker. I didn't know what was happening to me. My vision was going dark and then I fell to the ground as he let go of me. Then I felt some warm thick liquid splash all over me, some of it landed on my face and I could taste what it was, blood."
"I tried to reach up to wipe the blood from my face but I couldn't. I didn't have the strength to move. Moments later someone came into my field of view. He put his hand on my forehead and told me that I only had a few minutes at most left to live and he asked me what I wanted. I don't remember what I said, but the one who saved me later told me that I talked about my family and how I didn't want to leave them. So, he saved my life or at least didn't let me die."
"How did he do that?"
Robbie gestured at himself. "He crossed me over."
"Crossed you over?"
"That's what we call it. Being crossed over into darkness. Because that is where we live, in the shadows. The darkness. We don't do sunlight very well."
"What about the other stuff?"
"What other stuff?"
"You know. The things that can be used against vampires."
"Ah, that stuff. For the most part what you've heard is crap. Crosses do nothing to us. We can go anywhere we want to, including a church. We don't have to be invited in. We are very difficult to kill. We are extremely fast, strong and we have heightened senses." Robbie smiled as he shrugged.
"But why doesn't anyone know about you."
"There really aren't a lot of us compared to humans. We also keep a very low profile. Staying in the shadows. And no, we don't sleep in coffins. Like I said, most of what you know is crap. Bram Stoker made up most of it for his story."
"Did he know about you?" Robbie shrugged. "I don't know. It's possible, but I never heard anything about that."
"Oh, so what happened?"
"Well, the person who stopped the attacker, is a member of, I guess you could call them sort of a vampire police force, although it's a bit more than that. They had been tracking the vampire who attacked me for some time and before he finished with me, they came in and killed him. The blood that was on me was his, well some of it was mine too, that he has just taken out of me. Because of what I said to him about not wanting to leave you, he turned me. I was unconscious for several weeks as I went through the change. When I woke up, I was disoriented and didn't know where I was. Someone entered the room and introduced himself as Grayson. I recognized his voice as the person who found me. Once I was dressed, he took me downstairs and explained to me what I was now."
"Um, so you drink blood?" Robbie nodded. "That one is true. It is how we feed."
"Oh." Nick glanced from Robbie to Bobby. His brother looked at his brother and cocked an eyebrow. "No Nicky, I have no intention nor an inclination to feed on my nephew. Most of us can easily control ourselves. Most of us are not mindless killing machines. Our usual prey is the low life scum of the world. The bad criminals, killers, rapists, those kinds of animals.
Unfortunately for humans there are a lot of them and fortunately for us, there are a lot of them. Unfortunately, some vampires don't care and that is where we come in."
"What does that mean?" Nick asked as he silently sighed with relief.
"We enforce the law. I guess you could say, we're the cops."
"So you're a vampire cop?" Robbie nodded. "Yeah. We stop vampires from doing anything to expose us. Which usually means they are the ones who kill indiscriminately. We destroy them as soon as we can. The one who attacked me was one of them and I was not his first victim. They had been tracking him for some time and caught up to him as he was making me his next victim. Unlike human cops, we don't arrest them. We are judge, jury and executioner. We can't allow any evidence of what we are, to become common knowledge."
"So you've killed people, I mean humans." Robbie nodded. "Yes I have. It's the only way for me to live. It's not something I'm proud of or that doesn't bother me, but for me it's a fact of life. However, the ones that I take, have all been criminals who have literally gotten away with murder or some other heinous crime."
"But how can you know?
"For us, it's simple. We can read human minds if we try."
"You mean you've…." Robbie shook his head. "No, I said, if we try. I would never try to read your mind, ever, nor anyone who is my family. Unless you asked me to for some reason. That is why I didn't realize he was your son. Although in times of stress humans sometimes project their thoughts and we can pick up those surface thoughts. That is how I knew where to take him. I didn't read his mind, but he was projecting his thoughts about getting home when he passed out."
"So does that mean he was attacked by one of you?" Robbie shook his head. "No. It was not one of our people. This was a very bad, human, man. Thomas Bailey has been kidnapping, assaulting and killing kids for several years. Bobby was to be his next victim." Lacey put her hand up to her mouth as she thought of what could have happened. "He never left a clue. However, because of what I did, the police found out about him and have found the evidence necessary to be able to bring closure to at least some of the families of his victims."
"So you've been doing this for the last 30 years? You've been talking about exposing your people to us, but you're doing that right now with us. Why didn't you ever tell me or mom and dad about what happened?" Robbie nodded. "There is one more thing we are not supposed to do and it was one of the first things that Grayson told me. You can't go back. You must stay away from anyone you knew before you were turned, no matter who they are. That was the hardest thing for me. I was very angry when I found out I could never go back to my family. My choice was either to follow the rule or they would kill me. For a long time, I thought about telling them to go ahead and end it, because I missed you all so much. But Grayson convinced me to stay and he began training me to be a part of his group. I worked in Las Vegas for a few years until one Thanksgiving evening when I felt like I needed to see you. I watched as you decorated the Christmas tree. Grayson found me outside our home watching you guys and we decided it might be a good idea if I relocated. I wanted it, because it was hard for me to be so close to you guys, but so far. I've been here since then. Doing my job."
No one said anything for a few moments. "So that means you really are a vampire. I didn't just imagine it. You have fangs and stuff?" They all looked at Bobby who was looking up at Robbie. He looked down at his nephew and nodded. "How much did you hear?" Bobby shrugged. "A lot of it. I just kept my eyes closed and listened." Robbie shrugged. "I know." Bobby was surprised. "Hey, I thought you said you wouldn't read our minds?"
"I didn't need to. I felt when your breathing changed and your heartbeat sped up when you woke up. I figured you had a reason why you didn't let us know you were awake, so I let you continue pretending."
"Okay, so you said that you were told you can't go back, but here we are."
"Yes, here we are. I found out that sometimes you can go back, if necessary. Because you found me and because you hired someone to investigate my disappearance to see if you could find me or someone that you thought might be my son. I have been asked to deliver something to you. What you don't know is there are humans that do know about us. They handle many of our affairs, especially those that must be done during the day, like handling our monetary affairs."
He reached for the bag that he had placed on the floor beside the chair and pulled out a folder. He looked at Bobby. "Would you go and hand this to your dad." Bobby got up from Robbie's lap, walked over to his dad and sat on the couch next to him. Nick took it and started reading what was inside. Robbie watched as his eyes opened wide a couple of times while he read through it. When he finished, he handed it to Lacey, who started looking at it.
"You're serious?" Robbie smiled and nodded. "The person I work for wants to set you up with your own investment firm. He believes you will do well because of your track record for your own investments. His terms are spelled out and he wants you to oversee his assets. The person who has been handling his affairs for many years has gotten old and he has been looking for someone to replace him. He believes that you are the person who can do that."
Nick said nothing for a little while. "What if I don't want to do this? What happens to me if I say no? I mean I don't want to have anything to do with something that is illegal."
"That is entirely your choice. This is not a demand; it is merely an offer. A very lucrative offer, but just an offer. I was told there is nothing illegal that is being asked of you. My boss said that you can meet with his lawyers and the person who is currently handling his assets about the validity of everything, so that you can be assured he is not asking you to doing anything illegal. If you want nothing to do with the offer, nothing will happen to any of you. I however, will be transferred somewhere else and you will be asked to not tell anyone about what you know of us or ever again try to find me. I don't know where I will be sent, but it will probably be out of the country and you will not know where I am. We will never see each other."
Nick brought his hands up to his pursed lips and looked off into space. Robbie said nothing, he just let his brother think about whatever he had to think about. He hoped Nicky would take it, but he resolved not to use any influence. It had to be his decision.
Nick asked for the folder again and silently reread what was inside of it for several minutes. He closed the folder and looked at Robbie. "I will admit, I've thought about running my own investment company. I just never really had the capital to do so. I thought that maybe in a few years, I might have enough to do so and if I could find someone to either join me or give me a loan that I might do that. This would allow me to move that agenda forward by a few years and it sounds really good. Now that I've found you, I am very reluctant to let you go. This is a big step. Would we have to move?"
"No, not unless you wanted to. You will have full control on where to have the company offices. From what he told me, he will front the money to get the company started and he will be your first, and probably your biggest client. You will then pay back his investment in the company until you are the sole owner. Until then, he will be a silent partner in that if you need more capital, he will supply it until you can run the company without his money. Further, you will be the only person who will oversee his investments and assets. He also said he looked forward to working with you and he thought that with your skills he will be more than repaid if you continue to be successful with his assets as you have been with your own."
Nicky nodded as he ingested what Robbie was telling him. "Do I need to agree to this right now?" Robbie shook his head. "Not right this minute but no more than a couple of days." Nick nodded. "Okay. Give me the time to think about it and discuss it with Lacey. Is there a way for me to reach you?" Robbie shook his head. "I can't give you a phone number or email for me, but I can come back in two days and you can let me know."
"That will have to do." Robbie stood up, quickly followed by Nick and his family. "Then I guess that's it for now. I'll be back in a couple of days. There is one other item that I can do is give you the card for his lawyers if you have questions." Robbie handed Nick a card that read 'Anderson, Crowder and Bell, Law Offices' and a phone number. "They can answer any questions you may have about the offer."
They followed Robbie to the door. Nick opened it for him and Robbie stepped outside. Nick saw the same dark colored SUV parked in front of the house that he had seen the day Bobby was saved. Robbie stopped and held out his hand. "I'm glad I got to talk to you so you know what happened. I hope you'll consider taking the deal, but if you don't I'm still glad we got to talk." Robbie gave Nick a smile and then turned to walk away. He was halfway to the SUV when Nick called out. "Robbie! You know you still owe me a movie. You promised you would take me, just you and me." Robbie turned around and grinned. "You're right, I do. How about next Sunday? I always keep my promises to you." Nick looked at him and then gave him a smile and a nod. "Sunday sounds good." Robbie's grin grew bigger when he realized what Nick had said. Sunday was about a week away. He gave Nick a little wave. "Happy Halloween, Little Brother."