Rus was packing up his gear and preparing to head back to Florida. His mother had recovered nicely from her
heart attach. She had assured him that she could manage on her own from that point on.
Rus was confident that she could hold her on. So he was leaving. Eddie was coming with them and Ricky was
Rus had just stowed the last of their suitcases into the trunk of his car and headed back into the kitchen
to say good-bye to his mother. She was filling a thermos with steaming coffee. She had also made a platter of chocolate chip
cookies for him to take on the road with them.
Just as Rus entered the kitchen the phone range. He snatched it up for his mother since she was busy.
"Rus, is that you?"
It was the captain. The first thing Rus thought about was Colby West. He wondered if something was wrong
"Yes, Captain Lee, it’s me. Is something wrong with Colby?"
"No, no, he’s fine. We’ve been getting along tremendously. They found his uncle. He’s in
the state penitentiary up in Maryland. But that’s not why I called."
Captain Lee quickly changed the subject. His voice held some concern when he spoke. "It’s Callie."
Rus nearly dropped the phone. "Callie? What’s wrong with her?" he demanded.
"Joe has her," the captain explained.
"A few days."
Rus was livid with anger. "Why didn’t you tell me this sooner? Why haven’t you called? You know
I would have been on a plane to New Mexico the minute I heard."
It was all Rus could do to control his rage. His mother was watching him closely. A wave of concern struck
her when she saw the storm building in her son.
"We were waiting on word from Joe before we did anything?"
"And you’ve heard from him?"
Rus waited for his reply. His heart was in his throat. He could feel the rapid pulsing in his veins.
"Is she still alive?"
The captain wouldn’t answer right away. This scared Rus and made his temper flare even more. "Is she
still alive Captain?"
"We don’t know," is all Captain Lee could say.
For once Rus did not know what to say or do. He sunk down into a chair, breathing heavily and swearing all
"I’m hopping on the first flight available and heading to New Mexico. If Callie is still alive, I will
Rus received directions to the safe house from the captain. He explained to his mother and Ricky what had
happened and that their plans had changed. Rus unloaded the trunk of his car and returned Ricky’s and Eddie’s
belongings to them.
Once he said his good-bye he sped off, leaving a whirlwind of dust behind him.
Once the plane landed in New Mexico, Rus wasted no time in renting a car. It was seven in the evening when
he finally arrived at the safe house were Callie had been abducted. All the lights were on in the house.
It had taken Rus a long time to get out of the rental car. He had sat there staring at the house and drawing
enough courage to step back inside again.
On the flight over, he had kept thinking about the last time he and Callie had talked. Or rather argued.
And again, he was full of self-recriminations.
When he stepped inside the safehouse, everyone wore long faces. Rus had nothing to say to anyone as he marched
up the stairs and into the old room he had occupied. Someone, he didn’t know who, had already taken over the spot.
This annoyed him to no end. He started tossing belongings out of the door and into the hallway. Including
underwear and clothes, shoes, hats. Anything that wasn’t nailed down went out the door.
Someone came along grumbling about the mess and scooping everything off the floor. It was Marvis Falcon,
one of the oldest men on the team. He looked perturbed to see all of his belongings scattered about.
"Rus, do you mind telling me what you are doing?"
"This was my room first, and I want it back," Rus instructed him without blinking an eye.
"But . . ."
Rus glared at him with a fire roiling in his eyes. "But what?"
"Never mind." Marvis backed away with an arm load of clothes and shoes. He knew better than to mess with
Rus when he was in a foul mood. And especially if it concerned a woman that he loved.
Marvis, along with everyone else in the house, was fully aware that they had failed in their mission to keep
Callie safe. It was a terrible situation under normal circumstances. But knowing that Callie was Rus’s woman made it
all the more detrimental.
Rus had been counting on them to do their jobs and keep Callie safe. Now she’d been missing for several
days. No one even knew if she were still alive.
After Rus was settled in his room he went over to the room Callie had slept in. He looked at the unmade bed,
her clothes laying on a chair in a corner of the room, and her Bible He could still smell the scent of her. It lingered as
if in some sort of punishment to him.
Everything had been left just the way it had been the night she had been abducted. Right now Rus wasn’t
interested in the specifics of the abduction. All he wanted was to be near Callie, if not physically, then, at least, in spirit.
He sat on the edge of the bed, holding her pillow close to his heart. He inhaled the sweet fragrance over
and over. So many memories came flooding back. Both good and bad. But mostly good.
Rus remembered her smiling face, her sweet smile, her laughter. And even her kisses. There was nothing about
her he didn’t remember. When he could, he pulled himself away.
In a state of apathy he moved in a haze until he arrived in the dining area where everyone was sitting, trying
to eat their evening dinner. It didn’t appear that anyone was able to with all the gloomy faces that stared at him when
he walked in.
He took a vacant seat.
Everyone started to speak at once, lending their apologies and condolences for their protective failures.
He really wasn’t listening, nor did he care what they had to say. It wouldn’t make things any better.
Callie would still be missing.
Alive or dead, he would find her. He just prayed to God that she was still alive.
After fifteen minutes of listening to everyone’s rambling and justifications of what went wrong, Rus
finally looked at Stan Owens. He was the veteran cop, the one he trusted the most. Not that he felt much like trusting anyone
of these men right now. But, if he had to trust anyone, it would be Stan.
Rus ran off a list of questions. Stan answered each one with precision and professionalism. Stan gave him
the exact details of what had happened the night Callie was taken.
They had started an immediate search for her whereabouts, but had come up empty. They had been searching
for Callie ever since. It seemed that Joe was being smart, never staying in one place for too long, keeping everyone guessing
as to his location. They determined he was moving around at night when the world was asleep to keep from being noticed.
He was smart. Playing his cards safely.
So far no one in Albuquerque and seen or heard of Joe Hines. If they had, then they weren’t talking.
If they weren’t talking, Rus would persuade them to talk. Hadn’t that always been his point of expertise. But
usually his effectiveness came with criminals and not every day citizens. But some how that didn’t matter in this situation.
He needed to find Callie and we would, using any means possible.
"I’m going to go sleep for an hour, then I’ll be leaving to go find Callie."
Rus disappeared around the corner and up the stairs. Everyone just looked at each other with sullen faces.
Their dinner was forgotten.
Joe held his hands over his ears trying to block out Callie’s endless screaming. He closed his eyes
tightly as if this might somehow make it work. He’d never imagined killing someone cold be this bad on the nerves. He
considered the fact the maybe should have used some other means than the one he had chosen. But he had wanted her to suffer.
And suffering she was.
By now Callie hadn’t eaten in five days. She’d only been given minimal water. With the constant
heat the two of them were enduring, her kidneys were probably beginning to shut down due to dehydration. He didn’t know
what to expect from this experience, but if she didn’t shut up soon, he’d have to shut her up. Permanently.
Callie felt an insistent burning in the lower region of her back. She knew she were slowly dying. She had
never imagined dying with such little dignity. She couldn’t help but scream. She was in agony. She felt sweat streaming
from every pore in her body along with a fiery heat.
Her head felt as if it were going to split open any minute. She wanted to close her eyes and pray for it
But it didn’t. The pain lingered with her, fierce and encompassing. She felt numbness in her lower
extremities. By now she could barely move. Breathing was even difficult.
She began to think of Johnathan. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they were together again. She
rejoiced in that single thought.
She thought about Rus and Ricky. She wondered if Rus knew that she was missing. Was he looking for her? Would
he find her? If he did, would she still be alive to tell him she was sorry, sorry for being so stupid?
Callie thought about Colby West. She missed him so much. Would he mourn her death? Would he miss her too?
It seemed so cruel to keep her suffering like this. But some hidden strength, buried deep inside her, kept
Callie holding on to life. It was as if she were defying the odds. Joe wanted her dead, but she would not give him that pleasure.
She would keep on screaming with each breath she took, no matter how painful, until there was no breath left
It had been two days since Rus had landed back in New Mexico. He’d combed every street and back alley
he could find. He was tired, overcome with exhaustion and frustration that he thought he might never find Callie.
The heat was getting to Rus. He hadn’t slept more than two hour in the last twenty-four. He’d
literally worn holes in the souls of his shoes. He’d talked to every man, woman and child he could find out on the streets.
He’d shown Callie’s picture to everyone asking if they’d seen her. No one had.
He’d made a sweep of one abandoned building and had discovered that Callie and Joe had been there.
But the trail had run cold. He didn’t know where else to look. He couldn’t give up. He just couldn’t give
up on Callie.
He sat down on the edge of a curb, tired, muscles aching, and his mind wailing with defeat.
Lord I’ve looked every where for Callie. I can’t seem to find her. I’ve exhausted myself.
I have no where else to go. Please Lord, tell me what I need to do. Tell me where to go. Help me to find Callie before it’s
He began to sob right there in the middle of the street. Over and over again he called out to the
From somewhere, Rus gathered the strength to stand. One foot in front of the other he began to slowly move
forward, forcing himself to stand on feeble legs. He talked to the Lord as he went, begging him not to forsake him in this
time of need. He trudged onward, holding on to his faith all the while.
He had gone nearly a mile, when suddenly, out of the darkness, there came a sound. He stopped walking, listening
closely, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. He heard it again. A wailing. It was a earsplitting shriek as if someone
was in the throes of torture.
It was somewhere in the distance. Faint, but it was there, calling out to him, urging him on. He knew it
was Callie. It had to be Callie.
Rus took of in a gallop, peering through windows, listening for any sign of Callie. There were a hundred
buildings up and down the street. She could be in any one of them. But which one?
He kept pressing on. He would stop to listen for the cry again. Then when it came, he’d hurry off in
the direction it came from. Then he’d stop and do it all over again.
It was as if he were running around in endless circles. It was wearing him out, making him lose his mind.
He dropped down to his knees, screaming out, with his arms outstretched in front of him.
Lord I can here her, but where is she? Lead the way Lord. She’s still alive. Thank you. Thank you
Lord. Now take me to her.
With a will of their own, Rus’s legs propelled him straight ahead. With each step he took, the
screeching grew louder. Rus could now hear Joe’s voice clamoring above the noise. It wasn’t long before Rus found
Callie was laying in a heap on the floor, her arms and legs tied together. Joe was standing beside her in
a fit of temper.
Rus had to gather himself. He stepped away from the window, leaning against the old brick facade. He needed
to think. He couldn’t go in there half cocked. Did he have time to call for help? He needed back up, but what if ..
Before he could finish his thoughts Rus heard the echo of gunfire. One single blast. And the cries were gone.
Rus peered back into the window, seeing Callie lying lifeless on her side in a pool of her own blood.
Without further thought, Rus took hold of his gun, aimed and fired.
Glass shattered. Joe went sailing backwards, his gun slipped from his hands, then he crashed to the ground.
His eyes rolled back into his head as he took his last breath.
Rus lunged through the broken window. He was at Callie’s side instantly, pulling her into his lap and
feeling for a pulse.
It was there, weak, but steady.
Rus scooped her lifeless form from the floor and started dashing toward the door. He kicked it open with
one heavy blow and before he knew it he was barreling down the middle of the street.
He was calling out for help, but no one was around, but in the distance he heard the whirring of a siren.
Someone must have reported gunfire to the police and they were on their way.
Please Lord, send them our way.
Callie opened her eyes, then closed them again. "Rus," she murmured.
Rus kept loping toward the sirens praying they would get there in time.