“This has just come into the news room,” Clisty reported from the prompter as the eleven o’clock news program neared sign off. “Authorities tell WFT-TV that a woman came into police headquarters less than an hour ago. She said that a man had kidnapped her over eighteen years ago, just like the woman who was the hostage during the recent standoff with the accused bank robber. For her safety, the police are not using her real name. They are calling the woman Darla.” Clisty read calmly into the camera with the same confidence she had before she froze on TV when Faith first re-appeared.
“Darla told police that she managed to escape,” Dan Drummond added to the report. “When the man stopped to use the restroom, before merging onto I-65 N, he forced her to stay in the truck. He told her she would never be able to get out. She said the doors weren’t supposed to open from the inside. The only way you could get out was when the motor was still running. He would open the door, then turn off the engine and take the key with him. She believed him—she wouldn’t be able to get out of the truck because she had tried when he filled the gas tank closer to Fort Wayne. It was different at the intersection of I-65 N. This time he had failed to close his door all the way.”
“That’s right, Dan,” Clisty tag-teamed the story. “She said she was able to get the driver’s side door open, escape and jump, unseen, into the back of a truck going east. Luckily, the driver was going all the way back to Fort Wayne. She climbed out of the truck when the east bound driver slowed before entering the clover leaf at Goshen Road. The traffic was heavy as she walked along on the berm of the road. Then, she came upon a patrolman who, with his lights revolving, pulled a car over. She walked over to the officer, tugged his pocket and said, “I want to go home.” At police headquarters, they quickly contacted her parents. With her mother and father present, she told her story to police.”
“At the time of the attempted abduction, Darla was able to give the authorities a clue to the town in which the perpetrator probably lived. However, they were never able to find who had kidnapped her.” Dan smiled and looked at Clisty.
He’s giving me the last word. She smiled confidently and put on her professional, neutral, balanced face. “My investigation will include several threads of this tangled story: the background of the robbery suspect who was apprehended after the stand-off with police; the backstory of the hostage he held in the house; the details of an unsolved kidnapping nearly twenty years ago; and how the information Darla was able to remind police may answer questions to all facets of this story. All of these will be the focus of my expanded report in a new segment, Stories from the Heartland. I look forward to bringing you along as we follow the trail of clues to a hopeful resolution of this case. From the Fort, this has been News at Eleven.”
“Great show people,” Becca clapped her hands together as the network took over the feed.
Jake stood outside the studio window and watched. With his hands in his pockets, his tall slender frame exposed a leather cross-body gun holster. His blue eyes flashed brighter each time he looked at Clisty. “Ditto that,” he agreed as soon as the studio door opened.
“Hi Detective,” Clisty teased. “What brings you here so late in the evening?”
“You, of course,” he spoke softly and stepped closer, into her space.
“Then, you are most welcome.” Clisty slipped into the news room and started to pour a cup of coffee.
“Hold off on that last cup of the day,” Jake warned. “I’m taking you out for decaf. It’s late.”
“Good idea,” she agreed.
“But first, I brought in my Atlas. Come over here,” he pointed to a table and spread out the book of maps.
“What’s going on?” Becca asked as she joined them over the Rand McNally.
Jake was excited as he pointed to the map. “I read Darla’s old file and found two details that add a lot to our quest.” His index finger followed U.S. 30, north and west out of Fort Wayne. “She told police, her kidnapper said, ‘only seventy more miles but first, I’m going to hit the head.’ So ...” he traced the route with his finger that the man must have taken. “He was going to take route 65 north-west for seventy miles. He also said something about their destination being thirty miles west of Chicago.” He targeted Chicago on the map, and then drew an imaginary line directly west of the city. “Wheaton, Illinois is ... twenty-eight mile west of Chicago ... Naperville is thirty miles.” He thumped his finger on the spot between Wheaton and Naperville and drew a circle. “The place where Faith was held, is somewhere in this area.” He grabbed Clisty in a bear hug and held on tightly.
“The Freedom Temple,” Becca hammered her fist into the palm of her hand. “If authorities in that area are aware of the Freedom Temple, maybe we can close in on the precise area.”
“Yes,” Clisty snapped to attention from her cozy spot tucked under Jake’s arms. “And, if we can find an elementary school that had a child named Pooky Jones for only two weeks, we will nail down the neighborhood.”
“The last name she used, Jones, may be too general to track,” Jake ran his hand over the back of his neck. “But, the first name, Pooky, sure isn’t.”
Clisty smiled. “It makes my hair stand up, too. It is so exciting.”
“We are all tired, Honey,” Jake said. “Let’s start the computer search and telephone calls early tomorrow morning. It’s not like Faith is still being held and we have to rescue her. It will do no one any good if we’re too tired to think clearly.”
“You’re right; you’re right; I know you’re right, but—“
“No buts about it,” Becca joined in. “I agree with Jake.”
Clint had listened and watched as the three had inspected the map. A quiet guy, he turned and reached for his hoodie. “Just point me in the right direction, so I can aim the camera there. I’m going home and fall into bed.” He zipped it up and started for the door. “I’ll be here at the usual time, or whenever you tell me different. Just let me know if we’re going to leave on a road trip so I can make arrangements for my cat.”
“Bad Kitty?” Becca asked. “I don’t know how you discipline that cat when you call, ‘Bad Kitty’ to give her a treat.”
“She does seem a little neurotic at times,” he admitted with a flippant expression. “Bye for now.”
“Are you ready to surrender for the night?” Jake asked as Clisty continued to study the map.
“I guess,” she drew out slowly. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep.”
“Cocoa ... warm milk, will help,” he reminded her.
“I make cocoa with water,” she corrected him and patted her stomach.
“I don’t know what you have to worry about,” Becca quipped. “You’re so thin, I’m afraid to get a side view of you on camera. You might disappear altogether.”
“Becca, don’t be silly. You know as well as I do, if I were to gain ten pounds the station would replace me with a newer, slimmer model.”
“Can’t get much newer,” she reminded her. “You’re pretty young yourself. Beside, you know Fort Wayne viewers wouldn’t put up with that. The station reflects the community’s values of appreciation for hard work and family ties. You are family, Clisty.”
“Thanks Becca. It’s nice to be reminded.”
“Then, ten pounds it is,” Jake teased. “We’ll stop at a grocery and pick up some milk. Made with water, it isn’t cocoa at all. That’s just chocolate flavored water.” He took her by the elbow and started to steer her out of the news room. “Then, we’ll go to your house and I’ll make a cup for you.” He stopped. “You do allow milk in your house, I hope.”
“Fat free, of course.”
“I’ll think about that.”
“But, Jake, whole milk? Isn’t that a bit extreme?” Clisty complained as she took the milk and cocoa mix from the sack he had just carried in to her apartment.
“Extreme will come when we put the whipped cream on the top,” he said as he waved the squirt can in the air. He opened several cabinet doors until he found the pots and pans. “Here we go.”
“Do you really think we’ll be able to find him and bring him to justice?” Clisty asked as she spooned some cocoa mix into the cups. Moments later the microwave announced the hot milk.
“Find The Guardian?” Jake poured the steaming hot liquid into the cups, stirred the cocoa cups and took them over to the coffee table ottoman. “Sure, I think we’ll find him. But, I don’t know when justice will be served.”
“What does that mean?” Clisty followed him to the couch, folded her right leg under her and sat down on it.
“Justice usually takes time, Babe. Not your kind of time, as measured from one news headline at 6 p.m., to a verdict on the 11 o’clock news.”
“I know. That’s why I’m glad the network is giving me all the time that I need with the news magazine.” She sipped the hot, bone warming, sleep inducing liquid and smiled. “This is good.”
“Thank you,” he said softly, stirred his drink again and drank a little of the sweet brew. There was tense silence for a moment until Jake asked, “When do you leave for New York?”
“I don’t know,” she sipped noisily. “I guess, the truth is, I don’t really want to know.” She reached over and took Jake’s hand. “I just found Faith again and I know we’re going to find her captors. But ... I also just found you.”
Jake was quiet for a moment. “Have you talked to your grandmother about praying for you over this network business?” he asked and looked at the mantle. “That’s your prayer angel, right?”
“No, I haven’t called her yet … I had to talk to you first,” she sighed as her body reminded her of how tired she was.
“I appreciate that,” he said as he smiled.
They finished their cocoa in silence, except for the soft music that streamed in the background. A deep baritone was spreading musical notes on the evening air like warm butter on toast. Jake reached over and traced gentle figure eights on Clisty’s arm. He took Clisty’s cup, and placing it on the ottoman he took her hand in his, all with the smooth gestures that matched the rise and fall of the melody.
“Faith just came home, Clisty, and that is wonderful. For me personally however, the real miracle is that I just found my home in you.” She started to speak, but Jake continued. “Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying—don’t move to New York. This is an opportunity that very few people ever get. I wouldn’t try to stop you for a minute. I’m just saying, with you in the east, will there be a place for me in your life?”
“Jake ... I am so torn,” she began.
“Don’t be, Honey. I’d never ask you to choose between New York City and me. That’s not even a contest and, I guess, I don’t want to know what the answer would be.” He caressed her hand, silently put his arm around her and drew her to his shoulder.
Clisty sat up quickly. “No, Jake, I admit I’m torn, but not between you and New York. The tug of war is between New York and Fort Wayne. See ...” she turned excitedly toward him and bubbled as she continued, "since Faith came home, I’m seeing what really matters in my life. Yes, a job I love is important. But, the people I love, people Mom used to call my lovelies, are more valuable than anything else.”
“I’m not sure if I fit in as a lovely,” Jake laughed.
“You do, Jake Davis. You are the loveliest of lovelies,” she laughed as she snuggled back in his arm.
“What I don’t know,” he admitted, “is how can you be in both places at the same time?” His eyes, cast down like a warrior who had just surrendered, didn’t meet Clisty’s.
“I can’t Jake. But, that’s all-or-none thinking. Just because I can’t be in the TV studio and here in my apartment with you, does not mean there is no solution to this.”
“That’s good enough for me tonight,” he said as he looked up with a sparkle in his eyes. He wrapped his arms around her, and surrounded her with his love.
“This is where I want to be, Jake—in your arms. I know that. Somehow, and I don’t know how yet, I’m going to figure out how to do both. It’s an old idea to think I can do everything. But, I can choose where I spend my time. I do know I’ll have to do one thing at a time.”