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Detective Daniel Weavers did not want to be at work. He had just spent a very relaxing week in Hawaii. He was tanned and well rested. He knew the rigors of his job would have him stressed out and pasty white in no time. He sat in his car for just a few minutes.

Carla sat behind her desk. It look out over the lobby of the police station, through the front glass double doors and into the parking lot. The tall desk was the only piece of furniture in the lobby. Carla Masterson served as both receptionist and dispatcher for the small Northern California town. She saw the detective pause at the door. She quickly smoothed out her hair and made herself look busy, though she really wasn’t.

“Morning Carla,” he said as he finally made his way into the station. He plopped his elbow up on the high desk.

“Good Morning, Detective. How was Hawaii?” Carla asked, trying to make herself look as cute and flirty as possible.

“It was great. I want to go back. Yreka, California is nothing compared to the beautiful white beaches and hot sunshine of the big Island.” He said, looking dreamily into the distance. “Well, it’s off to work now.”

With that he pushed his weight off the counter and started to walk towards his office. Carla leaned forward to watch him go.

“You have a good day, Detective.” She yelled at him.

“How many times to I have to tell you to call me Danny?” He said, turning on his heal to look at her. She laughed and shrugged her shoulders. He smiled back, shrugging his shoulders too. He turned on his heal again and trudged on to his office.

“That is one attractive man! If only I was ten years younger and thirty pounds lighter” Carla said under her breath as she turned back to her computer screen. And any woman in the station would have agreed with her. Danny was a thirty-four year old with the body of a twenty year old. He in no way showed his age. He kept his body very fit, and his thick blonde hair didn’t show any signs of grays. He kept his hair rather long and shaggy, only adding to his youthful physic.

He honestly looked like your typical Southern California surfer/pot head, though he had been born and raised just outside of Yreka, in the even smaller town of Lake Shastina. His only time outside Northern California, besides the occasional trip to Hawaii or Tahiti, was the four years he spent at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Danny sat at his desk, still not wanting to be there. He looked down at his answering machine. Sixteen new messages. And he was only gone a week. He knew who most of them would be from, too. Carolina Weavers, his soon to be ex-wife. Four years of marriage and twelve affairs, on her part. He had had enough. Unfortunately, she hadn’t. Carolina was fighting the divorce, tooth and nail. Danny sighed and pushed the play button.

He was right. Ten of them were from her. Three were from bill collectors and the last three were actually work related. His boss had some important work information. Who’d of thought, Danny said to himself. Messages about work on my work phone. It’s not a novel concept…

He deleted the messages from Carolina and wrote down the bill collectors. He began to dial the extension for Lead Detective Mike Miller, when the big man himself walk in the door. Big man was not a figure of speech, either. The guy was huge. At least 300 pounds, though no one knew for sure. Mainly because no one was brave enough to ask. Not only he big, but he was mean.

“Detective Weavers,” Miller said in is raspy, deep voice. “Nice of you to join us again.”

“Yes sir,” Danny said, trying not to laugh at the formalities that always came with talking to Miller. “Glad to be back, Lead Detective.” It amazed him how good a liar he had become since Miller had taken on the job of lead detective.

“Well, down to business then,” Miller said, taking a seat in the chair across from Danny’s desk. “Remember that case you had right before you left that was just about to come to yet another dead end? Your Jane Doe found up in Happy Camp?”

“How could I forget?” Danny shuddered. “That case is why I needed the vacation. What’s up?”

“We found out who she is,” Miller said, showing no emotion. “Name’s Stacey Wilson. College student who went missing from Chico about a month ago.”

“Wow,” Danny said, impressed. Miller usually didn’t do any investigating, now that he was Lead. And here he was with a such big breakthrough in a pretty much dead case. “How’d you figure it out?”

“Actually, it was Carla’s idea. She said with a face like that, there’s gotta be someone who will have seen her and remember her. Carla suggested we put her picture on the news. We started with just local, got no bites. Then I noticed she looked about college age, so I sent it down to Redding. And we got about thirty hits from students and faculty at Chico.”

“That’s awesome,” Danny said, truly excited. “Did we get anywhere else on the case?”

“What, you think I’m gonna do your job while you’re off in Hawaii? You are sadly mistaken. You wanted to solve this case you never should have left.” Danny studied his face and saw that Miller was totally serious. He really felt that he shouldn’t do the work of another detective even if he had made a huge breakthrough. You are such an ass, Danny thought, wanting to scream it at Miller.

“Right, how stupid of me,” Danny said sarcastically. Miller nodded in agreement, then got up and left. Danny breathed a sigh of relief when the big man left. He logged onto his computer to look up any information that had been found on Stacey Wilson. For the next few hours, he became one with his computer screen. They had dug up a lot of dirt on the young lady, most of it unrelated to the case.

Danny leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms up over his head. He needed to go for a walk. He did his best thinking while walking. He grabbed his jacket and walked out of his office. He waved casually at Carla as he stepped outside. The sun had rose high in the sky compared to when he had arrived at work. He started his walk going a lab around the building. If he still needed to think when that was done, he would wander down the street into the heart of town.

What do I have so far? Danny asked himself. He had the mutilated dead body of twenty year old Stacey Wilson. She had been a senior at Chico state. That meant she was pretty smart, putting her Freshmen year at age sixteen. She was emancipated from her parents at 15. They could have killed her, anger about the emancipation could be motive. Then again it might have been a love triangle of some type at school. From all accounts, she seemed to have dated a lot. And word on the street was that she had even stolen a couple of boyfriends. There’s more motive. Stupid, yes, but it was still possible motive.

But that time, Danny had walked once around the building. He was still nowhere near figuring this thing out. He started off down the street. Okay, lets think about the actual murder scene, Danny thought. She had been found in the middle of a winding mountain road up near Happy Camp. She had been found in the middle of the road. The guy who found her had accidentally run her over. The corner had determined that wasn’t the cause of death. She had been dead for about ten to twelve hours before hand. She had been strangle by a pair of very strong hands. More than likely, male.

And who ever had killed her had wanted her to be found. There were marks on the dirt road that showed she had been dragged from the side of the road to the center. And from the looks of things, she hadn’t been killed there. The body had been driven out there, pulled from a truck and dragged to the middle of the road. Tire tracks had shown him that much.

The murder wasn’t sexual. It was determined that young Stacey was still a virgin at the time of her death. She was found fully clothed in a simple, ankle length cream colored dress. She had no shoes on. From the state of the bottom of her feet, it looked like she hadn’t been wearing shoes for a while. Her feet were filthy, with small cuts and scrapes.

From the date she went missing, to the time of death was almost a month. This showed that whoever killed her had held her captive first. From her stomach contents, they could tell she was fed well. She was not beaten, as could be seen from the fact that there were no bruises or broken bones. The strangulation had probably been done in the heat of the moment.

Danny was almost to the end of the street and he still felt like he hadn’t figured anything out. Nothing more than he had already known, anyways. He was frustrated and tired. He turned and started walking back towards the station. He planned to call up Stacey Wilson’s parents and closest friends to see if they wouldn’t help him out at all.

“Well, the parent’s didn’t do it,” Danny said to no one as he hung up the phone. He had just finished interviewing them. According to her parents, all their problems had been reconciled last year. They had been on good terms with their daughter. This was confirmed by Stacey’s friends. Plus the parents had an air-tight alibi. They had been out of the country on both the date of her disappearance and her murder. And they had the airline tickets and hotel receipts to prove it. They had spent two months in Europe, only to come home to find their daughter had been killed.

As for the steeling boyfriends motive, that turned out to be an exaggeration of the truth. Stacey and her best friend had liked the same guy. The best friend had hooked up with him first, found out he was a jerk and tried to break it off. Stacey didn’t believe he was a jerk and wanted to find out for herself. She started dating him soon after the breakup, only to discover that the guy was indeed a jerk. Danny just had a gut feeling the friend didn’t kill her and the guy had been in jail the past six months. Danny was at a dead end again. He needed another walk.

“Having a bad day, detective?” Carla asked as he walked through the lobby. He stopped at her desk.

“Again, it’s Danny and yes I am.” He said, leaning on the counter. “Oh and thank you by the way for helping find who my Jane Doe is.”

“Not a problem, Danny. Glad to be of service,” she said, giving him a little wink. He laughed.

“Carla, if you were a twenty year old girl today and you had something to hide, where would you hide it?” Danny said, resting his pounding head on his hands.

“Well, I’m twice that age, but I still have my secrets. And I hear us forty year olds of today hide things in the same place as twenty year olds of today; computers!”

Yes, a computer. Everyone Stacey’s age had a computer. But there hadn’t been one in her room. Maybe a friend’s…or a laptop. He needed to make some calls.

“Again Carla,” Danny said excitedly. “You are a lifesaver!” With that Danny ran back into his office. Grabbing his phone, he quickly called Stacey’s best friend, the one he had talked to earlier. According to her, Stacey didn’t have a computer, but she did have a login on another friend’s computer. He got the number and made another call.

Two days later, the computer arrived from Chico State. Danny plugged it in down in the lab. He clicked on the icon that had a picture of Stacey and her name. Her login popped up. First he went to her documents. Nothing of interest. A lot of picture of under-aged kids drinking and some poetry. Next he logged on to the internet. Nothing of interest in her e-mail. He clicked in her IM account. As soon as that had loaded, and old conversation popped up. It was explicit and somewhat graphic in a sexual nature. Most of it was coming from the guy. StEvEn42. Maybe he had his guy.

Danny knew he needed to find the guy with the screen name StEvEn42. It was the only unexplained link between Stacey and the outside world. Danny knew there were a lot of freaks in the world. This StEvEn42 person could have asked for a meeting, face to face. Things could have gotten kinky from there. Yes, Danny needed to find this guy, so he went in search of Trevor McKave, the station’s resident computer whiz.

“Trevor, I need your help man,” Danny said over the intercom.

“What’s up my friend?” Trevor said, needlessly yelling into the phone system.

“Can you come down to the lab? I need your geekiness. I need you to find out who someone is from a screen name.”

“Not a problem bro. Be there in a sec.” There was the audible click of the other line hanging up. A few moments later, Trevor walked in with his huge strides. “Where’s the comp my man…let’s get crackin’!”

Danny couldn’t help but shake his head as Trevor sat down in front of the monitor and began typing like a mad man. Trevor was a nineteen year old genius who had been working for the department for about three years. He started out in high school, just coming in after school to help them fix computers. After graduation, he didn’t want to go to college, so he asked for a full time job with the police force. The sheriff had no problem with hiring him on the stop. His expertise and excess energy had been a great help in many cases.

Trevor had even been asked to go undercover at one point. They needed someone in the local high school to help bust up a drug ring. His youthful appearance and dark persona made him a perfect fit for the job. He fit in perfectly with the Goth crowd, easily breaking up the ring.

“Got it man!” Trevor exclaimed after only a few minutes. “The freaky guy is Steven Birch. No current address but a PO Box, which really doesn’t help you any, does it.”

“Not at all,” Danny said, his good feeling about this new lead fading away.

“But don’t worry my man, I have ways to tell you where this freak was when he typed all this. Hopefully he wasn’t at a wifi hot spot.”

“A whata-whos-it?” Danny said, puzzled.

“Dude, you’re old! It’s a place with a wireless internet connection, great for laptops. So like I said, hope he’s on a stationary computer.”

“Alright. Thanks man. How long?”

“Couple hours, couple minutes. Depends on how good this guy is at covering his tracks.”

“Nice. Thanks again man. Just give me a call when you get it.”

“Not a problem. Now, leave the master to his work!” Trevor said as he cracked his fingers and began his speed typing again. Danny shook his head and left.

He hated falling asleep sitting up. It always put a crick in his neck. He rubbed his neck, wondering what had woken him up. Then it dawned on him. The phone was ringing.

“Detective Daniel Weavers.” He said, suddenly very much awake.

“And this is Tech Rep Trevor McKave. Your project is done. And I found the guy.” Danny jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room, not even bothering to hang up the phone. He slid into the lab where Trevor was still typing away.

“I thought you said you got him?” Danny said, excitement leaving him.

“I did man, I was playing a game. I got it like an hour ago, but you were playing sleeping beauty.” Trevor didn’t look up from his game once.

“Funny. Why didn’t you come get me?”

“I did man. I shook the hell out of your old ass and nothing. So then every level, I gave you a call. I’m on level 22 by the way.”

“Congrats. Who’s my freak.?”

“Oh, right.” Trevor grabbed the mouse and opened a different window. Up popped a computerized copy of a California State driver’s license. “Here he is.”

“Steven Morris. 6 foot 3...tall bastard ain’t he?”

“You’re just jealous, there at your 5-4. But wait, there’s more.” Trevor clicked open another window. This time an Arizona state driver’s license came on screen.

“Steven Morton. All the other info is the same. Damn, we got a slick one.”

“He’s better than you think hoss.” Trevor opened up four more windows. Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon.

“Alexander, O’Brien, Sannon, and Kelly. Plus Birch, Morris and Morton. All the same guy, as is obvious from the picture. Even if he isn’t our killer, he’s still up to something. Damn.” Danny scanned the pictures again. They were all the same. The man had striking features. Not exactly handsome, but at the same time not ugly. Easy to blend in. Dark hair, dark eyes, light skinned. Average nose, chin, lips. “Wait, I thought you said you got an address?”

“I did. That’s how I got all these names. They’re all registered to the same address. The same address that the connection was back-tracked to. He wasn’t afraid of getting caught. There was no attempt even at hiding where he was.”

“Maybe he just didn’t know how. So, what’s my address?”

“Oh, man, I saved the best for last! The dude lives in Happy Camp. About four miles from where the body was found.”

“Awesome work, Trev. Can you get me a print out of all those licenses and the address?”

“Not a problem man.” Trevor typed some more and the printer hummed to life. Within a few minutes the pages were printed and Danny was on his way to Happy Camp.

Danny hated the roads into Happy Camp. Actually, hated Happy Camp. It was a back woods, middle of nowhere area. The roads were narrow and curving and did not agree at all with his Toyota Carrolla. Finally he reached the address. It was a good sized property, tucked back into a valley. There were three houses on the property, and a barn. The largest house was obviously the main one. Danny got out of his now very dusty black sedan and walked up the walkway. He knocked on the door. It opened immediately, as if the occupants had known he was coming.

What he saw standing in the doorway rendered his speechless. A woman in her mid-thirties wearing an identical cream colored, ankle length dress as Stacey Wilson had been found in. It took him a moment but he got his bearings back. Oh yes, he had found his man. He could feel it in his gut.

“Is Steven Birch here?” The woman only stared. “What about Steven Morris? Morton? O’Brien, Alexander? Sannon? Kelly? Any of those sound familiar?” Without a word the woman closed the door. Danny was about to knock again, when the door open. There stood the man Stacey Wilson had known as StEvEn42. Danny looked down at the papers in his hand, then back up at the man’s face.

“How can I help you?” Even his voice was average. No distinguishing tones or accents.

“yes, I have a few questions for you Mr. Birch. That is what you are going by now, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. And you are?”

“Detective Daniel Weavers. Sisquou County Sheriff.”

“It’s very nice to meet you Detective. Again, how may I help you?”

“Have you seen this girl?” Danny asked, holding up a photograph.

“Oh, yes. Stacey Wilson.” The man said with no emotion. “She lived here for a while, then just up and left one day.”

“She didn’t up and leave sir, she was killed and her body was dumped. And she was wearing one of the dresses I see the other women wear.” Danny looked passed the man and into his house. There were three women in the kitchen. All looked different in appearance, but had the same cream colored dress. A forth wore a yellow one. None wore shoes.

“Yes, as I said. She lived here for a time. The dresses are their work uniform. I do have a ranch to run and I am an old fashioned man. I do not approve of women in pants.” Daniel looked over at the barn. There was a group of children playing with a goat. Three girls and one boy. Indeed all the girls were wearing the same, knee length green or blue dress. The young boy wore green pants with a lighter green shirt. Behind them was a very familiar young woman, looking to be in her late teens. She wore white.

“Sir, I was wondering if I could get your finger prints and a blood sample. Just to clear your name from the investigation. As you just admitted, you were the last to see her alive. Also, I will need the same thing from all your, um, workers.”

“Not a problem. Let me just gather them together.”

“Thank you sir. Please just wait in the living room. I need to go out to my car to get my kit.” Steven nodded and Danny turned towards his car. Steven went over to a large silver bell and rang it twice. The children came running. More children came out of the woods. The teenager in white seemed to be in charge of them all. She wrangled them like cattle into the house. Something was definitely wrong here.

Danny walked back to his car. Everything here screamed cult. He grabbed his kit and turn back towards the home. He watched as the children walked into the house. Some hugged Steven, others shied away from him. Yes, something was definitely weird here.

Danny took the stack of finger prints and tubes of blood samples straight to the lab. The technician went right to work. He handed her a stack of Polaroid photos.

“The ones on top are all the children there. Run them first.” Danny said to the technician. “I’m really thinking kidnapping with this one. Some of those kids seemed so scared of that guy. Some of the women too.”

“Not a problem Danny. The photos should be done tomorrow, the DNA and fingerprinting may take a little longer. You want me to run Steven Birch’s against the Wilson murder?”

“Oh, yeah, that one has priority over it all.” With that Danny left the lab. He looked at his watch. 7 P.M. Time to go home. He was done for the day.

 

Although he had just gotten back from a very relaxing vacation, he couldn’t help but think he needed another. This case was so stressful and sad. And it was getting weird. Three of the fingerprints of the children had come up with no matches, but seven of them matched those of missing children. That was more than enough information to put this guy away for many years. And yet, the murder of Stacey Wilson had gone nowhere. Danny was starting to get frustrated.

He had been on the phone all day talking with the director of a task force that had been put together to rescue the kidnapped children. He put the phone back in it’s cradle as the lab tech bounded in.

“Oh, do I ever have news for you. I can’t tell you I found the killer, but I can tell you I found who dumped the body!”

Danny sat up straighter in his chair.

“Okay, this is the fingerprint we found in the blood on her chest,” she said, handing Danny a photo. “This is the match, one Officer Samantha Cruise of the Medford Oregon Police Department. That’s how I found her, just that random search of fingerprints. Here’s her photograph,” the tech handed him a picture of a very attractive officer is full dress blues. She had a familiar quality about her. “And this is Adult Female Number Five from the creepy guys house. Look familiar?” She asked as she handed Danny a second photo. It was the same face as the attractive officer, but this time she was wearing a cream colored, floor length dress.

 

The task force consisted of two 18 passenger vans for the kidnap victims to go home in. The three SUV’s carried fully armed officer’s incase there was a struggle. Danny followed behind the black convoy in his white Carrolla. All the children in the compound froze as the vehicles piled onto the front lawn. All except the girl in white. She began herding them inside without a word. Danny watched as the armed officers walked towards the house. He was too far away to hear the words that were exchanged, but he had a feeling he knew how it went. Surrender…Never….We will use force…You wouldn’t dare…And so on and so forth.

But it would seem they would dare. Three of the officers charged the house, breaking down the door. The other officers flooded in behind him. A few short moments late, Danny watch as Steven Birch was lead out of the house in handcuffs. He may have not been charged with murder, but he was going to be charged with eighteen counts of kidnapping. Plus Danny still had that gut feeling that the creep was responsible for Stacey Wilson’s death.

Soon after Steven had been secured in one of the SUV’s, the officers started leading the women and children out the vans waiting to take them home. Danny began walking around, looking at each of them. Some looked so scared, others relived. And then there was the girl in white, standing there, looking at them all with no emotion on her face. Danny began watching her. She looked so familiar, yet so hard to trace. Suddenly a scream from behind him pulled him back to the real world.

“Papa!!” a small girl in green screamed as the policeman pulled her across the lawn. “Let go of me, I want my papa!” She began trying to pull away, reaching out towards Steven in the SUV. The child broke free of the police man’s grasp. She began running towards Steven.

The girl in white watched the whole thing, disgusted. The young girl ran screaming across the lawn. The girl in white. stepped out into her path, grabbing her arm violently. She whipped the girl in green around to face her. Sasha bent down so she was face to face.

“Shut up!” She screamed in the little girl’s face. “That monster is not your father. I was here when he took you. You aren’t his child. He doesn’t love you. You are nothing but another trophy for him.” The girls eyes grew wide. Everyone around them stopped and stared. The young girl broke down, sobbing. She wrapped her in a hug. “It’ll be okay, they are going to take you home. To your real family.”

The girl in white looked up and nodded at the policeman who had the girl earlier. He came over grabbing the girl softly on the shoulder. She turned and allowed herself to be lead to the van with the other children.

Danny watched as everyone began moving again after the girl in white’s outburst. She looked so familiar, but he couldn’t place her. He turned to the woman nearest him.

“Why did everyone seem so surprised at that girl’s yelling?” He asked her.

“That girl has been here five years and I have never heard her talk. I don’t think anyone has. Honestly, I thought she might be deaf. She seemed so unfazed by it all.”

“Who is she?” Danny asked, mystified by the young woman in white.

“We have no idea. As I said, she never spoke, so we never learned her name. Steven always just called her dear, or the chosen one.”

“Weird,” Danny said, walking away from the woman he had been talking to.

Soon, all the women and children had been loaded up into vans. They were driven back to the police station where Det. Weavers would interview all twenty-five of them. But he knew his first would be the young woman in white.

Danny walked into the interviewing room, coffee in hand. He sat down at the metal table, across from the young woman in white. She would not look at him, but instead, stared at her hands, laying palms up in her lap.

She was a beautiful girl. Her auburn hair lay in such a way that it was somewhat difficult to see her face. Danny was unable to tell how old she was. She looked young and old at the same time. There was an extreme maturity about her. He had a feeling it had been there even before her kidnapping.

“Hi, my name is Det. Daniel Weavers.” Danny started, pulling a tape recorder out of his jacket pocket. “Is it alright if I record this?” She nodded her head up and down twice, never looking up. “Okay,” he said as he lay the tape recorder down. He pressed the record button. The recorder whizzed to life. The young woman half looked up, as if intrigued by the noise.

“So, first question,” Danny started. “Who are you?” She said nothing, just sat there staring at her hands. “I heard you didn’t like to talk. The other women said they thought you were deaf.”

“Not deaf, just silent,” she said softly. “I heard everything. It was better to say nothing. Kept me out of trouble with Steven.”

“They also said they didn’t know your name.”

“That just shows how unobservant they are. Everyone got to have one thing from home, their real homes. I had an old book. My name was on the front cover. They just never cared to look.”

“I see,” Daniel said, slowly realizing this interview would be much harder than he had anticipated. “And what did that cover say?”

“Dear Sasha, happy birthday my sweetheart. May this book bring you hours of enjoyment. Love Mema.”

“And are you Sasha?” Danny asked, feeling like he was finally getting somewhere.

“Yes. Sasha Noah Riley.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Sasha Noah Riley. I’m Det. Weavers.”

“You already told me that. But do I have to call you Detective. I hate formalities.”

“Of course not. Everyone calls me Danny. You can to.” Danny was getting excited now. He was finally getting somewhere. He had gotten her talking. They were building a rapport. If only he could get her to look up.

“It’s nice to meet you Danny. When can I see my family?”

“We have to find them first.” Danny told her. “Now that we have your name, it should be no time at all till we find them. Do you have a phone number?”

“I don’t remember it. It‘s been a while since I‘ve used it.”

“That’s alright. Your name should be enough. What can you tell me about when you were taken?”

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Sasha said, her voice growing to just above a whisper. She could see it in her mind, like a movie playing out on the big screen.

She was walking home from school. It was only a couple of blocks from her school to her grandma’s house. She went there everyday after school, until her mom got off work. Mom always got off before dad. As she was walking home, she felt like she was being watched. A feeling that had grown familiar to her over the past week. She turned the corner onto her grandmother’s street. She was so close when the man stepped in front of her.

Danny remembered the case now, and why Sasha looked so familiar. He had been the detective on that case. At least until the FBI butt in and took the investigation from him. Mary Riley had been worried when her granddaughter was late coming home from school. She began to walk the route young Sasha took home when she saw the small shoe laying in the gutter. She recognized it immediately. Only her granddaughter had pink and black Converse All-Stars like that. It was when she saw all the blood that she called the police.

It had been Danny’s first solo case. He had determined that the blood was not the little girls. It was male. The little girl had fought like hell. A week into the investigation, the FBI burst into Danny’s office, demanding he pass over all evidence into the disappearance. He fought it, but the FBI won. They always did. He handed over the case and heard nothing of it until the new case landed on his desk.

“I bet your wondering about the dresses aren’t you?” Sasha piped up, softly. Danny leaned in closer, coming back to reality from his thoughts.

“Actually, I was. Among other things. What can you tell me?”

“The colors and lengths all mean something to him. The creams and yellows mean they were a wife. The yellows had given birth to one or more of his children. The creams had not. The blues and greens were the children. Blues were his, greens he had stolen. Over eighteen your dress was floor length, under and it was just below the knees.” All this she said staring at her hands. She couldn’t look him in the face. She was too ashamed.

“What about you Sasha? Why is your dress different? What were you to him?” Danny said, almost as softly as she had been speaking.

“I was different. Very much so. I started out in a green dress, but he wanted me for himself. So he gave me this white dress. He told me that I was going to become his wife. The white showed my innocence until our wedding night. I was to be his final wife.”

“Why is your dress short?” Finally Sasha looked up. He saw the tears and fear in her eyes. They were the eyes of a child, and it was then that he knew. “You’re just a child, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir. I was sixteen when he decided. Said I was too beautiful not to take for his own. But he didn’t want to take my innocence until I was eighteen. But you saved me from that.”

“How so?” Danny wanted to badly to reach out and comfort her.

“My birthday is tomorrow…” she trailed off, looking down again at her hands. Danny saw a single tear as it slid down her face, dripping off her chin into her hand. “I’ll be eighteen.”

“So, can you tell me anything about Stacey Wilson?” Danny asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Yeah,” Sasha said with a little laugh. “She was the only one I would ever talk to. She was nice. One of Steven’s favorite wives. She was also in charge of planning mine and his wedding. She hated the idea, so procrastinated on it all the time. It would make Steven so mad.”

“Did he ever hurt her?”

“He hurt all of us. Wait, that’s not entirely true. He wouldn’t touch any of the kids that were his from birth. They were special. The rest of us were just worker, trophies in his sick game.”

“What happened to Stacey?”

“I don’t know exactly. She was in my room and we were talking about school. I had never been to high school so she was trying to explain it to me. Anyways, Steven comes in and sees that we aren’t planning the wedding like we should be. He punched me in the face and grabbed Stac and dragged her out of the room. I didn’t see anything, but I could hear her scream. It was so loud and she sounded like she was in so much pain.” Sasha began to cry again.

“Can anyone else verify that?”

“Oh yes, a lot of people. Almost all the wives were in the kitchen at the time and my room is right next to there. And I know the children all talked of hearing the screams.”

“You know I have to check that out, don’t you?” She nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks. “What about Samantha Cruise? Did you know her?”

“I knew everyone. You want to know if she was involved with Stacey’s death. She had nothing to do with the dieing portion of it, but she had everything to do with the burring. She volunteered to do it.”

“Really?” Danny said, growing puzzled. “Well, thank you so much Sasha for all the information you have given to me. We will do our best to find your family and get you home.”

Danny took a short lunch break after speaking with all the children. Twenty children total, fourteen of which had been kidnapped. He had interview all of them. Slowly, parents were driving into Yreka from all over Northern California, Oregon, Nevada and even one from Idaho, to be reunited with there kids. All but one, that is. As Danny picked is food from the line-up in the cafeteria, he saw Sasha sitting off by herself with a book in her hands. Danny walked to her table after paying for his food.

“Is this seat taken?”

“What do you think?” She said sarcastically without lifting her head from the pages. “No one wants to sit with me. They’re all used to not being allowed to sit with the chosen one.” Danny looked at her for a moment. He almost felt sorry for her. She turned a page of her book, ignoring his presence.

“Is that the book you were telling me about?” He asked as he sat down and began to unwrap the ham and cheese sandwich he had purchased. She nodded without a word. “So, we’re still looking for your family. We started locally, cause that seems to be where most of you were taken from, but it seems your family moved around a lot in the past few years. I did learn that you have twin brothers, born a couple years ago in Sacramento. So we’re getting there.”

“I can’t even remember what they look like…” Sasha said, finally looking up from her book. She folded down the corner of the page and closed her book. Danny looked at her quizzically as he took another big bite of his sandwich. “My parents. I can’t remember what they look like. I remember my dad was a lot taller than my mom. But I don’t know if it’s because she’s really short, or he’s really tall, or a bit of both. I couldn’t tell you their hair and eye color if my life depended on it. I so don’t remember them that I don’t even miss them. I don’t remember Christmases, birthdays, nothing. My grandmother is another story. I remember her face as though she were sitting right here with us. She raised me. My parents weren’t around. Can you find my Mema instead?”

“I’m sorry, but your legal guardians are your parents. We have to turn them over to them.” Danny said as he finished his sandwich.

“What if we wait till tomorrow?” She said. “I mean, I’ll be eighteen tomorrow. I can go home with who ever I want. Can’t I?”

“Well, I guess, but don’t you want to see them? You haven’t seen your parents in almost six years. I would think they would be the first people you would want to see. Is there a reason you don’t want to go with your parents?” Danny said, putting down the bag of chips he had just opened.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember. Maybe that’s why. I don’t want to go with people I don’t remember. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to the visitor’s lounge and watch some TV.” With that she grabbed her book and her tray and walk away. Danny watched her as she left, wondering what that had all really been about. Had she been abused? Abandoned? Or had she just been gone for too long? He didn’t know, but he would soon find out. He had asked Carla to continue the search while he went to eat.

Once Danny had finished eating, he went to his office. He needed a minute to himself before he went to interview Officer Samantha Cruise. He sat at his desk and closed his eyes for a minute. He had only been back at work for a week, but it felt like a decade. This case was draining him for some reason. I’m too young to be burnt out, he thought to himself as he opened his eyes. He looked down at his keyboard and saw a purple piece of stationary that he knew to be Carla’s.

Danny, you don’t know how close you were. The next place Noah and Patty Riley moved after Sac was Santa Barbara, down in So Cal. I called, but they don’t want to come it. Asked if someone could drive her down there? Don’t know what to do about that one, so I got their no. and thought you should deal with it. Glad to help yet again and always, Carla.

Danny couldn’t believe it. How could your child be missing for going on six years and you not want to just hop on a plane as quickly as possible to get them. He just didn’t understand. He also didn’t have time to deal with it. He made a mental note to thank Carla and put the note in his back pocket. Slowly, he made his way down to interrogation room one to see Officer Cruise.

“Samantha Cruise?” He asked as he opened the door. She stood up, nodding in acknowledgment that she was Samantha Cruise. He motioned for her to sit down. She sat, looking quite nervous.

“Are you okay Officer Cruise?” Danny asked as he pulled the tape recorder out of his pocket.

“Oh, good,” she said, looking relieved. “You guys figured out I’m an officer. I planted evidence hoping you were good enough to figure it out.”

“Wow, that’s one you’ll have to explain, but first, is it all right if I record this conversation?” She nodded in agreement and he pressed the record button. The recorder came to life instantly. “Officer Samantha Cruise of the Medford PD, please, tell me what you know.”

“I was taken about six months ago, right after work. It was dark and when I came to my car I found it unlock. I didn’t think anything of it, but I should have. Steven was sitting in the back seat. He put a knife to my throat and made me get on the I-5. I don’t remember the exact way we went, because he backtracked a lot so I would get disoriented. Once we got to his home, he told me to strip and lay down on the bed. He raped me and afterward said I was wife number five. He gave me a crème colored dress and told me my greatest goal in life was now to get a yellow one. If you hadn’t of figured this whole thing out I would have gotten that yellow dress in about seven months. I’m at thirteen weeks right now.

“He has a full doctors office in the house. One of the wives, a yellow dress wife, is an OBGYN. So every pregnancy was well taken care of. As were the children. Steven himself was a pediatrician. And another wife was a teacher. I’m not sticking up for him though. I think what he’s done is sick. I’m just telling you how it was. It was like it’s own city in that house.”

“I understand. I never thought you were sticking up for him. Now, what can you tell me about Stacey Wilson?”

“Yes, the sixth wife. Came in right after I did. Poor girl. She never really fit in among the wives. She was just too young. Soon after she came was when Steven decided she must plan the wedding for him and ’the chosen one’. That’s what he always called…what’s her name…Sasha. Anyways, one night a little while back, Stacey and Sasha were in Sasha’s room. I was in the kitchen with all the other wives, making breakfast. Steven comes through to check on everyone. Right after he goes down the little hall to Sasha’s room, we all hear Steven yelling. Then we heard a crash and Stacey started screaming. After a few minutes it all went quiet. Steven came back into the kitchen with blood on his hands.

“He asked who was good at cleaning? I said I was. He told me to clean up after Stacey. That she made him make a huge mess. I went back there and she was laying in the middle of the hallway, blood was everywhere. That’s when I got my idea. I wouldn’t burry her. I would plant her somewhere to get that bastard caught.”

“How did you do it?”

“I put her in my car. Like I told you, he made me drive there in my kidnapping. So, I put her in the car, telling him I was going to give her a gravesite that I knew she would love. He went with me. I put her first in a shallow grave in a spot that I knew to be near a somewhat busy road, at least for that area. Then, a couple days later, I said I was going for a walk. He knew I wouldn’t dare escape. Too many children’s lives depended on it. For every wife who escapes, it was the lives of five children. He had done it before.

“Anyways, I unburied her and dragged her body to the road. I made sure the scene looked very staged and pressed my thumb into the blood from her stab wound, making sure to leave a good print. I also made sure a few of his hairs were on her clothing, so you could trace her back to him. I had hoped, prayed that someone would find her and the police would figure out at least somewhat of what I had done.”

“That was very brave of you. You do know he could easily have figure out it was you? You put yourself in a lot of danger.”

“Only if we had access to radio, newspapers or TV. Steven had no idea her body had even been found.”

“Well, Officer Cruise. You are free to go. One of your fellow officers from Medford has been contacted and should be here any minute. And I want to thank you. What you did was a good thing.” He didn’t have the heart to tell her that the finger print and the hairs had done nothing but stump them for over a month. That it had driven him to the point of breaking. That the girl had been identified by TV news and a computer. What she did was brave, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. He was satisfied that she had no part in the murder, that she was only trying to help.

Slowly, he finished up the interviews with the other four women. They all told much of the same story. That Steven had treated them well, but he did have a temper. Especially with Sasha and some of the other children. The six children in blue, the one’s born to the captive women, went home with their mother’s, all of them asking where dad was. Soon, none were left but Sasha. Danny knew he needed to make a phone call.

It two days to reach the Riley family. Noah Riley told Danny that the family could not travel as the two boys were just too little and Patty was just too pregnant to travel. Actually, that had been why they couldn’t be reached. Patty was in the hospital with false labor. Danny said he understood, although he didn’t in anyway. As soon as he had hung up the phone, he went to Miller.

“Boss, this family is nuts,” Danny said as he sat in the chair opposite Lead Detective Miller. “Over five years of not knowing if their daughter was dead or alive and they want a stranger to take her the twelve hours home. I know if it were my kid I would want to see her as soon as I got the news.”

“Why are you in here Weavers?” Miller asked, annoyed with the intrusion.

“I want to drive her,” Danny said, getting right to the point, which was highly unusual for him. Miller took note of that.

“Why?”

“I need a break. I don’t know why, but this case has drained me. I know I just took a vacation, but I need to do this.”

“What’s your real reason, Danny,” Miller said, using Danny’s preferred name, which meant he actually cared. At least for the moment.

“I feel sorry for her,” Danny admitted. “I mean she’s been alone for so long, and she told me she doesn’t even want to go back to her family. And I know she’s eighteen now and can legally make the choice on her own, but honestly, I just want to see why she doesn’t want to go back to them. It confuses me.”

Miller agreed to let Danny go, and even gave him two days to stick around and observe. Danny left with strict orders to not do anything on his own if he found out anything negative about the Riley’s. He was to go directly to Santa Barbara Police.

Two hours later, they were on the road. Sasha slept most of the long trip. Danny spent most the time she was awake asking about her childhood, trying to read between the lines on why she didn’t want to be with her parents. But there was nothing. She didn’t even mention any of it again.

They ended up talking about everything but her childhood. Mostly it was her changing the subject whenever he brought it up. Danny soon learned that Sasha was a very intelligent young lady. Though she was only twelve when she was kidnapped, she was just starting her freshman year of high school. She had been home-schooled while being held by Steven and had her G.E.D. She was ready to move on to college, but in what she didn’t know.

They reached Santa Barbara at around midnight. It was far to late to take her home, so Danny got two hotel rooms. Sasha went straight to her room, Danny couldn’t sleep. He walked around the downtown area, remembering his college days. Cruising State Street with all his frat buddies. Drinking beers down by the volleyball courts on East Beach. Yep, the good ole days, he thought to himself.

He didn’t sleep all that night. He had too much going on in his mind. At seven o’clock the next morning, he knocked on Sasha’s door. She was already dressed and ready to go. She almost seemed excited today. Or was that just nervousness.

Her family’s small house was located up on the Mesa. It had a wonderful view of the beach from the living room window. It was easy to find and cute as a button. Danny pulled the car up to the curb and came to a stop in front of the house. He was about to get out when the door to the house burst open. A short woman with the same auburn hair as Sasha came running out. Sasha opened the car door and barely had enough time to get out before her mother wrapped her in her arms.

“My baby girl is back,” Peggy Riley cried. “Oh, my baby!”

Soon after that, a tall man with thin brown hair came out the already opened door, followed by two identical 20 month old little boys. Sasha’s father wrapped both her and her mother in a hug. The baby boys, not knowing what else to do, wrapped their little arms around their father’s leg. After a few moments, everyone let go of each other. Peggy was still crying. It seemed real enough emotion to Danny.

“Thank you so much for bring our little girl back to us, Detective Weavers,” Noah Riley said, grasping Danny’s hand in a firm handshake. Danny told them it was his pleasure to reunite the family. He looked at Sasha and saw that she looked happy. It was the first time he had seen her smile. It was a good look for her. He told her that he would be in the same hotel tonight, if she needed anything. Anything at all. The Riley family thanked him one more time, then walked into their home, as a whole family.

Danny didn’t know what to think. Maybe what she had said three days ago at lunch had just been nerves. She must have not remembered then because of how long she had been away. Yes, this was another case solved. Danny planned to take the two days to investigate and instead use them to soak up some of that Southern California sunshine.

Danny fell asleep early that night. It could have even been eight o’clock. Just a few minutes after sleep had come to him, something woke him. At first it was just three loud knocks. Slowly he sat up, mumbling under his breath. He took his time, not thinking it was important. But he jumped out of bed when the second set of knocks came. This time they were louder, more intense. He rushed to the door and fumbled with the chain as the sets of three knocks became a more urgent continuous bang.

“They sold me, Danny!” Sasha cried out as soon as he had the door open. Tears were streaming down her face. “My own parents sold me to Steven for a hundred thousand dollars.” She began to cry hander. She started to take a step towards him, but her legs gave out. Danny grabbed her before she could fall. He slowly lowered her to the ground. “Why would they do that?”

“I don’t know kiddo,” Danny said and he held her close. “I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want you.” Danny just let her sit there and cry. He sat right next to her in the doorway, holding her close. That small gesture let her know that she wasn’t alone. And right now she felt so alone and unwanted.

Danny stared at the papers Sasha had given him. He couldn’t believe it. It didn’t say it straight out, but she had gathered enough of a paper trail the made it seem pretty damn sure that her parents had indeed sold her. But he didn’t think they knew exactly what they were selling her into. But the fact still was that they had sold her. They had just gotten rid of her like some old, unwanted item. Danny leaned back in his chair. This was all just too much.

He looked over at Sasha, asleep on the bed. After she had stopped sobbing, he had lead her into the hotel room. He sat her down at the small table and asked her to explain what she had found. She pulled the stack of papers from her backpack. Letters from her parents to a man named Steven Alexander. It was a different last name, but from the words, he had a no doubt that this was the same guy. Still, he would need to have a hand writing analysis done on the letters.

Along with the letters was an old bank statement. A very large deposit had been made just days before the then 12 year old Sasha had been taken from in front of her grandmother’s home. Shortly after the large deposit was a withdraw. It was large, but not unusually so. What was unusual was the date. It was taken out the morning of her disappearance. And it was to a Steven Alexander. And four days after that, another withdraw of a sizable amount to a name he did not recognize.

It would seem that they were paid for their daughter, then turned around and paid Steven a little to make it look like a kidnapping. They didn’t want to look like bad parents. Sometimes he hated this job. He got up and grabbed his cell phone and an old notebook. He rummaged through it until he found what he was looking for. He dialed the number.

When the FBI had taken over his case, three men had charged into his office, demanding everything on the kidnapping. Two had been total jerks, but one had actually been nice. He had pulled Danny aside and explained to him the Sasha Riley’s parents had asked that the FBI take over the case .Danny told the agent that he wasn’t giving up. The agent took the notebook Danny was holding and scribbled down a number telling him that is he ever found something n his own, to give the agent a call.

Danny prayed the number was still active. More so he prayed that the man was still and agent. After two ring, a man answered.

“I’m sorry, but the name on this paper is worn out and I Can’t read it. But my name is Detective Daniel Weavers from-”

“You found something on the case?” The man asked, cutting Danny off.

“Ah, so you are the guy. And yes I did. The kidnapping was a set up.”

“I had always had that feeling, but my partners would never let me investigate. I was the new guy, but still I thought something was up. Tell me everything.”

Danny told him about the letters, the deposit and the two withdraws. There was silence for a moment, then Danny heard the sound of pages shifting on the other end of the phone.

“Do you, by any chance, remember the date the FBI took the case from you?” The man asked.

“Oh yeah, my first case taken away from me just four days after I got it. I will always remember that date. December 14, 2000.”

“Okay, and refresh my memory if you will. What was the date of the second sizable withdraw?”

“Oh my god. I just caught that! It’s December 14th, 2000. One of your old partners would be named Gary Harrington, would it?

“Lead agent on the case. I always knew something was up with that! Listen, I’m going to have to get back to you. I need to make a few phone calls. And possibly a few arrests.”

Danny hung up the phone after saying goodbye, and getting his name. The now Senior Agent Mike Dunn was on his way to arresting his old partner. And Sasha was finally free of the whole ordeal.

The next morning Sasha and Danny watch as a FBI van pulled in front of the Riley family home. Sasha watched emotionless as her parents were lead out in handcuffs and the two little twin brothers she had never gotten to know were carried out by social service workers. She turned away from the scene and climbed into the passenger side of Danny’s Corolla. He got the hint and walked around to the driver’s side and got in.

“What now?” Sasha asked, looking out the window as the social services car drove off down the street and the FBI van took off in the opposite direction.

“We go home.” He said.

“What about after that? What’s going to happen to me?”

“To be totally honest,” Danny said as he started the car. “I don’t have a clue. I found your grandmother. You could go there. She lives right outside Yreka. That and you’re eighteen now. You can do whatever you want. You did get your G.E.D. while you were with Steven, so, I guess it’s either get a job or go to college.”

“Yeah, I guess,” She said . “But I kinda missed out on a childhood. I never got a chance to dream. I don’t know what I want to be.” Danny looked over at her as he started the car. He was silent for a few minutes.

“Then start dreaming now,” he finally said. “We got a twelve plus hour drive. Besides, you don’t have to do anything right away. You can take some time to recover.”

“I don’t want to sit around recovering. I want to move on with my life. I want to do something. Something important.”

“You ever thought of being a detective?” Danny said as they pulled onto the freeway. She looked at him questioningly. “You peg this one right away!” He laughed. Sasha just shook her head.

“Naw, I think part of me just always knew what was going on. They had always passed me off to Mema, so I knew they weren’t real into having a kid. But I don’t know. I think I’d rather be a teacher. I like working with kids.”

“There you go. You’re well on your way to finding out who and what you want to be.”

“Yeah,” she said, leaning her head back on the headrest. “I’ll get it eventually.” Sasha closed her eyes as Danny drove them both back to Yreka.

 

 

Copyright 2007 by Ruthless Productions