The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Four: Bang, Bang! You’re Dead!

"Harper’s in trouble," I tell Langston on the phone even as I pull on my shoes and lace them up.

"How do you know?"

"From years of experience I can tell you that hearing a gun shot right before your partner’s phone goes dead is generally not a good sign." Jesus Christ, I will not spend my time justifying this to him. "Put whoever is available on a flight to Albuquerque. And get the local affiliate there ready to roll. I’m taking my jet. I’ll meet up with them as soon as I land and we’ll head out to the reservation."


"Richard, you wanted a story, you got one. Let’s hope it’s not about the death of one of your Senior Producers." I refuse to believe that. If Harper were dead, I’d know it. I know I’d know it. Part of me would die immediately.

Hold on, sweetheart. I’m coming. I’ll be there as soon as I can.

"So you’re just going…"

"You’re wasting time by arguing with me. If you want the story, get Kendra or Sam on the next flight out."

I hang up with him and toss the phone on the bed, and pull out my travel bag from the closet. I’ve always kept one handy for those mad dashes to the airport. Now I’m glad old habits die hard. Brian sticks his head in the door as I do a last minute check to make sure I have everything I need.

"We’re all set to go. The agency called. They got hold of Jeff. Seems Harper and someone named Cora took off together early this morning and left him behind. Jeff is now in the process of notifying the local authorities in New Mexico and the agency is sending a car for us."


"Kels, why pay thousands of dollars to a protective agency and then leave your bodyguard behind?"

"Because Harper thinks she’s indestructible. She’s twenty-six years old and thinks nothing bad can happen to her. Because she hasn’t got the sense God gave a goat!" I yell this last part, then stop and rub my face with both hands. "I’m sorry, Brian. I’m scared and worried and…"

"I know." He comes the rest of the way into the room and gives me a hug. "I know. You’re not exactly having a stellar year thus far."

I shake my head against his shoulder but don’t reply. If I do, I’ll start crying and that’s the last thing I need to do right now. I take a deep breath, hold it in for a moment and then look up. "Let’s get going."


* * *


I stare down at the splintered and charred remnants of my cell phone. The shotgun is now pointed at my gut once again. Sweat trickles down my back, stopping at the waistband of my jeans. One shot to the stomach is all it would take. No more kissing Brennan and Collin goodnight. No more singing to them. No more making love to Kels.

"Peter!" Cora exclaims. "What are you doing?"

I think it’s fairly clear what good ol’ Peter is doing. He’s preparing to shoot the hell out of us. I study him, looking for a sign of weakness. I don’t find many. He’s tall, broad shouldered, and obviously strong. His hair is dark and wavy, cut short. He smells of danger and sweat. The shotgun is held easily in his hands. It’s obvious he knows how to use it.

"You shouldn’t have come here, Cora. You shouldn’t have put your nose into someone else’s business."

"We were just here to buy blankets," I try to bluff. He looks skeptically around at the trees. "I am a travel writer. I saw some beautiful scenery. We just came here to take a look at it."

"Drop the camera," he orders.

I briefly consider resisting but quickly come to my senses when I see his finger twitch near the trigger. I let it fall to the ground and I can hear the lens crack. Oh well. We’ll get more and better footage when we arrest this guy’s ass.

Without further warning, he swings the gun down and blasts the camera to kingdom come. I am grateful for my heavy jeans, as they protect my legs from the splatter of metal and plastic.

"Peter, you need to reconsider what you’re doing here," Cora tries again. She steps toward him, reaching out for his arm.

His left hand swings out and smashes into her jaw, staggering her back. "Stay the fuck where you are!" he snarls. "You shouldn’t have come here."

I step back, hoping to find something I can use as a weapon. A twig snaps under my foot. Fuck!

Again, the gun is aimed at my belly. "Put your hands above your head. Lace your fingers together and face that tree."

I sure don’t want to show him my back. "We’re cool here."

"No, we’re not cool! You are fucking not cool!" He looks over at the building, and seems to decide something. "Come with me!" He grabs Cora by the upper arm, pressing the barrel of his gun into her ribs. "You!" He means me. "Walk in front of us. Try anything and she’s dead."

I don’t this plan, but I have little negotiating room. We begin walking toward the building. I wonder how many tourists do come by during any given day.

He takes us the long way around the building, to a back door that isn’t chained closed. I step through first and find a second man with a gun in the room. Cora exclaims, "Wayne! You can’t be a part of this, too!"

I can’t quite share Cora’s surprise. If I had met Wayne anywhere, in any context, I’d figure he was up to no good. It’s not necessarily from his outward appearance, but from the look in his eye. I wouldn’t trust him in or out of sight. He ignores her and keeps his gun trained on me. I suppose I represent the unknown threat. "Sit down!"

A quick glance around the room reveals limited seating options. I choose a metal folding chair that is spotted with rust. Cora is shoved down on a wooden chair across from me.

"Hands under your ass," he orders us. Then says to Wayne, "Start packing up."

"What?" Wayne sputters. "Why?"

"She was on the phone when I caught them. Who knows who she was calling."

God, I hope the call didn’t go through to Kels. She’d be worried sick if it did. Of course, she’d also send the fucking cavalry. Hard to know which one to choose.

Wayne goes over to a cabinet and begins unloading boxes of shotgun shells. I don’t take that as a good sign.

Peter comes over and presses his gun against my temple. "Who were you calling?"

I debate my answer. Finally, I settle on, "The police."


"Get the money from the front, Wayne," Peter prompts his partner. "Then put up the closed sign and lock the door." He grabs a duffle bag from the floor and begins putting the shells in it. From a drawer, he removes two handguns and adds them to the bag.

Pointing the shotgun at Cora, he motions her up. "Both of you: hands on top of your heads and go through that door."

He herds us roughly through the building, shoving Cora into me a few times. I try to keep focused, looking for anything to use as a weapon. Peter is smart though. He forces us to kneel on our hands until he gets the door open. He then steps back and watches us intently as we go through it.

We step into the workroom we filmed from outside. The score of child workers look up at us and Peter with the gun in silence. I am surprised that no one cries out, or attempts to move. They’re only children, after all, and must certainly be frightened. They’ve stopped all work on their weaving; their machines idle without manpower.

I look at the little girl closest to me. She can’t be more than eight years old. Her body is thin, too thin for a growing child. She looks at me with liquid brown eyes, her skin the color of moist earth. "Va a estar bien." It’s going to be fine, I assure her.

No reaction.

I hear a noise behind me and I turn to see Peter removing a pair of handcuffs from one of the children. It had been used to fasten her tiny leg to her stool. Without warning, he slaps it on Cora’s wrists. He releases another child and comes toward me.

No good choice here either way. I can resist and possibly be shot, or let him put these on me and possibly be shot.

Peter reaches out and I pull my wrist away. Suddenly my head snaps back. Faster than I thought he could move, he smashes the butt of the shotgun into my eyebrow. A gash has opened up over my eye where the thin skin was separated. Fuck, that hurts. While I am momentarily distracted by the pain, he slaps the cuffs on me.

"Don’t make me more pissed off, lady."

Wayne comes into the room and nods. "I have the cash. Let’s go."

Surprising me, he motions for us to go out the door. "Ladies first."

"Where are we going?" I demand, stalling for time, for some plan. Of course, I don’t know quite what I’d do, given that my hands are now secured behind my back.

"You’re our ticket out of this mess," Peter growls and grabs me by the upper arm, dragging me with him out of the room. I glance back at the children. Not one of them has moved or said a word.


* * *


Climbing up a hill is difficult with your hands cuffed behind you. Arms are, I learn the hard way, extremely important for balance. I stumble up the hillside, falling hard on my right knee. There is still snow on the ground from the recent snowfall.

Peter prods me with the tip of the gun. "Get moving!"

I get up and start moving again. I wonder how many times I can fall and stall for time?

Cora bumps my shoulder with hers. "I’m sorry about this, Harper."

I shake my head. "Eh, I’ve had worse."

"Shut up!" Wayne warns from ahead of us.

I roll my eyes. Like there’s anyone out here to hear me. I risk a glance back at Peter. "Where are we going?"


I bite back a sarcastic comment. No need to further piss off the guy with the gun. But that doesn’t stop me from asking another question. "Why up? Why hike? Why not take your car?"

"I have another car where we’re going. If you called the police, they’ll come to the store. They’ll see Cora’s pickup -"

"How did you -?" Cora asks.

"Please, Cora, everyone in the tribe knows the sound of that relic’s motor. We heard you and then I saw you two sneaking around the building." He smiles smugly. "When the cops come, they’ll see our cars and your truck and think we’re all still in there. They’ll hear the kids working, and know someone is inside. With any luck, they’ll sit out there for hours, in a standoff that isn’t."

I make a disparaging sound. "The kids will talk. They’ll hear the police and cry for help."

Peter begins laughing. "No, they won’t. Now, move."


* * *

I doesn’t take long to settle Brian and the twins into the suite they’ll be staying in until I get back. I’m saying good-bye to my babies while I wait for Sam to arrive. He’s on his way from the airport.

"I’m going to go get your Mama," I tell Brennan as I lay her in the carriage that will double as her bed until the hotel can deliver up a crib for them. "When I get back with her, I expect you both to spit up all over her to show her exactly what we think of this little scare."

I can’t imagine trying to raise them alone. Harper Lee, you’d had better be all right. I’ll be forced to kick your butt if you’re not. Of course, you’d probably like that. I smile at the thought, as I watch Brennan fall into a peaceful slumber.

Now is not the time to fall apart, Kelsey. Get it together for your children, for Harper, and for yourself. Bite the bullet, and do what needs to be done. Once Harper is home safe and sound, you can have a good cry. Until then, ‘Buck up, Little Roo’.


* * *


I wish I could see my watch. I figure we’ve walked for an hour, but I’m not sure. Despite the walking, I’m a little cold. My jacket was unbuttoned when he attached the cuffs on my wrists. No one has bothered to help me with it, not surprisingly. My left eye is swollen from the blow I received earlier. The blood from the wound has coated part of my face, and my glasses are now lost on the floor at the factory. There’s a reason why I don’t wear them like I should.

Wayne is breathing hard, clearly unaccustomed to strenuous exercise. He’s sitting on a rock, resting. Peter is better off. Cora and I are leaning against a tree. I don’t know how much further we have to go, but I like the walking. It leaves a clear trail, and it wears down our captors. I hope Wayne has a heart attack.

"Have either of the babies laughed yet?" Cora asks, out of the blue.

I smile, thinking of my boy and his belly laughs. "Collin has. Great big laughs. Of course, Kels tells me it’s gas, but I know better."

"Who caused him to first laugh?"

"I did," I report proudly. "We were just goofing off together. He’s my little man."

"We must have a ceremony soon. The first laugh is sacred to the Navajo. It tells of the child experiencing pleasure, the good things the Spirit provides." Cora gets a far off look in her eyes.

"What happens in the ceremony?" I like this distraction. My babies always make me happy, no matter what the circumstances are. God, I’m so glad that Kels and the babies didn’t come along this trip. I’d be insane with worry if they were here.

This discussion seems to make Cora happy as well. "Whoever caused the child to laugh first gives a party in the child’s honor. There the child is taught generosity."

"Generosity? How? That seems like a big concept and Collin is only three months old."

Cora chuckles, "You help him by starting him down the right path. You help him give away little trinkets. It teaches him that true joy comes from giving to others, taking care of his clan."

"Enough," Peter grunts, interrupting our conversation. "Move."

"I look forward to Fuzzy and I doing that soon, Cora."

We start walking again. Fortunately, we’re starting to head downhill. Kels, don’t worry about me, chér. Just out for a little hike.


* * *


The agency had the good sense to send two bodyguards with me. I left the big guy with no neck at the hotel with Brian and the babies. I have Sam with me and a young woman named Sarah, who is very intense, and, I can tell, very capable. I’ve seen that look before.

Sarah is driving the rental car as the truck from the local affiliate follows us to our destination. I turn around and face Sam. "I’m not sure what we’re walking into here. You know that, right?"

He nods. "I know." He looks at his hands and then at me. "Kelsey, Harper is fine. I know she is."

"I keep telling myself that. My heart won’t believe anything else."

"Then listen to it."

"I am. It’s the only part of me that’s thinking clearly at the moment."

He gives me a little laugh. "Damn, you sure seem like you’re holding it together pretty well."

"It’s amazing what adrenaline and worry will do for you. You’re married with kids, Sam, you know what it’s like."

"Sure, but, Kels, my wife is a teacher. I’ve never been worried about her being killed."

I won’t mention Columbine or the other half dozen schools that have faced such tragedy. Let the man enjoy his security.


* * *


We head into a clearing and I see a small house nestled there. I guess this is where we’re picking up our vehicle. I see one in the driveway. It’s a station wagon from back in the days when they had fake wood side paneling. Does anyone in New Mexico have a new car?

Cora trips on a rock and falls down hard on her shoulder, since she has no way to brace herself. Wayne jerks her to her feet, compounding the injury and causing Cora to cry out in pain.

"Move! Or you’ll hurt a lot worse."

We get down to the property and Peter opens the backdoor without any hesitation or barrier. I guess this far out in the country no one bothers to lock up. We are soon met by a young woman, in her early twenties, a baby in her arms and a toddler trailing behind her. "Dad? What are you doing here?" She then takes in the scene more fully, seeing the guns drawn, and our hands secured behind our backs. "What’s going on here?"

"Get back in the other room, Sandie. Get the kids out of here."

"Pop-pop!" the toddler cries, throwing open his arms.

"Pop-pop’s busy," Sandie says, pressing her hand on his small chest to keep him in place. "Let’s go play Candyland."

"Yea!" the boys warbles and zips out of the room.

"I’m going to borrow your car for awhile." Peter goes to the kitchen counter and dumps out the contents of her purse. Finding her keys amid a pile of wipes, mints, cigarettes and change, he holds them up. "Let’s go."

Wayne looks like he’d rather stay here, but he gets up from the kitchen stool heavily. We step outside and take three paces toward the car when we hear it.

What a beautiful noise.

All four of us look up into the air to see a helicopter emerging over the line of trees. The cavalry. Even better than on a horse. I’d wave if I could move my arms.

"Stay where you are!" a voice from on high commands us. I doubt if it’s God, but it’ll do in a pinch.

"Inside! Inside!" Peter screams, disregarding the voice. Another reason he’s gonna burn in hell.

I fall to the ground when Peter pushes me. I’ll try some of those passive resistance moves Mama has used at thousand of marches.

Peter kicks me in the ribs.

Goddamn that hurts.

"Get up!" he screams. He kicks me again, his time connecting with my jaw. As the report of a shot rings in the clearing, he reaches down and grabs hold of me, dragging me behind him into the house.

That didn’t work.


* * *


As I figured it would be, things are pretty much a mad house when we arrive. It would seem we have several scenes to cover. First, would be the store and the factory where it all began. Okay, this is where Sam will stay with the affiliate truck to start the story.

The producer they sent with us joins me, as I try to figure out my next move. "Ms. Stanton?"


"I’ve called and requested that the station send out our helicopter. It would seem there is a hostage situation a few miles from here. It’s stemming directly from whatever took place here this morning, although the authorities are still trying to piece that all together."

I take a deep breath and have to ask. "Harper Kingsley is one of the hostages, isn’t she?"

"Yes." He nods slowly. "It’s believed she is."

"Call the station back. Tell them to have the helicopter land here first. They’re picking up a passenger."

"With all due respect, I don’t think that’s a good idea."

"I didn’t ask you if you thought it was a good idea," I growl, closing the distance between us. "I told you to do it. My partner is in that situation and I intend to be as close as I can. Now, you can either help me, or you can spend the rest of your career producing B stories on sewer back-up and trash strikes. I’ve made people miserable for more than ten years. You wouldn’t be the first, and I’m sure you won’t be the last."

"I’ll put in that call right now."

"Good plan. Go with it."


* * *


It’s been almost a half hour since we were forced back inside. We’re in the living room, along with Sandie and her two children. Both of whom are crying. The toddler is mad because he can’t run around and play freely, the baby is either tired, wet or hungry. I know Brennan and Collin’s cries, but not this one’s.

Wayne and Peter have gone through the house, pulling all the blinds and locking all the doors. Wayne is at one end of the living room, keeping an eye on the bedrooms and front door. He’s breathing hard and sweating like a pig. He takes off his jacket, and I can see his shirt is stained with sweat.

Peter is at the other side, watching the kitchen and back door. He’s not paying any attention to his partner, which is fine by me.

We can hear all the activity outside, even over the crying. I swear half of the New Mexico state police officers must have arrived. I’ve also counted at least two helicopters. One cop, one news. I wonder if it’s ours. I wonder if Kels is out there. If she is, she’s pissed at me. I should have brought Jeff along. Bet she handcuffs me to him the next time I go out.

"Can’t you do something about that baby?" Wayne growls from his post. "I can’t think over here." He holding his left arm against his chest, hugging it to his body.

Sandie tosses him an exasperated look. "This isn’t what we had planned for our day, Wayne. My son wants to play and my daughter is tired."

"I can help," I offer.

"What?" Peter now focuses his attention on me.

"I can help with the baby. I’m good with babies. I have two of my own, in fact."

Peter doesn’t look as if he believes me. He’s about to contradict me when Sandie asks, "Boys, girls or one of each?"

"One of each. Fraternal twins. Three months old."

Sandie smiles, and glances at the baby in her arms. "Linda is six months old next week."

"I can rock her, if you like? So you can play with your boy."

She glances over at her father for permission. Wayne interjects, "Let her do it, Peter. So we can hear what’s going on out there." Peter nods and Sandie comes over to deposit Linda in my arms.

Before she does, I clear my throat and once again get Peter’s attention. "I can’t help if I can’t hold her."

Peter stalks over and hoists me to my feet. My ribs scream in agony, but I don’t let it show. I clench my jaw and regret that act too. I want ice packs all over. "Wayne, shoot Cora if this one tries anything." Looking at Wayne, I don’t think he would hit anything he aimed at right now. I doubt if he can see with all the sweat pouring down his face.

Moving swiftly, Peter uncuffs my hand behind my back alnd reattaches them in front. "There. That’ll do."

My shoulders are very happy for this change. "It’ll do," I repeat and get pushed back on the couch.

"Peter, can you let me put my hands in front of me too?" Cora asks, emboldened by my success. "I hurt my shoulder real bad out there."

He accedes to her request as well.

Sandie lays Linda in my arms and I begin rocking her back and forth, singing Brennan’s favorite lullaby. Now able to focus on her son, Sandie quickly gets him quiet and playing a game with her.

I feel the tension level in the room begin to drop.

Then the phone rings.

We all look at one another. None of us thinks it’s MCI calling about Sandie’s long distance service. We all know who is on the other end of the line. I wonder if Peter will shoot it too. He doesn’t seem to like phones too much.

"Should I get it, Dad?"

"No," he grunts. He lets the phone continue to ring and he comes over to me. Removing Linda from my arms, he gives her to Cora. He then brings the phone over to me. "Tell them to go away before we kill you."

God, I hope we’re not on speakerphone if Kels is out there. "Okay," I take the phone and press the answer button. "Hello?"

He grabs the phone and twists it so he can hear the other end of the conversation. Leaning down next to me, I can smell his fear. And his anger. Not a good combination where I’m sitting. If these are the pheromones that men give off, no wonder I bat for the winning team.


"No -" I start to reply, but Peter covers the mouthpiece and elbows me in my head wound, making me see stars momentarily.

"Don’t tell them anything I don’t tell you first, bitch. Now, tell them to go away before I kill you."

I nod and he removes his hand. "Go away before he kills us." I am pleased that my voice is steady. At least, it is to my ears.

The voice at the other end is calm, reassuring. "Tell him we can’t do that. We’re not going anywhere and he may as well come out of there. He’s only going to make things worse. Tell him we would like to talk to him."

I look up at Peter, knowing he’s heard all of this firsthand. He covers the mouthpiece again. "Tell them, I’m not joking." To impress the point upon me, he presses the barrel of his gun into the base of my neck. I take shallow breaths lest I move too much and startle him into shooting me.

"He says he’s not joking." I need to disengage myself from this situation. Become a news producer, Harper. See the story. Ignore the personal aspect.

"We’re not going to back off. Coming out of there of his own free will and releasing the hostages unharmed is the only way he’s going to help himself. Anything else is only going to make it worse."

"Fuck that!" he grunts, before covering the mouthpiece. "I want one of the helicopters. I want us out of here."

You and me both, buddy. "He wants a helicopter." I wonder if the cops will play some word game with him, like give him a helicopter but not the pilot. ‘But you only asked for a helicopter, Peter. How did we know you couldn’t fly it?’

"Tell him we can discuss it if he’s willing to let you go."

He rolls his eyes and shakes his head emphatically.


"Then there’s nothing to discuss. We’ll talk about helping him when he’s ready to help himself."

Peter hangs up the phone.

That went well.


* * *


What is it in our genetic make up that seems to attract Harper and me into situations where there are either crazy, dangerous people with guns, or large numbers of police?

Whatever it is, we need to find a cure for it. I’m getting too old for this shit.

The helicopter I’m in is circling the house as the cameraman shoots his footage. I’m sure that between us, and the police helicopter that’s up, the people inside are thrilled.

I tap the pilot on the arm. "Any chance of getting me a radio link with anyone on the ground?"

"I can try."


I try to see into the house as we slowly circle. The shades are drawn and there doesn’t appear to be any movement inside. I have to assume everyone is still alive since the police are out here sitting on their collective butts.

I have never felt so totally helpless in all my life.

The pilot glances my direction. "Put on that headset. I’ve got a radio link up to Deputy Sheriff Stone."

I reach to the floor, and retrieve the headset to put it on. "Deputy Stone? This is Kelsey Stanton. Can you tell me if Harper Kingsley is in that house?"

The connection isn’t all that wonderful but through the static I can hear well enough. "We believe so, Ms. Stanton. We’re trying to get confirmation of that now."

I swallow hard. I don’t need their confirmation. I know she’s in there. Now, let’s do something about getting her out and in one piece would be good. "Thank you, Deputy, if you could let me know as soon as you do, I would appreciate it."

"We’ll do, Ms. Stanton." The radio goes silent, and once again I’m forced to wait.


* * *


Peter is pacing the house, waiting for something to happen. Sandie’s son is playing quietly by himself and Sandie is rocking Linda. Cora is alert, watching me. I’m watching Wayne. I figure he has about five minutes before he has a heart attack. I begin counting to three hundred.

At one hundred forty-seven, Wayne keels over.

Peter’s in the kitchen, checking on the cops outside of the house. I see no need to alert him to what’s going on in the living room. Normally, my compassion level is a little higher, but not for someone who has threatened to permanently separate me from my family.

Sandie hears the thud behind her when he crumples to the floor. It takes her a moment to realize what has happened, but then she’s yelling for her father.

Oh, well, it was nice while the moment lasted.

Peter rushes in and sees Wayne on the floor, his chest still. He gives me an accusatory glare, but I ignore it. I’m not the one who took him on a two hour forced hike. Bite me, buddy.

"Damn!" Peter swears, and picks up Wayne’s fallen gun, tucking it into his belt. "Wayne!" he yells, as if that will help.

I watch as no one moves to help good ol’ Wayne. Not Sandie. Not Cora. Not Peter.

The phone rings, startling all of us.

Peter swings the shotgun in my direction. "Pick it up!"

I lift it, and bring it slowly to my mouth. "Hello?"

"Harper Kingsley?" the police officer asks.


Peter steps forward aggressively. "What did they say?"

"He asked if my name was Harper Kingsley."

My kidnapper, hostage-keeper, waves his shotgun at me, encouraging me to go on. "What can I do for you?" I ask politely. I sound like a customer service representative.

"Any change in there? Is he willing to negotiate?"

"One down, one to go," I reply blithely, hoping by sounding casual that I can sneak it past Peter. Wayne is gone. It’s clear. "Let me ask." I hold the phone out, letting the cops listen in. "They want to know if you are willing to negotiate with them."

"I want my daughter out. My grandchildren."

Finally, the idiot is thinking of others. "I’ll tell them." I bring the phone back to me mouth. "He wants to send his family out. He has a daughter and two grandchildren in here." I wonder if I have a wife and two kids out there.

"Have them come out the front door, slowly. They should walk in a straight line, directly toward us." I repeat the instructions, for the benefit of those in the room.

Peter looks over at his daughter. "Take the kids and go." She starts to object, for reasons I could never fathom. "Go. I shouldn’t have come here anyway."

"Dad." Sandie begins crying. She knows that when she leaves, this won’t end well. I worry about that too. Yet one look at her children and I don’t begrudge them getting out while they can. I only hope to join them shortly.

"Go!" He waves for her to move. "I’ll see you soon," he lies, his voice shaking.

"Why don’t you come with us, Dad?" Sandie extends her hand to her father. "There’s no need to stay here. This can all work out for us. Let’s talk it over outside."

He starts to object again, but then nods slowly. "All right. I’ll be out right after you."

"You promise, Dad?"

"I promise. Go on."

Sandie is clearly confused about whether to believe him or not. Finally, she lifts the sleeping infant into her arms and takes her son’s hand. "We’ll see you in a few minutes." With several more glances back, she makes her way through the house and out the front door.

"Walk this way, miss," the police officer directs through a bullhorn.

Peter watches through the curtain until he is assured the three of them are safe. With a heavy sigh, he turns his attention back to us. "Why, Cora?" A worn easy chair beckons him and he sinks into it. He looks so weary. "I never bothered you. Never hurt you or your family. Why did you do this to me?"

"I saw the children. I couldn’t let them stay there."

"Why?" he growls. "I fed them, I gave them a roof over their heads."

"You chained them to their chairs," I mutter, unable to help myself.

He grips the arms of the chair tightly. "I was a helluva lot better to them than their parents were. They sold them to me. Most expensive one was fifty dollars. Fifty dollars to take a deaf kid off their hands."

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I feel physically sick. "You bought them?"

He shrugs, completely unremorseful. "I had a need. I gave them something better. I gave their families needed income. I taught them a skill."

Earth to Peter, buying children does not equal a good thing. I keep my mouth shut, however. Kels would be proud of me.

He takes the gun out of his belt and points it at Cora. "How could you?"

Before she can reply, he fires.


(To be continued)


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Though this series is inspired by certain actual incidents, it is a work of fiction and references to real people and organizations are included only to lend a sense of authenticity. All of the characters, whether central or peripheral, are wholly the product of the authors’ imagination, as are their actions, motivations, thoughts and conversations, and neither the characters nor the situations which were invented for them are intended to depict real people or real events. In particular, the depictions of CBS and NBC are not meant to portray the corporations, or any individual within the corporations, but are only used to lend a sense of authenticity to this work of fiction.

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