The next morning, Cam didn't appear at the park for their usual run, and Jimmy quit halfway through his usual routine, finding the he wasn't enjoying himself without her there. He took out his cell and tried to call, but she didn't answer. So he left a message, the first of many. Then he went home and took a shower before changing into a suit and going to the office.
Annabeth and Maureen were both surprised to see him so early, and Maureen commented on it. "You didn't go for your run this morning?"
"I cut it short," he said tersely. "What's on the agenda for today?" he asked as they followed him into his office. He put down his briefcase and took off his coat as they told him about a new case that they'd caught.
He listened and told them that when Ed and Ray got in, they'd meet in the conference room to go over what they'd found at the scene. Sitting down, he waited for them to leave before trying to call Cam's cell phone for the yet again. It went directly to her answering service as it had all morning. Sighing in frustration, Jimmy decided not to leave another message and instead pulled up the hospital's number, asking for Dr. Collier's office.
Her secretary, Jenny, answered. "Dr. Collier's office."
"Jenny, it's James Conlon. I need to talk to Cam."
"She's not here, Mr. Conlon," Jenny informed him.
"I thought maybe she was with you -"
"I haven't seen her since last night," Jimmy informed the young woman. "Has she called?"
"No. And that's not like her. There's no answer at her apartment -"
"I know. Okay. If you hear from her, have her call me."
"I will. I'm sure she's just - busy," Jenny suggested, but she didn't sound very hopeful to Jimmy's ears.
He hung up and left his office, running into Annabeth on his way. "Where's the fire?" she asked.
"I have to go out for a little while, Annabeth," he told her. "Cam's not at work and she didn't call in."
"That doesn't sound much like her."
"No. I'm going over to her place -"
"You didn't see her this morning?"
Jimmy sighed. "No. We had a - disagreement last night," he said. "And she didn't show up for our run. There's been no answer on her cell - the calls are still being forwarded to her service. And there's no answer at the apartment." He didn't want to admit that he was afraid she'd left town to keep from having to talk to him.
"I'll be back in an hour."
"Good luck finding her," Annabeth called after him.
He knocked on Cam's door for the second time, his concern growing. Her car hadn't been in the parking lot - So she probably wasn't here. The question was - where *was* she?
He took the key she'd given him out of his pocket. He'd never used it - most of the time they had been staying at his house. Except for a couple of nights when Cam had worked late and had tried to use it as an excuse not to see him - and Jimmy had been waiting on the doorstep when she'd gotten home.
She gave him the key, saying, "This is so my neighbors don't see you lurking around and call the police."
He smiled as he recalled the moment as the door opened. Sticking his head inside, he called, "Cam?"
There was no response. The apartment was as neat as pin - as always, with no sign that anyone had broken in.
Sunday's newspaper was laying on the desk, the photograph of the two of them in view. As he looked at it, Jimmy noticed that there was a drawer that was partially open, and he pulled it out to look inside. There was a stack of letters inside - addressed to Cam at her old apartment. There was no return address - but something about them drew Jimmy to pull them out and look through them.
There were at least twenty letters - with the oldest being post marked ten years ago and the last one around the time she had moved in here. The four oldest were all open - but the rest were still sealed. Removing the oldest letter, he sat down as he began to read it. After the fourth open letter, he realized that they were all basically the same - all from the same person, promising Cam that she would never have a life of her own; that she was being watched, and if she ever tried to make a life with someone else, the writer would destroy any chance of her being happy, just as he felt that Cam had destroyed his life.
No wonder Cam had never let a relationship become serious until now. The less time she spent with a man, the less likely the writer would somehow find out and find a way to end it. That she had been living with this hanging over her head for ten years, . . . Returning the letters to the drawer, he closed it and continued to search the rest of the apartment for any clues as to where she might have gone.
Cam's suitcase was still in the bedroom closet where she kept it. Her purse was gone. Her night gown hanging on the back of the bathroom door - and the shower was still damp from being used earlier.
But there was no sign of Cam or where she might have gone. Taking out his phone, he tried her cell again. This time, the cell didn't go to her service - but there was no answer, either.
There was a niggling fear crawling up Jimmy's spine.
Returning to the office for the meeting with his staff, Jimmy put out the word with a friend in the police department to keep an eye out for Cam's car. Maureen and Annabeth were already in the conference room when he arrived, and Annabeth turned to look at him.
"Did you find her?"
"No," he said. "Her car's not there. There's no sign of anything wrong at the apartment. But I asked the police to check things out."
"Good idea," Maureen nodded.
Jimmy turned toward the table to begin the meeting, only to stop as he saw something on the television monitor at the back of the room. Grabbing a remote from the table, he unmuted the sound.
"Again, there has been an escape from the Correctional Facility in Pendleton. A single prisoner faked being ill enough to need transport to a local hospital. During the transfer, he overpowered the guards and paramedics, stealing a car to escape. In the escape, the paramedic was pistol whipped and the guard wounded." A mug shot was shown, and Jimmy felt the air leave his body as he recognized the face. "Richard Colby was sentence to life in prison ten years ago for the murder of Dr. Andrew Reed. Authorities say that Colby is armed and dangerous - and that they believe he might be heading toward Indianapolis. If you see this man, call the State Police Hotline and do not attempt to approach him."
Ray and Ed came in during the broadcast. "Colby was tough nut," Ed recalled. "He killed that doctor by blowing up his car."
"You remember the case?" Jimmy questioned.
"Vaguely. I was just starting on the force."
"Why did he kill Dr. Reed?" Maureen asked.
"Dr. Reed performed an abortion on Colby's girlfriend. Apparently the girlfriend -" Ed stopped, as he suddenly made a connection and looked at Jimmy. "Dr. Collier. *That's* where I heard her name before," he realized.
"I'm confused," Annabeth said. "What did Cameron Collier have to do with any of this?"
"She was Colby's girlfriend," Jimmy answered, his heart in his throat. "Cam's missing," he told Ray and Ed. "She left my house around ten last night and didn't call in or show up at the hospital this morning."
Maureen's eyes were wide. "You don't think Colby's already in the city?"
"Pendleton's not that far," Ed reminded her.
"We need to find Cam ASAP," Jimmy told them.
"The car that Colby stole in Pendleton was found abandoned on a side road heading this direction - and another vehicle was stolen in that area," Ray said as he and Ed entered Jimmy's office an hour later. During that hour, Jimmy had called Mrs. Dawson, sending a car to his house to take her home, mostly at Ray's suggestion, since he was convinced that it wasn't only Cam that Colby was after.
"Damn," Jimmy breathed, hating not being able to *do* something. "Anything else?"
"Apparently Colby asked to call someone yesterday - and when there was no answer he seemed upset. Right after that, he became ill and ended up being transported to a hospital near the prison under guard."
"How did he manage to overpower the guard and escape?"
"They thought he'd passed out and dropped their guard," Ray said. "Next thing they knew, Colby grabbed one of the guard's weapon."
"He should have been in restraints."
"I know. There'll be an investigation," Ed confirmed.
"Too late," Jimmy declared. He stood up and looked out of the window. "We need to find her."
"We're looking, Jimmy," Ray told him. "There's a BOLO out for Colby. And for Cam and her car."
"He told her that he'd do this," Jimmy said quietly.
"She's got a stack of letters that he's sent to her over the last ten years," Jimmy explained. "All of them saying the same thing - that she'll never have a life of her own - never find anyone to love her. That if she does, he'll come back and do the same thing to the person she loves that she did to their child."
"What about what he did to the doc?" Ray questioned. "Sounds like this guy's a real psycho."
"He was," Ed confirmed, glancing at a report he was holding. "Military trained in explosives. He was discharged due to a breakdown.. After he got out, he came to Indianapolis and met Cameron Collier, the daughter of a local doctor who was just starting her surgical residency. They moved into an apartment a month later - and over the next six months the local police were called to the apartment three times."
Jimmy nodded, recalling what he'd read. "He was abusive."
"Every time they went out, she refused to press charges."
"That doesn't fit with the woman that I know to be Cameron Collier," Jimmy sighed. "She seems too strong to let that kind of thing happen to her."
"She was younger then," Ray noted. "And people do change."
"I'm sure that everything she went through *made* her stronger," Ed insisted. "She grew with a strong father - living in his shadow as she began her medical training. By all accounts, she met Rick Colby through her father."
"What I want to know is how a man who was sentenced to life in prison and had a protection order against him on Cameron's behalf managed to get letters to her from prison and no one knew about it," Jimmy said.
"*And* how he tried to call her yesterday," Ray agreed.
"Like I said, there were some glitches in the system," Ed began, stopping as Jimmy turned from the window and confronted him.
"Glitches? This wasn't a *glitch*, Ed. It was a *major screw up*. If Colby hurts Cam in any way -" He turned away again, his fists stuffed into his pockets, every muscle in his body tight.
"We'll find her, Jimmy," Ray said in a quiet voice. "We'll find her."
Two hours later, Jimmy was talking to Maureen about a case, trying to keep his mind off of Cam when Ed appeared at the door. He could tell from the expression on the detective's face that the news wasn't good. "What is it, Ed?" he asked.
"The second car that Colby stole was found a little while ago."
"About a block from the hospital in an alley."
"The hospital?" Jimmy questioned.
"County," Ed confirmed in a somber tone.
"He does have her, then," Jimmy realized. "He somehow found out where she was working now and waited for her since he didn't know where she lives."
"Who could he be in contact with?" Maureen wondered.
"I know one way to find out," Jimmy said. "Get me the number for the prison."
Half an hour later, he had been told by an apologetic warden that the only person that Richard Colby had been in steady contact with had been the last person that Jimmy would have expected: Dr. Mark Collier.
Jimmy hung up the phone, hiding his anger beneath a thin shell of calm as Ed and Ray said they would go and talk to the man about what was going on.
"I'm going with you," Jimmy said.
"Is that a good idea?" Maureen questioned when the two detectives looked at each other uncertainly. "What if Colby calls? Or if we're wrong and Cam calls here looking for you?"
"Either way, he'll be using Cam's cell - and my number." He held up the device. "I have it with me."
"What about Jessie?" Ray asked.
"You need to call her and tell her what's happened," he answered.
"The escape and manhunt are on the national news. If she hears that Cam's been kidnapped -"
"She'll be in school right now. I'll call her when we find Cam," Jimmy decided, grabbing his coat from the rack. "Come on."
Ed and Ray had no choice but to follow him. "I'll bring the car into the underground garage," Ed told them. When Jimmy would have spoken, he explained. "We're not taking any chances."
Jimmy nodded. "Get one of the vests out of the trunk while you're at it," Ray said as Ed got off the elevator.
"I'll do that once I get it under covers."
"Vest?" Jimmy questioned once the doors closed again.
"No sense in taking any chances that you don't have to, Jimmy," Ray reminded him. "Look, I know you're worried about Cam. But you're not going to help her if you get yourself killed first."
"He won't be looking for me unless he's already -"
"You don't know that."
Jimmy noticed that Ray looked pale. "You okay?" he wanted to know.
Ray nodded, staring at the doors in front of them. "I'm fine."
"You don't look fine." He sighed. "Cam knows that you have a problem, Ray."
Ray's eyes narrowed. "What? Did you -?"
"No. She's a doctor. She's seen heart problems before. She recognized the signs. We talked about her approaching you about getting some help locally before -"
"Heart problems? It's just indigestion," Ray insisted.
"Let's hope that you can argue that point with Cam when we find her."
"Yeah. Because she'll just confirm what I said: it's nothing."
The elevators opened into the underground parking garage just as Ed pulled the city-issued sedan nearby. He got out and opened the trunk, taking out a Kevlar vest. Jimmy sighed and removed his jacket and shirt, putting the vest on. It wasn't the first time he'd worn one - but he hated them. They were bulky and uncomfortable.
But he also understood the need for one in this situation. Ray had been right: Colby wouldn't be *just* after Cam. He'd want to take out the man he'd seen in that photograph as well. Probably in a way that Cam would see to cause her even more pain. Putting on his shirt and tie, then his jacket, he stood there. "We ready to go now, guys?"
"Let's go," Ray said, opening the back door of the car for Jimmy.
"Mark Collier lives in Noblesville," Ed told them.
They stopped in front of the family clinic where Mark Collier worked, with Jimmy shaking his head in disbelief. "The man who threatened his daughter escapes from prison and he's here working as if nothing had happened."
"It takes all kinds," Ray told him, getting out of the car and opening the back door for him.
"I guess so." Ed was scanning the area.
"Relax, Ed. I doubt Colby's here."
They entered the clinic, ignoring the mothers and children populating the waiting area to approach the desk. "Can I help you?" a harried young woman asked, eyeing them uncertainly.
"We need to see Dr. Mark Collier," Ray told her.
"Do you have an appointment?" she wanted to know.
Ray and Ed flashed their badges. "We'd like to keep this low key -" Ed told the woman. "But if you insist -" he made as if to turn toward the waiting patients.
"He's in his office," she said quickly. "I'll show you where it is." Leaving the desk area, she opened the door into the back of the building. "Follow me." She led them to an open door, where a white haired man was sitting at a desk, studying what appeared to be patient charts. "Excuse me, Doctor, but these gentlemen asked to speak to you."
Collier looked up as Jimmy entered the small room and Jimmy thought he saw the older man's eyes narrow slightly. "Can I help you, Mr. -?" he asked, addressing his question to Ed.
"Detective Williams," Ed told him, pulling out his badge again, as did Ray. "This is my partner, Ray Blackwell."
"We're with the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney's office," Ray explained.
"A bit out of your area, aren't you?" he questioned, ignoring Jimmy for the moment.
"We're here about your daughter, Dr. Collier," Jimmy said, wanting to cut to the chase.
Collier lifted his blue eyes - a match to his daughter's. "I don't have a daughter," he declared.
"Dr. Cameron Collier?" Jimmy questioned, moving closer to the desk, shaking off Ray's half-hearted attempt to stop him. "The daughter you disowned ten years ago while continuing to remain in contact with the man who's made her life hell for the last ten years?"
The blue eyes darkened in anger. "Cameron made her choice. Now she has to live with the consequences."
"You're the one who forwarded Colby's letters to her all these years, aren't you?" Jimmy wanted to know.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. - Conlon, isn't it?"
"So you do know who I am," Jimmy noted.
"I saw the photograph of you and her in the Sunday paper," he admitted.
"Are you aware that Richard Colby escaped from prison last night, Doctor?" Ed asked.
"I heard something about it," he confirmed, glaring at Jimmy. "If I were you, I'd be careful. Rick's still in pain from losing his child. He tends to lash out -"
"With your help," Jimmy accused. "It's a good possibility that he's kidnapped Cam, Dr. Collier. We need to know where he might have taken her."
"I don't know," Collier answered in an even tone. "It's between he and Cam."
Jimmy lunged across the desk, the only thing stopping him from reaching the elderly man the fact that Ray and Ed both grabbed his arms and physically prevented the action. "You hypocrite bastard," he spat. "She's your *daughter*! Even if you didn't like what she did, that fact didn't change. You're supposed to be there for her when she needs you, not pretend that she doesn't exist or that you don't care that her life might be in danger."
"I'm *not* a hypocrite, Mr. Conlon," he replied coldly. "It's *because* I stand for what I believe that I had no choice but to turn my back on Cameron. I'm a doctor. Sworn to *protect* life, not to take it."
"Then what about your daughter's life, Dr. Collier?" Ed asked in a soft voice.
"Rick won't hurt her," Collier said.
"He hurt her before," Jimmy reminded him. "He beat her up before he went after Dr. Reed. And *this* time, he has nothing to lose. He's escaped from prison and wounded two guards. If one of them dies, he'll be facing the death penalty. And I have a feeling that if he knows that he's not going to be around to keep reminding Cam of what he'll do, he'd rather make sure she's not around either."
For a moment, Jimmy thought he saw a flicker of feeling on the old man's face before it vanished. "Rick loves Cameron," he said, and this time Jimmy shrugged off his companions' attempt to stop him as he grabbed Collier's shirt and pulled him up out of his chair.
"You bastard. Colby doesn't love Cam. He's spent the last ten years making her life miserable with your help. If anything happens to her, it will be *your* fault, and we'll be back." He released Collier with a slight shove, sending him back into his chair. Running a hand through his hair, he turned and left the office. "Let's get out of here," he told Ed and Ray. "We have to find Cam before that animal hurts her and we won't get any help here."
He ignored everyone's looks as he led the way out of the building and back to the car. Yanking open the back door, he got inside, waiting for Ray and Ed to join him.
Once the car was on the road, Ray asked, "You okay?"
Jimmy sat back, glum. "Yeah. I just can't understand how a man could totally abandon his child like that. And not only that, *help* the psycho that's causing her pain. So much for easing people's suffering."
"Not all dads are like you," Ed reminded him. "I still can't spend more than a couple of hours with my old man without getting into a huge argument with him."
"But at least you and he talk. And if something happened to you, he'd be there, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah," Ed had to admit. "Even if it was only to say 'I told you so'."
They all chuckled at his little attempt at humor. "What's our next step?" Jimmy asked.
"I'll call the State Police about Dr. Collier's possible involvement in this. They'll set up surveillance in case Colby tries to contact him."
"They're already checking places that Colby was known to haunt before he was arrested for Dr. Reed's murder."
"Where to, boss?" Ed asked as he started the car.
"Back to the office, I suppose," Jimmy said, sitting back. "Might as well wait there as anywhere else."
"Cam's possible kidnapping has made the national news, Jimmy," Annabeth said as she entered his office. Turning on the TV, Jimmy watched as the reporter stood outside of County - in the same area where Cam's designated parking space, reporting on Cameron's part in Richard Colby's conviction for murder ten years before.
Jimmy stared at the screen - "Annabeth, has anyone checked to see if the hospital has security cameras in the parking areas?"
"The camera in that particular lot isn't working," she explained.
"Damn," Jimmy sighed. "We can't catch *one* break here!"
Annabeth stood watching the report with him before she said, "You really should call Jessie."
He glanced at his watch, then shook his head. "She's not home from school. And Gail's not a news junkie. She won't hear about it until the network news - if she even bothers to watch it."
"I got the impression that Jessie's more like you in that area," Annabeth pointed out.
"Yeah," he confirmed with a wry grin. "I'll call when she gets home before she hits the computer and checks her email and the daily news sites."
"Make sure you do, okay? I can't think it would be a good thing for her to hear about it from somewhere else first. Besides, I think it might do *you* some good to talk to her."
"Maybe. But the thing that will help most is to find Cam."
"I have to get to court," she said. "The hearing on the Mitchell case," she reminded him.
"I'll let you know how it goes," she assured him.
"See that you do." After she left, Jimmy returned his attention to the TV screen. Taking out his cell phone, he studied it, thinking about calling Jessie after all. But before he could make up his mind to do so, his desk phone rang. "Conlon," he answered.
"Mr. Conlon, it's - Mark Collier. Cam's father -"
"What is it, Dr. Collier?" Jimmy asked, not really in the mood for further argument with the man.
"You were right."
Jimmy sat forward in his chair. "Right about what?"
"I was wrong not to have stood beside Cam. She *is* my daughter, even if I thought what she did was wrong."
"I'm glad you've realized that, Doctor," Jimmy replied.
"I'm calling because - Well, Rick called me a little while ago."
"Yes. I'm afraid that you were right about something else, as well. I'm afraid he's going to kill my daughter."
"Do you know where he is?"
"I might - but he told me that there's only one person he'll talk to about releasing her."
Jimmy felt a cold chill. "Me," he said shortly.
"Yes. He said that if you come to him, he'll let Cam go."
"I have to know where he is, first," Jimmy reminded him.
"If you show up with a lot of cops, he'll kill her," Collier warned, and an alarm bell tried to started ringing in Jimmy's head. But he ignored it in his concern for Cam's safety.
"Where are they?" Jimmy asked, glancing toward his door and the corridor beyond to make sure he wasn't being overheard.
"I have an old hunting cabin down south - near Bethany. I haven't used it for years. . ."
Jimmy made a quick note of the directions to the cabin on a notepad that sat on his desk. "Okay," he said once the directions were finished. "I'll leave right now. How will he know that I'm coming?"
"Call her cell. It's what he used to call me." He paused for a beat. "He meant what he said about the police, Conlon. He'll kill Cam if he sees anyone other than you."
"I'll get her back," Conlon told him before hanging up. He tore the directions from the notepad, and used a pencil to write under it, "cell phone GPS location" with an arrow pointing up to the imprint of the directions before leaving his office. He told Marie that he was going to the men's room in case Ed or Ray asked about his location. She gave him a pained smile of acknowledgement before turning back to what she'd been doing.
Trying not to be obvious about it, Jimmy moved down the corridor toward the men's room - but went past it to the stairwell instead. Inside, he paused, listening for anyone else who might be using the stairs as well. Luck, for once, was with him. Usually he would see at least three or four other people here. But since it was nearly quitting time, the building was beginning to empty.
He went down the stairs to the underground parking garage, taking out his keys and opening the black BMW SUV's door. With another glance around, he got inside and started the engine. Exiting the garage was as easy as putting his employee ID card into the machine to lift the arm. He knew that it would time-stamp his departure, giving Ed and Ray a place to start looking for him.
Determined, he turned the vehicle toward Bethany. Half an hour later, he took out his cell to call Jessie.
"Hi, Dad," she said. "To what do I owe this call?"
"Can't I call my only daughter?" he asked.
"Sure. It's just - you don't usually call during the day unless there's a reason."
He winced, realizing that she was right. "Well, after today, I hope I can change that," he said. Something in his tone must have alerted her, because there was a long pause before she spoke again.
"What's wrong, Dad?" she asked.
"Cam's been kidnapped, honey," he said slowly.
"What?! Who? Why-?"
"When she was in med school, she was involved with a loser named Rick Colby. He was abusive, but Cam refused to leave him."
"I don't know, Jessie," he sighed. "But the upshot is that - she found out she was pregnant -"
"Oh my God," Jessie breathed. "Poor Cam."
"She knew that bringing a baby into the situation with Colby wasn't going to help things - and she was in the first year of her residency. Staying on track as a doctor would have been almost impossible -"
"She had an abortion, didn't she?" Jessie questioned, surprising him with her insight.
"You okay with it?" she asked, and Jimmy realized that his public stance on the issue had affected those around him.
"It was Cam's decision to make," he said. "But when Colby found out, he became angry and physically attacked Cam - and then went after the doctor who performed the abortion."
"Colby killed the doctor and was convicted, sentenced to life in prison. But he's been sending Cam letters ever since he went into prison, threatening her with coming back to hurt anyone she cares about."
"He saw that picture of you and Cam at the Governor's party didn't he? That's why he escaped."
"Yeah." Jimmy's fingers tightened around the phone. "He kidnapped Cam sometime early this morning."
"And you're just now calling?"
"I didn't want you to worry," he said. "I knew that the first thing you'd do when you got home was to check the news for this area and might hear about the escape and kidnapping."
"Are there any leads?" she wanted to know. "Anything?"
"There's one. I'm following it up right now. That's another reason I called, Jess -" he said, searching for his next words. "If anything happens -"
"'If anything happens'?" she repeated. "Dad, please tell me you're not alone right now. That Ray or Ed is with you -"
"I couldn't risk it, Jessie," he said. "Now, I'm going to give you some directions, and I want you to call Ray and give them to him in case he doesn't see the note I left at the office."
"Just a sec," she said, and he heard her fumbling around. "I have to find some paper."
"I don't have long, Jessie," he reminded her.
"I really wish you wouldn't do this, Dad. Stop and call him yourself -"
"I can't do that, honey. If Colby sees anyone with me, he'll kill Cam. Are you ready?"
"Yeah," she said, and took down the directions from him. "Is that it?"
"Yes. Jessie, I want you to know that - if things works out, whatever problems you might face - I'll support you in your decision. You're my daughter, and I hope I'll always be there for you."
"I hope so, too, Dad," she said in a quiet, tearful tone. "You'll be careful, won't you? And you'll find Cam?"
"I'll find Cam," he promised. "Look, Jessie, I have to go, honey. Make that call for me and I'll call you when it's over."
"You'd better," she told him. "Love you, Daddy."
Jimmy swallowed heavily, trying to clear the catch in his throat before speaking. "I love you, too, Jessie. Bye."
He hung up before she could lengthen the call - or before she changed his mind. His decision was made - and if this was the only way to save Cam, then he'd do it.
As he neared the turn off onto the back road that would take him to the cabin, Jimmy opened his phone and hit the number he'd assigned to Cam. Within a moment, it was answered by a strange, rough voice.
"I'm about to turn off the highway, Colby," Jimmy said.
"Are you alone?"
"Cam told me that you were smart."
"I want to talk to her, Colby."
"You'll talk to her when you get here," Colby told him. "And then I'll tell you all about Cameron Collier."
"I know everything I need to know, Colby."
"You only know what was in the record. Once you hear the full story, you'll understand why I did what I did - and why she has to be punished for what *she* did."
Jimmy wanted to argue with the man, but he knew that it would be a tactical mistake to do so. Colby was already unstable. If he were to be confronted, he might hurt Cam before Jimmy could get there to protect her. "I'm interested in hearing your side of things, Colby," he said.
"I'll be watching for you," Colby warned. "If I see anyone else -"
"Don't worry. You won't see anyone else." He hoped that the words were true: that Colby wouldn't see anyone until it was too late . . .
The cabin was small - and looked to be in need of some repairs to the roof and a couple of windows, Jimmy noticed as he stopped at the edge of the clearing in which it sat. Under different circumstances, he would have appreciated the rustic atmosphere. As it was, all he could see was how remote the place was. He could just make out the outline of Cam's small car behind a clump of high brush to one side of the cabin. After setting his back up plan into place, Jimmy got out of the car, approaching the building with his arms out.
"I'm here, Colby!" he called out, keeping his eyes on the cabin's windows and door.
The door opened, and Jimmy saw Rick Colby appear, a gun in his hands. Colby was older than the photos he'd seen in the case file or the mug shot that had been shown on TV. His hair was cut short, and he had multiple tattoos on his forearms beneath the loose blue tee shirt he wore over faded jeans. Where he'd gotten the non-prison issue clothing, Jimmy didn't want to think about.
"Open your jacket coat," Colby called out. "Pull it up in back and turn around," he continued when Jimmy did as he asked. Jimmy turned around.
"I'm not armed," he said.
"Keep your hands where I can see them and come this way slowly," Colby said.
Aware that he was dealing with a severely unstable man with nothing to lose, Jimmy followed his direction without comment. "Stop. Pull your pants legs up."
Jimmy fought his frustration and refused to allow it to force his hand. He stopped, and pulled both pants legs up to reveal nothing on his ankles. "Satisfied?" he asked.
"Come on," Colby said, stepping onto the bare wooden porch, his eyes scanning the area while keeping his attention focused on Jimmy. "Get inside," he ordered when Jimmy came up the two steps, avoiding what looked to be a soft spot in the wood.
If the cabin had looked in poor repair outside, the inside was worse. There was a layer of dust on the rough wood table. An old wood stove sat in one corner. There were two chairs before the natural rock fireplace - and a metal bed with a thin mattress sat in the other back corner.
On the bed, Jimmy saw Cam, her hands tied over her head to the iron railing, a piece of fabric tied around her face to keep her quiet. Their eyes met, and then hers slid away - but not before Jimmy saw the fear of his reaction in them. She was afraid to face him. He fought back the urge to reassure her.
"Well, I'm here, Colby. Let her go as you said you would."
"Not just yet," Colby said, pointing one of the chairs. "Sit down."
"Wait a minute. Cam's father said that if I came out here, you'd let her go. That's why I'm here." He willed Cam to look at him, searching for any sign that Colby had physically mistreated her. There was a possible bruise on her right cheek, he thought. Her blouse was torn and it was open - with no buttons that he could see. Her bra was gone as well. While she was still wearing a skirt, it was pushed up over her knees.
"Maybe you won't want me to release her after you hear what I have to say. Now *sit down*."
"Nothing you say will make me want her to keep suffering, Colby," Jimmy said evenly, but he sat down anyway.
Colby moved over to the bed, keeping his gun on Jimmy as he tried to touch the back of his hand to Cam's cheek. She flinched away from his touch. "She was the first woman I fell in love with. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her - if I could convince her to give up her silly idea of being a doctor. I thought having a baby would do that. That she'd want to be a mother, be my wife." His fingers stopped teasing at trying to touch her and grabbed her chin to force her head around. "But she murdered the baby. *My* baby. And she did it without telling me she was even pregnant. If it hadn't been for her father, I might not have known what she'd done. He's been my only real friend through this."
"I can understand that. Losing a child isn't easy. I can't imagine what I'd do without my daughter," Jimmy said, hoping that he sounds as sincere as he really is.
"See, Cam? I told you that when he knew what happened, he'd never want to see you again." Jimmy tried again to meet her eyes, but she squeezed them shut as if she couldn't look at him. But that wasn't what Colby wanted. He gripped her chin. "Open your eyes. I want you to see the disappointment and disgust he has for you, Cam. I want you to know that you're never going to be free of me. I'll always be there, waiting for you to think you can forget about me. That you can forget what you did to our child."
Cam opened her tear-filled eyes and looked at Jimmy. Knowing that Colby was watching, Jimmy kept his face a mask of indifference. "You've made your point, Colby. Now let her go as you told her father you would."
The moment he saw the insane grin on Colby's face, Jimmy realized that he should have heeded the warning bell in his mind while he'd been talking to Dr. Collier. "You're good, Conlon," he said, slipping an arm around Cam's neck as he continued to hold Jimmy at bay with the gun. "Mark told me that you almost took his head off - and that you already knew what she'd done - and you didn't care."
Jimmy saw Cam's eyes close and then open again, searching his face for any sign that Colby was speaking the truth. "So where does that leave us?" Jimmy asked with a calmness that even surprised him. "Even as little as I think of Dr. Collier, I can't believe that he's so unconcerned that he would just stand aside and let you kill his daughter."
"I didn't tell Mike everything," Colby said, gleam of madness easily visible in his dark eyes. "I asked him to help me get you out here so that I could show Cam that I keep my promises. After that, she'll be a witness to what I did to you - so I'm afraid she'll have to die as well." His hand moved from her neck to push the edges of her blouse apart before covering one of Cam's now bare breasts with that hand. Cam moaned, struggling to escape his touch.
Jimmy saw the terror in her eyes, and rose from the chair, sending it backwards onto the floor with a loud noise. "Get away from her," he ordered Colby. "Don't' touch her. You've already done enough to her for the last ten years."
The gun steadied, pointing directly at Jimmy's chest. Cam struggled again, this time her eyes revealing that she was frightened for him. Colby's fingers dug into her soft flesh but he never took his eyes from Jimmy. "Don't fight me, Cam," he begged softly. "Sit back down, Conlon," he said, his voice regaining its rough tone.
Jimmy bent to pick up the chair, and sat down again. "You can't get away."
"Maybe I don't intend to. With the choice being spend the rest of my life in prison or death, I'll take death."
"The state will do that for you after you kill an officer of the court," Jimmy informed him.
"They'll have to find you first." His hand moved to Cam's other breast. "She's beautiful, isn't she, Jimmy? I'm sure you've already found out what a tiger she is in bed, haven't you? Too bad such beauty hides someone capable of murder."
"I'd say that you're the murderer, Colby," Jimmy stated. "You killed Dr. Reed ten years ago, and now you're going to kill two more people. What makes you any better than you think she is?"
"Because she killed an innocent baby," Colby insisted. "Dr. Reed made a choice to kill babies, too. That baby had no choice."
"You can't compare the two," Jimmy insisted. "If Cam hadn't done what she did, she would have been tied to you even more than she is now. And she would probably be dead because of you. You're an animal, Colby."
"I would have taken care of them both!" Colby insisted angrily. "If she'd just given me the chance - I would have been different."
"You were beating her up for months before she got pregnant. She was too afraid to press charges until the night you almost killed her and then went out to kill Dr. Reed."
"I was drunk," Colby said. "I didn't know what I was doing. I was angry and hurt. I lashed out in pain and hurt Cam -"
"Hurt her? You broke two of her ribs and tried to strangle her," Jimmy said. "You weren't drunk when you planted that bomb in Dr. Reed's car and killed him," Jimmy pointed out. He knew that he was pushing, but for the moment Colby's hands were off of Cam's body. "That was a deliberate act."
"He had to pay for taking away the one thing that would have made me turn my life around!"
"Well I'm going to take Cam away from you," Jimmy said, standing up again and taking a step toward the bed, his body tensed as if to lunge forward.
He saw Colby's finger tighten on the trigger and took one more step.
The impact of the bullet sent him backward, onto the floor, where he lay totally still, hearing Cam's horrified scream even through the gag over her mouth as he momentarily lost consciousness from the pain in his chest. Silently thanking Ray for insisting that he wear the Kevlar, Jimmy remained where he was, eyes open but blank and unfocused, as he listened, hoping that Colby would think he was dead and not come over to check on him. But if he did, Jimmy was ready.
He heard Cam sobbing and the sound of rusty springs as the bed moved. "You made me do that, Cam," Colby said, and Jimmy slowly refocused his eyes to see him put the gun down on the bed before turning to cover her with his body. "I didn't want to. But you forced me to kill him. But now that he's gone, we can be together - the way we were meant to be.
Jimmy's eyes met Cam's for one moment, and she began to struggle even more than before, distracting Colby. He'd no doubt expected her to give up once she thought Jimmy was dead. It was now or never, he decided, rising and making a dive for the gun in one basic move. His fingers closed around the grip a split second before Colby reached it.
Colby's eyes narrowed as he looked at the hole in Jimmy's shirt. "You're wearing a vest," he realized. "You're going to have to kill me," he said. "Because I'm not going back to prison."
Jimmy took aim, knowing that from this close distance, he'd kill the other man. He wanted to. He wanted to kill him for all the pain and agony that he'd caused Cam over the last ten plus years.
"No. And you want to know why?"
"Because you're a coward," Colby sneered.
"No. Because - unlike you - I'm not a killer." Using his free hand, he reached over to untie Cam's hands. She quickly pulled the gag down and moved to try and slip away from Colby, but he grabbed her back to him, his arm around her neck.
"Not yet, Cam," he said. "I'm not ready to let you go just yet." He looked back at Jimmy. "I can break her neck so easily." His arm tightened and his other hand pushed against her head.
Jimmy knew that giving in was only to end in his and Cam's deaths - so he looked into Cam's eyes. "I'm sorry, Cam," he said, hoping she could read his intentions.
"I understand, Jimmy," she replied.
Her trust in him was evident in the look she sent his way, and Jimmy took a deep breath, leaning forward as if to put the gun back on the bed. Thinking he'd won, Colby released Cam slightly. Releasing the breath, Jimmy took aim and fired - hitting Colby in the middle of his forehead, sending him back against the wall - away from Cam.
She leapt off the bed and ran into his arms while Jimmy kept a watchful eye on Rick Colby's dead body. "I thought he'd killed you," she said.
"I hoped you'd both think that he had," he said, removing his jacket and placing it over her shoulders to hide her tattered clothing from others. Taking his cell out of his trouser pocket, he said, "Where are you, Ray?"
"Right here," Ray said, coming through the door with Ed and several State Police Troopers. "When I heard that first gunshot and then the second -"
Cam's eyes were wide as she looked at the cell in Jimmy's hand. "You had it on the entire time?"
"I dialed Ray's number just before I got out of the car," he explained, closing the phone and putting it back into his trouser pocket.
"What happened, Mr. Conlon?" one of the troopers asked.
Jimmy recounted the basics of the last several minutes - ending with Colby's threat to break Cam's neck.
"Sounds to me that you didn't have much choice, sir," the man said. "It was either kill him or let him kill her."
"That's the way I saw it," Jimmy nodded. "You might want to send someone to pick up Dr. Mark Collier in Noblesville. He's the one who helped Colby set this up."
"Right away," the trooper agreed.
"Are you okay?" Ray asked Cam.
"I think so," she answered in a shaky voice. Jimmy turned to look at the two detectives and the other troopers. "I'm going to take her outside."
"There's an ambulance on the way," Ed told him. "Are you okay?" he asked Jimmy.
"My chest hurts like hell - but remind me never to complain about these things again," he said, tapping the vest under his shirt.
The ambulance arrived just as they exited the cabin, and Jimmy insisted that Cam let the paramedics check her out. "Did he sexually assault you, ma'am?" the young woman asked.
"No," Cam answered. "I think he was saving that for after -" her eyes met Jimmy's and he took her hand in his as they recalled those few seconds.
"I can't find anything other than a few cuts and bruises, but you really should go to a doctor and have him take a look at you."
"I will," Cam agreed. "Can I go home now?" she asked Jimmy.
"I think we can. Ed or Ray can drive your car back once they've gone over it. You'll have to make a statement later -"
"I know. But right now, I just want a hot bath and some more clothes."
Jimmy let Ed and the others know that they were leaving - and they started toward his car. His cell phone rang, and Jimmy glanced at the display before opening it. "Hi, Jessie."
"Daddy. Thank God! I've been trying to call your for what seems like forever," she declared, sounding like she'd been crying. "Are you okay? Did you find Cam?"
Jimmy laughed, his arm around Cam's shoulders. "I'm fine, honey. And Cam's okay, too."
"I was so worried, Dad," she said, and he heard her sniffling over the phone. "I had to tell Mom why I was so upset -"
Jimmy glanced down at Cam. "It's okay. I think Cam's going to be with me when I come out there next weekend after all." He smiled at Cam's surprised look upon hearing his comment.
"Really? I hope so. Can I talk to her?"
"Just a minute." He held the phone out to Cam as they got to the SUV. "She wants to talk to you."
Cam hesitated for a moment before taking the phone. "Hi, Jessie . . . I'll be fine," Cam assured the girl. "Right now, I need a hot bath and some clean clothes -"
"And a little TLC," Jimmy whispered against her temple, keeping his arm around her as she talked. He was relieved when she leaned closer to him at his words instead of pulling away.
"I'll think about it," Cam said. "About the talk - I think you're right. I need to explain - . . . I hope you never have to make that kind of decision," she said. "Okay. Do you want to talk to your father again? . . . So am I. Bye." She closed the phone and handed it back to him.
Jimmy opened the passenger door for her. "Let's go home, shall we?" he asked.
"Yes. Home," she agreed.
Neither said much once they reached Jimmy's house. Jimmy circled the block once to make sure that the press wasn't camped outside before he turned into the gated drive, closing it behind them - something that he didn't do very often.
"Where's Mrs. Dawson?" Cam asked as they entered the dark house.
"I sent her home right after we discovered you were missing," he explained, turning on a light before setting the alarm system. "Come on. Let's go get you into that hot bath," he said, holding out his hand for her to take.
Once she slipped into the large, oversize claw footed tub, Cam closed her eyes and let the water begin to relax all of the tightly knotted muscles in her body. The bathroom door opened, and Jimmy came in. "I brought you something to put on after you finish," he said. Turning back to the door, he started to leave again to give her some privacy.
"You don't have to go," she said, and Jimmy thought she sounded a little nervous as he stopped.
He sat down as best he could on the side of the tub. "I wasn't sure you wanted any company," he told her.
"We need to talk."
"Whenever you're ready. I don't want to push you -"
"Maybe you should have pushed harder before," she told him, lifting her hand out of the water to touch his. "And I should have been less of a coward and told you everything. I was just so afraid that -"
"That I would react the same way your father did and turn my back on you."
"I know it doesn't make any sense, but -"
"It does. If someone's only read interviews in the paper or wherever - they would think they knew my stance on abortion."
Her eyes fell to the connection of their hands. "Jimmy, I think you should know - I agonized over that decision for almost a month before I did it. But I think I would make the same one if I had it to do over again."
Jimmy used his other hand to gently lift her chin. "I don't blame you, Cam. Colby was abusive and dangerous. That wasn't a good situation for a child to be brought into. You made the right decision for you - and I can live with that."
"Did you *really* almost take my father's head off?" she asked him.
"Let's just say that it's a good thing that Ed and Ray were there with me," he answered. "You realize that he's going to be tried for aiding and abetting an escaped felon?"
Cam nodded. "I know."
"You'll probably have to testify - and all of what happened ten years ago will come back up."
"I know that, too."
Jimmy moved down to squat beside the tub, so that he was looking directly at her. "Cam, you didn't do anything wrong. You made a tough decision that was best for you and for that child. Even though Colby ended up in prison, you've been as much a prisoner as he's been for the last ten years. You were afraid to get close to anyone. To let anyone in."
"Until you refused to let me shut you out," she reminded him.
"Only because I didn't want to lose what I knew we could have together. I love you, Cam," he told her, leaning forward to give her a kiss.
"I love you, too. I never thought I'd say those words to anyone."
"I know. And that scares the hell out of me. But I'll do my best not to let you down."
She smiled, her other arm lifting to slide around his neck. "You know, this tub is big enough for two."
He hesitated. "You're sure? After what Colby did -"
"He only threatened really. Yes, he touched me, but - I need to feel your hands on me to make me forget about all of that."
Jimmy lifted the tee shirt he'd put on over a pair of running shorts over his head and then stood to remove the shorts before stepping into the tub with Cam. He sat down and pulled her back against him, sliding them both down into the water. Carefully, his fingers found her soft skin under the water, gently washing away all trace of Colby's touch. Cam settled back, her head resting on his chest.
"That feels good," she sighed.
"It's just the beginning, honey," he promised her . . .