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Title: Unraveling, Chapter 15
Author: dragontatt
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Neither Shelter nor Without a Trace belong to me. No profit is being made from this work of fiction, and no disrespect is intended.
Word Count: 3197




Shaun slid into the driver’s seat of his Volvo and absently closed the door behind him. He looked at the slip of paper in his hand, with two names and two numbers written in smooth, strong letters, grimaced slightly and folded it once before digging out his wallet. He slipped the paper safely in behind his driver’s license, closed his wallet and stuck it in his back pocket again.

He gripped the steering wheel in both hands and stared blindly out his window. A row of trees stood protectively at the edge of the manicured lawn, and just past them Shaun could see a thick stone wall that had to be at least eight feet tall. The stones were grey and mossy in places and they blended in well with the shadows among the trees. But still, just one look and you could tell it was a dead-end that way, no way out, no way to go.

Shaun sighed, let go of the steering wheel with one hand and cranked the car. He gave a quick glance at his rear view before sticking the car in reverse. He swung the car carefully around and drove back down the road that curved along the edge of the lawn, glancing wistfully into the trees and not noticing Ashley standing on the lawn in front of the house, waving frantically at him.

Back at the main road, he paused for the traffic to clear. He still wasn’t sure what to do next, and as he glanced to his right, his gaze lingered on the empty passenger seat beside him. It didn’t seem right that Zach wasn’t there with him, constantly fiddling with the radio or laughing and telling Shaun he drove like an old man.

He felt like an old man now, without Zach around to keep him young. There was a vague pain in his joints like he was coming down with the flu and sometimes he found it hard to breathe. He felt sick and tired and old, and he was sick and tired of feeling that way. He let out a small laugh, and was surprised at how cynical it sounded in the lonely space of his too-empty car. He shook his head, and said out loud in a shaky voice, “Get over it, old man. You’ve still got work to do.”

He turned right, and drove about twenty yards before pulling the car over to the side of the road and cutting off the engine. He glanced in the side mirror before opening his door, reflexively pocketing his keys as he got out of the car. He ran his hand roughly down his chin, the bristles he hadn’t bothered to shave this morning scratchy against his palm. He blew out a deep breath and stood there a few moments, trying to gather himself.

A sleek metallic sports car slowed as it passed him, and Shaun could feel the driver eyeing him curiously even through the tinted windows. Apparently standing around in the street wasn’t appreciated in this neighborhood. He jogged around to the other side of the car and opened the passenger door, smiling reassuringly at yet another curious driver as he did.

He bent over a bit awkwardly and his back gave a tiny twinge in protest. He flipped up the latch on the glove compartment and reached in, feeling around a little blindly. He pulled out a small spiral-bound sketch pad, the cover worn soft around the edges. There was a blue rubber band stretched around it, holding a couple of Faber-Castell graphite pencils, an eraser and a gray metal pencil sharpener tightly in place. Zach’s on the road art kit - he’d put it together for Shaun’s car the very first time they’d gone on a road trip and he hadn’t been able to find anything to sketch the sunset with.

He stood up carefully, closed the door and went quickly around to the driver’s side, sliding onto the seat and closing door behind him. Shaun slid everything out from under the thick rubber band and dropped them onto the passenger seat, before pulling the rubber band off and slipping it absently around his wrist. He carefully flipped the notebook to a random blank page in the middle - the last thing he needed to see right now was one of Zach’s drawings.

He picked up a pencil, propped the notebook up against the steering wheel and carefully labeled the top of the page: Tony Williams.

He gazed off into the distance, concentration clear on his face. He needed to be certain about everything, and this was the method he often used to get his mind clear when whatever he was writing started to go off track. He tapped the pencil against the steering wheel in a clumsy rhythm before jotting down an off-the-cuff list of everything he’d learned from Ashley in a fast, slanted hand.

- former & probably current drug dealer, definite goof-off
- disowned in college, stole from parents?
- scary-sounding roommate with violent tendencies (2nd hand from gf Gerry)


Here he paused, lifting the pencil to his mouth and gnawing lightly at the end of it in a well-practiced manner while he thought. He nodded slightly and wrote some more:

- definitely owns black Ford pick-up, King Ranch model
- friends with Alan & Jeanne


He re-read his few scrawled sentences. Well, he might not be a detective, but it sounded pretty definite to him. But what…

Wait. Detective?

“Oh, shit.” He reached down and patted the front pocket of his jeans. No phone. “Where’s my phone?” He patted the other pocket, the one he never put his phone in, just in case. Empty. Well, fuck.

He looked around the front seat but he didn’t see his phone anywhere. He stared at himself in the rear-view mirror. Didn’t he have it with him while he was talking with Ashley? He wasn’t sure, he was never quite as good as Zach at keeping track of the damn thing.

He looked around the floorboards and even felt gingerly under the seats – no telling what kind of furry surprise might be lingering under there from one of Cody’s kid’s meals - but there was no phone. He remembered this morning’s bill collector, searching once more for the ever-elusive Colleen Walker, so he knew he’d had it at some point.

I must have left it at Ashley’s. He cranked the car in frustration, and after waiting impatiently on a soccer mom in a H3, swung round in a wide U-turn, the tires squealing a little on the asphalt.. But as he straightened the wheel, planning on heading back to the nearly hidden driveway, a metallic flash on the left side of the road caught his eye and he slowed down to glance over curiously.

Well, crap.

He pulled the car over to the side of the road again, opened the door, this time leaving the engine running and the door open wide, and he ran across the street after a quick glance over his shoulder. His phone was lying by the side of the road where he had pulled over before, a crushed pile of plastic and useless electronics. It must have fallen out when he’d opened the passenger door but he was certain he hadn’t heard or seen it happen. But now that he had lost all his contacts, there was one thing he was sure of - Martin was gonna be pissed off.

---

Zach rolled over as well as he was able, zip-tied to the bed frame as he was, and did his best to keep his movements quiet and his face neutral, pleasant even. He didn’t want to make waves, to piss either Tony or Wes off. Stockholm Syndrome be damned, in all honesty he was only playing nice because Wes scared the fuck out of him.

Tony wasn’t so bad, for a kidnapper anyway. Yeah, he was helping to keep Zach a prisoner, away from Shaun and Cody, but he also made sure Zach had food, water, and a place to pee when necessary. Not to mention a coat – the unseasonable warm spell they’d been having had left suddenly and the temperature in the small cabin had dropped an uncomfortable twenty degrees overnight.

Tony had headed out as soon as he woken up, leaving a pissed off Wes to watch over Zach for a couple hours and he’d come back with three well-used sleeping bags – Zach thought perhaps his had been used by a dog – and some warmer clothing including some old down coats. Zach figured he’d either hit up a thrift store or broken into someone’s house, but he didn’t really care at the moment.

Wes, on the other hand, seemed unaffected by the cold, but he certainly wasn’t in a good mood. He stomped around the small cabin with an angry glower on his face, growling every time Tony said anything stupid - or anything at all actually - and glaring at his cell every few minutes. He was waiting on a phone call. Finally Tony stopped talking unless he had to, and for that Zach gratefully followed his lead.

Silence had reigned over the cabin for the last few hours. Tony had made a mostly edible lunch composed of a huge pile of peanut butter sandwiches with a couple of Slim Jims on the side for extra flavor. Wes had eaten three or four sandwiches, chewing them with a monotonous ferocity that said he took no pleasure in this act and did it only because it was necessary for survival. He downed a Mountain Dew in three huge gulps, let out a mighty burp and turned to Tony with contempt clearly written across his face. “Clean this shit up, and make sure you watch him,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder at Zach with his thumb. Then he lay down on the sofa, one arm thrown over his face.

Tony, jaw clenched in anger, had glared at Zach, who did his best to look calm and non-threatening, before finishing his own lunch. He took his sweet time about it too, and only then did he bring Zach any food, the two sandwiches that were left, a handful of pretzels he’d found somewhere and half a stale Pepsi.

Zach had smiled in gratitude as he took the paper plate from Tony before devouring his lunch hungrily. He drank his cola slowly, savoring the few tiny bubbles that were left. He screwed the cap back on the empty bottle, stretching over to set it on the floor under the edge of the bed along with the empty plate and then he lay down, enjoying the silence.

He wondered a moment about the vagaries of appetite; if he’d been at home, busy all day at work or school, he might not have bothered to eat anything since breakfast, and while he might be a little hungry, he wouldn’t be starving. But let someone else be in charge of your food, doling it out on a schedule not of your own choosing, and the hunger could be overwhelming.

The quiet filled the cabin like the shadow of a thundercloud blooms across a meadow on a bright summer day. Wes was still asleep on the couch, cell phone clutched in one tight fist, Tony was sitting cross-legged on the floor playing solitaire with a grimy deck of cards he’d found in a drawer in the kitchen, and Zach of course was still on the bed, wrapped up tight in his musty-smelling sleeping bag. He’d been daydreaming of a time when he was free, far away from this awful place and at home with his family. He wasn’t quite sure whether he was dreaming of the future or remembering the past though, and that realization scared him. But then again, he wasn’t even sure how long he’d been here.

He knew for sure he’d been here two days and two nights: two quiet, boring days - for the most part, with short periods of terror thrown in just to spice things up – and two long, lonely, unnerving, uncomfortable, miserable nights, on that narrow, lumpy bed. He knew it was getting close to dusk now, from the way the light that snuck in under the door changed as it danced its way across the floorboards. But how long had it taken them to get here, wherever here was? The mountains somewhere, yes, but hell, California was mostly mountains when you got down to it. And that was assuming his captors hadn’t driven him to Nevada or Oregon or something.

The shrill ring of the phone interrupted his thoughts, and he lifted his head with a jerk. He could tell the noise had startled them all, but Wes recovered quickly enough, sitting up and answering it with a brusque, “Who is this?”

Zach was watching closely, and the look that washed over Wes’ face sent a chill down his spine. He frowned, and laid head down on his arm – maybe if he pretended to be asleep when Wes looked at him, then nothing bad would happen.

“It’s about time you called back, you dumb bitch. I left enough messages,” Wes growled.

Zach sucked in an audible breath through clenched teeth. Fuuuck… If Jeanne couldn’t be bothered to call the man who was holding him hostage back - or if Alan wouldn’t let her, which amounted to the same thing - then he was screwed. He couldn’t think of a single way he would be coming down from this goddamn mountain alive.

With a barely muffled curse, Wes suddenly stood up from the couch; his height and the width of his shoulders made the small cabin claustrophobic. He strode over to the bed in the corner of the room and glared down at Zach, who was doing his very best to seem harmlessly asleep. Wes didn’t buy it though, because he kicked the mattress with one heavy, black boot and said loudly, “Sit up, asshole.”

Zach opened his eyes and looked at Wes who was holding the phone out to him impatiently. Zach scooted up a bit so he could sit before reaching for the phone with his free hand. Rather than give it to him, Wes held onto the phone, his huge hand covering the microphone. He leaned close and spoke very precisely, his stale breath warming Zach’s cheeks, “Make sure your sister understands that if I don’t get what I want, then you’re dead. You got me?”

Zach swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry as a bone, and nodded jerkily.

Wes stood back up, still glaring and walked over to the couch before saying to Tony, “Keep an eye on him, in case he gets any smart ideas with the phone.”

Tony nodded and scrambled to his feet, all the while keeping a steady gaze on Zach. He leaned against the wall opposite Zach’s bed and crossed his arms in obvious annoyance, trying to look tough and only managing to look miserable.

Zach took a deep breath, lifted the phone to his ear, and said, “Jeanne?”

“Oh, thank God, Zach. Are you okay?” Jeanne sounded very far away, and maybe like she’d been crying.

“How the hell am I supposed to answer that, Jeanne? No, I’m fucking not okay, but I’m not hurt either. Nobody’s done anything to me - yet.”

The tiny pause between the last two words was a stutter-step, a possible miscalculation and he knew it. Zach could hear a soft chuckle from the couch and realized Wes was listening closely, but he gritted his teeth and tried to ignore him. “Tell me what’s going on, Jeanne. Why is this happening?” If he could get the whole story out of her, maybe she’d feel guilty enough to work harder on getting him back home.

There was silence on the other end of the phone, and then, “I – well, I mean – it was Alan’s idea.”

Nice, Jeanne.

“His idea to do what?” Zach asked.

“To steal Tony’s stash,” Jeanne said in a surprised voice. “Alan knew Tony had a lot of pot, and X, some pain killers that he could sell for a lot of money to the guys where he used to work. That’s all he was gonna do, I swear.” She was practically sobbing again.

Yeah, of course. Just steal some drugs. Smart move.

“So what happened then?” Zach’s voice was so calm, so patient.

“Um… when we got inside the apartment, we looked everywhere for the dope, but when we finally found it, in this big wooden box in the back of Tony’s closet, there was a shitload of money in there, too. We couldn’t just leave it, could we?” Jeanne’s voice was shrill and she sounded like she was on the edge of a panic attack.

“No, no of course not. Nobody would expect you to leave it behind.”

Stupid, selfish idiots. Zach clenched his fist and slammed it into his thigh as hard as he could.

Tony uncrossed his arms, and pushed away from the wall, staring at Zach, but his glance flicked quickly over to the couch for a split second.

Zach shook his head, and held out his hand in an ‘it’s alright, I’m cool’ gesture.

Tony eyed him suspiciously before apparently reaching some conclusion, and he relaxed against the wall again.

“So, Jeanne, where are you now? Are you still with Alan?” He bit his lip while waiting for the answer.

“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” she asked in a belligerent tone.

“No reason, no reason. But where are you guys?” He held his breath.

Across the room, Wes sat up and looked at Zach over the back of the sofa. Zach did his best to ignore him.

There was a pause, and just when Zach was starting to panic, Jeanne answered, “Alan doesn’t want me to say.”

“You do realize that Wes wants his money back, don’t you?” Zach’s voice trembled the slightest bit.

“Yeah, Zach, I do.”

“And do you know what he’s gonna do to me if he doesn’t get it back, Jeanne?”

Silence, then a soft voice said, “I do – oh God, Zach. What am I gonna do?” Her voice was practically a wail.

“I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna that money back to Wes somehow. Talk to Alan, convince him to do it, and if that doesn’t work, take it from him and run. Run as far as you can, and then call Wes again. Do you hear me, Jeanne?” His voice was like thunder in his head, and he clenched his fist again in frustration and anger and terror, and he waited.

A soft voice said, “Oh, Christ. I am so sorry we got you into this mess. I’ll figure it out, I’ll fix it somehow. I promise, Zachy.”

Zach said nothing for a long moment, but thought back his dream the other night, a dream of a younger Jeanne who’d also called him Zachy and had made a different promise to him in that exact same voice. Suddenly he was positive this promise wasn’t going to work out any better.



Sorry it took so long to get this posted, my lovely beta currently has the next 'set' and I'm working on the one after that, so hopefully this will all be finished up soon. :)

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24/4/12 10:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] misschemistry49.livejournal.com
Thank you
thank you
thank you :D

That was great, amazing! Love it!