The lovely Lori Connelly invited me yet again to participate in her Written Fireside story and I happily agreed.
You can find the first seven parts of the story here:
Part One – Lori Connolly
Part Two – Elsa Winckler
Part Three – Aileen Harkwood
Part Four – Elise Forier Edie
Part Five – Patricia Sands
Part Six – Eve Devon
Part Seven – Bella Osborne
And here is my part. Part 8 of I Looked Away.
“Just hold on,” Garrett said through clenched teeth as the Jeep bounced along the rutted path. The roads hadn’t been used in years but luckily the forest hadn’t reclaimed them fully yet.
“Where are we going? And how do you know that’s where Donnan is taking Megan?”
Madeline’s voice held anxiety but also strength, Garrett was glad to note. He couldn’t have her falling apart again like she had earlier. Although he had to admit having your child snatched had to be a parent’s worst nightmare.
“There’s an old logging camp up ahead. It’s been deserted for years but it’s the perfect spot to put a boat in the water and hang out for a few nights. This MacCallion, what interest would he have in taking Megan? Has he met her before or seen pictures of her? Is he the type that would prey on cute, little, innocent girls?”
“Oh, my God, no!” Madeline’s expression was horrified. “He was never like that. And he’s never met or even seen Megan. I haven’t even seen him since before she was born.”
Garrett maneuvered around a large rut then stepped on the gas again. “Was he upset when you two broke up? Upset enough to want revenge or to pay you back for dumping him, hurting him?”
Madeline looked away for a second and Garrett wondered again if she was hiding something. When she looked back, her eyes held unshed tears.
“He wasn’t the one hurt when we broke up. And I wasn’t the one who wanted to end it. That was all him. He wanted nothing to do with me anymore.”
Garrett wondered what kind of jerk this MacCallion was. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a woman of Madeline’s caliber? She was bright and strong and beautiful. And she loved her daughter deeply. As much as he’d doubted that at the beginning of this, he didn’t doubt it any more.
The path opened onto a clearing and Garrett slowed down and turned the lights off. If MacCallion had already landed, he didn’t want to give the scum warning. He pulled the Jeep behind a stand of tall pine and shut off the engine.
Garrett reached for his radio. “We’re at the old logging camp, Judy. Any further news? Over”
The radio crackled with static. “The helicopter should be at your location within ten minutes. Keep us informed. And be careful, Garrett. Over.”
Madeline glanced at him nervously, ringing her hands together in her lap. “Do you really think this is where he’ll be?”
Garrett reached over and took her hands in his and rubbed them gently with his thumbs. Her skin was like silk. “I don’t know, Madeline. But there isn’t much else upriver. Not too many places you can actually get a boat in and out of the water. This seems the most logical choice.”
Madeline nodded and gave him a smile. Not much of one but it was genuine and he felt like a hero. Now to actually go out and do something heroic. This would not end like it had last time. Not if he could help it.
Garrett got out and Madeline moved up behind him. The rain was still falling but it was a softer mist now. He reached for her hand again and squeezed it. “Stay behind me and don’t make any noise, even if you see Megan. We have no idea what frame of mind MacCallion is in or even what he wants with your daughter.”
They crept closer to the old, wooden structure but before Garrett could peek in the windows they heard the sound. A motorboat, and the engine was just being shut off. He pulled Madeline along behind him and ducked behind a tree at the top of the hill leading down to the river. Another sound, that of a child’s cry, echoed up the hill and Madeline started to dash away from the tree line. Garrett pulled her back, though she fought him for a few seconds until he whispered in her ear.
“Let him come to us. If we go charging down there now, he could jump back in the boat and we’d never get to her before he could disappear again. You have to trust me.”
He looked straight into Madeline’s eyes and then he saw it. Trust. She wanted so badly to run and grab her daughter but she trusted him. It felt nice. He clasped the back of her head and touched his forehead to hers, his lips still near her ear. “We’ll have her in just a minute. I promise.” Then he let his lips touch her cheek. He hadn’t meant to do anything so bold, and it was completely unprofessional of him in this situation. But he did it anyway.
Madeline nodded then touched his cheek with her icy fingers. Another cry jolted them from the moment and they ducked behind the tree again.
The overcast day and fading light made getting a visual difficult but there was movement down below. Garrett kept his breath steady hoping Madeline could stay patient until they were closer.
And then they came into view. The man fitting the description and the sketch almost exactly carrying the small blond child. Megan was squirming and whimpering but MacCallion held on, muttering curses under his breath. Just a few more yards and they’d be within reaching distance. Madeline’s hands tightened on his arm. Garrett squeezed her hand then took a step away.
“Stop right where you are, MacCallion, and put the child down.”
The surprise on the man’s face only lasted a second before he turned and ran, the child squealing even more in his arms, having seen her mother.
“Mama!” Megan screamed and the sound echoed through the still forest.
Garrett took off chasing MacCallion, Madeline right behind him. It only took a few moments to catch up but how to get the child without injuring her? He could hardly tackle the man. Megan would go down too. Garrett finally got close enough and grabbed at MacCallion’s jacket. It made him slip on the wet ground and stumble. Garrett reached for the little girl, who by now was wiggling all over the place and hysterically crying for her mother.
Garrett hooked a foot around MacCallion’s leg then pulled Megan away before the man fell. Madeline was right behind him and he twisted to hand the child to her then turned back unfortunately to an elbow in his neck. He went down onto one knee but managed to grab MacCallion’s leg as he tried to take off again.
MacCallion swung a fist in Garrett’s direction but he ducked quickly, pushing his shoulder into MacCallion’s torso. They both went down but being so close to the top of the hill and the wet pine needles under foot, they slid in a tumble of bodies halfway to the river. Garrett somehow got on top of MacCallion as they jolted to a halt against a large pine. Garrett rubbed his side. There’d be some definite bruising tomorrow.
“Give it up, MacCallion. We already know who you are and there’re plenty more park rangers showing up here soon. You’ve got no place to go.”
The man sagged against the tree, his breathing labored. But the eyes glaring at Garrett were filled with rage as if Garrett were responsible for all the ill in the world. They both stood and Garrett kept hold of the man’s arm as they climbed back up the hill to where Madeline and Megan waited.
Megan’s arms were wrapped around her mother’s neck in a death grip but Madeline didn’t look the least bit uncomfortable, her own arms wrapped tightly around her daughter’s trembling body. The child sobbed quietly as Madeline rubbed her back and whispered in her ear.
Madeline’s eyes were on Garrett though. She gave a quick glance at MacCallion then swung her gaze back to him. What was she looking for?
“Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”
She was worried about him? Warmth crept through his body past the cold from the damp air. There were definitely a few spots that ached but Garrett simply shrugged. “I’m fine. How’s Megan? Is she okay?”
Madeline’s arms tightened even more as she kissed her child’s head. “She’s perfect. Just really scared.”
Madeline now took the time to study the sullen figure Garrett was still holding on to. Confusion grew in her expression, along with some other emotion he couldn’t quite read.
“Donnan, what the hell were you doing taking Megan like that? You wanted nothing to do with us before. Why did you suddenly have this urge to see your daughter?”
Check out the next installment on January 13th by the talented Jennifer Faye right here.