“Skye’s a really nice woman,” Sam said. “I’m sure she’ll be glad to help any way she can.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Read the files first, then we’ll talk some more.”
Sam read through the files that covered a period beginning ten years before and became more concerned as he read. In each case, a young woman had been kidnapped from a university in Texas and her family contacted for ransom money. The money had been paid in every case but one, the third abduction, where a girl had been taken from Rice University in Houston. She’d been on scholarship, and her mother couldn’t afford to pay. Coeds, from freshmen to grad students, had been taken from seven major schools: SMU in Dallas, Rice in Houston, University of Texas in Austin, Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Baylor in Waco, North Texas in Denton and, finally, Texas A&M in College Station. All except Pamela Fairchild, the junior at Rice, were from well-to-do families. None were ever seen again. Except one.
Skye Walker. The seventh case.
According to the file, Skye had left that morning for a run with her dog. When she didn’t return, her roommate became concerned and went looking for her. She’d found the dog, a German shepherd, unconscious from a tranquilizer dart. She’d called the police. Later that day, Gabe had been contacted by phone and instructed to pay a ransom for Skye’s return. An FBI comparison determined that the calls and ransom procedures were the same as in the previous coed kidnappings. Gabe had paid the ransom, but Skye wasn’t returned as promised.
The next day her dog had somehow located her and attracted attention by digging and barking. Skye had been found in a plywood box in a shallow grave in a secluded area about a mile from where she’d been abducted.
“My God!” Buried alive. Sam rubbed his hand over his face and swung his chair to face the window. She must have died a thousand deaths in that box. No wonder the security around her was so tight. And they’d never caught the bastard. He was still out there somewhere. Sam wondered if he’d moved to another part of the country to keep up his abductions. Of course he’d netted a fair amount of money. Maybe he’d just retired to Mexico.
He turned around and went back to his reading.
Skye had been dehydrated, severely traumatized and hoarse from screaming when they’d found her. Her fingers had been bloody from trying to escape. And she hadn’t been able to remember a thing about her abductor. She’d had total amnesia for the incident, but had worked with psychologists and hypnotists trying to remember.
Of course her abductor hadn’t known that she couldn’t remember. Sam figured that when had news hit about Skye’s recovery, the perp had made tracks.
Bastard. Sorry bastard.
Without information from her, the cases had gone nowhere. He gathered up the files and went into Heck’s office.
“Well, what do you think?” his lieutenant asked.
“I think the chances of ever finding the guy who did this are pretty slim unless Skye gives us something to go on. Looks like every lead at the time was exhausted.”
“I agree. I’d like for you to talk to Skye Walker again and see if you can come up with anything that would warrant us reopening these cases. She and her brother were cooperative at first, but they later pulled back, and he’s been very protective of her.”
“I’m not surprised,” Sam said. “If it had happened to my sister, I’d do the same. Sure, I’ll talk to her. But I’ll check with Gabe first. I’ll call him now.”
Sam caught Gabe at his office.
Gabe was guarded when Sam brought up the subject of the coed kidnappings and his unit’s interest in reopening the case.
“Sam, Skye can’t remember the man. The last thing she remembers is leaving her apartment that morning. She was in therapy for years afterward, and she’s still traumatized over what happened to her. Her life is workable now, and I don’t want to rock the boat. You can’t imagine what it was like.”
“I’ve just read the case files. It blew me away that she managed to live through it. Seems to me it might help her if we could reopen the case and nab this guy. Do you mind if I ask her?”
“Let me talk to her first,” Gabe said. “I’ll get back to you tonight.”
SKYE’S FIRST REACTION WAS SHOCK, then anger. Was this the reason that Sam had been so interested in her? Was she simply an interesting bug under a microscope and a means for him to become big dog by solving an unsolvable old crime? “So much for my sex appeal,” she muttered.
“Whoa,” Gabe said as they sat alone in his study after dinner. “I hope you’re not thinking that Sam’s only interest in you is because you were a victim.”
“Sure sounds that way.”
“Skye, he didn’t even know about your abduction until this morning.”
“And you believe that?”
“Of course I believe it. Sam’s an honorable man. And, from the looks of him last Saturday, one who’s interested in getting to know you better in lots of ways. If you don’t want to talk to him, just say the word, and I’ll tell him. He’ll respect that. But I should warn you, if it’s not Sam, it may be another ranger from his unit. I gather that the team has been asked to review the series of abductions for further investigation. It’s what they do—reinvestigate cold cases. Need some time to think about it?”
Skye didn’t answer right away. She looked down at her hands, fingers laced and gripped in her lap. Tension sent every muscle in her body into its knotted mode. Was this any way to live? Locked in, a bodyguard at her side, jumping at the least little thing? For the longest time, all she wanted to be was safe. All she wanted to do was forget. But she couldn’t completely forget. She had a feeling that the nightmares she’d been having were repressed memories trying to surface.
And they scared her.
But living the rest of her life in limbo was just as terrifying. And knowing that Gabe deserved to be out from under the responsibility of keeping her safe weighed heavily on her thoughts. She was a drag on his happiness, his and Belle’s. She knew that. Security had become a prison of her own making.
A prison? Maybe so. But was she ready to leave its safety? She didn’t know. But she knew that talking with Sam could be the beginning of a monumental change in her life. He would want to drag it all out. Every last bit. Even the parts she had buried so deeply that not even she knew what terrible things were there. No psychologist, no hypnotist had been able to reach it. It must be horrible.
Skye took a deep breath and looked up at her brother. “Tell him that I’ll talk to him tomorrow afternoon. Does he know that I have amnesia for the…event?”
Gabe nodded. “He knows.”
She left, went to her room and threw up.
SKYE DIDN’T SLEEP MUCH THAT night. Gabe had to come into her room twice to awaken her from a nightmare. An intercom connected her bedroom to his, and her screaming or Gus’s barking always brought him to soothe her back to sleep.
She’d been distracted at yoga class with Belle and at lunch later with Belle and Gabe.
“You don’t have to do this,” Gabe said as they drove home from town.
“Yes, I do. It’s time.”
She’d gone up to her sitting room to read, but she was still on the same page a half hour later when there was a knock on her door.
Startled, her heart pounding, she said, “Yes?”
“Skye, it’s me. Sam.”
Rising quickly, her book fell from her lap, knocking over a vase of gerbera