Saturday, 31 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty-Five

[Parts 1-24 can be found here...Thank you for reading Xo]



The room is dead silent.

“Hello?” Officer Grady repeats. “Is anyone there??”

Detective Oliver looks over to one of the techs working behind a laptop. His fingers fly over the keyboard. He meets her gaze and nods once. She hangs up.

“Where??” she demands. He turns his laptop around, revealing the screen.

“Not far from here. Santa Monica. Looks like it’s down by the docks. We’ll know more as we get closer. I’ve got a lock on it now. As long as it stays on, we can track it.”

Detective Oliver takes a deep breath and looks around the room. Half a dozen police officers, James, Michael and Elizabeth all stare back at her.

“Alright,” she says. “This is how it’s going to go. We don’t know if the boy is in there.” She turns to James. “This could be another ploy designed to unhinge you.” Though judging by the wild look in his eyes and his thin, breakable body, she’s not so sure that he has any degree of hinge left. She pushes away the thought.

“We’re going down in formation. Detective Roberts and I will lead. The rest of you will follow in pairs. No one approaches the building until I give the okay. Not even in your cars.” She looks Michael in the eye. “No one.”

He glances at James and gives her an almost imperceptible nod.

“Okay. Let’s keep this clean, people. There’s potentially a child involved in this…We bring them in peacefully. No guns unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Alexander,” Detective Roberts says. Everyone turns to look at him. He meets James’ eyes. “His name,” he says, “is Alexander.”

Detective Oliver almost smiles. Almost.

“Alright,” she says, picking up Amelia’s phone. “Let’s go bring Alexander home.”

******


Friday, 30 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty-Four

[Parts 1-23 can be found here. Thank you for reading Xo]


With the added help of the siren on the car, Michael and Detective Oliver are only gone for fifteen minutes, but it is the longest fifteen minutes of James’ life. By the time they finally burst back in through the door, he is close to clawing at his own face again.

Amelia trails in behind them, hanging her head in hands and sobbing. James stares at her. She’d been working at the agency for the last three months. She was one of the new hires since they started signing new clients. “Sit down,” Michael says roughly. He looks like is he ready to punch something. Or someone. “Stop crying and tell us everything. Start at the beginning.”

“Here,” Detective Oliver says, gentler than Michael. She offers Amelia a chair. “Sit down. Take a deep breath. Explain what happened slowly and carefully.”

Amelia takes a shaky breath in. She avoids looking at James.

“I-I-I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she says, sniffing. “I swear to you I didn’t. I thought, I thought they were just going to broadcast what he was doing.” She glances up at James. Her bottom lip trembles. “I thought we’d just get to see you, you know. Writing. Playing your guitar. Making vegan pancakes. Getting sneak peeks of your next project. I didn’t know, I didn’t…” She dissolves into tears.

“It’s okay,” Detective Oliver says.

“No it’s fucking not,” Michael says under his breath.

“Tell us what happened,” Detective Oliver says gently, shooting Michael a warning glare.

“They came to me one day as I was leaving work. They said they were fans, that they were obsessed with the Heat series.”

“Who did?” James whispers. He can barely hear over the sound of the blood rushing in his ears.

“Two men and a woman. They said a lot of people would pay to watch a livestream from your house…They offered to give me a cut…” She dissolves into tears again. “I didn’t do it for the money,” she sobs. “I did it because I love you. Because I just wanted to be near you, always. See what you were doing. Listen to you breathing.”

“You’re a fucking nutcase,” Michael mutters.

Amelia doesn’t seem to hear him. She turns to Detective Oliver. “When you questioned me yesterday I was too afraid to admit what I’d done. I was too scared of going to jail, but maybe…Maybe that’s what I deserve.”

“That’s definitely what you deserve,” Michael says.

“Michael,” his mom says, cautioning him. He crosses his arms across his chest and doesn’t say anything more.

“What can you tell us about these men??” Detective Oliver asks. “What did they look like? Do you know how to contact them??”

Amelia nods and pulls out her phone. “They gave me a number to call on the day the house was empty. On the day they could come and install the cameras. I only called it once. I don’t know if it is still connected, but…” She scrolls through her contacts and finds the number.

“Here,” she says, passing the phone over to Detective Oliver. “This is it.”

“Call it,” James whispers. “Call the number.”

Detective Oliver looks over at Detective Roberts.

“Get the tech guys over here immediately,” she says. “We need to trace this call the second it connects.”

Detective Roberts nods and pulls his phone from the holster on his belt, dialling a number and leaving the room. Detective Oliver turns back to Amelia, who is hugging her arms to her body and shivering.

“I’m going to have to take you into custody,” she says. “You are very brave for coming forward, but what you did…”

Amelia nods and wipes her eyes. “I know.” She turns to James. “There’s nothing I can say to express how sorry I am,” she says, blinking against the tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “Knowing that I played a part in hurting you…” She shakes her head. “No punishment they give me will be great enough.”

James doesn’t say anything. He is paralysed by something much more terrifying than fear.

Hope.

Detective Roberts returns.

“They’ll be here in five. I took the liberty of calling in some unis too. We’re going to need all the backup we can get.”

Detective Oliver nods. “Good. A few of them can stay here and watch over…”

“No way,” Michael interrupts. “I know what you’re going to say and it’s not happening. I’m not staying here.” He looks over at James. Frail, barely-keeping-it-together James. He knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that leaving him behind will destroy what little is left of his heart. “We’re coming,” he says firmly. “All of us.”

“Fine,” Detective Oliver says as Detective Roberts opens the door to the tech guys and the uniformed officers. “But you do exactly what I say.”

Michael nods. “Fine.”

A few minutes later, Amelia’s phone is tapped and she is handcuffed, placed in the back of a police car and driven away. James stares at her phone, silently praying that the number she provided has not been disconnected.

“Okay,” Detective Oliver says. “Show time.”

Everyone holds their breath.

She brings up the number and selects call.

The phone starts to ring.

Once.

Twice.

Three times.

Somebody picks up.

“Hello?” they say. He says.

He.



Officer Grady.

******

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty-Three

[Parts 1-22 can be found here...Remember to tweet me or leave me a comment if you're reading because page views + silence makes me paranoid that you all hate it :p Please and thank you! Xo

Also if you hate it you should tell me :p]

It hurts to breathe.

He tries not to.

He holds his breath, listening to the conversation between Detective Oliver and Michael from his position on the couch. He feels his mom’s hand over his heart.

Making sure it is still beating.

“She passed away about an hour ago. They tried to bring her back, but…I’m sorry.”

Michael takes a deep breath. “Don’t tell him,” he says, breathing out. “We’re so close to losing him entirely…I don’t know what this would do to him. Jenna was a good friend.”

He risks opening his eyes ever so slightly. He doesn’t want them to know he is awake. Not yet.

“Any word?” Michael asks. Detective Oliver shakes her head.

“Nothing. No word from the kidnappers, no leads…We traced the video surveillance back to that same warehouse with the mannequin. They wanted us to find it. They wanted him to know they mean business. It was all staged, all of it. Just to hurt him as much as possible and bend him to their will.”

“And the…The blood on the blanket?”

James’ lungs burn for more oxygen. He ignores them.

“Pigs blood,” Detective Oliver says. “We’ve been contacting the local butchers to see if anyone purchased any recently, but so far we’ve had no luck.”

“So what now?” Michael asks. “What do we do now?”

Detective Oliver falls silent. It is Detective Roberts who answers the question.

“Pray.”

James opens his eyes.

“Honey,” his mom says. He can tell she’s been crying. “You’re awake. Please, let us take you to the hospital. I wanted to but Michael refused, said you’d be so mad if you woke up there again…” She tries to smile. “Please, sweetheart. Let me take you back.”

James pushes her hand away and draws himself to his feet. He grits his teeth against the pain that shoots through every inch of his body.

“Pray?” he says, looking at Detective Roberts. “So that’s it? You’ve given up??”

“We haven’t given up,” Detective Oliver says quickly. “But we are at a standstill. All we can do is hope the kidnapper makes contact again. We’ve interviewed everyone who had access to your house, interviewed your neighbours and the senders of some of the scarier fan mail you’ve received…No one knows who could have planted those cameras.”

“So we’re just supposed to sit here? Wait? Hope? Pray?”

He wishes he had the energy to jump across the room and throttle Detective Roberts, but it’s taking every last ounce of what he has left to remain standing.

His phone rings.

It takes him several seconds to even realise where the sound is even coming from. He pulls it out of his pocket, noticing the seventeen missed calls for the first time.

Mom. Michael.

The caller ID says Amelia. He tosses the phone to Michael, incapable of dealing with anyone else right now.

“Please,” he says, lowering himself back onto the couch, unable to stand any longer. “I can’t.”

Michael nods and swipes his finger across the screen.

“Amelia, hey, this is not a good time. The agency is closed for now and we have to keep this line clear…” His voice trails off. All the colour drains from his face. “What??” he whispers. “You did what??”

James drags himself back to his feet. He shuffles forward, straining to hear.

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Okay. Okay. We’re here with the detectives. How soon can you be here?? No – stop crying. Stop. Amelia, listen, you have to – I realise that but – Amelia -- You know what, fuck it. Where are you?? I’m coming to get you.”

“What is it?” James’ voice trembles. “Michael? What is it??”

“Okay. Stay there. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He hangs up and looks at James.

“We might have a lead. Fuck, we might have a lead.” He turns to Detective Oliver. “How soon can you get me to Beverly Hills?”

Detective Oliver grabs her keys without asking questions. They both stand up.

“Michael!” James’ voice is the strongest it has been all day. “Tell me what’s going on! Tell me what Amelia said!”

Michael walks over and puts his hands on James’ shoulders. He looks him in the eye.

“Stay here with mom. I’m going to get Amelia and bring her back here. I’ll explain everything then. Staying here and explaining it now is wasting time we don’t have. Now do you trust me?”

James blinks. Nods.

“Okay. Then trust me. I will be back as soon as possible.”

James watches him go, and, despite his anger at Detective Roberts for suggesting it, he prays.


Please God let us find him. Please let him be okay.

******

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty-Two

[Parts 1-21 can be found here. We are rapidly approaching the end now...Buckle up. It's going to be a rough ride.]


He doesn’t go home.

He goes straight to the police station and demands to see Detectives Oliver and Roberts.

“They’re in a meeting,” the officer behind the desk says. “Can I take a message??”

James sways on his feet. He grips the desk to remain upright. “No,” he says. “I need to see them. NOW.”

“I can see what I can do, but I think –”

“NO!” James roars. “I need to see them NOW!!”

Several police officers stand up, thumbing the guns in their holsters.

“Is there a problem?” one asks, walking over.

“I need to see Detective Oliver and Detective Roberts,” James says, doing his best to remain calm.

“What is this about?” the officer asks. “Maybe I can help you.”

James shakes his head. It makes it that much harder to remain standing. “No. I need to see them. I need to see…I need…Alexander...” He starts to back away. The room is too bright. It is hurting his eyes. Everything hurts.

Everything.

“Are you okay?” the officer asks. “Have you taken anything? Hey! Sir! Have you taken any drugs?”

James takes several steps back and trips. He scrambles back onto his feet, scared that if he stays on the floor for even a minute the darkness will overcome him and steal away more of his time.

Tick tock.

“Jesus,” the officer says. “I think we’ve got a tweaker. Somebody help me get this guy in a cell before he hurts himself or somebody else.”

James backs away. He looks like a caged animal, ready to turn savage at any moment.

“Easy there, buddy,” the officer says, reaching for his gun. He wraps his fingers around it. Just in case. “Easy there. Nobody is going to hurt you. Why don’t you just come and sit down for a minute…?”

James watches him fingering his gun. He tries harder to explain, but the world is hazy and his words refuse to co-operate.

“I need to see the detectives,” he says. “They’re going to, they’re going to kill him!”

“Woah,” the officer says, tightening his hold on his gun. “Who’s killing who??”

James takes a step forward, intending to explain, intending to make the officer see.

The officer views it as a threat.

He whips out his gun and aims it at James’ chest. “Stay right there!” he yells. “Keep your hands where I can see them!”

James turns and runs.

He runs until every inch of his body screams for him to stop. He runs until his heart burns and all the oxygen is stolen from his lungs. He runs without seeing, without breathing, without stopping. He runs until his legs refuse to move any longer and he falls to the ground. He lies there on the dirty, freezing concrete, staring up at the afternoon sky. No one seems to notice him. Homeless people are rampant in LA. He's just another nameless, faceless homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. He watches a hawk dive for something, catching some unsuspecting prey and ending its life.

Okay, he thinks, feeling his heart struggle to keep beating. I’m ready. I won’t live through losing Alexander. So I’m ready. I’m ready to die.

He closes his eyes.

The sounds of the city drift away.



When he wakes up, it is dark.

He sits up. His limbs creak in protest, but they move. He takes a deep breath, works up the strength to stand, and starts the long walk home.




He sits in the dark, leaning against the wall. He rolls a bottle in his hand and stares at the guitar on his wall.

“You hold it like this,” he says, standing behind Alexander and adjusting his grip. “See? Left hand on the fret board. Right hand over the sound hole.”

Alexander giggles.

“What’s so funny?” James asks, walking around and sitting on the stool in front of Alexander.

“Sound hole is a silly name!”

James chuckles. “Yeah, I guess it is. Now, what shall I teach you to play?”

Alexander grins. “Wonderwall! Oasis!”

James laughs. “Oh, buddy, I was thinking more like Hot Cross Buns or Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

“Those are little kid songs,” Alexander says, pouting.

James leans forward. “Alexander, I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this…But you are a little kid.”

“I’m seven,” Alexander says, frowning. “And I’ll be eight soon. December nineteen, seven days before you turn a hundred!”

“One hundred?” James asks, barely concealing his laughter. “I thought it was two.”

A tear splashes onto the bottle in his hand. He wipes his face.

“Happy birthday, buddy,” he whispers.

The lights turn on.

He blinks against the sudden brightness, feeling his pupils expand and contract. Michael stands in the doorway, peering into the room. When he spots James, his body visibly relaxes.

“Oh thank GOD,” he breathes, walking over to him. “Mom’s been going crazy! She’s just gone back to check the hospital again. We’ve been looking everywhere for you! Where the hell have you been?? What have you…” He stops, seeing the bottle in James’ hand.

“J…” he says slowly. “What are you doing?”

James looks down at the bottle. He found it hidden in the bottom of Michael’s desk drawer.

“Does it work?” he asks, not looking up. “Does it take the pain away? Does it make the hurt stop?”

Michael takes another couple of steps towards him. He takes a moment to answer.

“Yes,” he says finally. “It works. But only for a little while. And then it makes you feel worse than ever.”

James laughs bitterly. “There is no worse than this,” he says. “There is no worse than this.”

He opens the bottle.

“You don’t want to do this, brother,” Michael says, holding out his hand, silently pleading for the bottle. “This isn’t you.”

James laughs again. It is the sound of a broken man. “Yeah? And how would you even know who I am anymore? How would you even know?”

“James, I –”

“No,” James says, cutting him off. “You got to check out when things got hard. You got to fall apart and push everyone anyone away. So why can’t I, Michael? Why can’t I??”

James raises the bottle to his lips. A sickly sweet scent fills the air.

Cupcakes.

James looks around.

“What’s that smell?” he says, more to himself than to Michael. “What is that?”

“What smell?” Michael asks, looking around too. “I can’t smell anything.”

“It’s like…” James sniffs the air. “No, not cupcakes,” he mumbles to himself. “Vanilla.” The realization dawns on him. He looks down and reads the label on the bottle.

Vanilla Vodka.

He hurls it at the wall.

It shatters, filling the room with the scent of vanilla cupcakes that have soured in the sun. That have gone soft and rotten in his hands.

Just like everything always does.

He starts gasping for breath. The smell is choking him. He claws at his own face, driven insane by grief and fear.


“J! J! James! JAMES!” Michael rushes over to him and grabs his hands, stopping him from hurting himself. He slides his hands under his brother’s frail body and lifts him from the ground, trying not to dwell on just how easy it is to do so. He carries him out of the room, taking him away from the scent of everything he has lost.

******

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty-One

[Parts 1-20 can be found here. Thank you for reading Xo]


“Sweetheart? Sweetheart?”

He opens his eyes. Her face swirls before him. She smiles and brushes the hair off his cheek.

“Mom?” His mouth feels like it is filled with sandpaper.

“Here,” she says, holding a cup and a straw up to his lips. He takes a sip and clears his throat.

“What happened?” he asks. His eyes feel heavy. So heavy. He lets them close.

Alexander.

They snap open.

“Shhh, shhh,” his mom says, smoothing back his hair. “If you start kicking and screaming, they will come back with another shot.”

“I have to leave. I have to go see Jean-Paul, I have to organise the press conference, I have to, I have to…”

He tries to sit up, only to find he’s been shackled to the bed. He tugs against the wrist restraints.

“It was this or call the police and put you in the psych ward,” his mom says, putting her hand on his arm. “You punched a doctor in the face and threatened to kill a room full of people.”

He tries to pull away from her, but he can’t. The sense of betrayal is so strong that it is all he can do to keep from screaming at her.

“How long have I been in here?”

She looks at him sadly.

“How long??” he repeats. “HOW LONG??”

A nurse appears in the doorway. She looks a little frightened. “Is everything okay in here?” she asks, hovering in the doorway.

“Everything is fine,” Michael says from across the room. James jumps. He hadn’t realised he was there. The nurse leaves.

“Just over twenty four hours,” his mom says, unbuckling the restraints. “You collapsed and hit your head. You were out cold. Michael called an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, your heart...” She shakes her head. “Your heart stopped beating, James. By the time I arrived…” She puts her hand across her chest and lets out a tiny sob. Tears shine in her eyes. “They weren’t sure you would even make it through the night. Sweetheart, your body is shutting down. You liver, your kidneys, your heart...When last did you eat? Do you even remember?”

“That’s not why my heart is shutting down,” he growls, sitting up and undoing his leg restraints. “That’s not why my heart stopped. My heart can’t function without him.” He pulls all the tubes out of him and unplugs the monitors once they start to shriek.

“I’m not staying here,” he says, spotting his clothes in bag on the chair next to Michael. “You can’t make me.”

“Actually, she can.” Michael stands up. “She’s listed as your emergency contact, so should you be incapable of making medical decisions for yourself…”

James grabs his clothes off the chair and pulls off his hospital gown. Both Michael and his mom cringe at the sight of his frail, bony body. He tugs his sweatshirt and hoodie over his head.

“Well I am capable. I’m awake. I’m not concussed. And I’m leaving.” He pulls on his jeans.

“Sweetheart.” His mom puts her hand on his back. He pauses for half a second before putting on his shoes. “James, please. I know you’re worried about Alexander. I know you’re worried about your boy. I do. But…I’m worried about mine. Stay here. Get better. Let the police do their job. There’s nothing you can do in this state.”

He spins around to face her. His body is tense. He feels like he is barely keeping it together.

“I am not worried. I am fucking terrified. I know you’re trying to help, Mom. I know you’re worried about me, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t...” His stomach swoops and his heart skips several beats. He takes a steadying breath. “I can’t care about me. I can’t care about anything except him.”

He puts his phone in his pocket and starts to leave.

“James!” His mom grips his shoulder, trying to hold him there. Her voice quivers. “You aren’t strong enough! Your heart…” She shakes her head and wipes her eyes. “I’m scared if you walk out of here, I won’t, you won’t…” She gasps. “I can’t lose you,” she whispers. “I can’t.”

He turns around and takes her hand. He places it over his heart. She feels it beating underneath her palm. Unsteady. Uneven.

“So then you understand,” he says, staring into her eyes, “why I can’t lose him.”

He lets go of her hand and leaves, only stopping to sign the Against Medical Advice papers on the way.



He pulls out his phone as he leaves, dialling Jean-Paul’s number. He picks up on the fourth ring.

“James,” he says sadly. “I am so sorry. I’ve been trying for the last 24 hours, but to no avail. I have to get back to Louisiana.”

James stops. “What?”

“Is this not why you are calling? I already spoke to your brother…The head of Focus Features refuses to budge. They said that if Sony won’t pull The Interview after being hacked and receiving multiple terrorist threats, there’s no way they are pulling Silent Scream over one kidnapping. I am so sorry. If it were up to me…” He sighs. “If we refuse to complete the film, they are going to sue. And they will win, James. We can’t fight this. I wish I could.”

A woman speaks over a PA system in the background, announcing that a flight has begun to board.

“That is my flight. I have to go. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.” He hangs up. James stands there numbly.

They’re not stopping the film. They’re not holding the press conference. They’re not…

Alexander.



His heart seems to slow to a crawl. The room grows dim, but he fights against the alluring pull of unconsciousness and forces his feet forward. He continues out of the hospital, not even stopping when he hears Michael behind him, calling his name.


******

Monday, 26 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Twenty

[I didn't post yesterday since I was drowning in the depths of the dark and twisty place, so even though today is a HOLY DAY, here is a make up post. Because I love you.

As always, you can catch up on parts 1-19 here.

Xo]


The blinding white he sees when he opens his eyes is a stark contrast to the swirling black inside his mind. He tries to sit up. A hand is placed on his chest, stilling him.

“Easy, brother,” Michael says. His face swims before James’ eyes. He tries to focus.

“Michael?” His voice is barely above a whisper. “Where I am?”

Michael narrows his eyes. “You don’t remember?”

James shakes his head.

Michael takes an uneasy breath in. “You’re in the hospital.”

The what?

Fractured memories play before his eyes. The factory. The mannequin.

Alexander.

“Alexander,” he says, trying to sit up again. Pain shoots through his arm.

“Yeah, you don’t want to pull that out again,” Michael says, tapping the IV beside the bed. “It wasn’t pretty the last time.”

The last time?

A question sifts through the fog in his mind, settling on the surface. “How long have I been in here?” he asks.

Michael frowns. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“There was…There was a video.” James closes his eyes, trying to see it. “It was…There was…” He takes a sharp breath as it all comes flooding back.

Threats Silent Scream white masks Alexander screams blood Alexander.

Three days.

Tick tock.


He sits up and rips out his IV line, barely noticing that his arm starts to bleed. He realises he has a tube in his nose and tries to pull it out too, but is met with excruciating pain.

“That goes down into your stomach. I wouldn’t pull it out.”

He lets go of it. “What?”

Michael shakes his head. He looks like he is fighting back tears. “They have to tube feed you, J. You barely weigh a hundred pounds. The doctor’s say if you don’t put some weight on soon, you could, you could…” He gasps for air. “You’ve barely eaten in six weeks. You can’t go on like this, brother. You can’t.”

“I can’t stay here,” James whispers. His voice wavers. “I can’t. I have three days, Michael. Just three days to…” The look on Michael’s face stops him. “Michael...” Nausea washes over him. “Michael…How long have I been in here?”

Michael looks down at his hands and doesn’t answer.

“Michael! How long have I been in here?!”

Michael chokes back a sob. “We didn’t have a choice, J. They said you had to eat and you wouldn’t and you were getting violent and they said that you could die if you, if you…”

“MICHAEL!” The monitors around him begin to shriek, registering his erratic heartbeat. “HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN IN HERE?? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”

A memory knocks the wind out of him.


“No I will not fucking stay!” he screams, ripping the IV out of his arm. “I can’t be here! I can’t be! Let me go! Get the fuck away from me!”

“Please sir, it’s not safe for you to leave! At least let us check your head; you may have a concussion…”

James punches the concerned doctor in the nose and leaps off the bed. Several security guards pounce on him, knocking him to the floor.

“Get off me!” he screams, lashing out. “GET OFF ME! ALEXANDER! ALEXANDER!!”

A needle is shoved into his arm. His limbs grow heavy. He stops fighting.

”Alexander,” he mumbles. “Please. Don’t let them…Don’t…”

The world fades away.



He can’t breathe.

He gasps for air, but there isn’t any.

He is drowning.

“Michael,” he whispers, ignoring the tears clouding his vision. “You let them sedate me…You let them keep me here…You let them, you let them…” He grabs the tube in his nose, barely feeling the pain as he yanks it out of his stomach. A vomit-looking substance sprays from the end as he tosses it to the side and throws himself out of the bed. The monitors squeal even louder. A group of doctors, nurses and security guards come rushing in. James grabs a pair of scissors from the tray in the corner and holds them up, brandishing them like a weapon.

“Don’t come near me!” he screams. “Don’t you fucking come near me or I swear to God I will kill you!”

“Calm down,” the doctor with the bandaged nose says, holding up his hands. “We just want to help you.”

“James, God, put the scissors down! They’re trying to help!”

He whips around, pointing the scissors at Michael. “How could you let them do this?!” His hands are shaking so much he can barely hold the scissors. “How could you?? HOW COULD YOU??”

“He didn’t.”

The sound of her voice saps all the fight from him. He swings around to face her as she steps into the room. The nurses and doctors make way, allowing her inside.

“I did.”

His hand wavers. The security guards see their chance and race over, taking the scissors away and restraining him. He doesn’t try to resist.

“Mom?”

His voice breaks.

Another needle in his arm.


He holds her gaze for as long as he can until, once again, everything fades away.

******

And you pulled me out of the dark.

[We interrupt your Silent Scream viewing to bring you this important message.]

So it’s been a while since I’ve done an over-the-top I-LUUUHVE-HIM-SO-MUCH post.
I need to remedy that.
For science.

As we all know by now, I am dark and twisty inside. Scary and damaged. For the most part I would say that I am “recovered” from the worst of my problems – though that really depends on what recovery actually means – but there are still some days where I wake up and it’s like the lights are out in my brain. All I see is darkness. Deep, swirling, never-ending darkness.

The last few days have been like that.

I’d felt it coming for a while. The darkness. It comes in waves, you know. Like a dark tide inching a little closer every day, every hour, every minute. I always feel it coming. Creeping up on me like a plague. Sometimes I’m able to get off the beach entirely before the water touches me. Other times I get caught in the tide, but manage to swim back to the safety of the beach before I get in too deep. And then other times...Other times I am dragged into the deepest, darkest part of the ocean of depression where sharks live, and also jellyfish because I’m more afraid of jellyfish than I am of sharks because like TENTACLES, HELLO, and the water is so deep and dark and the tide is so strong that it’s all I can do just to keep my head above water.

And then other times still, I give up trying to keep my head above water and let the tide and the water and the sharks and the jellyfish have me. Because what’s the point in fighting when this is who I really am inside.

No prizes for guessing where I’ve been on the safely on the beach-------getting eaten alive by jellyfish scale.

(Oh yeah. These are man-eating jellyfish. With tentacles. Did I mention the tentacles?? The STINGING tentacles?? LIKE SO MANY TENTACLES. ALSO I’M PRETTY SURE THE TENTACLES HAVE TEETH. AND THOSE TEETH HAVE TENTACLES OF THEIR OWN. I MEAN I’M JUST SAYING.)

So that's where I've been, limply floating along while the tentacle-bearing jellyfish with tentacle-teeth ate me alive, feeling like fighting it was totally pointless because I always end up back here anyway. There are things that I know will help me see daylight when I’m in the depths of the dark place, but sometimes when I’m in the really dark place, I decide that I don’t actually deserve to feel better and I actively avoid those things.
Those bands.

Of course that doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but no one ever said I was intelligent.

This went on for a few days. And, naturally, each day I sunk a little deeper. Apparently this is quite common for creative people – the depression thing, not the avoiding him thing – and apparently writers are twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population.

By the way, thanks for that, Google. That’s definitely what I needed to know. That totally wasn’t triggering at ALL. (Obviously I searched for that information on my own…Because like I said, sometimes I think I deserve to be eaten alive by man-eating-tentacle-bearing jellyfish. Again, no one ever said I was intelligent.)

It may seem a little romantic, you know, the struggling creative suffering for their art. Certainly some movies and novels on the topic tend to make it seem that way, at least to my mind. Maybe that’s part of the reason I sometimes give myself permission to give up trying. Because it feels expected, almost. Like, Hey, you choose this life, and science says you’re probably going to kill yourself. You wouldn’t want to turn science into a liar, would you? 

I know that's not logical or reasonable but when you're in the dark place, logic and reason tend not to exist.

However.

Sometimes The Universe* works in incredible ways.

This morning was episode six of Into The Wild, which for those of you who don’t know, is a Bartholomew Cubbins documentary about the longest tour in the history of rock. Although I’ve dutifully woken up at 6am every Monday morning for the last five episodes, today I decided I wasn’t going to watch it. Watching it makes me happy, and I’m not allowed to be happy, right? So although my body woke me up at about 6:30am (I swear I have Jardar**), I stayed in bed. I could hear my phone buzzing every two seconds with notifications from everyone proclaiming it to be VyRT DAY! but I ignored them. However, my puppy Klaus decided that today would be the first time in at least two weeks that he would wake me up to let him outside. Normally he waits until I’m up, but not today. Today he sat by the door and started to whine quietly.

I ignored him.

So he started to scratch at the door.

I still ignored him.

So he came and sat right by my bedside and pawed at me. Human, he was saying. Get yo’ ass up. I need to pee.

So I had no choice. I got my ass out of bed and went to let him outside. While I stood there waiting for him to come back inside, my gaze drifted to my laptop. And being the weak-willed person I am when it comes to anything Mars related…I caved and decided to watch the episode.

And thank The Universe that I did.

I can’t even list all the reasons why today’s episode was perfect. I mean it is ALWAYS perfect because it’s Mars and my love for them burns like the fire of a thousand suns, but today in particular…It was exactly what I needed.


In this episode, aptly titled The Edge of the Earth, the focus was on all the amazing places the band were able to visit on the tour. One of those places was Jerusalem, and in particular, the Western Wall. Each year, over a million prayers are placed in the cracks of the wall by people visiting the sacred site. Naturally, having the reverence for spiritual places that they do, the guys placed their own prayers/wishes into the wall. This one was Jared’s:



Freedom from pain for all.
Joy.
Kindess.
Patience.
Optimism.

Needless to say…Instatears.

It sounds weird, I know, but it almost felt like it was just for me. Like The Universe was saying to me, So look. This is what you need. You don’t listen to anyone the way you listen to him. No one affects you the way he does. So listen to him. This was his wish. Freedom from pain, which includes pain you cause yourself, Girl With Words. Joy. Kindness. Patience. Optimism. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be optimistic. Be joyful. Stop telling yourself you don’t deserve to be happy and deliberately squashing any glimmer of hope you see shining through. Be free, be free.***





That alone would have set me up to try to swim against the tide. But The Universe wasn’t done. It had been giving me little shoves for days, which I was doing a great job of ignoring. It wasn't about to let me ignore this, too.

The episode also detailed their trip to The Meiji Shrine in Japan. As with the Western Wall, they each placed a wish on a wooden block and tied it along the temple entrance. Again, this was Jared’s:


Freedom for people
Freedom for the planet
Freedom for all

Although he did not write it, knowing what I know about him, I believe he was meaning freedom from the things that plague us. The things that hurt, the things that bring us down, the things that stop us from being who we want to be and living the life we want to lead. Freedom from pain, just as he wrote in Jerusalem.

Freedom from pain.

Pain is a tricky thing. It gets a bad rep, but really, we need pain in order to survive. Physical pain tells us that something is wrong. Don’t touch that hot stove; move your fingers out of the door jam; you are not fit enough to run up that hill. Sometimes we do well to ignore it and push past it, but most of the time, we rightfully stop and we listen. Emotional pain is a little trickier. It can tell us that a situation is no good for us, that what we are doing is not working or that we need to make changes in our lives. It can also tell us that we’ve lost something or someone important to us, or that something or someone is so important to us that our brains have blurred that fine line between pleasure and pain (/cough/ I love them so much that it hurts me inside /cough/). Pain can also teach us a valuable lesson about ourselves and about life in general. Often times the best moments are born out of pain. The best ideas. The best motivation. I know that for me, I write from a place of pain. I can’t write when I’m one hundred percent happy. Writing is my escape, and so I need something to escape from. I need the pain to fuel me, even if it’s that I-love-them-so-much-that-it-hurts-me-inside kind of pain. So even though Jared wished us to be free from pain, again using what I know about him (which is an embarrassing amount, folks), I believe he meant it as overcoming your pain. Not being free from it entirely, but feeling it, learning from it, and letting it go. Pushami, you know. No one will have a life free from pain, but we can certainly manage it and overcome it with the right tools and the right motivation. We can learn from it, as we are supposed to. I had the right tools. Every day that I sank further into the depths of the depression sea, I looked at my collection of CDs knowing full well that all it would take was five minutes and forty-eight seconds for me to start to feel like me again. But I didn’t do it. I lacked the motivation.

Thankfully this butthead had to pee, thus giving me the motivation I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and get my ass out of bed.


This is Niklaus.
Look at his butthead face :3

By the end of the episode, I was already starting to feel brighter because I’m pretty certain that he is magic. Don’t fight me on this. He is magic. And, as if everything he did and said in that episode was not enough, he was also watching the episode with us and chatting with us on VyRT. Just before he left, he said this…


 And then he tweeted it too, just to make sure we (I) got the damn message.



Like seriously, you guys. If that isn't a giant neon sign from The Universe, I don't know what is.

So Jared, I can promise this: I will be kinder to myself today. I will take care of myself today. I will stop running away from the things that make me happy and I will try to stop feeling like I don't deserve to feel better. I promise.

And if you need proof: I have been listening to a combination of A Beautiful Lie and This Is War on a repeat loop since Into The Wild ended. I think I’m on my twenty-seventh play of Kings and Queens, but who's counting?


My point is this: If you, like me, are currently struggling with something and feeling a little like you have nothing to live for or strive for, remember that there is always a light shining through. Sometimes it comes in the strangest forms, such as your puppy needing to pee, but it's always there. And no matter how you try to squash it, ignore it or put it out, it will find a way to you if you give it enough time. Don't give up. Don't let go. Don't let the darkness or the tentacle-bearing jellyfish with tentacle-teeth have you. You're stronger than that. I promise you that you are stronger than that. And if you need further motivation, consider this:

“You’re certainly not alone. All of us have dark days, including the long-haired hippy here on the screen. We all have lots of dark days, lots of failure, lots of doubt, lots of fear…So you’re certainly not alone. You know, when those moments happen, they’re…They’re…You know, I always think about it as an important part of life, you know. You can’t have the sun without the rainy day, and those rainy days help to make us who we are. You know? It’s usually where we learn the great lessons. It’s hard to remember that in the moment…In the valley. But…It makes life so much richer. Today’s curse is definitely tomorrow’s blessing. That’s what I’ve found many many times over.” 

~ Jared Leto, November 18 2014 on VyRT.



Fight against the tide and swim to the surface. The world looks a lot brighter with your head above the water.


TITLE LYRICS: ‘Out of the dark’ by Radford
Because accurate. I mean…

When the last hope couldn't be known
When the last chance was being alone
When the lights burn down
And you pull me out of the dark
And you pull me out of the dark
Oh, God, how can you see?


How can he see? How can he know? He is like the literal sun. And yes I mean literal. 


Today at the SAG awards.
Oh I love him.
Like seriously, you guys.
I love him so much.
#Lifeline

*Or God, if you believe in God. I do, so when I say The Universe I actually mean Jesus.
**A radar telling me when a wild Leto is about to be appear on VyRT. Like for REAL.
***Bonus points if you have that song stuck in your head now!

****Double bonus if you’re now singing that song :p



I've said it before and I will say it again...





Saturday, 24 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Nineteen

[Excuse me. #WeAreHereForYouJames was worldwide trending last night on Twitter, and while I know it had nothing to do with #SilentScream...I AM FREAKING OUT SO HARD. LIKE HOLY WHAT EVEN. You don't know it yet, but there's a worldwide trending topic in this (not this particular part...Later.) I CANNOT. LIKE I CANNOT.

Ahem. Parts 1-18 can be found here. Thank you for reading Xo]

Officer Black takes them home.

“Grady and I will be back in the morning,” he says, walking them to the door. Two officers will be relieving us for the next shift. We’ll wait until they arrive.”

Michael unlocks the door. James’ head spins and he grips the doorframe to keep from collapsing.

“You gotta eat, man,” Michael says, grabbing his arm for support. “You can’t go on like this. You’ll die.”

James doesn’t answer.

How am I meant to eat or sleep or even breathe without him?

Officer Grady is in the living room when they go inside. He’d stayed back to oversee the forensics team and ensure no-one unauthorised entered the house. Even the agency had been temporarily shut down until the detectives found out who planted the cameras.

There’s a letter on the coffee table in front of him.

“This arrived a moment ago,” he says, gesturing towards it. He looks at James. “The postman delivered it. It’s addressed to you. It could be nothing, just innocent mail, but…”

James shuffles forward. He’s not sure how much more he can take.

“Should I open it?” he asks hoarsely. He reads his name and address on the front, neatly printed on a sticker. There’s a stamp and a postmark.

“Maybe we should call the detectives first,” Officer Black says. “Just in case.”

Michael nods. “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. Come on, J.” He tries to lead him out of the room, but James pulls away and takes a few more steps towards the coffee table.

It’s just a letter, he thinks, staring at it like it might leap up and attack him. It’s probably a bill. An invitation to some shitty Hollywood party. Fan mail. It’s probably nothing to be worried about.

The fear inside his heart tells him otherwise. But he picks it up away and checks the back for a return address. There isn’t one.

“There’s something inside this,” he says, feeling the packaging. “Something long, like a…Like a…”

Finger.

He rips it open.

A finger falls onto the table.

His empty stomach heaves. It takes him a second to realise it is plastic. A novelty USB stick.

“I think we should wait to look at what’s on that until the detectives arrive,” Officer Black says nervously. He pulls out his phone to call Detective Oliver.

James picks it up. Some small part of him tells him he shouldn’t touch it, that there could be fingerprints they can use, but he can’t stop himself. He walks over to his television in a dream-like state and plugs it in. A file comes up.

J_and_A.

“Don’t, brother,” Michael says, but it’s too late. James hits play.

The sound of laughter fills the room.

Alexander’s laughter.

The camera pans out, revealing James and Alexander at Santa Monica beach.

“What’s this ones’ name?” video-James asks, pointing to a large picture Alexander has drawn in the sand.

“Astro Boy!” Alexander yells, giggling. Video-James laughs.

“There’s already an Astro Boy,” he says, brushing some sand out of Alexander’s hair. “Name him something else.”

Alexander sticks his tongue through the gap in this teeth, concentrating. Video-James laughs again.

“I know this day,” James whispers, waking closer to the TV and touching Alexander’s face. “I remember this.”

Alexander’s face lights up. “I know!” he yells, running over to pick up a stick. He bends over and adds to his drawing, using the stick to write in the sand. When he straightens up, video-James reads the word out loud.

“Brother.”

The scene changes to a dark room. Someone is standing right in front of the camera, so close that everything is blurred. After a moment, they shuffle back and come into focus.

They are wearing a stark white mask. Expressionless, like a mannequin.

“Jesus,” Michael says quietly, glancing at James. He is as white as the mask.

“Mr Axton,” the masked person says in the same distorted voice as the phone call. “We trust by now you have found our cameras in your home. That you have tapped your phones and traced our calls.” They tilt their head to the side like this is mildly interesting. “You may think this puts you one step ahead of us, but I can assure you, you haven’t found anything we don’t want you to find.

“You may be asking yourself why this is happening. Why we have had to resort to such extreme measures to have our message heard. Well. We tried the peaceful way. We tried lobbying and protesting and writing letters to our congressman, but it was of no use. It fell onto deaf ears. You are going to make sure we are heard.

“For all too long, people like us have been mocked and degraded. We have been designated as less than human. Hollywood has capitalised on our pain, mocking us at every turn, parodying us, making us the butt of the joke. How many times must the punchline be that the attractive woman making out with the handsome man was actually a transgendered person? How many more Adam’s apple jokes must we endure? When are we going to be viewed as individuals, rather than a subhuman species?

“Up until now we have sat in the shadows. Waiting for our moment. Waiting for the world to accept us for who we are. No more. Your Silent Scream is nothing more than the perpetuation of the stereotypes that have plagued us for all of time. Today is the today we say enough. Today is the day we take back our identities.

“That abomination of a film will not be viewed by anyone. You will see to that. You will ensure that everyone who played a part in its production – the producers, the directors, the cast, the grips, the intern who brought you coffee in the mornings – gathers together within the next three days for a press conference. At that conference it will be announced that Silent Scream will not be released, and each person present at the conference will issue a formal apology to the transgendered community for having any part in its creation. The producer and director of this disgrace will then formally resign from their positions, and you will announce that you will never write another screen play again.

“You may think this is too great a task for one man. You may think we are asking too much. But remember, Mr Axton, we have been watching you. We know the influence you have on people. We understand the,” -- they laugh cruelly – “Axton effect. Your reach extends far. And so does ours.” Through the mask, the eyes narrow. “Have you asked yourself who planted those cameras in your house? Which of your friends, colleagues or employees are our eyes on the inside? Didn’t you wonder why we waited until your phone was tapped to make our first move? Did you ask yourself how we even got inside Jenna’s house? How we got in and out through a locked door with no sign of forced entry?” They take a step forward, getting closer to the camera. “We are everywhere. We are everyone. Even if you find one of us, you will never find us all. We are ten steps ahead of you. You cannot fight us, you cannot beat us, and you cannot stop us. This is not a negotiation, Mr Axton. This is not open for discussion. You have three days from today, December 17. And if you need any extra motivation…”

The masked person steps aside. There’s a tiny figure curled up in the corner of the room.

Alexander.

“Stand up,” another voice commands from behind the camera. Alexander rises to his feet. A dirty Astro hangs from his fingertips. His clothes are damp and torn. There’s a particularly wet patch between his legs.

“What is your name?” the voice behind the camera demands. Alexander sways on his feet.

James’ entire body begins to shake.

“Your name!” the voice shouts.

Alexander sniffs, but his voice is clear and firm. “Alexander Saunders.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m seven.”

“Do you want to live to see eight?”

Alexander looks at the person behind the camera, confused by the question.

“I said,” the voice repeats. “Do you want to be alive on your eighth birthday?”

Alexander’s eyes widen and he nods. The wet patch between his legs grows wetter.

“Then tell your daddy James to do what we ask.”

Alexander straightens up a little. His tiny hands tremble.

“He’s not my daddy. My daddy was a bad man. Just like YOU!”

The camera loses focus for a second, dipping down and filming the grimy floor. Thick, heavy boots come into view as they cross the room. Alexander screams. The sound of a slap hangs in the air.

James wavers, barely holding it together.

The camera is lifted up and adjusted. Alexander comes back into focus. He has his hand on his cheek.

“Tell your daddy James to do what we asked,” the voice behind the camera says again.

Alexander’s bottom lip trembles. He’s lost another tooth.

“James is not afraid of you,” he says, curling his hand into fists. “He’s not afraid of anything.”

The camera loses focus again. Alexander starts to wail, then abruptly stops. He falls to the floor, into the view of the camera lens. His lip is split and bleeding. His eyes are closed.

The camera swings around. Another person in a white mask stares right down the barrel.

“Tick tock, Mr Axton,” they say. “Tick tock.”

The video ends.

James stares at the screen. Everything seems far away. Everything feels unreal.

It’s not real, he thinks. This can’t be real. I’m dreaming. Wake up. Wake up. Wake. Up.

He is vaguely aware of Michael calling his name. Of Officer Black reaching out for him. Of the way Officer Grady is staring at him, watching him.

Dark spots begin to play in his vision. He tries to move, but his limbs refuse to co-operate.

James is not afraid of you. He’s not afraid of anything.

The coffee table seems to leap off the floor and hurtle towards him.

The dark spots grow darker.



Everything fades to black.
******

Friday, 23 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Eighteen

[Parts 1-17 can be found here. Thank you for reading. Xo]


It all happens very quickly.

Several officers wearing gas masks storm the building first, throwing smoke bombs as they go. More follow moments later, raising their guns. It takes everything James has to stay in his seat. He grips the door handle to steady himself as Detective Oliver and Detective Roberts enter the building.

“Easy,” Michael says to him. “Easy.”

For a few minutes, everything is silent. Those minutes seem to last forever.

Then, finally, finally, Detective Oliver and Detective Roberts return.

Alone.

James is out of the car before anyone can stop him. Detective Oliver is shaking her head. The police are still in the building.

James’ heart pounds as he runs towards them, ignoring the shouts from Officer Black to stop.

“Where is he??” he demands breathlessly. “Where is he?!”

Detective Oliver holds up her hands to stop him. “James wait, you can’t go in there, you don’t want to see –”

James tears past her, running blindly towards the building. Hands reach out to stop him but he shoves them out of his way, pushing his way through the police, through the cars, through everything that is keeping him from Alexander. The smoke from the bombs is still clearing when he arrives at the entrance. A group of police officers are huddled inside, examining something. He blinks against the smoke, trying to see. It’s a pile of blankets.

No.

It’s a blanket wrapped around something.

A child.

James’ knees buckle under him but he forces himself forward, forcing his legs to be strong enough to carry him, strong enough to keep him standing when all he wants to do is crumble to the ground. Strong enough for Alexander.

He has to get to him. He has to.

“What kind of fucking whack job does this?” one of the police officers says, taking off his hat. “I hope they give the fucker the chair. I really do.”

“Alexander,” James whispers. The officers all turn to look at him. His legs give way and he falls to the ground, but he keeps going. He stumbles and crawls over to the blanket containing his life, his heart, his entire reason for being.

“Oh shit,” an officer says. “Get him out of here. He shouldn’t see this.”

“Alexander,” he says again. He’s nearly there now. He can see the outline of a body, see a tiny hand peeking out from underneath the blanket.

The blood-soaked blanket.

His stomach heaves.

“Alexander. Alexander. ALEXANDER! ALEXANDER! ALEXANDER!!”

Someone grabs him around the waist, pulling him away. He lashes out violently, trying to get away, trying to get to the body of his boy and hold him one last time.

You’re safe now. I’ll never let anything bad happen to you. Ever.

“LET ME GO!” he screams, attempting to head butt his assailant. “LET ME GO!! ALEXANDER!! ALEXANDER!!!”

The hands loosen and he dives towards the blanket. His hands tremble as he reaches out to pull it back.

“Alexander.” It sounds like a prayer. “Alexander. Please, oh God please.”

He pulls the blanket away.

A blank mannequin’s face stares back at him.

It’s fake.

It’s not real.

It’s not him.

It’s not Alexander.


It’s

not

Alexander.


“Come on,” Detective Oliver says gently, putting her hand on his shoulder. “We need to get this photographed and to the lab.”

“It’s not him,” he whispers. A tear rolls down the bridge of his nose. “It’s not him.”

“No,” Detective Oliver says. “It’s not him. It’s not Alexander. He’s not here.”

James rises unsteadily to his feet. Something like relief washes over him. Then he sees it.

His Astro Boy watch. Strapped to the mannequin’s wrist.

There’s a message written on it in thick, black permanent marker.


TICK TOCK.


******

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Silent Scream: Part Seventeen

[Parts 1-16 can be found here. Thank you for reading]


By the time they arrive, there’s already a swarm of police cars surrounding a decrepit-looking building. James looks around from inside Officer Black’s car. They’re in an old factory lot, long since forgotten. There’s rusted out components of old machinery everywhere. James presses up against the window, straining to see. He spots Detective Oliver and Detective Roberts and unbuckles his seatbelt.

“Hey,” Officer Black starts, but James is already out of the car. He runs over to where the detectives are huddled together with a group of police officers, going over the plan.

“Hey!” Detective Oliver says when she sees him. “You can’t be here!” She turns to Officer Black, who has caught up. “He can’t be here!”

“Come on,” Officer Black says, taking James by the arm.

“Get your hands off him,” Michael says, jogging over to them. He insisted on coming, too. He wasn’t about to let James face whatever was coming alone.

Officer Black backs off. “He needs to stay in the car,” he says defensively. Michael steps between the two of them.

“You won’t touch him,” Michael says. It’s not a request.

Detective Roberts looked annoyed. He turns to Detective Oliver. “Why did you agree to this??” he demands. “You’re breaking protocol! You could be desked for this!”

Detective Oliver ignores him. “Mr Axton,” she says gently. “James. I know you’re scared. I know you want to help. I do. But we can’t go in there if you’re here. It’s not safe for you and it’s not safe for Alexander. Seeing you may cause whoever is in there to act rashly. It’s too risky. I agreed for you to be here against my better judgement under the proviso that you stayed in the car. If you can’t do that, I’ll have to ask Officer Black to take you home. Now I don’t want to do that. I don’t. But I will. Do you understand me?”

James meets her eyes. His body feels like it is made out of jelly.

“Please,” he says. His voice doesn’t even sound like him anymore. His vocal chords are constricted. “Please,” he says again. “I can’t…I can’t lose him.”

Detective Oliver nods. “I know. I know. So let us do our job. Wait in the car. If he’s in there, we’ll bring him out. We’ll find your boy.”

My boy.

James stares at her, noticing what she looks like for the first time. The tiny scar across her right eyebrow. Her thick, tight dark curls. The way she stands as though she’s ready to start running at any moment. The sadness in her eyes.

The emptiness.

“Who?” James asks as it dawns on him. “Who did you lose?”

Detective Oliver blinks. A heaviness seems to come over her.

“My sister.” She holds his gaze. “My kid sister.”

Suddenly James understands why she agreed to let him come. Knows that he can trust her.

“You’ll find him?”

She nods. “I will do everything in my power to bring him back to you. To keep him safe. But you have to let me. You have to let me do my job.”

“Okay,” James says. He takes an unsteady breath in. “Okay.” He turns and walks back to the car, with Michael close behind.



“How did you know?” Michael asks once they are back in the car. “How did you know that she lost someone?”

James watches them through the window. They are preparing to infiltrate the building.

“Grief recognises grief,” he says softly. “I can feel her grief.”

Detective Oliver gestures in the air, telling everyone to get into position. James holds his breath.



You wanted it to begin, he thinks, watching. Waiting. Praying. Hoping for five minutes alone with the fuckers responsible. So it begins.

******