Chapter Thirteen ~
"Jackson, look at this note." Jude shoved it at his friend as if it was possessed by the devil himself.
Jackson took the note and read it. He looked up at Amy and said, "Go out and tell Maria to pack some bags. You can all go down to the cabin until this is over."
"They need someone to guard them, don't they?" Jude asked.
"Yes, they'll need a guard but it has to be someone we know we can trust," Jackson returned.
"I can see if my partner will drive them down. She's an excellent marksman."
"Could you call her, Jude?" Jackson asked. He wanted to get them out of the house before the killer got to them. If she'd managed to get in once she could surely do it again, and it would be easier now that she knew exactly what to do.
Jude called Lauren Estepp and when she answered the phone in a groggy, 'I'm asleep' voice he said loudly, "Lauren, wake-up."
"What is it Jude?"
He walked out into the hallway and said, "I don't have time to go into it right now but could you take Amy and the children down to their cabin in Southern Utah? The killer was in the house and she's threatened their lives. I have to figure out who she is before she hurts them, but I can't do that if they're in danger.”
"I guess I can do that...for my partner." Lauren got up out of the chair she’d been sitting in and pulled her gloves on. She had things to do.
"Thanks Lauren, you don't know what it means to me," Jude said emotionally.
"Oh, I think I do," She returned before ending the call.
Jude went back into Angie’s room where Jackson was holding Amy in such a tender embrace it brought a tear to his eye. He squelched a sliver of jealousy as it rose up to attack him. What kind of person begrudged their friend a loving wife? He cleared his throat to get their attention. “Is everything okay?”
“I have a bad feeling, Jude. I don’t want to go anywhere with Lauren. She gives me the creeps.”
“Amy, I wish you would trust me. I would trust her with my life.” Jude was angry that she was being so obstinate. Not everyone would get up and take someone three hours away in the middle of the night, in the winter.
"Lauren is taking you to the cabin Amy, and that's how it has to be," Jackson finished firmly in exasperation.
Lauren arrived at the Jackson Estate a few minutes later. She waited downstairs while Amy finished last minute packing.
"Amy, are you about ready? Lauren has to be back in time for work in the morning," Jude called to her.
"I'm coming right now," Amy called back as she picked up her bag and headed out the door. She ran into Maria, who was carrying Teenie, and Jude, who was carrying Benji. "We've need to get the little ones out there without waking them up," Amy said softly.
"I know. Benji didn't make a move when I picked him up. He's out like a light."
"Teenie is, too. She's running a slight fever. I think she must be teething," Maria said. "I packed what clothes and toys I could get in their bags, Amy. I can come with you if you need me to."
"Thanks Maria, but the men wouldn't know how to handle not having a woman around to take care of them. If I thought you were in danger, you know I would insist you go."
Jude felt bad that there was a 'thing' between them now. He didn't know what was up with her unless it had to do with her pregnancy. She was like a sister to him, and he loved her dearly. The chasm that lay between them was hurting him as much as it was affecting her. He needed to talk to Jackson about it and see if he could stand in as mediator until they worked out the problem.
"I see how you are," Jude said in a teasing voice.
"How do you see me?" He could hear the anger in hers.
"Why are you angry at me?" He asked. He couldn’t stand her anger a moment longer.
"You didn't 'do' anything Jude, and I'm not angry at you," She answered.
Jackson was out at the SUV waiting on them. He kissed Amy as if she would be gone forever, and helped her in the car. "I love you Amy."
"I love you Jackson," She returned.
"I'll keep in touch. You remember the spots that get reception, don’t you?"
“I do, don’t worry.” They pulled away and headed south.
Lauren followed behind Amy and the children, watching for anyone else who might be watching them. It looked clear to her so she settled back for a boring middle-of-the-night three-hour trip.
Her phone rang and she answered it on the first ring. "Hello?"
"Hey, this is Max. You remember me, don't you?"
"Yes, what do you want?"
"Why didn't you kill those brats?" He asked without preamble.
"It isn't as easy as you think. Those people are all over them, all the time. The president probably doesn't have that much security, it isn't my fault."
"It is your fault. I told you to kill them and you didn't. You know what’ll happen if you don't comply with my wishes." His voice rang in her ear for several minutes afterward.
"Goodbye, Max. This conversation is pointless," She said quietly, and then pushed the end button on her phone. It immediately rang again, and again, and again. He was angry. Oh well, this would all be over soon...
Jackson went to the living room where all the men had gathered. They still hadn't watched the video from the neighbor and they needed to get through it to see if they could tell who it was.
He walked over, picked up the remote and said, "Let's pray we can tell who this is." He pushed the button and watched as the woman walked up to the car, opened the back door and fired on an amazed-looking Justy. She took a step toward the front and methodically shot the two officers in the front seat before they had a chance to react. She turned and pulled off her wig first, and then her gloves. She shook her brown, pixie-style hair and began to walk back the way she'd come. Jude Johnson gasped in horror. "Oh no Jackson, I've made a terrible mistake. That's Lauren."
Jackson looked at it closer, he couldn't tell. "How can you tell so quickly?"
"She's my partner Jack. Even if I didn't recognize her face in that grainy video, I'd recognize that sashay from a hundred miles away. We have to go after them, man."
"Do you mean to tell me we just sent my wife and children away for safety's sake, with the killer?" Jackson asked incredulously.
"Man, your choice in women leaves a lot to be desired," Scott said.
"This isn't a time to play around Scott. That lunatic has my wife." He punched in her number. It rang and rang, but she didn't answer.
"No worries, dude. I took the liberty of tracking both cars." He held up two tracking devices. He turned them around to show them the little red lights were beeping, one right behind the other. "She hasn't done anything yet."
"What made you decide to do that?" Jackson asked. He dialed Amy's number again, but there still wasn’t an answer.
"My sister is a sensible woman, Jack. After all, she married you," Scott said with a smile. "She made it a point to tell everybody she didn't like Jude's partner. She even went so far as to tell you she gave her the creeps, but no one wanted to listen to her. I decided I better track them just in case. It’s totally unlike Amy to feel that way about anybody because she gets along with pretty much everyone. She was even ready to be friends with Justy, remember?"
Jackson leapt across the floor and tackled Scott so hard he almost toppled over. He hugged him ferociously and said, "Thank you Scott. You're a good brother to Amy. I can't say the same about her husband." He let the big man go. “She tried to tell me, but I thought she was just being paranoid, and all along she was right.” He called her yet again, but there still wasn't an answer.
"Man, don't be so hard on yourself. We've all been emotionally strung-out trying to figure this out," Jude said.
Amos came back into the room from outside in a big rush. He'd received a phone call and had stepped out to take it. "I just got a call that the two policemen in the cruiser were in on the abduction of Justy Sanders. They knew what Lauren planned to do to Justy, but she wasn't supposed to kill them. They traced a whole bunch of calls from Lauren’s phone to Justy's, and to the two policemen that were killed. She even left a message on Officer Overstreet's phone telling him the pay had gone up ten-thousand if they could get Justy in their car."
"Did anyone else's number come up?" Jackson asked.
"Yes, there was some guy named Max Sanders on her records. There were over a thousand calls to him in the last six months, and just about as many from him to Lauren's phone," Amos said quietly. "That's a sad thing. I hate it when cops go the wrong way."
"I don't think she just got lost in direction, Amos. I believe she started out bad. She had me totally fooled, just like Justy. Why does she hate me?" He threw his hands up in the air.
"It's hard telling Jude. When it comes to a psychopath, who knows what they think? We know they don't feel anything, at least emotionally, but we don't know what they think, or why they think it," Otis said.
"Max Sanders is Justy's cousin. Or at least that's what they told me at the hospital that day. He seemed really nice and boyish, you know, immature?" Jude said.
"This whole thing is getting weirder by the minute. We need to get on the road and catch up to Lauren before she tries something on Amy and the kids," Jackson said. He didn't wait for a reply but headed to the door. Chester stood there holding his coat out for him. "You need to get some rest Uncle Chester. It's been a long day."
"No longer than yours, my lord," Chester returned as he walked back to the kitchen.
"We’ll go in the SUV,” Jackson said.
"That sounds good to us, boss," Scott said in a funny accent. He was awfully light-hearted for someone whose sister was in the hands of a serial killer.
"Why are you in such a good mood?” Amos asked.
"I don't know, dude. I just prayed to God and asked Him to save my sister, and I have this over-powering urge to believe He’ll do it. I love God, ya know? He's been so good to me."