Sunday, December 9, 2012

Always & Forever - Chapter Two

After climbing out of the Cruiser, Madison started up the sidewalk searching for any signs of Skyler.  The officer stepped off the porch and met her midway along the sidewalk.
"I'm afraid I cannot allow you to come any closer," the officer said.
She nodded.  "I understand.  I live here.  Is my husband already here?"  She opened her purse and found her ID card and passed it to the officer with trembling hands.
He looked it over and handed it back.  "We have not been able to contact Mr. Andrew.  Do you have an alternative contact number to reach him?"
Madison shook her head.  "Home and work is all he has.  I just came from his office."
"Do you know where your husband is?"
Again she shook her head.  "I was hoping he was here.  We were supposed to meet for lunch, but he wasn't at his office when I got there."
The officer narrowed his brown eyes and looked towards the house.  "When was the last time you saw Mr. Andrew?"
"Eight o'clock this morning," she answered, wondering if it was her turn to ask the questions yet.
"I apologize, Mrs. Andrew," he said as he turned back to her.  "I am Officer Reynolds."  He gestured for her to follow, "We have a few more questions, if you'll come with me."
Madison strove to swallow her nervousness.  She walked beside the officer as he started toward the house.  Beyond the broken door she could see two more patrolmen inside.  Their hushed discussion halted when the step moaned under her foot.
"This is Mrs. Andrew," Officer Reynolds announced.  "She has not seen her husband since eight this morning."
The two from inside came closer to the doorway.  "I am Officer Taylor," the taller one with short, brown hair spoke.  "This is Officer Barnes," he said as he gestured to the bald, bulky man beside him.  "Could we ask you a few more questions?"
She nodded.  "Has anyone heard from Skyler?"
"We are trying to contact him," Taylor answered.  He moved as if to say something more, but Madison spoke up.
"His coworker said four men came to the office this morning.  She said they spoke with him, and then he left with them.  She said it was about an hour after he got to the office.  He hasn't reported back since."
Reynolds shifted at the edge of her vision.  Taylor and Barnes exchanged looks.  Madison couldn't tell if that was new information or something they already knew. 
Taylor drew a deep breath.  "Do you know of anyone who would want to harm you or Mr. Andrew?"
She bit her lip to keep her mind from assaulting her with plaguing images of Skyler suffering at the hands of Morgan and his men.  As far as she knew, Morgan and his associates were in custody back in Chicago.  Most have been sentenced to prison terms for their crimes.  But she knew Morgan was still powerful, and his trial had not yet ended.  "There are some," she forced out a whisper.  She looked up and met Taylor's blue eyes.  "Is that what happened?"
"We are considering every angle, ma'am.  Anything you can tell us would be helpful."
"Is that what you think this is?  Someone was looking for us?"
Taylor pursed his lips and looked at his colleagues with a thoughtful expression.  "I don't think this was a robbery," he finally answered.  He looked to Madison and waved for her to follow him.  They went into the house.
The officer pointed at the television and electronics sitting untouched on their stand.  "Valuables are left in plain sight and ignored."
But the rest of the living room was unrecognizable.  The wooden rocker looked as if it exploded.  Splintered shards of it littered the floor.  The couch cushions were ripped open with the stuffing spilled out.  The matching recliner beside it underwent the same abuse; only it was turned on its side in the end.
Turning to the kitchen, Madison gasped at the sight of the table.  The rocking chair must have been practice.  The only reason she knew it was the table was because of the fragments of the candleholder that was once the centerpiece.  One chair looked to have survived the onslaught.  It was knocked over, but the others were dashed to pieces.
Cabinet doors were kicked in.  Light fixtures dangled from stressed wires.  Dishes lay broken and scattered on the floor.
She started down the hall with Taylor following after her.  She hoped he would not stop her.  He did not say a word.
The framed sketches from the bathroom were strewn down the hall.  Madison only glanced at them.  Her interest was aimed at the nursery.
Though she knew the room was a mess to begin with, at least it was a work in progress.  But now, it looked as if they would have to start over completely.  A hole in wall matched the shape of the paint pail.  Its yellow contents were spewed across the carpet.
The crib was even more of a jigsaw puzzle than it had been to begin with.  It was beyond repair.  The rails were snapped in half.  Each side panel resembled the mess that was left of the table.  Madison's hands went to her tummy as her stomach rolled at the sight of the catastrophe.
With Taylor right behind her, she stepped away from the nursery and turned to the bedroom.  It, too, was ravaged.  Clothes were pulled from the closet and dresser, torn apart, and thrown about the room.  Pictures from the walls laid on the floor in pieces.  Curtains were ripped from their rods.  The bed looked to have been given the same treatment as the couch and recliner.
Among all the carnage, a reflecting light caught her eye.  It flickered from beneath the bed.  She crossed the floor, got down on her hands and knees, and reached for it.  Her fingers searched for a way to grip the smooth, cool surface.
Finally catching hold of its corner, Madison sat back and gazed at the dropped laptop.  Cracks now ornamented it's casing.  She would be amazed if it still ran.  The status light showed that it had power.  Perhaps it was spared from too much damage.
She carefully opened the screen and pressed her finger against the engraved power button.  It came to life.  After its usual boot-up screen, a black and white photo of her standing in the frothing waves glowed as the background.  Icons appeared in rows on the right-hand side of the image.
Officer Taylor leaned over her shoulder.  "It still works?"
Madison gave a hesitant smile.  "So far.  But I don't know for how long.  It took quite a fall."  She guided the screen closed.  "Is it okay if I take it with me?"
The officer straightened with his eyes peering at the machine she held.  "I will check with my supervisor.  We might have to take a look at it, but I bet you can have it back today."
She passed the sleeping laptop to Officer Taylor.  He took it in one arm, and offered her his other.  She let him help her stand.  "I'll get the bag," she said.
Watching where she stepped, she made her way to the closet.  All the items on the top shelves were left alone.  Thus, the laptop bag was easy to find.  She pulled it down and carried it to Taylor.
"You said there were those you believe would try to harm you or your husband.  Would you be willing to fill out a statement?"
Madison gently slid the laptop into the cushioned bag.  "Yes," she answered quietly as she zipped the bag closed.  Turning it over the Officer Taylor, she met his kind eyes.  "Do you think that's where Skyler is?  It's not like him to disappear like this."
"Let's fill out that statement," he said with an understanding nod.  "We'll see if we can't locate Mr. Andrew."
Keeping her eyes on her feet, Madison left the bedroom.  She wanted to be out looking for Skyler.  Yet, she had no idea where to begin.  There was still that quiet little hope that he was in a meeting somewhere.  It was doubtful, but a hope nonetheless, and she clung to it.
Officer Barnes was waiting in the living room.  He looked to Taylor.  "I'm going to take her statement," Taylor said.  Barnes nodded.
The officers led her past the broken door and out to the front porch.  She sat on the step while Taylor walked to one of the patrol cars and reached in its open window.  He then turned back to the house with a clipboard in his hand.
"If you could give us some names of individuals you think might have done this, that would be a good start."
Madison took the clipboard from him.  It held a ruled sheet of paper.  She felt as if it was waiting for her to gush about their less than savory past.  She tried to think of the right words.  She knew she needed to name Morgan, but how would she do so without reflecting a negative light on Skyler or herself?
She didn't need to mention that Skyler broke into the depository she worked for and kidnapped her after she was shot.  And that he patched her up in his apartment bathroom.  Nor did she need to mention she took the diamond from Lake View Depository for safekeeping.  It would probably be for the best that she left out the part where Skyler worked as a frontman for Morgan, and that he made a living by practically stealing from others.  Then there was the event where he drove his vehicle off a bridge to fake his own death.  He had since cleared things up back in the States, but there were still some sore feelings on the matter.
"Names," she muttered to herself.
"Any at all," said Taylor.  "Can you give us one, for starters?  What's the first name to pop into your head when you think of what has happened?"
"Morgan Geoff Bristow."  But the pen in her hand did not ink his name on the paper.  She had not spoken it in a long while, but she would never forget that name.
"All right," Officer Taylor nodded.  "Go ahead and write it down.  We will start with that one."
"He's in Chicago," she offered without his asking.  "But he has men who work for him and do his dirty work.  The only one I know by name is already in prison."
"Mrs. Andrew…"
She looked up and met the curious gaze of Officer Taylor.
"Is there anything we should know about your or Mr. Andrew's past?"
Hanging her head, Madison stared at the clipboard waiting in her hands.  It was her hope that their past could stay buried away.  They paid for their mistakes.  They moved on.  Their quiet, new life was more than she expected.  She should have never grown contented.
She took a deep breath, ready to fill the officer in on her and Skyler's past deeds, but before she could utter a word, the sound of an approaching vehicle caught her and Taylor's attention.
A blue pickup truck sped up the road.  As it drew close to the house, it came to a sliding stop in the grass beside the road.  It was Skyler's boss, Richard.
The older man with a long, gray ponytail stepped out of the truck.  He stood tall with his perfect posture.  He wore denim shorts and a Hawaiian style shirt with the top three buttons undone.  Even though Richard owned one of the busiest travel agencies in the area, he always looked like he was on vacation with his flip-flops as his trademark.
"Madison," he called from across the yard.  "Are you all right?"
She nodded and got to her feet.  "Yes, Richard.  Thank you.  Have you heard from Skyler?"
He met her halfway down the sidewalk.  "Can we talk inside?"
Madison nodded again.  She studied his tanned face in search for any hints as to what kind of news he carried.  Whether it was good or bad, he hid it well.
She walked with Richard up the steps and Officer Taylor stepped aside as they came to the porch.  The three then went inside the house.
Richard's expression changed as they passed what was left of the front door.  His eyes widened when he took in the sight of the rest of the house.  Madison wanted to rush him, but bit her lip and awaited his news.
"I'm Officer Taylor," he said as he stepped forward offering his hand.  "And you are?"
"Richard Mays."  He glanced at the officer and shook his hand.  His gaze then shifted back to the living room before them.  "Skyler Andrew is my employee.  He and Madison are like family to me.  What is going on?"
Officer Taylor looked to Madison.  She nodded in agreement with Richard in hopes of Taylor letting Richard know all they did.  He still seemed reluctant.  "Do you have some information on Mr. Andrew's whereabouts?"
The older man snapped out of his daze.  "I do," he said as he moved closer to Madison.  He put a hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze, then looked to Officer Taylor.  "I got a phone call from Les at the marina.  You see, he was prepping one of my boats for Skyler and me to work on tonight.  He called to see if I was still coming even though Skyler got onto a yacht with a group of men and left."  Richard turned to Madison.  "Les checked their papers when they first arrived.  They were from Illinois, but the boat was a rental from Miami."
Madison's head was spinning.  "When?  How long ago did they leave?  Can we catch up with them?"  Looking between Richard and Taylor did not give her the encouragement she so badly needed.
Richard frowned.  "It was three hours ago.  Even if it wasn't, none of my boats would be able to keep up with a craft like that."
"Does Les still have the boat's registration numbers?" asked Officer Taylor.
Richard shifted.  "Yes.  He has a few names as well.  He was running them when he called me."
Taylor nodded.  "Thank you," he said as he patted Richard's arm.  "I'll see if we can get some men down to the marina to check things out."
The officer turned and walked out of the house.  Officer Barnes followed him to a patrol car.  Taylor looked to be filling Barnes in on the information Richard offered.
Madison stared at the officers as her mind ran in circles.  She knew what happened.  She knew from the very beginning, but she hoped otherwise.  Morgan found them.  He probably knew all along where they were.  Even though his company was disbanded and he was in the middle of a messy trial, he had enough power to reach out and take Skyler and Madison down with him.  There was no running.  Morgan always won.
She didn't know where to start.  Should she go after them?  Would she be able to find them before they took Skyler to Chicago?  And if she didn't, what were the chances of bringing him back home without trouble?
She startled when Richard touched her arm.  "Here," he said.  He had brought the lone surviving chair from the kitchen and set it beside her.  "I think you should sit down, Madison.  Have you had something to eat?"
Doing as he suggested, she shook her head and tried to puzzle together the situation.  "They will take him to Chicago," she said mostly to herself.  "Chase."
With that, Madison was up and moving.  She needed to get in touch with Chase.  He might be able to help out.  He could at least keep an eye out for Skyler.  Maybe he would know where to start.
The cordless phone that was once on the counter rested on the other side of the room with what was left of a fruit basket.  She picked it up.  The red power light blinked below the keypad.  It still worked.
Madison dialed Chase's number.  It was on speed dial, but she was not thinking that far ahead.  She knew the number by heart.  Holding the phone to her ear, she impatiently listened for it to ring.
Four rings.  She began tapping her foot nervously when he answered just before the fifth ring.
"What took you so long?" Chase started in.  "I thought you would call yesterday.  Have you quit checking your email and your messages?"
"Chase."  She struggled to find what to say.  "It's me.  Are you busy?"
"Madison?  Hey, how've you been?  Can I talk to Skyler?"
His asking did not register.  "Chase, I think I need your help.  I think Morgan found us.  Skyler's gone.  They found him."
Silence.  That was not what she expected.
"Chase?"
"Yeah," he answered.  "I'm here.  I'm thinking."  He muttered a few choice words to himself.  Madison waited for him to go on.  "When was this?  Did he get my messages?"
"He's been gone for three hours now.  He said last night that he was going to call you this morning.  It was late when he got your email.  What was it?"
She was answered by another string of mumbled words.  The sound of rustling papers followed.  "I know that's not the only one he got."
"Chase?"  He continued talking to himself.  Madison started to pace.  He was only adding to her frustration.  Her stomach turned and her heart felt as if it were about to climb out of her chest.  What kind of message did Skyler put off?
She found the laptop bag where Officer Taylor left it at the door.  Sitting against the wall, she pulled the battered computer from the bag.  She set it on her lap and opened the screen.
It took ages for the email to open.  The inbox was empty.  Madison typed "Chase" into the search box and hit enter.  That recalled about a dozen messages.  She clicked on the one from the night before.
"If three hours have passed," Chase finally returned to the conversation, "that means he would be getting in here either late tonight or early tomorrow.  Surely they would fly him in."
"Call me as soon as you get this," Madison read aloud.  "A warrant has been issued for your arrest.  There is a reward offered to whoever brings you in.  From what I've heard, Morgan Bristow hired a team of bounty hunters …
"Chase, how long ago was this?"
"I only found out yesterday," he answered in a defensive tone.  "The lady at the front desk said someone was asking about a forwarding address.  She told them there wasn't one, but she said they kept asking for it.  I did some checking around and spoke with your detective friend, Payne.  He said that his hands are tied."
"So that's it?  They can just come and arrest him?  There's nothing we can do?"
"Madison, you can't fight a warrant!  Payne said he warned him it might come.  Bristow's defense team was really pushing for it.  I think they dug something up.  Skyler was supposed to contact Payne a week ago.  Payne was trying to help him."
She was dumbfounded.  Had Skyler known about the warrant for that long?  Did he not think they would come so far to find him?  "What do we do?"
"I don't know for sure.  There isn't much we can do.  I'll see if I can borrow one of Dad's attorneys.  They are usually looking to pin someone, so this would be a change of pace.  I'll keep track of the documented arrests and let you know as soon as I hear something."
Madison closed the laptop, set it aside, and then held her face in her hands.  She was horribly helpless.  The distance between them was quickly growing.  She knew as soon as Skyler was in the States, he would be out of her reach.  She was out of options.  "Could you give me Payne's number?  I want to call him."
"He can't do anything," Chase said.  He sounded sympathetic.  "He has already done all he can."
"I can't sit here, Chase …"
"You don't have much choice," he cut her off.  "I don't mean to place the blame, but Skyler had fair warning.  We've already missed our chance."  He waited as if he expected her to argue his point.  "Besides," he started with a softer tone, "you have to look after yourself.  Skyler wouldn't want to do anything to risk you and the life you two are working for.  Maybe he let it happen.  Maybe he knew you would be safest there."
A firm hand came to Madison's shoulder.  She flinched, and looked up.  Richard waited beside her, bent over, and offering a paper plate with a ham and cheese sandwich on it.  Her nervous stomach turned once more.  If morning sickness was worse than an anxious stomach, she wasn't sure she was ready to start a family.
"You need to eat something," he said quietly.
Chase sounded anxious once again.  "Who's there?"
Madison adjusted her hold on the phone.  "Do you remember Richard?"
"Yeah."
"He's here.  He's the one who told us Skyler left with those men."
"Who’s us?"
She puffed out a tired sigh.  "The police.  They're trying to do their job."
"The police are at your house?  Did they come looking for Skyler?'
"No," she said in a whisper in attempts to keep her temper from flaring.  "The house was broken into."  She glanced at the mess around her.  "They were trying to find Skyler to let him know."  There was nothing in return.  "They trashed the house, Chase.  Whoever took Skyler trashed our house.  Even the baby's room."
"They were at the house?  You can't stay there."
"I know," she shook her head.  "I'll figure something out.  Just look for Skyler.  You might be close enough to help him.  I need you to do whatever you can."
Chased muttered something under his breath.  Madison didn't bother catching what it was.  "Do you trust Richard?" he asked.
"Yes."
"Lemme talk to him.  Hand him the phone."
Madison raised her eyes to the man beside her once again.  "Chase wants to talk to you," she said slowly.  "Is that okay?"
Richard sat against the wall.  "Of course."  He passed the sandwich to Madison as she gave him the phone, and then put his arm around her.  "Everything's going to be fine."
She nodded in understanding.  It was a lot to ask for.  She knew it was not as easy as he wanted her to believe.  She knew the odds were against them.  They were fighting from the wrong side of the law.
Richard did more listening than talking.  Madison strained to catch what Chase was telling him, but she was not able to make much.
Deciding to put all her faith in the two, she did her best to relax against Richard.  Her knees ached as if she ran for miles.  Her back was tense, and she rolled her shoulders to ease it.  Richard started to massage the back of her neck at the movement.
She looked to him and was met by an encouraging wink.  As Chase continued to rattle in his ear, Richard's eyes shifted randomly about the room with repeated checking glances back at Madison.  She knew she was making him worry, so she gave her attention to the sandwich.  Thankfully, her cranky stomach didn't fight it too much.
Her mind easily wandered.  Wherever Skyler had gone to, her heart and thoughts were with him.  She felt as if a part of her was missing.  She had grown accustomed to his nearness.  He was always there.  He was her heart and soul.
Madison's hand went to her rolling tummy.  She needed to keep her anxiety under control.  It would most likely take awhile to muddle through their newest hardship.  She needed to weather it as best she could.  She wished she was more like Skyler when it came to nerves.  He was as steady as a rock.
"I've got her."  Richard's arm tightened around her.  "I'll make sure she is taken care of."
She matched his forced smile, wondering if he would still offer his help if he knew about their past.  They cleaned out small businesses like his.  She remembered the process even still.  The difference now was that she refused to employ it.  If only there was a way to unlearn such experiences.
"I understand," Richard nodded.  "I'll let you know if we learn anything new."  He nodded again.  "Thank you, Chase.  Good bye."
Madison turned to him.  She didn't ask what was said.  The look on his face told that he was still processing all he heard.  He would fill her in when the time came.
"First things first," he said with a stronger smile.  "Let's get you a bag packed.  You're coming home with me."
She failed to hide her dislike of the idea.  Her brows knitted as she shook her head.  She was not yet ready to leave the house.  A part of her still hoped Skyler would walk through the open doorway.  He would not abandon her like that.
Richard gave a sympathetic chuckle.  "It's okay, Madison.  We're going to straighten this out."  He gave her another squeeze.  "But you need to rest.  This is not a good place for you to be at the moment."
His smile never wavered as he stood.  "Come on," he said as he held out his hand.  "Let's see what we can find."
Her chest tightened at the thought.  She was leaving her home.  And she was leaving without Skyler.  They had not spent a single night apart since the day they escaped Morgan.
Placing her hand within his, Madison rose beside him.  She forced a smile when he patted her back.  Taking a deep breath, she went on her way to pack an overnight bag.
It was a mindless process.  She found a duffle bag on the floor of the closet.  The only difficulty in gathering clothes was finding those that were not torn apart.  She folded them neatly as if they were not already wrinkled.
Richard collected a few tools from the nursery with the intent to fix the front door.  Madison ignored the sounds of a pounding hammer and breaking wood coming from the living room.  She was grateful for him to take the initiative.  Being able to lock up her home was furthest from her mind.
The bag was not even close to being full when she zipped it up.  Hearing the continuous hammering, she assumed Richard was not yet ready to go.  Madison set her duffle by the bedroom door and went back to gathering clothes.
She sorted them into piles.  Most were beyond help.  Others could be sewn up or fixed by replacing buttons.  A very small amount made it to the good pile.
Once the floor was cleared of clothes, she turned her attention to the broken picture frames.  She picked up as much of the glass as she could by hand.  Her trembling fingers did not cooperate enough for her to pinch the slimmer shards.
She left the remains of the white linen curtains.  It was a depressing sight.  The ones still hanging were tattered and torn with the scraps of the less fortunate rumpled beneath the windows.
Madison's eyes focused beyond the naked windows.  The white sandy beach and blue water beckoned her.  They remained as innocent and unspoiled as the first day she laid eyes on them.
She stepped out the back door without a sound, and was oddly comforted to see the chaise lounges and swinging bench were just as she left them.  Skyler's blue surfboard was even propped up against the side of house behind the bench.  That made her smile.
He brought the silly board home less than a month after they moved in.  It was from Richard.  Skyler helped him paint one of his older boats and Richard offered to pay him in return, but Skyler wouldn't have it.  Knowing Skyler had his eye on a board at the marina, Richard gave him one from his collection.
The waves were rarely big enough to surf, but Skyler wanted a board nonetheless.  He claimed that living on an island entitled him to owning one.
She chuckled to remember how often he used the board.  He took it with him every time he went snorkeling.  It would hold his finds while he explored the clear waters.
Only several times did it play the role of an actual surfboard.  She and Skyler kept track of the weather conditions and storm surges of the island.  Most of the attempts did not pan out.  But a handful of trips resulted in just the kind of waves he was looking for.
He would stay in the water as long as the weather permitted.  Madison kept her feet planted firmly in the sand.  She was beyond content to watch him from the shores.  No matter how far out he went, she could pick his smile out of the swarm of surfers.
"Are you ready to go?"
She didn’t hear Richard come up behind her and flinched at his nearness.
"I didn't mean to startle you," he said softly.  "We can wait a little longer if you want."
She shook her head and glanced back at him.  He carried her duffle bag over his shoulder.  "I'm ready."
He gave a nod and turned to the door.  Its hinges whimpered a moan as he opened it.  Richard stepped aside, holding the door for her.
Taking another longing look at their peaceful beach, Madison swallowed a frown.  Their little piece of paradise was lost.  Yes, it could be repaired, but the security was gone.  It was no longer the haven she thought it to be.
Officer Reynolds stood waiting by the font door.  He held out the laptop bag when she came near.  "Taylor said to let you take this with you.  Someone will contact Mr. Mays if we need anything further."
She took it with a smile, impressed by the officers treating her with nothing but kindness.  She appreciated their patience and tact.  She hoped that with their learning of her and Skyler's past, that the officers would still have a good opinion of them.  "Thank you.  And thanks for all your help."
Richard's hand came to her back.  He guided her down the stairs and on to the sidewalk.  "Any stops you want to make?"
Her thoughts did not go beyond the placement of her feet.  She shook her head.  All wants and needs seemed to blur.  She needed and wanted, more than anything, to bring Skyler home.  Everything else could wait.
Richard walked her to his truck.  Once she was in, he shut the door and turned to the officers by the patrol car.  Each took a turn in speaking.  Madison heard nothing of their conversation.
Shaking hands with each officer, Richard then went to his truck.  As he climbed in, there was a paternal kindness in his eyes.  It was a relief of sorts for Madison.  She was not as acquainted with the man as Skyler had become, but she knew of his generosity.  Now she feared his disapproval.  Not that she wanted or expected handouts, but because Skyler confided so much in Richard.  He looked up to him.  He trusted him.  Would Richard shun him when he discovered what they were running from?
Starting the pickup and putting it in gear, Richard looked to Madison and caught her staring.  He gave a curious smile, then pulled out onto the road.
"You don't have to tell me anything," he said with a warm and caring tone, "But judging by how calm you are with what has happened, this is something you two were expecting.  I don't know what anyone would have against the two of you, and I want you to know that you don't have to accept it.  You have options, Madison."
She was slow to form a reply.  Her eyes locked on her hands tightly clasped in her lap.  "I'm not sure what options we have.  It's kind of late to fight back."
"Not necessarily."
Madison's gaze shifted to Richard.  He didn't look away from the road.  "What can I do?"
His eyes narrowed as he drew a deep breath.  "You already know where they are taking him.  Right?"
She nodded.  "I think so.  Probably Chicago."
"Do you know anyone there who could help?  Anyone besides Chase?"
Turning to the window beside her, Madison watched a row of palm trees zip by.  She knew few people back in Chicago, none of which that could help her with the situation.  Even if they could, she was reluctant to call on them.  She would not want to burden them with her self-induced problems.  She would only drag them down with her.  "No one."
"But there is this detective who knows what is going on.  How well do you know him?"
"I've never met with him," she said with a shrug.  "Skyler worked with him for awhile before we moved here.  He's only spoken with him a few times since.  I don't think he will do much for us.  He's already gotten what he needs from Skyler."
"But you've never met him?  Would he know who you are?"
"He knows of me.  I know he's tried contacting me, but Skyler didn't want me involved in the investigation.  He was afraid of them coming after me."
Richard cocked his head.  "Do you think he's right?  Will they pull you in as well?"
Madison bit her lip with a weak nod.  "I'm already in it.  I was the one who got Skyler involved."
"So you know just as much as he does?"
"Maybe," she answered carefully.  "I know things from a different angle.  And he ended up being involved longer than I was."
"Would anything you have to say damage his case in anyway?"
"I don't think so."  She shook her head.  "It would give them more against me.  That's what he was avoiding.  But if that's what needs to be done."
Richard tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.  "Do you think the detective will work with you?"
"I may not have anything he wants.  I think Skyler knew more of what he wanted.  I need to find someone who knows what exactly Skyler did, not just hearsay."
"Would you know where to start looking?"
She shook her head.  "Not really.  I know some of the cities he had jobs in, but not much more than that.  He never liked talking about it much."
"But that's a start," Richard said with a nod.  "You might be able to find someone who knows something.  Anything will help.  If they used bounty hunters to bring him to the States, that tells me they did not have enough to have him extradited"
His reasoning was sound.  Of what she knew of a conversation Skyler had with Detective Payne, Morgan's defense was pulling to have Skyler brought in.  His written statement dealt a blow.  The only chance they had to counter it would be to sully his name.  Paint him just as much of a criminal as Morgan and his statement would lose its strength.
"I need to go there," Madison said aloud.  "I need to go to Chicago."
Richard glanced at her with wide eyes.  Perhaps she misjudged his meaning.  "What would Skyler say?" he asked.
She did not even have to think about the answer.  "He wouldn't like it.  He'd probably be against it.  But what if no one else is trying to defend him?  I mean, actually stand up for him."
"Well," he gave a slow nod, "I see what you mean.  But would it do you any good to put yourself in the middle of it?  What if they courts turn on you as well?"
"I can't sit by and let them prosecute him like one of Morgan's men.  Yes, he worked for him, but he didn't have much choice.  Anyone who knows him could attest to that."
"I agree that you need to find someone who knows him," said Richard with a cautious tone.  "But can you do that from here?  What happens if you get into trouble stateside?"
No one would come to her aide either.  She and Skyler would undoubtedly be tagged along with the rest of Morgan's group.  Perhaps they should be.  After all, they once followed him.  They shared in his crimes.
She knew it would be a risk.  It did not seem like much of one compared to the risks they took in the past.  Skyler would not hesitate to do the same for her.  She would not want him to come, but he would do so anyway.  She was no different.
Madison kept her thoughts to herself.  She could tell Richard would not readily agree to her leaving for the States.  His tense brow said that much.
"Oh," he said at her continued silence, "Skyler had mentioned that he was nearly finished with the nursery.  He's getting pretty excited."
"Yeah," she answered with a shy smile, "There wasn't much left, but I think we're going to have to start over now."
Richard chuckled.  "Not completely.  It's nothing we can't handle.  I've had boats in worse shape."  His reaction strengthened her smile.  "Don't worry about the house," he went on, "We'll have that fixed up in no time."
It was not the repairs she fretted.  She knew the house could be pieced back together in a reasonable amount of time.  What bothered her was the fact that the ghosts they worked so hard to escape had caught up with them.  "Thank you," she said.  "And I know Skyler appreciates all your help today."
Richard shook his head.  "You guys don't have to thank me.  I like you two.  I don't want anything to happen to you."
Madison only answered by reaching over and giving his arm a pat.  He smiled while keeping his eyes on the road.

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