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Chapter 9
The First Days

         "What are we going to do for light?" Elizabeth quizzed Logan curiously.  "It's starting to get really dark and there's no electricity in here.  That's kind of funny too, there are light bulbs in every room.  But none of them work."

        "Yeah, I noticed that.  The owners must bring a portable generator with them, I looked around for a power supply earlier, but it wasn't to be found," the fireman answered.  "Did you see any candles or lanterns or anything in the cabinets?"

        "I saw a couple of candles in a drawer in there, but I didn't see any matches.  Hey, there was a cigarette lighter in one of the bags over there."  Elizabeth slipped out of the dingy overstuffed armchair that she was cradled in and ambled toward the front entry door where the duffle bags still lay on the floor.

        She rummaged intently through one of the bags and, with a disgusted look on her face, finally said "The hell with it," and dumped the contents onto the worn wooden floor.  "Shit!  Like looking for a needle in a haystack," the girl replied emphatically to herself.  "I know damned good and well it's in this bag.  Scattering the bits of clothing and personal effects farther and farther from her, she diligently picked up each item, looked it over and tossed it irreverently aside into another yet unoccupied spot.  "Here it is!" she exclaimed at last and held the lighter up for Logan to see in the dim light.

        Elizabeth sparked the lighter several times with her thumb before it leapt up into a bright yellow flicker.  "Yeah," she stated, holding the flaming piece of plastic up as if it were an Olympic torch.  She released the button, letting the flame die into the  deepening gloom.  Quickly, the excited girl made her way into the small kitchen area to retrieve the candles that were spotted earlier.

        Logan heard the slight squeak of a drawer closing and saw a brightening glow as Elizabeth lit the candles that she had found.  "Should we be using any lights?" Amanda asked worriedly.  "Those guys can probably see a light through these windows a long way off!  They would know we are out of our bindings and would be ready to capture us again.  Or worse!"

        "It's still pouring rain outside, I don't think they'll be back any time soon.  We'll just use a couple of candles for a little while.  I'm exhausted, I'm going to have to get some sleep soon anyway," Logan answered her honestly.  "Just those two candles, Liz."  He settled back into his seat.  A memory of Morgan shot unexpectedly through his mind like an arrow through his heart.

        Suddenly, the pining captive felt all alone and hollow.  Loneliness settled around him like a cold wind.  Logan desperately wanted to be with Morgan.  Or, at least hear her loving voice.  Everyone back home must be really worried by now.  He had promised Morgan that he would call that morning.  "God, it seems like an eternity since this morning," he whispered to himself, dejectedly shaking his head.

        "What?" Amanda asked from her window perch.

        "Oh, nothing," Logan answered.  "Just thinking about today and how it seems like weeks have gone by since all this has happened.  I left my girlfriend this morning and promised that I'd call her as soon as I thought she was awake.  She must be worried sick by now.  I already miss her a lot.  Guess I'm just madly in love with the woman or something."

        "Just like a man," Amanda answered weakly.  "Sleep with you then not call you back like they promised.  I mean, they'll use anything for an excuse.  Even going and getting themselves kidnapped.  Really!"  She forced a slight smile, trying to ease the tension of the moment, never turning from her perch.  It was the first smile that Logan had ever seen from her.  "Well, that's three things that I know about you.  You're a fireman, you're Logan and you've got a girlfriend.  Any other mysteries that we should know?  Like, do you murder people in their sleep?  Or do you rape and abuse helpless women?  Or, worst of all, do you snore?"

        Logan chuckled softly.  It was another of those times that he would do just about anything to shift attention off of his plight.  "I don't think so," he replied lightly, attempting to stay in the spirit of easing the tenseness.  "Except for maybe the snoring part.  Funny thing though, it doesn't ever bother me.  My girlfriend, Morgan, hasn't complained either, not yet anyway."  A little light heartedness at the right moment, even if it were forced, could always help pull them all out of the gutter.  Fear and depression is nothing but a hindrance, he reminded himself.  Come on, Logan, me boy, get on top of this feeling.  Being overwhelmed by an experience doesn't help matters in the least bit!

        Elizabeth walked slowly out of the kitchen with a burning candle in each hand.  "Now, where am I supposed to put them?" she questioned, looking for a likely spot.  " Where are the candelabras?  I've got to put them somewhere.  Shit!" the girl responded as one of the candles melted wax onto her hand.  She carefully softened the butt end of one of the candles with the other's flame and stuck it to the worn end table.  "It's not going to catch fire is it?" she asked, looking to Logan for a fireman's opinion.

        "I hope not," was all he could answer.  "Just blow the candle out before it completely reaches the bottom."

        "You know, Amanda was right. We don't know anything about you and you don't know anything about us," Elizabeth commented, placing the second candle on the same table.  "We know each other's names and that's about it.  I, at least, would like to know who I'm kidnapped with.  Maybe we can find something that will help us get out of here.  At least it might make the waiting a little more bearable."

        "Okay, you know I'm Logan Keohane.  You know I'm a firefighter, obviously from the uniform.  Now you know that I have a girlfriend, named Morgan, whom I'm madly in love with.  What else do you want to know?" the fireman asked sincerely.  He watched as Elizabeth sat on the end of the musty couch, wrapping herself tightly in the old Afghan.

        "Why were you kidnapped with us?  I mean, it's pretty obvious why we're here, but why are you?" Amanda questioned, momentarily shifting her gaze from her diligent watch onto Logan.

        "I guess that I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or at least my truck was," he responded with a shake of his head.  "I was on my way to work when I saw this van broken down on side of the road. . . ." the storyteller related his adventure up to this point.  "Now what about you.  Why were you brought here?"

        "You mean you can't figure that one out?  It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that this guy's out for money.  Our father is very well off and this guy just wanted to get what he could out of him.  We both go to Texas A&M University.  We were on our way home from a frat party when this guy pulls up in a raggedy ass van, pulls out a gun and orders us to get in.  I thought we were goners, but this jerk obviously just wants his bucks," Amanda related.

        "Oh, that explains why he picked us up and moved us.  That old van obviously broke down just then and he had just gotten hold of your truck," Elizabeth added.  "He definitely isn't the most tender, sensitive guy that I know.  He banged me around pretty good."

        "Anyway, our father is Roland Krause.  You've probably heard of him.  He owns an oil company, a TV station, a couple of car dealerships, you know, that sort of thing," Amanda broke in and continued.  "He'll probably pay the guy a million bucks or so and get us back in a couple of days.  That is, if this infernal rain will ever stop."  She stopped and listened to the sound of the softly falling rain on the roof, then continued with a deep sigh.  "Now we'll never hear the end of it, how daddy had to give up some of his precious money for his wayward daughters!  I mean since mom died I bet we haven't seen the guy ten times!  And we live in the same House!  Maybe that's why he bought a place with thirty seven rooms, then shipped us both off to college!  He wouldn't have to deal with us."

        "Oh, Amanda, he's not that bad.  Daddy spends as much time as he can with us.  I know he loves both of us, it's just hard for him to say so.  I'm sure he's in hysterics right now trying to figure out where we are and if we're alright.  And I  know I will get home alive and tell him I love him!" Elizabeth groaned, suddenly on the verge of tears.  "Then you'll see!  Our father loves us and will do anything for us!  Right now, though, I'm  scared to death!  What's going to happen to us when these guys get back and find us free?  I really do want to get home.  I know I always call Amanda a worry wart but this kidnapper guy really scares me.  I don't want anything to happen to me.  I've still got too much I want to do with my life."  A tear streamed down the right side of the shaking girl's face, followed by a second on the left.  "I've been trying hard to stay together.  You know, be strong, be. . . I've about reached my limit!"

        Silence enveloped them like a cold mist on a foggy morning.  The dashed hopes and prevalent fears of all three of them suddenly hit home at once.  Logan watched Elizabeth staring into the flame of the candles, letting the tears run freely down her face to fall onto the musty floor.  Logan wished he could cry, it would probably be a huge relief.  Being a firefighter had taught him to stay detached, unemotional, apart from what was happening.  It took an alert, responsive mind to act without hesitation in an emergency situation. Making those kinds of decisions didn't allow for emotional entanglement.  They only hindered reaction time, causing dangerous situations needlessly.  Problem was, the lad no longer knew how to release the emotions that were held back.  The feelings built up and packed in until, at times, Logan felt he could just explode from the psychic strain on the walls surrounding him.

        Amanda just stared out of the blank, darkened window.  Her breathing was erratic and forced, Logan noted, followed by several heavy sighs.  Occasionally, the older sister would discretely wipe away the trail of an errant tear from her cheek.  Hmm, the strong , silent, do it myself type, he reasoned, trying to shift his focus off of himself and onto something outside.  The problem was, the pained young man was just feeling too crushed and alone.  His thoughts overcame him before the reeling lad could stop them.

        An idea suddenly developed in Logan's thoughts, kind of a download of information from some Cosmic awareness.  There are no accidents.  Was he placed in this situation by some higher power to actually help these girls survive?  He really doubted that they could manage very well on their on.  Wow, just what he wanted to be, some kind of a savior, he chided himself mentally.  Yeah, I'm a true public servant alright.  Problem is I'm kind of going above and beyond the call of duty on this one!

        A smile actually came to Logan's face.  He felt kind of silly smiling like the Cheshire cat with everyone else in such a depressed state.

        "Hey, what's so funny over there, Bozo?  You want to let us in on you're little secret?" Amanda accosted him belligerently.

        "Oh, nothing.  I just had a funny thought is all."  Logan answered pensively.

        "Well, don't you know how to share?" the elder sister retorted.

        "It's nothing really.  Just a personal joke to myself."

        Amanda just glared at Logan contemptuously.  She eventually looked toward her younger sister who just stared into the deepening evening.  "Hey sis, you okay?"

        "Yeah, just wonderful.  Elizabeth answered softly.  "Funny thing is I was just thinking that if we were back at school right now I'd probably be doing the exact same thing I'm doing right here."  The girl forced a solemn smile.

        "I'm pretty zonked right now and I think I'm going to find a place to crash for a while," Logan interjected exhaustedly, slowly standing up.  "Goodnight."

        "Hey, Conan, are you going to stand your turn at watch?  We don't want anyone sneaking up on us in the middle of the night," Amanda questioned him sternly.

        "No one is going to be back here tonight," he retorted flippantly.  "There's no way that they could get through this swamp in the dark even if they did make it down that muddy road.  Wake me up later if you feel you need to.  Right now I'm going to sleep."  Logan turned, making his way into the smaller of the two bedrooms.  He sat heavily down on the edge of the double sized bed.  Liz's voice floated in from the living room, telling Amanda goodnight.  Her footsteps plodded nearer.  The glow of a single candle shone brightly through the doorway preceding the heartened young woman's entrance.

        "Mind if I come in for a minute?" she asked sweetly.

        "No, please do."

        "I just wanted to thank you for helping us out today.  I really do appreciate it."  Elizabeth sat next to him on the springy bed, putting her arms around his shoulders.  Pulling him up close to her, she hugged him tightly, then gave him a little smooch on his lips.  "Amanda means well but she just come through a little harsh sometimes.  Thanks again. Good night."  She stood up, gave Logan another little kiss on his forehead and walked out of the room.

        That little exchange made him feel better.  Helping people really was what he liked to do.  That's why he was a firefighter.  Somehow, this could even become more special.

        The weary captive looked down at the crusted bed.   Even though it look pretty uninviting, he slipped between the cool sheets, still fully clothed as a modicum of protection against the filth.  Logan pulled the thin blanket over him, his exhausted, sore muscles, still feeling the effects of the trip.  Regardless of the day's excitement and concerns, the fading firefighter was fast asleep in a matter of seconds.  A loving vision of Morgan the last thing he remembered.  Good night, Love, he thought to her.

        Amanda watched the light rain hit golden against the candlelit glass.  The weather sure fit her disposition.  "Once upon a midnight dreary," she said quietly to herself.  She stared out the window wishing the rain would end so she could go home.

        Morgan gracefully sat herself into the soft, middle aged, tweed couch, absently stroking the rough cushion with the palm of her right hand.  Suddenly, awareness flooded her thoughts of the similarities of the Keohanes' furnishings and those of Logan's.  "Funny, I never noticed that before," she marveled.  "Same pattern, same texture, only the colors were changed to protect the innocent."  She smiled at her own nervous joke.  At least lightening the mood calmed her down a bit while she waited for Yancy to return with Missus Keohane.

        The young redhead began looking at the different objects around the room, noticing the different shapes and textures.  She began to notice the physical side effects of nervousness.  Not as an emotion, but solely as a physical experience.  It was really different.  Morgan could feel different muscles in her body twitch and the involuntary contractions of various parts of her body.  She could even feel pulses of energy trace from one shoulder to another.  The more concentration placed on feeling them, the more pronounced the sensation became.  After a short time it was almost like she was standing outside of herself looking in.  "Wow, this is really wierd," the amazed woman commented to herself.

        "Morgan, Anne will be here in a second.  Can I get you something to drink?  A soda or some water or something?  I think I even have a Guinness or two in there, if you'd like," Yancy Keohane addressed her softly, a noticeable glint of nervousness in his eyes.

        "No, thank you," she answered, now in a bit calmer state of mind.  "I was just noticing how similar your furniture is to Logan's.  The taste must run in the family."

        "Maybe so, but actually there's a little less romantic reason for the similarity.  When Logan got divorced he left everything with his ex-wife.  We gave him a few pieces of furniture, like that old  couch.  I mean, we had an extra one anyway.  I don't think he really liked it much but the pieces are functional and it helped him to get back on his feet again."

        "Well, I like how the furniture fits Logan's apartment and he must too because he's had it for a while now.  It's really nice to see people get along with their parents.  I wish I got along better with mine."

        "I'll be there in a second," a woman's voice called from down the hallway that connected the living room to the other parts of the house.

        Morgan looked at Yancy and noted how worried he looked.  The Irishman sat on the edge of the matching armchair with his hands clasped, resting on his knees.  He stared hollowly down at the floor, breathing slowly and deeply.  "Mister Keohane. . . ."

        "Please, call me Yancy," he interrupted.  "I'm not that much your elder.  And, you're more like family now, I think we can dispense with the formalities."

        "Yancy," she adjusted her presentation, "I really don't want to alarm you.  There's just something that I think you need to be kept apprised of."

        "Let's wait until Anne gets here.  She'll be out momentarily," Logan's father responded tenderly.

        "He's certainly got patience," she noticed to herself.  "I'd have been all over someone who told me that there was something important that I needed to know about someone.  Especially someone I loved."

        Anne Keohane made her entry into the cozy living room.  She was a petite, middle-aged woman with graying strawberry blond hair.  She was very healthy and active looking with the brightest, clearest blue eyes of  anyone that Morgan could ever remember, at least personally.  "God, I just hope that I look like that when I get to be that age," she remembered telling Logan after their first meeting.

        Morgan stood up and held out her small hand to the chipper woman.  As they shook hands, Anne responded, "It's really good to see you, Morgan.  I hear you've got some news for us.  Everything's alright I hope.  I mean, you and Logan still getting along  okay and all?"

        "It's good to see you too, Missus Keohane.  And yes, Logan and I are getting along wonderfully.  You guys have a wonderful son.  I really care about him a whole lot.  But, there is a little bit of a problem right now and I don't quite know how to begin."  Morgan began getting nervous again.  How was she going to approach this?  It was a pretty delicate issue.  Hell, she didn't even want to face the possibilities herself.  Morgan could only imagine being a parent with a missing child.

        "You see, Logan was scheduled to work today."  Pretty inauspicious beginning, the young woman thought, fishing for the words with which to continue.  "Well, he left his apartment to go to work this morning but he didn't ever make it there.  No one has seen or heard from him all day."  Nothing quite like being subtle in the approach to bad news, she sarcastically scolded herself.  All of this planning and thinking just to blurt it out with no tact or grace.

        Morgan looked up to see both of Logan's parents staring at her.  "I know this is a shock, it was for me, too.  I've talked to his Captain and some of the other guys at the firestation and they have lots of people out looking for him.  All of the other firestations have his description and his vehicle's registration information.  All of the police departments in the area have been put on alert, also."

        "There's been no news at all?" Yancy asked with a very worried look clouding his face.  "No one has seen his truck or anything?"

        "No, but as soon as they find out anything they are going to page me and I'll let you know," the nervous lass promised.

        Yancy slowly sank back into his chair and stared blankly toward the ceiling.  Anne walked slowly over to the couch, sat beside Morgan and put her hand on the girl's knee.  "Is there anything that we can do?  For the search or for you?" she asked sincerely.

        Tears slowly ebbed up in Morgan's eyes, "No, but I wished there were.  I'm in love with Logan, Missus Keohane,  I couldn't stand to have anything happen to him.  I've never known anyone like him before.  I want to spend my life with him."

        "I know, dear.  I could feel that the first time I met you.  You and he were made for each other.  Logan's made a couple of pretty rash choices in the past but I'm glad he's finally met someone like you.  Please, honey, call me Anne."  There was a world of kindness and compassion glowing in those eyes.  Even though presented with a good reason to be inundated with pain and fear, this courageous lady exuded a compassion that tugged at Morgan's heart.  Tears ran one after another down the younger woman's cheeks as Anne Keohane reached out to hold her.  The warmness and safety that the pining lass felt in those arms was like nothing that she'd experienced in a very long time.  She definitely knew where Logan's tenderness was from.  "That's okay, honey, just feel the sorrow, don't try to keep it in.  Everything will be alright.  Logan will be back with us soon."  Anne stroked Morgan's thick red hair as the first tears slipped across her own cheek, dripping onto the girl's shoulder.

        "I feel scared sometimes, but I always get the most assured feeling that he'll be back.  I just know he's alright and he'll be back soon," Morgan said firmly, backing up and looking Anne directly in the eyes.  "Nothing can keep us apart."

        "Just keep the faith, Morgan, and God's will be done.  We're here for you and I know that you'll be here for us if we need it.  I think you'll be a wonderful part of our family and we'll be fortunate to have someone like you join us," Anne reassured her.

        Suddenly the pager in Morgan's purse began beeping.  She reached for her purse and shuffled through the contents until she found the beeping black box.  "That's the number for the firestation, maybe they have some news," she said hurriedly.  "May I use your phone?"

        "Of course you can. There's one right here beside the couch!"

        Morgan reached for the telephone and rapidly dialed the number on the pager.  "Hi, this is Morgan O'Malley.  Someone just paged me from there.  Probably news about Logan."

        "Yes, hold on Miss O'Malley, I'll get the captain for you."  Morgan heard the receiver go quiet as she was put on hold.  Then another voice answered, "Miss O'Malley, this is Captain Griffin.  We've received some news about Logan.  I'm afraid it's not good news, however."  Morgan's heart sank.  She felt tenseness in every part of her body.  A thousand questions ran through her mind in a split second.  "The authorities have found Logan's truck.  It seems that it was involved in an accident on the highway near Baton Rouge, Louisiana."

        "And. . . .  Is he alright?  Is he coming home soon?"

        "I'm sorry ma'am, but the accident caused a massive fire that burned the vehicle and the lone occupant beyond recognition.  They could still read the license plates and were able to trace down the owner.  The Houston Police Department got the news and relayed it to us.  I'm really sorry."

        Morgan felt like she had just been hit by a tornado.  No, a tornado was too calm.  It was more like a pure, sheer bolt of terror.  Her mind and body were numb.  The overwhelmed woman couldn't think or react to the news.  Finally she uttered, "Louisiana?  Why was he in Louisiana?  He was on his way to work.  Are they sure that it was Logan?"

        "No one is sure why he was in Louisiana.  And like I said the driver was burned beyond recognition.  But, the vehicle was definitely Logan's truck.  The only way that they'll be able to make positive identification is through dental records.  And from what I understand that may not even be conclusive as badly as he was burned.

        "If there's anything that I can do please let me know, okay?  Miss O'Malley, are you still there?  Are you alright?  Do you need assistance?"

        "No. . . uh, no I'm fine," Morgan answered, still in total shock at the gruesome description that the Captain had just offered.  "Would you do one thing for me?  I'm at Logan's parent's house would you break the news to them?  I. . . I can't do it."

        Morgan held out the phone toward Anne without waiting for a reply.  She felt dizzy and sick at her stomach.  The reeling lass was so disoriented that she wasn't sure where she was or what to do.  "They want to speak to you," she finally stated, loosing all sensation of her body.  Everything suddenly went black.

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