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A High Price to Pay

A Place for the fans versions of AWP

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A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:43 pm

Trevor O' Leary awoke to darkness. His head ached and a strong smell of oil and fuel made him feel sick. An engine roared loudly and he realized that he was lying uncomfortably in the trunk of a moving car. It was hot, desperately hot and what little air there was in the cramped space was hot too. Breathing was an effort as if he was drawing boiling water instead of air into his lungs. And then there was the pain. Bolts of agony shot through his left arm as his broken wrist responded to every rattle and jolt of the car's erratic journey.

He realized that they were travelling at speed along rough country tracks as yet another pothole caused the car to bounce and swerve wildly. The pain was almost unbearable now and his desperate gasps for air were bringing little relief. He craved the release of unconsciousness - ironic really since he had spent the last four days fighting the effects of the sedatives and chloroform his kidnappers had used so freely on him but now he was close to giving up. Surely this could only end with his death, so what was the point in fighting anymore?

Fractured memories of his long ordeal flashed through his head. All the negative thoughts Trevor had tried to keep at bay suddenly came flooding in and he let out a gasping sob. At first he'd been so sure that help would arrive but the days had dragged on and on. No one had come to rescue him. Why hadn't his employer/friend Barry Taylor come? Didn't he care enough to pay the ransom? Had the kidnappers asked for too much? No, he thought bitterly. Barry's not a millionaire but this just happened to me. But maybe Barry had thought the loss of his trainee/friend an acceptable price to pay for the safety of the rest of the Magnificent Seven. After all, if Trevor could be held for ransom, so could they. And if Barry had to sacrifice anyone then surely it would be him. Maybe Barry would notice I'm gone.

"No!" he cried out. Barry wouldn't abandon him. Would he? He tried to find some good thoughts to banish the panic that was threatening to take hold of him and he clutched at random memories: his family, his last piano recital, winning the art competition, his youngest sister Mia's twelfth birthday party just two weeks earlier...
Last edited by racesgirl2000 on Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:10 pm

Six weeks earlier

Lena Redman hated her job. She hated her colleagues, her office, her desk, her chair, her employer, the coffee in the machine, the view from the window... everything. Most of all, of course, she hated her salary, which, though generous compared with similar companies, simply wasn't enough to give her the lifestyle she craved. Things had only got worse since she'd met and married Dan. Now, faced with the reality of a life of debt, she was desperate. It hadn't helped that today, working Barry Taylor's accounts, she had discovered that Barry had finally made the leap from multi-millionaire to billionaire. It just wasn't fair. On the dot of five, she left her office and began the slow journey home through the rush hour traffic. At least Dan would be waiting to take her mind off things for a while.

As her car crawled along, she thought bitterly about Barry who she had seen a few times and the men he'd worked with in Germany and Marbella 2 years previously not that she'd ever really met them. She was just one of several unimportant junior accountants toiling away on one of the lower levels of working society in the West Midlands but she'd once got into a lift with a short man from Newcastle who she thought was Danny DeVito researching for a new movie role in the UK. The executive lift had broken down and he'd had to travel with her. It was her big chance and she'd treated him to her brightest smile, glad she'd worn one of her shorter skirts that day. He hadn't even noticed her of course, another reason to hate men like Barry or Dennis Patterson. She was an attractive woman and he hadn't even looked at her. The romantic fantasies she'd entertained since starting her job a few months previously faded away. It was true what they said – the man loved his wife Hazel. The only passion he had now were his business and his family.

His family... Hazel and a white kitten they had adopted called Ozzy after Ozzy Osbourne. Cats never want for anything, she thought resentfully. No second-hand car and cramped flat in Dudley for them. No window shopping in the most expensive stores for Hazel even if she was browsing. No, just Barry's credit card and a life of middle class luxury. It's really not fair.

Her frustration continued throughout the evening especially when she opened her own credit card statement and saw just how much Dan had spent the previous month. They'd never be able to pay this off. If she didn't love him so much she'd have challenged him but why shouldn't he have what he wanted? Why shouldn't she?

"It's not fair, you know." she said suddenly startling her husband who was on the verge of falling asleep.

"What?" he asked. As far as he was concerned, life was just fine. Lena was a beautiful woman who was willing to support him whilst he played drums with his band at night and slept during the day. He'd never been the nine to five type and whilst he didn't expect this marriage to last forever, he was enjoying being a kept man for a while. One day, the band would get a break or he'd find a rich woman to take him on but in the meantime, he was happy.

"Barry Taylor may be my boss but he's not a billionaire. He's middle class, Dan! How is that fair? How can one person be not allowed to have all that money and still have a bostin life? Why can't we have some? I work all day for him and for what? To make him richer!"

"What did you have in mind?" He rolled over and ran his hand along her thigh. "Steal his car? Hack into his bank account? Kidnap that trainee of his? How much do you think we'd get? A million? Ten? Twenty?" He laughed waiting for her to respond to his touch. Instead she pushed him away and sat up, her eyes shining.

"Why not?" asked Lena.

"Okay. What car's he got?" asked Dan.

"It's a van and not that. Why not take that trainee of his? He'd pay to get him back. Everyone knows that kid worships him. He'd never put anything ahead of that kid." said Lena.

Lena's idea didn't shock him. He'd done plenty of shady things for money before even ending up in prison for six months after a series of robberies. But kidnapping – that was something else.

"Oh, come on, Lena. Even if I took you seriously, it'd be impossible to get him. He doesn't even live in Wolverhampton. Yes, Barry Taylor's not loaded but that means he'll be able to move heaven and earth to get his mate back and find out who did it." said Dan.

"Not if we're careful. I've had it with this life, Dan. Come on, we'll get away, make a new start. I can make sure they'll never trace the money," said Lena. "I'm sure Big Bad Barry won't even miss a few hundred. What do you say? The kid'll get over it. Let's do it."

"I'll think about it." Dan actually liked the idea. A bit of excitement with a cash reward at the end of it was just his kind of thing.

And so the planning began. Suddenly, Lena found that she enjoyed going to work. Listening to the conversations and gossip of those around her she began to build up a picture of Barry Taylor and his movements. Dan's big concern was location. Barry's assistant Trevor O' Leary lived in a flat in Coventry which was once his father's in the early 1960s. What they needed, he said, was to get Barry to let his friends from Germany and Marbella come to him when they came to Wolverhampton but such visits were rare and there was unlikely to be an opportunity to snatch Trevor under Barry's watchful eye. Then of course there was the next big question – how to get Trevor away from Barry?

August 1st 1987

Lena looked at her watch. Time for a break. She'd arranged to meet her new friend for coffee. Laura Wells was young, naive, hailing from Sunderland and thrilled to have her first job working for Barry Taylor. Lena had latched onto her when she discovered that she previously worked in an office in Northumberland supporting Peggy Sullivan, Dennis Patterson's formidable PA. Laura was ideally placed to find out what was going on with the so called Magnificent Seven but Lena knew she had to tread carefully. Laura wasn't the type to get involved in anything like this. No, she couldn't be brought in on the plot openly. Lena was going to have to get information out of her without her realizing what was going on. Fortunately, Laura was a natural chatterer and she was very enthusiastic about her new job.

Today, she was prattling on about the presents Dennis had asked her to order for his son's birthday. Lena was only half listening, another wave of jealousy sweeping over her. There had been no top of the range Walkmans or rock music for her birthdays or any top quality art materials but Laura's next comment got her attention.

"Trevor said he won a painting competition a while ago and he's going to an art convention in Everton. They've got a special event for talented artists but only the best painters in the country are invited. Mr Taylor told Mr Patterson on the phone that he's dead chuffed for him. "

Typical, Lena thought. Working for Barry and a lot of talent as well. Not fair! But could this be the opportunity she and Dan had been looking for? She needed to know more.

"When's this?" she asked trying not to sound too interested.

"In about three weeks. I've been making the travel arrangements. He's heading to Northumberland but then he's going to come back here and spend a couple of days with his father before they go home." said Laura.

"How's he getting here? I bet Mr Patterson's sending his bodyguard with the broken tooth." Lena held her breath as she waited for the answer.

"No, he's friends with one of the art judges who did time in prison, lives in Everton and he's stopping over at his home on the way back. I'm arranging for a car to pick him up from there." said Laura.

Lena felt a thrill of excitement. This was it, the opportunity they had waited for. In little over three weeks time, Barry Spencer Taylor wouldn't know what had hit him. She and Dan would be about to embark on a life of luxury. Lena didn't spare a thought for the young man who would be caught in the middle.

Dan had been delighted by the news. He knew the area well having a cousin who lived just a few miles away in Liverpool. In fact, he thought, Luke might be well placed to help them. He was a keen fisherman who lived in a lake-side house miles from anywhere. Like his cousin, he'd never had many scruples where money was concerned. It would be the ideal place to lie low.

Lena had to be convinced of the wisdom of bringing in another person but as the plan began to take shape she realized that she and Dan weren't going to be able to do everything themselves. Of course, it would mean an increase in the ransom demand – she wasn't going to take a cut in her own share. They'd finally decided – fifteen million pounds. Not so much for a middle class sparky from the Midlands really especially one who would do anything for his friends.

Lena and Dan spent hours refining the plan. Getting hold of Trevor was only the start. They needed to work out what to do about the money and how to avoid discovery. Once Barry realized that his trainee was missing, there would be a massive search.

"But we'll tell him not to go to the police." Lena argued.

"Don't be silly, Taylor's a goon but Patterson'll do this by the book. He'll agree to all our demands then be straight on the phone. We need to be ready for them. As long as they don't know where to look, we'll be okay." Dan was enjoying himself. He'd never really needed to use his brains before, relying on charm and looks but he'd discovered a gift for scheming he didn't know he had. "This is what we do..."

And so the days passed with Lena apparently casually gossiping with Laura about the Magnificent Seven whilst really probing for details of Trevor's journey. Luke proved to be an able accomplice preparing his cellar for Trevor's captivity and adding his own twist to the plan. He had been dating the local doctor for the past few months and offered to obtain a supply of chloroform to subdue Trevor and the driver during the kidnap plus sedatives to keep the boy quiet once he was in the cellar. Not that there would be anyone around to hear him but they all agreed that the less fuss he made, the better and so all was set for August 23rd.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:35 pm

August 15th 1987

Birthdays in Trevor's family were unlike any ordinary day. The birthday boy or girl was usually up at some unholy hour rousing the others immediately in order to get his hands on his presents. Naturally as a child, Trevor's younger sister Sophie held the record – one minute past midnight. Being the oldest of three, Trevor had been unimpressed and had threatened her with a bucket of cold water unless she got herself back into bed. Of course, since this was Mia's birthday, she was more likely to need the threat of cold water to get her out of bed though on this particular day, she managed to get herself up without any persuasion.

Trevor's father Jeff made a point of being home for his children's birthdays keen to make up for his neglect of them in their early childhood. He and his wife Barbara watched as Mia opened her gifts enjoying the look of delight on his younger daughter/youngest child's face as she unwrapped each parcel.

"Wow, thanks, Dad." Mia grinned at her father as she saw the pink off-the-shoulder top. Trevor and Sophie crowded round to get a look. Yep, Trevor thought with a stab of pain. Mia looks lore like Mom especially with such a look of happiness on her face. Of course, he'd may or may not treat his own children or Sophie to something like this, he didn't think she'd have had the same look of appreciation if he'd tried that as a birthday gift!

"Here you go, kid," said Sophie handing over a small package. "Happy Birthday."

His face darkened at the word 'kid' from Sophie but the lure of the present was too great and Mia let it go. She ripped open the wrapping paper then threw her arms around her older sister. "Sophie! It's just like yours. It's perfect."

Sophie fastened the watch around her sister's wrist. "Does it fit? I can take some more links out."

"It's fine," Mia held out her arm to show her and Trevor. "Anyway, now I'm twelve, I'll start getting bigger." Mia was small for her age and was desperate for the same kind of growth spurt which had hit her older siblings. Trevor was now tall and muscular whilst Sophie seemed to get taller every day.

Jeff and Barbara smiled. They realized how much the watch meant to Mia and appreciated Sophie's reasons for selecting that particular gift. Trevor and Sophie were 2 years apart and had been so close but right now, the age gap was at its widest. Trevor had a job with Barry Taylor and had less time for his sisters while Sophie had discovered cars and boys. Mia didn't care about the girls but kept begging Trevor for a ride in his car. Since the car was the means for getting the girls, Trevor usually refused his sister's requests leading to arguments and some serious sulking on Sophie's part. Jeff had tried to mediate at such times assuring Mia that in a few years' time, she'd share Sophie's point of view but he knew that at twelve, a few years would seem like a lifetime.

August 23rd 1987

Lena couldn't concentrate. All morning, she'd been on edge looking constantly at her watch or the clock on the wall just waiting for the call which told her all was well. Though she knew nothing was likely to happen before midday, she couldn't help checking the clock every few minutes. At eleven she met up with Laura, this time deliberately steering the conversation away from anything to do with the Magnificent Seven during their annual day together.

At twelve thirty, she ate her lunch at her desk. The anxiety she felt made her feel sick, but she didn't want to deviate in any way from her normal behaviour. After all as far as anyone else knew, today was just another day. Only Lena knew that for Trevor and the Magnificent Seven, it was going to be the start of a long nightmare.

Dan and Luke were ready. They had checked out the route Barry's van would have to take and had found the perfect spot for an ambush. Dan had been waiting on a motorbike a short distance from Ben's house and had seen the car arrive, collect Trevor and pull off. He had followed at a distance calling Luke as the car turned into a cul-de-sac in Derby warning him that they would soon be with him. It was a hot day but it wasn't just the heat which was making him sweat. This was it!

Trevor had been pleased to see that the driver was an old school friend of Barry's called Mike Donovan who often spoke to him. They had chatted amiably for a while then Trevor had sat back, glad of the air conditioning. He had been idly gazing out of the side window admiring the deserted street in Derby and wishing he hadn't put his sketch pad in the boot when Mike suddenly called out "Well, what do you think's going on here?"

Trevor looked out of the front window to see a pick-up truck half buried in some bushes blocking part of the road. A man stumbled in front of them and Mike slammed on the brakes. He glanced in the rear view mirror and saw a motorbike behind them also slowing. He wound down the window to speak to the man.

"Help me! I crashed! My little girl's still in there, I can't get her out!" The man frantically grabbed at the door handle of the car. They were unable to see his face as his cap was pulled down but there was a note of wild panic in his voice.

Mike glanced back at Trevor. He was a van driver, not a police officer but he sensed that this was all wrong. "Stay there, Trev!" he said sharply as he saw the boy reach for the door.

"Mike, we need to help them." Trevor couldn't work out why Mike was so hesitant.

The motorbike stopped and the rider got out and walked towards them. He was moving to Trevor's side of the car, Mike realized, not towards the other man or his truck. He'd also left his helmet on and kept the visor down. Something was definitely wrong.

His immediate reaction was to floor the accelerator and get out of there but it was too late. Even as he reached for the gear shift a gun was pushed into his neck and a hand reached in to grab the keys.

"Okay, stay still and you won't get hurt."

In the back of the car, Trevor was terrified. His first instinct was to get out of the car and run but even as his shaking hands reached for the handle the door was yanked open and he was grabbed by the shoulders and dragged out and around to the other side of the car. He tried to struggle free but the man was strong and soon had Trevor's arms pinned behind his back. That didn't stop Trevor aiming a few kicks back at him but when one of the man's arms tightened around his neck his only concern became his struggle to breathe.

"Leave him alone!" he heard Mike shout.

"Right, do as you're told and no one gets hurt. Get out of the car."

Trevor stopped struggling and the pressure on his throat lessened. He watched fearfully as Mike slowly got out of the car.

"Put your hands up and turn around."

Mike did so and the red haired man came towards him tucking his gun into his waistband and taking out a set of handcuffs.

"Okay, hands behind your back."

Mike realized that the man must have put his gun away in order to handcuff him. As the man reached out for one of his wrists, he spun round kicking out at his attacker. He crashed to the floor and Mike kicked him in the head stunning him. Then he turned his attention to the man who held Trevor.

"Let him go!"

"Sure." Dan responded. He could see Luke beginning to stir and knew that it wasn't over yet. He suddenly lifted Trevor and threw him as hard as he could into Mike knocking the man off balance. Dan dived towards Luke and grabbed the gun. Even as Mike picked himself up and helped Trevor scramble to his feet, Dan was taking aim. Mike didn't stand a chance.

Shaking with shock, Trevor stared at Mike's body. He looked up at the two men as they advanced on him and he backed up against the car realizing that there was no escape. They grabbed him again. This time, he didn't struggle. One of them went over to the truck and took out a bottle and a cloth.

"Okay kid, we're not going to hurt you. You're very important to us. Your boss'll be sharing some of his money with us and then he can have you back. "

Sheer panic gave Trevor the strength to struggle again as the red haired man approached with the cloth which had been soaked with something from the bottle. His eyes widened in fear as it was held firmly over his nose and mouth. Instinctively, he held his breath but he couldn't hold out for long and the end was inevitable. The chloroform took effect almost immediately and he collapsed to the ground.

"This wasn't part of the plan." Luke grunted as he lugged Mike's body towards the car.

"Shut up and get him into the van." Dan snapped resigned to the fact that things had just got more complicated. The intention had only been to chloroform the driver, put him in the trunk and drive a good long way away before abandoning the car. Now he'd killed a man. Maybe it hadn't sunk in yet but he found that he felt nothing. A good thing too, he reasoned, as although he'd told Lena that Trevor O' Leary would be released unharmed, he was quite prepared to get rid of him if the need arose. As he bound and gagged the young man, he looked at him dispassionately. He was just a means to an end.

"Okay, Luke, get the kid and the bike into the truck." They first removed a heavy bag then loaded both Trevor and the bike onto the back of the pick-up truck and covered them with tarpaulin. Luke then backed the truck onto the road.

"All set?" he asked Dan.

"Yeah. It'll take me a couple of hours to drive across state and dump the car. Then I'll ride to the nearest town and get the train to Newcastle," He indicated the bag they'd moved from the truck to the car. It held a collapsible micro scooter. "Lena'll drive me back here tonight and I'll stay with you and this one. Will you be okay until I get there?"

"Sure, the chloroform'll keep him out until I get him into the cellar. I'll give him something to keep him out until you get there. Now get going."

Dan enjoyed the drive. The car was the top of its range and he regretted the need to drive carefully so as not draw attention to himself. A pity as he would have loved to have put his foot down in order to see if he could reach the impossibly high figure at the top of the speedometer but a speeding ticket and the accompanying vehicle search would have been disastrous. Still, in a few days time, he'd be placing an order for the Ferrari he'd always longed for.

Luke pulled up at his house. As always, the area was deserted but he still looked around cautiously before removing the tarpaulin and hauling Trevor from the truck. Slinging him over his shoulders, he entered the house and opened the cellar door. Turning on the light, he carried Trevor down the stairs and laid him on the mattress he'd brought down. The cellar felt cold after the blazing heat of the afternoon sun and he shivered wondering if the blanket he'd provided would be sufficient for the boy. Not that he really cared. Like Dan and Lena, he preferred to think of Trevor as a commodity to be bartered rather than a living feeling human being. Turning away, he walked back up the stairs flicking off the light on his way out, leaving Trevor in darkness. Then he called Lena.

When the phone rang, Lena jumped in shock. Ridiculous really, she thought as she went to answer it – she'd been waiting for this call all day. She said little wary of being overheard but when Luke told her of Mike's death, she let out a gasp then looked around anxiously to see if anyone had noticed. She breathed a sigh of relief as her oblivious colleagues continued with their work. Poor sad bastards, she thought. Doomed to a life of drudgery whilst she was about to see all her dreams come true. Murder seemed a small price to pay. After all, if they were caught – and she was sure that wouldn't happen – then they'd spend the rest of their lives in prison whether the charge was kidnapping or murder or both. They had to succeed, they just had to.

All had gone smoothly for Dan. Leaving the car on a quiet road in a town a hundred miles away, he'd assembled the scooter and sped away. Although the machine wasn't really designed for long journeys, he'd ridden it to another town thirty miles away before packing it up and getting a train back to Newcastle. So far, so good.

Every so often Luke would check on Trevor, first pulling a bandana over thenlower half his face to prevent himself from being identified. The third time he went down he saw the young man had awoken. Terrified brown eyes looked up at him and for a moment, he felt sorry for him.

"Right, do as you're told and you'll be fine," he said gruffly. "We've just borrowed you for a few days. If that klutz Taylor does what he's told, he'll soon get you back."

The young man was obviously still dazed from the chloroform and lay motionless just staring at Luke. He went upstairs, returning with a glass of orange juice. "Thirsty?" The boy nodded and Luke lifted him up then removed the gag warning him that no-one would hear him if he yelled. He held the glass to Trevor's mouth then replaced the gag and waited.

It only took a few minutes for the sedative to take effect and he watched in satisfaction as the boy fell back against the mattress, his eyes closed once more.
Last edited by racesgirl2000 on Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 2:36 pm

Laura was worried. She'd been told to look after Trevor when he arrived as Barry would be in a meeting. She was expecting him to arrive around two but hadn't really started to get concerned until three. Surely if they were held up, Mike would have called to let her know. She wasn't sure what to do. She would have asked Peggy but she was in the meeting with Barry and the idiots he worked with in Germany and Marbella and she didn't dare interrupt them. She decided to call Mike and see what the problem was.

When Mike didn't answer the third time, she tried she began to think something must be really wrong. It was now three thirty. The meeting would be over by four and Barry Taylor would come out expecting to find his trainee/friend waiting. She considered going into the boardroom then decided to give Mike one last try.

Suddenly, to her relief, Peggy appeared.

"Can you get us some more coffee?" she asked turning to go back into the boardroom.

"Peggy, wait a minute. Trevor hasn't arrived yet. I've tried to call Mike but I'm not getting an answer."

Peggy frowned. Mike was one of Barry's most reliable friends over the years. He had to be in order for Barrt to trust him with Trevor. There was clearly a problem but she hoped it was nothing too serious. He could have a problem with his schedule or they could be stuck in traffic. There was no point worrying yet.

"I'll get Trevor's parents number from Mr Taylor's directory." she said disappearing into her office. When she returned five minutes later, she looked worried.

"No answer. Something's wrong." She moved to the boardroom door hesitated for a moment then went in to break the news to Barry.

Negotiations had been at a tricky stage when Peggy came back into the boardroom. Barry looked strained glancing at the pad in front of him where a number of figures had been circled then crossed out. He really needed this new wiring but not at the price the company in Memphis, Tennessee were asking. He looked up at the other men with him thankful that at least he hadn't had to make a flight to do this in person.

"Mr Taylor, Mr Patterson." Peggy said softly.

Barry and Dennis looked up, Barry expecting to see Trevor and Dennis expecting his much needed cup of coffee. Instead, Dennis's PA was empty-handed. Glancing at her in surprise, both men took in the concern etched on her face and swung around to face her.

"What's wrong?" Dennis asked concerned.

"Sorry, Mr Taylor but your lad Trevor's not here yet and we can't contact him or Mike." Peggy said.

What?" Barry and Dennis said in unison as Barry was out of his seat reaching for his office phone. He phoned Trevor's home number and waited. When the phone finally went to the anwering machine, he hung up and stared at Peggy.

"I'm sure he's okay, Barry man," Dennis tried to reassure him. "The police would have been in contact if there'd been an accident."

"So where are they?" Barry asked suddenly.

Barry was tempted to call Neville in North Sheikds or Wayne in Tilsbury to see if they had heard from Trevor but he reasoned that if they had they'd have contacted him. He didn't want to worry the rest of his friends or Hazel until he knew there was really something to worry about. He was still hopeful that Trevor would walk through the door with some excuse for his lateness. A thought struck him and he asked Peggy to have the company helicopter fly over the route Mike would have taken hoping they would spot the distinctive car.

By five thirty, Dennis could see that Barry had reached breaking point. He'd spent the last hour staring at the phone on his desk whilst alternately redialling Trevor, his parents or Mike. When Peggy told him that the helicopter pilot had radioed in to say that he'd seen no sign of the car, he came to a decision.

The next few hours passed in a blur for Barry. The arrival of a pair of uniformed officers was just the start. Suddenly, his office began to fill with police, both uniformed and plain clothed. He was rich enough and important enough for the Detective Superintendent himself to put in an appearance. When there was no news of Trevor by eight o'clock, a call was put through to MI-5. It was eight thirty when two agents arrived and took control. Throughout it all, Barry sat at his desk staring at a photograph of him and Trevor focusing on Trevor's sons smiling face. The most recent picture of Trevor, taken a week previously, had been taken away for copying and distribution to all police forces. The car and its occupants remained missing despite an extensive search. There was no doubt now that Trevor had been taken.

The questions had been endless. Barry, Dennis, Peggy and Laura had provided information on the car, the route it would have followed and the attempts they had made to contact those inside. Barry had steadily answered all of them only losing patience when one of the MI-5 agents suggested that Mike might have been involved.

"That's ridiculous! I've known him for years. He's not involved." They were interrupted by Laura who looked on the verge of tears.

"Mr Taylor, I've got Mike's wife on the line. She's asking when he's going to come home..."

Dennis shot Barry shot an 'I told you so' look before asking Laura to put the call through to him. This was going to be one of the most difficult conversations he'd ever had.

One of the MI-5 agents, a tall man in a well-made but modest grey suit, sat down next to Jeff. "Okay Mr Taylor, we can't do much more until we hear from the kidnappers. We're widening the search for the car and sending details to agents and police forces across the country. I don't think you can do anything else here. Why don't you go home and get some rest?"

"No! I'm staying. They might call here."

"Or they might call your apartment. What about your home? We need to put taps on all the phones."

"Even at my house?" asked Barry looking distressed. "I haven't told Hazel or the others yet."

"Maybe you should." Agent Adams replied.

If Barry thought that breaking the news to Mike's wife was hard, it was nothing compared to the conversation he had with his mother. Hazel had answered the phone bursting into an excited babble at the sound of her husband's voice. Barry had to bite his tongue to stop himself snapping at his wife. Finally, Hazel ran out of things to say and Barry said as calmly as he could,

"Hazel, if the other lads are there, I need you to get Oz or Moxey for me. Now!"

She'd known immediately that something was very wrong. She'd only ever heard Barry's voice sound so broken once before and that was when he'd called her to tell her that his uncle Jerome was dead. She'd broken down herself, the thought of Trevor alone and at the mercy of kidnappers more than she could bear. Agent Adams took the phone and told her that MI-5 agents were on their way to monitor the phone and keep an eye on the rest of the boys.

"What do I tell them, Barry?" Hazel asked when she was handed back to Barry.

"They have to know. Moxey, Oz and Bomber will realize there's something wrong and I want Wayne and Neville watched. These people have got our Trevor, I don't want them coming after the others."

"I'll tell them, Barry but they're going to need to talk to you. I know you need to stay there for Trevor but the rest of the team are going to need you too."

"I know, Haze. If I could get to them I would but I can't leave here. Not until I know what's happened to Trevor."

He replaced the receiver and sank back in his chair. This was what he had dreaded ever since he'd become publicly known as one of the most boring electricians in the Black Country. The temptation to ask Brian 'Bomber' Busridge or Leonard 'Oz' Osborne to act as bodyguards had been strong and it was Hazel who had talked him out of it pointing out that they had the right to a normal marriage.

"What are his chances?" he asked Agent Adams.

"Hard to say," The MI-5 man considered sugar-coating his response then decided Barry would rather have the truth. "It depends what they want. Sometimes, the victim is released unharmed but not always."

"I can't lose him. Whatever they want they can have."

There was silence for a moment.

"You can't hide someone away, you know." Agent Adams said quietly.

"What?" asked Barry.

"Don't blame yourself, Barry," Dennis told Barry. "You may be the most boring person I know but we accept that. You can't lock Trevor away, man. This is down to the people who took Trevor. It's not your fault. You didn't leave him to wander the streets. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing. You think it's coincidence that the one time Trevor's vulnerable they snatch him? Someone knew where he would be. We need to find out who."

With that, Barry dialled the phone on his desk to check in with the agents who had travelled to Everton to investigate any connection with the art convention.

Hazel replaced the phone with shaking hands. Pausing for a moment to offer up a silent prayer for the missing Trevor, she went into the den. Only Neville Hope was there, head buried characteristically in a book.

"Nev..." He looked up at once. Hazel only ever called him that to comfort him when he was sick or upset.

"Where are the others? I need you to get them down here."

"Moxey and Oz are in the shed with Bomber and Wayne's out with a black girl from Dudley called Corinne."

"Call him. Tell him to get home now."

"What's wrong, Hazel?" The grief-stricken look in Hazel's eyes frightened Neville.

"Just get the others. I've got something I need to say to you all."

Wayne Norris had big plans that night. He and Corinne Kelly had parked by the lake and Wayne had been sure that tonight would be the night. He'd just persuaded his girlfriend to move to the back seat when her carphone rang. He'd ignored it but when it kept on ringing Corinne had complained that it was spoiling the mood. He'd been tempted to just turn it off but when she answered it telling him it was from a Geordie sort called Neville, he immediately knew there was a problem. Neville knew about his plans and there was no way his friend would interrupt unless something was seriously wrong. Albert Moxey might think it was funny especially as he was the only member of the Magnificent Seven who never got a second date but Neville would never be so cruel.

"What is it, Nev?" He tried to ignore Corinne's sigh of exasperation.

"I don't actually know, Wayne. Brenda wants you round Barry's place."

"What, now?"

"Yes. Sorry."

"Do you think she knows?" Wayne panicked. He couldn't begin to imagine Hazel Redfern-Taylor's reaction if she'd discovered his plans for that night.

"No. She wants us all together," said Neville. "Something's going on. Hazel said Barry called and she looked really upset after she'd spoken to him."

"Fine, Nev. I guess I'll take Corinne home then. I'll be back in half an hour."

He turned back to his girlfriend who glared at him as she buttoned her shirt back up. With a sigh, Wayne moved back to the driver's seat and pulled away. There'd better be a naffing good reason for this, he thought.

A short while later, the five remaining members of the Magnificent Seven gathered around Hazel. She put an arm around Neville and took a deep breath.

"Barry called. Trevor's missing."

"What?" Oz leapt to his feet. "How can he be missing?"

Hazel explained about the disappearance of the car watching the boys anxiously. Bomber was frantic, pacing the den, threatening all sorts of punishment to anyone who might hurt Trevor. She didn't have the heart to upbraid him for his language. Neville and Moxey both sat silently gazing into space. Bomber was also upset as he understood enough to know that Trevor was alone somewhere with people who might hurt him, each silently thinking about the missing Trevor until Barry, Dennis and MI-5 arrived.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:27 pm

Trevor wasn't sure what was going on at first. He knew he'd woken briefly earlier feeling dizzy and sick. He'd registered that he'd been bound and gagged and that it was dark. When the light had gone on, he'd had taken in little of his surroundings in his terror at the arrival of one of his captors. He vaguely remembered the man giving him a drink then everything had gone blank again. Now, as the sedation gradually wore off, he began to feel a little more alert.

He was lying on some kind of mattress aching from the constraints of the ropes which secured his wrists and ankles. He still felt sick but his brain was starting to kick into gear and he was able to consider his situation. He knew he'd been kidnapped and that Barry would be given a price for his safe return. He tried to control his panic by thinking about his friend/employer doing everything in his power to rescue him. For a few moments, he was able to convince himself that everything would be okay and that his ordeal would soon be over. Then the memory of Mike's bloodstained body flashed through his mind and he knew that he was in deep trouble.

He shivered. It was cold in the cellar. He wondered what time it was. In fact, he wondered what day it was. Perhaps he'd been unconscious for days and the ransom had been paid. Maybe he'd soon be safely back with his family. He clung to the hope as he heard the door above him open.

He blinked as the light went on. This time, two men in stocking masks came down the stairs. Virgil felt panic rising again.

Dan sat beside Trevor and pulled him upright. He tried to pull away but Dan gripped his shoulders and twisted him round to face him. He roughly removed the gag.

"Don't bother shouting – there's no-one around to hear you. Now then, listen carefully. We can do this one of two ways, it's up to you. I'm guessing you're pretty uncomfortable right now. You want me to untie you, yeah?" Trevor nodded. The need to stretch his aching arms and legs was overwhelming. Plus, he thought, There might be some opportunity to get away which I could only take if I was able to move. Then he thought again of Mike's last moments. Maybe an escape attempt wouldn't be such a smart move.

Dan continued "So, this is the easy way: I'll untie you and you behave yourself. When the light goes on, you sit down and don't move. If we see you sitting quietly, then we bring you some food and drink. The other way isn't so pleasant. You know that I could leave you tied up. It's going to take a few days to get the money so..."

The hope that his ordeal was at an end faded. Trevor was too scared to reply at first but the choice wasn't really difficult as he found himself saying "I'll be good."

"Good choice but be sure of one thing. If you try anything, I'll hurt you. Then I'll tie you up again and I'll leave you here. I might not even come back to set you free when the ransom's paid and make no mistake, no one'll ever find you here. You'll starve here and then you'll rot here. Do you understand?"

Terrified, Trevor nodded dumbly, all thoughts of escape abandoned. Looking into the man's eyes, he could see he wasn't bluffing. Please Barry, he thought, Get me out of here, get me away from this man.

The relief at being able to move his arms and legs was indescribable. Dan and Luke watched him for a moment as he stretched and rotated his wrists and ankles. Then Dan gripped his arm again.

"Okay, time for action. We need to let Taylor know we've got you. Let's see, we'll have this..." Trevor jerked away from him as he tried to unfasten his watch. The watch his father had given him for Christmas.

"Oh boyo, that's not very clever is it? I thought you were going to do as you were told. Do you really want to be tied up again?" Dan turned to Luke. "Get the rope."

"No!" cried Trevor. "I'm sorry. It's just that my dad gave me the watch. Please don't take it."

"So what? He can get you another one, can't he? Daddy can buy you twenty with the loose change in his pocket. Let me have it."

This time, Trevor allowed him to remove the watch. He fought to hold back the tears as the link with his father was broken but it was the next step which was the most horrifying. Luke produced a large knife and advanced on him. Jumbled thoughts of terror flashed through Trevor's head and he screamed as Dan held him still and the blade slashed downwards. His heart seemed to stop for a moment. Teeth chattering and shaking in shock, tears flooded down his face when Luke simply cut off a lock of his hair.

"Good. Now we need you to send a little message to Mr T." Dan held a voice recorder. Luke still held the knife, twisting it so that it flashed whenever it caught the light. "Whenever you're ready, kid. Just start talking..."
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:50 pm

Dan had deliberately kept Barry Taylor in suspense. He figured that the longer he remained in limbo about his friend/trainee, the more frantic he'd become and so the more likely to agree to his demands. He even thought that Mike's murder might work in his favour. The car and the body would be discovered eventually and Taylor would know that the kidnappers were deadly serious.

In fact, the car wasn't discovered until the next morning. Barry had fallen asleep at his desk just before dawn and was awakened by Agent Adams' hand shaking his shoulder.

"We've found the car."

"Where?"

"A small town about a hundred and fifty miles from where they were last seen. A uniformed officer came across it abandoned half an hour ago."

"Trevor...?" Barry wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer.

"No sign of him. But Mr Taylor, they found Mike Donovan's body in the trunk. He was shot."

Barry buried his head in his hands. He'd liked Mike and he was desperately sorry but he knew that if the kidnappers were also killers then his friend/trainee's life lay in the balance. If he was still alive...

"They won't have hurt Trevor," Moxey tried to reassure his friend. "They need him. We've still got time to find him."

"Are there any clues?"

"They're examining the car now," said Oz. "We'll just have to wait. Whoever's got him will be in touch soon."

And so the waiting continued.

Lena was exhausted but elated. Everything was going to plan. She'd picked Dan up from the station the previous evening and driven him back to Luke's. She hadn't gone down to the cellar but had got a couple of hours sleep before heading back to London. She was at her desk at nine as usual going about her duties as if it was just another day. No-one guessed that in her bag, she had a small package and a tape. When no-one was looking, she slipped them into an envelope and placed it in the post tray.

She couldn't stop thinking about the ransom demand wondering when it would reach Barry and wishing she could witness his reaction. Looked at one way, the tape was a triumph. She'd thought it might be difficult to get the boy to talk - a few words would have done just to prove he was their captive - but Luke's performance with the knife had pushed the boy over the edge. Still half-drugged, memories of the driver's murder obviously still strong, Trevor had been unable to stop himself pouring out his terrified thoughts. The trio had been delighted when they'd listened back to the tape. So much so that when they considered Barry Taylor's reaction they had decided to increase the ransom demand. The note which accompanied the other items now asked for twenty five grand. Lena thought that when Taylor heard the tape, he'd pay anything to save his trainee from further torment. Of course, looked at another way, if they got caught the tape was going to damn all three of them.

A town like Wolverhampton was always a hotbed of gossip. It soon became common knowledge that MI-5 were in Barry's office. By nine, fifteen rumours were beginning to circulate. By ten thirty, half the staff were convinced that Barry Taylor was under arrest for embezzlement. Some said that he'd had thrown himself off the roof the previous night. Others insisted that he'd been outed as a master criminal who'd held the country to a nuclear ransom. Only Lena knew the truth.

At eleven, she took her coffee break as usual. Of course Laura wasn't there to meet her. Lena thought it was only natural that as a concerned friend she should take a trip up to the thirtieth floor to see if she was okay.

As she entered the outer office, she noticed Laura sat at her desk staring blankly into space.

"Laura! What's wrong? I was worried about you when you didn't come down for coffee. "

Laura turned a tear stained face towards her.

"What's going on? You wouldn't believe the rumours going around this place today."

"Mr Taylor's trainee's gone missing. MI-5 are here. They think he's been kidnapped. They kept me here most of the night just asking me the same questions over and over again."

"What? Are you okay?" Of course Lena didn't care about Laura. She just wanted to know what was going on.

Laura explained what had happened the previous day. Lena made the appropriate comments of shock and horror, proud of her performance. When Barry Taylor and Dennis Patterson both walked through the office, anguished looks on their faces, she hid her feeling of triumph. That's it, she thought. Give it up, Big Bad Barry. Hand over the money. Just a few more days and I'll be drinking cocktails on a beach and you can have your boy back.

She made a few more supportive comments to Laura then looked at her watch and commented that she'd better be getting back to work. She made Laura promise that she'd keep her informed of further developments.

Meanwhile, the office routine continued as usual. The post was collected, sorted and delivered. Laura received the usual pile of internal mail and mechanically began to open it. At the bottom of the pile was a heavier envelope. As she opened it, a smaller envelope fell out along with a cassette tape. It took her a moment to realize what it was then she was running for Barry's office.

Barry clutched the edge of his desk: hands trembling, eyes closed, head down. Dennis knew Agent Adams hadn't let him touch the watch muttering something about fingerprints but the sight of it had been enough. Finding the lock of Trevor's hair had been almost too much for him to bear. Whoever these people were, they had taken his trainee/friend from him. More than that, they'd terrorized him, cutting his hair and forcing him to beg for his life. He'd hesitated before playing the tape fearful of what he might hear. In the end, Agent Adams had pressed the play button and so Dennis and Barry had endured over two minutes of Trevor's desperate almost incoherent pleas for help. It had shattered Barry. What had they done to Trevor to bring him to that depth of terror? Yet throughout it all the boy's faith that his boss/friend would save him had shone through but Barry had never felt so helpless.

Adams felt that he finally had something to go on. The package had come in the internal mail so someone in the company must be responsible. He could recall the agents who had been investigating in Everton and at the art convention. The only problem was that Barry had at least 20 employees among him alone. He faced a massive task in narrowing down the suspects.

The note that came with the other items had asked for a ransom of twenty five grand. To Adams, it was an impossible sum but Barry had simply nodded as Dennis instructed Peggy to begin making the arrangements. The note had said that further instructions would follow. Now they could only wait.

Agent Adams spent the rest of the day trawling through the company's personnel files searching for anyone with criminal connections. He drew a blank. Taylor Enterprises had a strict ethical code and all employees were checked for even the most minor misdemeanour before they were given a contract. The worst he'd found were a few driving violations and a caution for some drunken exhibitionism following last year's Christmas party. There were no leads for him to follow. There had been no fingerprints on the package or the tape and the internal mail envelope had so many employees' prints on it that it was worthless. He was no closer to finding the kidnappers.

Barry focused his energies on freeing up the huge amount of money that the kidnappers had demanded. Whilst he was no billionaire, he didn't have that much cash just lying around. Much of it was tied up in stocks and shares in his own company and in a number of other companies in which he'd invested. It was a long day of negotiations and complex calculations but at least it took his mind off the tape. He'd forced himself to put aside all thoughts of Trevor's frantic pleading even leaving his office to work at Peggy's desk unable to face the photos of Trevor which graced his own. He thought that if he allowed himself to dwell on what he'd heard he'd break down and that wouldn't help Trevor.

The next day wasn't any better. Barry had called confirming that a ransom demand had been received but refusing to give any details. He tried his best but he was unable to comfort the others and they were unable to comfort him. Bomber got the feeling that there was a lot Barry wasn't telling them.

"Hey, Barry man, you okay?" asked Dennis.

"Just thinking about Trevor. What they could be doing to him."

"Jesus Christ, don't..."

"Do you remember that film we watched a few weeks ago? The one where the girl was kidnapped and buried alive? What if that's happening to Trevor? What if he's lying somewhere injured or even dying, all alone?"

"Barry, stop it! It's going to be okay."

"Stop treating me like a kid, Dennis, I know better. The world's not like that. There isn't always a happy ending. They could be doing anything to him and we can't help him."

Dennis was lost for words. He'd tried not to think about what his brother might be going through but Barry's words brought forth a series of images he'd really rather not have imagined. When Barry began to outline another dismal scenario, he leapt to his feet, anger, guilt and frustration getting the better of him. He grabbed his friend/gaffer by the shoulders and began to shake him then suddenly turned and punched the wall over and over again sending splinters of plaster flying.

Lena checked in with Dan and Luke that evening to confirm the delivery of the first envelope. Tomorrow, she would send a second message, this one giving instructions for the transfer of the money. The account into which it would be placed was only its temporary resting place. There would be several more movements until it finally ended up in her hands. She was sure it wouldn't be traced back to her. She might not have liked her job but she was good at it. The money was as good as hers.

Dan confirmed that all was well at the lake-house. They'd kept Trevor doped up with the spiked orange juice. He was pretty sure he'd scared the boy enough to stop him causing any trouble but he saw no point in taking chances.

Trevor had spent the day huddled beneath his blanket vaguely aware that he was cold. Confused thoughts and memories ran erratically through his head but he was too lethargic to make any sense of them. He no longer felt afraid, in fact, he didn't feel anything. He'd remained in that drugged half-sleep all day. Dan went down to him in the evening dragging him to his feet and taking him upstairs to the bathroom. When he returned to the cellar a sandwich and another glass of orange juice were waiting but Trevor was so tired, he just lay back down and drifted off to sleep.

He awoke a few hours later feeling more clear-headed. He sat up wrapping his blanket around his shoulders and tried to make sense of what was going on. The light was on – his reward for good behaviour - and he looked around at his surroundings wondering if there was anything which he could use to escape. Although his blood chilled at the thought of Dan's wrath if he tried anything, he couldn't help himself. He was a friend of Barry Taylor after all and he'd never be able to just sit there and let these men win.

He thought back to the previous evening and shuddered as he remembered how he'd lost control after the incident with the knife. He couldn't remember exactly what he'd said into the tape recorder but he knew he'd been nearly hysterical. He felt guilty when he realized the effect it would have on Barry when he heard it. Would he understand how terrified he'd been or would he feel ashamed of him? He didn't think Barry would have broken down like that but then Barry was so much older. Thoughts of his family finally comforted him and he knew that his father would do everything in his power to get him back. He didn't doubt for a moment that although his friend/mentor would willingly pay the ransom, he'd also have every law enforcement officer in the country looking for him.

He spotted the food and drink and realized that he was hungry. He quickly finished the sandwich and downed the orange juice. It was only when his eyes started to lose focus that he realized what else he'd consumed. He shook his head frantically desperate to hang onto consciousness, but his brain seemed to be working in slow motion. He stumbled to his feet and tried to walk around to keep himself awake but his movements were sluggish. Suddenly, his legs gave way and he collapsed to the floor. It was all he could do to drag himself back to the mattress. His last coherent thought was a desperate plea to his boss: Barry, please hurry...
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:10 pm

It was now three days since Trevor's abduction. Agent Adams knew that the instructions for the payment of the money would arrive that day. Barry was ready having spent the most of the previous day putting the sum together with the rest of the lads. He guessed that the demand would be delivered in the same way as previously and had discussed with Peggy whether or not there was any way of tracing the internal mail envelope back to its sender. She'd considered this for a while before shaking her head. There were simply too many employees and too many internal mail boxes. Unless each employee was forced to hand in their envelopes to MI-5 agents and have the contents searched, there was no way anything could be traced. And of course, their kidnapper wouldn't be likely to do that. Adams agreed that it wouldn't be possible to identify an individual but each department's mail could be kept separate then searched. At least it would narrow down the suspects.

By now everyone at Taylor Electrical Industries knew about Trevor's kidnapping. They also knew that one of their number was likely to be responsible. People cast suspicious glances at one another and there was only one topic of conversation. Little work was done that day.

Outside Taylor Electrical Industries, the press gathered. Agent Adams had given a brief statement, giving few details. Barry had refused a press conference knowing that people would be watching just to see if he would break down and fearing that if he had to put into words his fears for Trevor then he just might. However, a statement was issued along with the offer of a substantial reward for information. He'd also put his own security people on the case, with strict instructions to use any means to find his son.

The Mi-5 agents stationed at 5 Townely Crescent now had another concern as more press gathered there. Hazel kept the boys inside after one of the agents had had to drag Oz away from the gate as he'd yelled at the journalists to leave the family alone. After lunch, Moxey and Wayne had escaped to John's room and turned on the TV. They'd watched the ITV news with Bomber's nephew Jason becoming increasing frustrated as a series of 'experts' were brought in to give their views on Trevor's likely state of mind and the consequences for him, Barry and the rest of the Seven. When an ex-MI-5 agent began to describe other kidnappings, few of which seemed to have ended happily for the victim, Moxey grabbed the remote and turned it off.

"Well, at least people know what's going on. Maybe someone's seen something." said Moxey.

"Yeah or maybe the kidnappers will panic and kill him." Wayne's pessimism hadn't lessened.

Moxey decided to ignore that comment. "We'll know soon enough. Our Barry's paying the ransom today."

Lena used a different method to get the ransom details to Barry. She and Dan had expected the internal mail to be monitored and decided that a letter would do the job just as well. There were plenty of service providers who allowed anonymity and this address would only be used once. Even if they could trace the source back to Lena, she'd be long gone. And she fully expected to be identified once she failed to turn up for work after the ransom was paid. It wasn't a problem.

Dennis had asked Laura to continue with her usual duties which included monitoring his or Barry's business letters. Most of the messages that day had been from concerned business colleagues and even rivals but one message stood out. The sender's name was L and the message contained details of a bank account into which the money should be sent. Just to convince Barry that this was genuine, there was a photo which happened to be of Trevor which Luke had taken when he'd first brought the boy to his house. He lay bound and gagged on a mattress in what appeared to be a stone cellar. His eyes were closed and it was impossible to tell if he was asleep or unconscious. As it was intended to, it spurred Barry into immediate action and the money was transferred with the click of a button.

And so Barry waited for news of his trainee. And waited... And waited...

She'd done it! The money had gone into the temporary account, rested there for less than a minute then been sent on its way through a series of different accounts towards its final destination. By nine that evening, Lena had confirmed that it had arrived. She was now a multi-millionaire! Luke could have his eight grand and she and Dan would live very happily ever after on the remainder. She was about to call Dan to give him the good news when there was a knock at the door.

She started in surprise. Surely it couldn't be the police? She debated making a run for it down the fire escape but told herself not to be so hasty. Sneaking quietly to the door she looked through the spy hole, surprised to see the distorted features of Carla Kenny, the singer in Dan's band.

"Hey, Carla." Lena was careful to act normally. This didn't mean that she was especially friendly towards the other woman. She was jealous of any female who spent time around her husband especially Carla who was particularly attractive.

"Is Dan in? I haven't seen him for a few days."

"He's gone to visit his mom. I thought he told you."

"He did, I just wondered if he was back yet. I've been calling him but he doesn't answer."

Lena frowned. Why was this woman so keen to see her husband?

"Well, he won't be back until the weekend. You can speak to him then." She stood up, indicating that Carla should leave but the other woman remained seated staring at her hands.

"Actually, he seems to be avoiding me," she said. "So maybe you can help me." She raised her head and looked Lena straight in the eye. "I'm sorry, Lena but you might as well know. I'm pregnant – it's Dan's."

Lena could barely take in what she was hearing. Images of Dan and Carla together shot through her head. The hurt and betrayal she felt overwhelmed her.

"No!" she managed to say. "You're lying."

"I'm sorry. It was just a bit of fun. I knew he'd never leave you. He liked having someone to pay his bills. The thing is I want to stop this. But it costs money..."

Money. She had twenty five grand sitting in a bank account. She could buy anything. But the one thing she wouldn't be paying for would be the abortion of her husband's child. Cold fury swept over her and she dragged Carla from her chair and pushed her out of the door slamming it behind her. Slumping to the ground with her back to the door, she sobbed. Why couldn't Carla have waited another day before coming around? Tomorrow evening, she and Dan were supposed to be out of the country. She'd never have known about his betrayal. But now, how could things ever be the same? He wouldn't stick around once he got hold of the money. He wouldn't need her anymore. She'd been a fool to think he'd ever loved her.

For a moment, she was tempted to pick up the phone and have it out with him. Then she took a deep breath, grabbed a tissue to wipe her eyes and checked her letters. One letter later, she stood up and went into the bedroom. Twenty minutes later, she carried a suitcase out of the building and hailed a taxi. She had a plane to catch.

Dan paced up and down the living room. Something must have gone wrong. Lena must have been caught otherwise she'd have been in touch. Why hadn't she called? Phones didn't work this far from civilisation but he'd checked and rechecked the landline and it was fine.

"What's going on?" he asked for the fiftieth time.

"Calm down. We don't know there's a problem. She's only two hours late calling in." Luke was no less agitated but he tried to keep his cool.

Dan stopped pacing to glare at him. Suddenly, he came to a decision.

"I'm going back to London."

"What?"

"I have to know what's going on."

"Wait a minute. This is a set up, isn't it?" Luke was growing suspicious. Were Dan and Lena planning to run off with the money leaving him with the problem of disposing of the kid?

"What? No. I wouldn't do that to you. You're family. I do have some scruples, you know."

"So what if she's caught? The police could be on their way here now."

"No, she won't give me away," Dan was halfway to the door. "I'll take the bike."

"What do I do with the kid?"

"Keep him safe for now. We might need him to bargain with."

"Wait..." But his cousin was gone.

Now it was Luke's turn to pace.

Barey was frantic. Eight hours of waiting had driven him to distraction. He'd been promised news of his trainee as soon as the money had been safely received and he'd steeled himself for a long wait knowing that the account to which he'd sent the money wouldn't be the one where it would stay but surely he should have heard something by now. He'd known he was gambling with Trevor's life when he'd sent the money, but he'd had no choice. He'd had to trust the kidnappers. After all, if he'd refused to pay, Trevor would have been dead anyway.

Even Adams was tense. He had his best men trying to track the money, but they'd warned him that it would be almost impossible. Although he didn't say anything to Barry, Dennkis or the rest of the Seven, he wondered if the kidnappers would just kill the boy to avoid the possibility of being caught when they released him.

Laura monitored Barry's letters just in case a message should come through but there was nothing.

As time dragged on they began to lose hope.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:25 pm

Dan made it back to London in record time. When he arrived at the block of flats, he looked around warily in case it was under surveillance but could see nothing unusual. When he walked into the flat, all seemed normal. At first glance, the only thing missing was Lena. He took the opportunity to check the answerphone and was surprised to see no messages from Lena but a dozen from Carla. When he listened to them he froze. The last message was a blunt statement of her intention to tell Lena what was going on if he didn't call her straight back. Then he knew exactly what had happened.

Cursing furiously, he ran into the bedroom checking Lena's wardrobe. Sure enough, a suitcase and a quantity of clothes were missing. She'd gone. She'd taken his money and gone. But had she betrayed him too? He thought furiously. No, he couldn't believe that she'd jeopardise her own chances of escape by giving him up. There was still time. The only thing that mattered now was his freedom. He still had one ace up his sleeve – the boy. After a quick phone call to Luke he grabbed a suitcase of his own, filled it and left. On his way out he noticed Lena's car keys on the table. That meant she'd gone away in a taxi, presumably to the airport. Just as well as he wouldn't have managed a suitcase on the bike. Picking up the keys, he left the flat to return to the lake-house.

It had been a long day for Trevor. He'd told himself that today would surely see his release but as the day went on, he began to lose hope. Time went slowly when he was awake with nothing to do but wait and wonder. He'd realised that the orange juice his captors so generously supplied him with had been drugged. That morning, he'd poured it away fearing that if he simply left it, he'd be chloroformed again. Sure enough, his head had cleared and despite his thirst he felt better than he'd done for days. Finally, the door opened and he lay down on the mattress pretending to be asleep.

"Come on," Luke pulled him up and twisted his arm behind his back, pushing him up the stairs. His mind on Lena's failure to contact them and Dan's trip to Londokn, he didn't notice that the boy was walking more steadily than he usually did.

Standing outside the bathroom door, Luke was startled by the phone. Despite his desperation to talk to Dan, he hesitated then reasoned that the kid would be too out of it to try anything. He moved to pick up the phone and forgot everything when Dan's voice told him what had happened.

"Sit tight, I'm on my way back."

"What are we going to do?"

"I don't know yet. We've still got the kid. It's not over yet. We'll talk about it when I get back."

Luke didn't notice the bathroom door opening. Trevor looked out surprised and relieved when his captor wasn't in his usual position outside the door. He couldn't see him but he could hear his voice. He looked around and tried the door to the next room. It was locked. So were all the other doors in the hallway. The window was too small for him to get through. He sighed. It looked as if the only exit was the front door but that relied on him getting past Luke. He quietly sneaked along the hallway to the door. He knew that it too would be locked but that didn't matter as he could see a key in the lock. He edged closer and closer.

Part of his brain screamed at him not to be so stupid. Any moment now the ransom would be paid and he'd be released. What was the point of risking capture? The dark haired man hadn't been joking when he'd threatened him. Did he really want to die slowly and painfully, starving to death in a freezing cellar?

But his genes were stubborn and he wanted to take this chance. His captors had had it their own way for too long. Now it was time to fight back and regain some self-respect. He clung to the belief that if this went wrong then his father would find him and save him.

He reached the door and turned the key. He pulled open the door and was just about to step over the threshold when a shadow fell across him.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:21 pm

Trevor tried to fight, he really did. But it was hopeless from the start. He was 24 years old; the other man was in his prime at a year older. Plus, Luke was in a state of fury at the loss of the money. He'd have liked to take his anger out on Dan but Dan wasn't there. Trevor was and his escape attempt was the final straw for Luke. Trevor was shaken violently, punched several times then thrown roughly against the wall before Luke finally lifted him, carried him back to the cellar and threw him through the doorway with all his strength. Trevor flew through the air knowing that the only possible landing place was going to be on hard stone. He hit the stairs halfway down throwing his arms up to protect his head as he did so. He heard the crack an instant before he felt an explosion of pain and he knew his wrist was broken.

He rolled to the bottom of the stairs and lay there gasping in agony. Suddenly, the shadow was there again and he looked up to see Luke looming over him, eyes cold and hard, the bottle and cloth in his hand.

"There's no money," he told him. "All this was for nothing."

Trevor looked up at him in pain and confusion. Surely Barry would have co-operated. Why wasn't there any money? Didn't his boss/mentor realize that he was in the hands of men who were prepared to kill him if they didn't get what they wanted? He tried to drag himself away as Luke approached him but he had no strength left. He closed his eyes and abandoned himself to his fate fearing that this time he wouldn't wake up.

Despite her devastation at Dan's betrayal, Lena laughed as her flight was called. Finally, after a long wait at the airport, she was on her way. When Laura checked her letters, she'd be out of reach but Dan and Luke would be discovered.

There had been no sleep for Barry that night. He hoped desperately that the morning would bring news of his friend/trainee. He didn't think he could cope much longer. He called Trevor's father trying to keep the fear and weariness he felt from showing in his voice. Despite his own misgivings, he tried to convince the O' Learys that everything was going to be okay but he could tell they were beginning to lose hope too. He'd never heard such desolation in Mr O' Leary's voice before.

Laura came in early. She seemed to live at the store now staying late and arriving early. The huge corporation had to keep going and Peggy had delegated many of her own duties to Laura whilst she helped the Seven. The MI-5 agents were monitoring the business calls and letters so Laura turned to her other tasks. It wasn't until later that morning that she got around to reading her own messages. An unanimous letter leapt out at her straight away and she shouted for Barry.

The letter was short and to the point. It named Dan and Luke and gave directions to the lake-house. The one thing it didn't do was identify the sender, but as soon as Adams received a response to his call for information on the owner of the lake-house the name 'Redman' gave Lena away.

Finally, the waiting was over. The police and MI-5 sprang into action. Helicopters were scrambled, local police notified. An APB was put out on Lena and her company ID photo located and circulated. Although she'd probably be long gone they automatically notified all airports in the area.

Laura sat quietly sobbing realizing that she had been the one to give Lena the information she needed. She'd given Adams details of all those who would have known about Trevorl's journey as part of their job: drivers, mechanics, the other secretaries... It hadn't occurred to her that her harmless chats with her friend might have been the source of the information but now that she thought about it she realized how cleverly Lena had manipulated her.

The Seven all ran to the left heading for the roof where a MI-5 jet was waiting. Knowing there was no way Barry, Dennis or any of the Seven would sit quietly waiting for news, Agent Adams had allowed him to fly out to the search area.

Dan had reached the lake-house early that morning. Luke's mood hadn't improved whilst he'd waited and there had been a lot of shouting and more than a few punches thrown before he'd calmed down. They had debated what to do. Luke didn't share Dan's confidence that Lena wouldn't betray them. He'd seen the possessive way she looked at her husband and knew that her revenge for betrayal would be brutal. Finally, he made up his mind. He was getting out.

Lena gazed out of the plane's window but instead of the clouds and blue sky she should have been enjoying, she was still looking at grey tarmac. She couldn't believe her bad luck. She'd been settling into her seat relaxing as the plane had begun to taxi down the runway when there had been a strange grating sound and the plane had come to a halt. As the pilot apologized for the delay as the problem was checked out, Lena wished she'd waited until she was safely out of the country before sending her letter. She just hoped the plane would get away before she was discovered but the way her luck had been going recently, she had a feeling that wouldn't be the case. She fidgeted in her seat earning yet another glare from the man sitting next to her. When the pilot finally apologized once again for the delay and informed them they'd be taking off very shortly she breathed a sigh of relief, finally relaxing back in her seat. As the plane began to taxi back towards the runway, she pushed aside thoughts of Dan and began to plan her new life.

As the plane picked up speed, she let out a laugh. But her laugh became a cry of frustration as the pilot hit the brakes and the plane ground to a halt once more. Her fellow passengers grumbled assuming it was another mechanical problem but she knew better. Looking out of the window, she saw a police car heading towards them and she knew it was over. She'd lost everything: Dan, the money, her new life. With just the prospect of a lengthy prison spell ahead of her, Lena Redman began to scream as the police dragged her from the plane.

As the local police in their cars and MI-5 in their helicopters headed out to the lake-house, Dan and Luke were debating whether or not to take Trevor with them. He was still unconscious and obviously injured but he was their only remaining bargaining chip. Then they heard the distant sound of a helicopter and knew their time was up. The only thing left to do now was make a run for it.

"Get the boy!" yelled Dan. The blazing sun dazzled him as he looked up to see how close the helicopter was. He ran to Laura's car popping open the trunk as he started the engine. Luke emerged moments later with Trevor. He slung him into the trunk and slammed the lid. Then he jumped in and Dan took off.

If Trevor had been conscious when they placed him in the trunk, he would have welcomed its warmth after the chill of the cellar. But when he awoke some thirty minutes later, the warmth had developed into a stifling heat. Tormented by thoughts of Barry's betrayal, he only remained conscious for ten minutes or so before the lack of air combined with the pain from his wrist proved too much and he slipped back into oblivion.

The helicopter pilot had spotted the car speeding away from the lake-house and kept it in view radioing in the location every few minutes. Dan had headed into the woods and there was no way for the helicopter to get near him. They didn't want to shoot at the car in case Trevor was inside. The local police were giving chase but they were miles behind.

In the MI-5 jet, Dennis could see that Barry was frantic. He'd listened to Adams' one-sided radio conversations and been given continual updates by the agent. He knew that the kidnappers were in a car speeding away from the lake-house but there had been no sign of Trevor. When Adams told him that the police had reached the house, he waited impatiently wondering if they'd find his trainee alive or dead. When news came that the house was empty, he slammed his fist against the window. The kidnappers still had Trevor – it wasn't over yet.

Adams told him about the drugs which had been found in the house and he closed his eyes with a sigh, the image of his trainee bound, drugged and helpless, rising up in his mind. He looked at his watch again. Over an hour since MI-5 had spotted the car leaving the lake-house.

Suddenly, Adams yelled out "What? Where? Great job!" and Barry snapped his head around to look at him. The MI-5 agent smiled broadly.

"Lena Redman! We've got her!"

"Good." Barry muttered. He wanted to tear this woman limb from limb for what she had done to Trevor, to him, to his business. And if he could only get his hands on the men in the car down below...

His thoughts of revenge were cut off as the pilot called out. Lena's car was now in sight. Barry caught his breath. They were so close. Hold on, Trevor, he thought. I'm nearly there.

On the ground, a plan had formed. Dan had turned the car onto a narrow track which ran for several miles with no turnings. Patrol units coming the other way were instructed to find a suitable place for a road block. There would be no way for Dan to avoid it. The minutes ticked by as Dan and Luke got closer and closer to a sharp bend beyond which the road block waited.

In the car, Luke yelled at Dan to slow down. He knew the game was up. With the helicopter keeping them in view, there was no way out. Capture was inevitable. But Dan wasn't going down without a fight. There might only have been a fraction of a chance but he was going to take it. He took the bend at far too high a speed and skidded sideways around the corner. He had little control over the car as he saw the two police cars blocking the road ahead. Dan swore in fear and frustration as Lena's small car slammed into the solid patrol vehicles.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:34 pm

From the helicopter, Barry watched in horror as the car smashed into the two police cars rebounding with a sickening jolt and slewing round finally coming to rest jammed sideways against one of the units. Patrolmen began running towards the crash.

"Get this thing down now!" he yelled at the pilot cursing as the helicopter lost height and the crash scene was lost behind a line of trees.

Dennis gripped his arm. "It's okay. He'll be okay."

As soon as the machine touched the ground, the Seven were out and running, Adams close behind. They reached the car just as a policeman was pulling a dark haired man out. The man had blood running from his head and looked dazed. A blond man was lying on the ground next to the car.

"Where's Trevor O' Leary?" Agent Adams demanded but the dark man just shook his head defiantly.

"Where's my trainee?" Adams grabbed Barry as he lunged at the man.

"He's in the boot." came a weak voice. Barry shot a look of contempt at the blond man before joining the officers who had rushed to the back of the car.

"It's jammed! Get a crowbar." Wayne yelled.

Come on... come on... Time seemed to slow to an agonizing crawl for Barry as he waited for the equipment to arrive. Finally, it did and the boot flew open. Barry dashed forward desperate to discover his trainee's fate.

"Trevor!" The relief Barry felt at seeing his trainee was immediately replaced with panic as Trevor failed to respond to his cry. His son lay motionless soaked in sweat, his face flushed. He looked so young and helpless that Barry had to choke back his tears.

"It's alright, kid, I'm here. It's over now." he whispered. He pushed one of the officers who was reaching out to Trevor away. He didn't want any more strangers touching his trainee and felt for Trevor's pulse himself letting out a sigh of relief as he felt one then filling with anxiety again as he registered how erratic and weak that pulse was.

"An ambulance is on its way," Moxey told him. "How is he?

"I don't know if he was hurt in the crash. But he's burning up. The heat must have been unbearable in there."

"We need to check him for injuries. If he's okay we should get him out of there and into the shade. Why don't you let Agent Warner take a look – she's got medical training." Dennis suggested.

Reluctantly, Barry moved aside and let the woman examine his trainee. She finally turned to him and smiled reassuringly.

"No major injuries as far as I can tell though his left wrist looks like it's broken and he's covered in bruises. I think he's just passed out from the heat. It would have been hard to breathe in there and he'd have been in a lot of pain from his wrist. "

"We don't know what drugs they gave him either." Adams added helping Barry lift Trevor from the boot and supporting the boy's injured arm as they moved into the shade.

The wave of love and protectiveness that washed over Barry as he cradled his trainee in his arms nearly overwhelmed him. He looked down at Trevor's head resting against his chest and gently smoothed the damp hair away from his face. He hugged him closer rocking him gently, whispering words of reassurance though whether they were meant for his trainee or himself, he didn't know.

"It's okay, Trevor, it's okay, kid... I'm here... You're safe now... It's all over... Come on, Trev, try to wake up... I'm here... Barry's here... It's going to be alright... Wake up, Trevor please..."

He didn't care who witnessed his rambling words to his trainee. Let the whole Midlands watch the great Barry Taylor fall apart. All he cared about at that moment was the fact that for the first time in four days he could hold his trainee and tell him how much he loved him.

"Mr Taylor?" It was Adams. "Here, this might help." He handed him a cloth soaked with water. Barry took it gratefully and bathed his trainee's hot face and neck.

"There you go, Trevor, that's better, isn't it? We'll get you cooled down and you'll be okay. Help's on the way. They can do something for that wrist of yours too. Come on, kid, wake up for me."

"Ambulance's here." Adams called and Barry sighed with relief dropping a kiss onto Trevor's forehead as he released his trainee to the medics' care.

He watched anxiously as the two men checked Trevor over holding his own breath as they listened to his breathing and took his pulse. When they took an oxygen mask and strapped it over Trevor's face, he paled a little then grew even more concerned as they set up an IV.

"Okay, he's stable. Let's get moving," The medic looked up at Barry. "You coming with us?"

"Just try to stop me." Barry muttered moving to help lift Trevor onto a stretcher then running alongside him as they headed for the helicopter. He glanced back as he waited for Trevor to be loaded in taking in the wreckage of the three cars. The two men who had held his trainee were handcuffed sitting in the back of another police car. They would pay for what they'd done he thought grimly. Being a member of the Magnificent Seven might have caused this but it would also buy the services of the best lawyers the country had to offer. Yes, they would pay for what they had done to his trainee.

Several hours later, Barry sat at Trevor's bedside. The doctors had allowed him to stay with Trevor when he'd been brought into the ER agreeing with Barry that the boy would be traumatized enough by his ordeal without panicking if he woke up surrounded by strangers. Just as well as Barry had known that the only way he'd have allowed himself to be separated from his trainee was if they'd knocked him out and dragged him away but Trevor had remained unconscious whilst they slowly brought his temperature down. He was still out when they sent him for a series of scans and x-rays. Barry had been horrified at the number of bruises on his trainee's body, not all of which had been the result of the crash according to the doctors. Fortunately, there had been no serious damage beyond the broken wrist and once this was set and encased in plaster he had been moved into a private room. A fan whirred gently blowing cool air onto him and various monitors beeped softly. Every so often, a nurse would come in to check on him nodding in satisfaction at the readings.

"Don't worry; he's just exhausted after everything he's been through," She smiled at Barry and thought that he looked exhausted himself. "He's getting stronger by the minute. He'll be awake soon."

Barry murmured his thanks and returned his attention to his trainee. One hand held Trevor's as the other gently stroked his face and hair. He spoke quietly to him: telling him how much his family had missed him describing their elation when he'd called them to let them know he was safe trying to draw him back to consciousness. Finally, he was rewarded with a weary sigh.

"Trevor? Trevor. Come on, kid, come back to me." Trevor finally opened his eyes but Barry's joy at his trainee's return to consciousness was brief.

"Barry?" It was only a whisper but the bitter tone shocked Barry. He was even more panic-stricken when Trevor turned his face away from him. "Where were you?" he asked, a harsh note of disillusion in his voice. "I waited for you but you didn't come."

"Oh Trevor..." Barry's heart was breaking. Had Trevor really thought he'd been abandoned? "Kid, we were looking for you but it took so long to find you. Even after I paid the ransom they didn't give you back. There's so much I have to tell you, but please don't think we weren't looking, that I wasn't looking. I love you so much, Trevor but not in that way, I was so scared I was going to lose you. I'd never give up on you. Please believe me, kid."

Barry realized he was rambling again but he was relieved as Trevor finally turned to look at him. The desperate emotion in his friend/mentor's voice and the shattered look on his face told the boy more than words ever could.

"I thought..." his words were broken by a sob and he reached up to his father. Mindful of the cast on his trainee's left arm and the IV in his right, Barry reached back to Trevor and pulled him into a tight embrace. Trevor sobbed against his mentor's chest and Barry finally let his own tears fall.
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Re: A High Price to Pay

Post by racesgirl2000 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 2:42 pm

Back in the Taylor house, news of Trevor's rescue had come via the MI-5 agent stationed in the house. The delight of the family was tempered by the news that Trevor was being driven to Birmingham City Hospital but at least he was out of the hands of his captors and back with Barry. It was a long wait for news. Agent Stevens passed on the bits of information he got from the hospital and Barry suggested that Dennis had made a quick call to tell them what was going on but he didn't want to leave Trevor for more than a minute and so the waiting had continued. Wayne and Neville raced around happily but Bomber, Oz, Moxey and Hazel needed to actually speak to Trevor before truly believing that everything was going to be alright.

Once Trevor had been checked over by his doctor, Barry put in the long-awaited call home. Trevor was too tired to say much but everyone else chattered away expressing their joy and relief at his return. Dennis noticed Barry was speaking at some length to Hazel but it was Wayne who kept him on the line the longest begging to be allowed to come to the hospital. His brief conversation with his friend obviously hadn't been enough to convince him that Trevor was really okay. Barry had considered it thinking that Wayne would be invaluable in helping Trevor since Sophie would do the same for her traumatized brother then decided against it. He'd just got Trevor back; he couldn't cope with the prospect of Wayne travelling halfway across the country on his own. Even Hazel's support for the idea hadn't changed his mind. Promising to call again later, Barry said goodbye to Wayne allowing him a few last words with a rapidly fading Trevor.

It wasn't long before Trevor drifted off to sleep once more but the deep peace of his unconscious state was long gone. There was little sleep for Barry that night as he watched Trevor toss and turn muttering restlessly. Three times, he had to jump from his chair to comfort his son when he awoke from nightmares. When morning came, they were both exhausted.

The door opened and Agent Adams strolled in. Trevor looked at him with the wary look that now came automatically into his eyes whenever he saw a stranger. Barry and Dennis had both seen it when the medical staff came in and it made Barry feel guilty. How often had he wished that Trevor didn't have his mother's eyes? Well, he thought bitterly, he'd got his wish now. Mrs O' Leary had never had that look of fear and suspicion, something he was immensely thankful for but it devastated him to see it in the eyes of his trainee.

Adams walked up to the bed and smiled down at Trevor. The boy flinched nervously looking at Barry and Dennis for reassurance. Barry put a hand on his arm.

"Trevor, this is Agent Adams. He helped find you."

"Thank you." Trevor tried to smile but from the hesitant flicker of his lips it seemed as if he'd forgotten how.

"Hello, Trevor, I'm glad to see you looking better. I've got someone outside who wants to talk to you. Do you feel up to it?"

Barry and Dennis both looked at him in surprise. He'd spoken to Adams earlier and they'd agreed that Trevor needed more time to recover before the inevitable questioning. He was even more surprised when Adams winked at him. Trevor had closed his eyes wearily and hadn't responded.

"Well, I guess I'll send your sister home then. It's a pity when she's made such an effort to get here." Adams walked back to the door and opened it.

Trevor's eyes shot open and he looked over to the door as Sophie and the rest of the Seven walked in. His eyes lit up and Barry, despite his shock, was thrilled to see a glimpse of the old Trevor.

Sophie and Wayne raced to the bed and hugged Trevor, Wayne saying he was glad to see him again and Sophie telling him over and over how glad she was to see him, passing on messages from Mia and their parents. Trevor could barely get a word in but his delight was obvious.

"Hope you don't mind, Mr Taylor," Adams said. "Agent Stevens was leaving the house and he caught Mr Norris loading up his car to drive up here. Your wife could see that there was no talking him out of it so we thought you wouldn't mind if we flew him up. It might help Trevor and you look like you could do with a break too."

No, Barry thought watching the joyful reunion between Trevor and Sophie. I don't mind at all. For the first time in four days, I feel at peace.

Sophie finally released her brother and settled him back down against the pillows. She looked across at Adams who reached into his pocket and handed her something.

"I thought you might like this back." Sophie smiled down at her brother.

It was Trevor's watch. Sophie fastened it around his right wrist careful not to disturb the IV. It hung loosely and for the first time, Sophie looked properly at him distressed by how thin and pale he looked. But the smile on Trevor's face as he gazed first at his treasured watch then at his sister reassured Sophie. Mr O' Leary's dark mutterings about post-traumatic stress had panicked him after his initial joy at the news of his son's rescue and he'd been desperate to see him. When Barry had called the previous evening and allowed them to speak to Trevor, he'd waited impatiently as Mia had chattered away, anxious to speak to Trevor himself. When he finally got the chance to speak, he had expected to feel relieved but instead, Trevor's lack of response and tired strained voice just added to his worry. Even though he'd known that it was totally impractical to try to drive all the way to the hospital and that Trevor would probably have been released by the time he'd got there, he'd thought he'd go crazy if he just sat around at home. When the MI-5 agent had stopped him, he'd been so frustrated. He hadn't been able to contain his joy when Hazel had told him that she's be dropping him home. She knew that Trevor needed her and Barry now more than ever and Barry was determined not to let his trainee down again.

After another forty eight hours Virgil was discharged. Jeff was keen to get him back to Kansas as quickly as possible and away from the prying eyes of the press, who had besieged the small hospital. He'd finally given a press conference hoping that this would satisfy their hunger, but a few more persistent reporters still hung around. Photographers remained a problem, desperate for the heart-warming father and son picture which Jeff was adamant they wouldn't get. Virgil was still too fragile to cope with any press attention.

Jeff thought back to the previous afternoon. Agent Adams had questioned Virgil gently about his experiences, but it had still been traumatic for the boy. He'd tried his best to stay calm, but he'd become terribly distressed when he'd described how Mike had died. Scott had moved to sit on the bed at that point and had pulled his brother close, whispering words of encouragement.

When he'd described the making of the tape Virgil had broken down. Shame and guilt were too much for him and he began to sob. Adams had left the room for a while to give him time to recover.

"Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." Virgil sobbed. Jeff did what he could to comfort him.

"It's alright, Virgil. You don't have anything to be sorry about."

"But I should have been braver. I should have..."

"Look at me, Virgil," Jeff said, tilting Virgil's face to his. "You're barely twelve years old. Even a grown man would have been terrified."

"Scott wouldn't," Virgil gasped between sobs.

"What?" Scott was genuinely surprised. Did his little brother really think that highly of him? "I'd have done the same, Virg. "

"No you wouldn't. You wouldn't have cried."

"Yes I would. I've cried so much these last few days I doubt my pillow's dried out yet. I kept thinking about how mean I've been to you lately. I felt so bad."

"Really?" The sobs had become less desperate.

"Really. You're the bravest person I know. You don't have to be ashamed of anything. Right, dad?"

"Right." Jeff patted Virgil's shoulder. "I'm proud of you, son. You're alive and back with us. That's all that matters."

The questioning had eventually continued and Jeff had been even prouder of his son when he described how he'd tried to escape. Scott had praised his brother too and Virgil began to look happier. Jeff thought that talking about what had happened had been good for him. He'd certainly had enough people advising him to arrange counselling as soon as they got home. Virgil would get all the help he needed, but Jeff knew that what he needed most was to be back with his brothers.

If Virgil's birthday had been a great celebration, it was nothing compared to his homecoming. Still mindful of the press Jeff had vetoed a family reunion at the airport, so it wasn't until they arrived at the house that they were all together once more. Gordon and Alan flung themselves at their brother, nearly knocking him over. Luckily Scott and Jeff had placed supporting hands on Virgil's shoulders and they kept him upright. John and Grandma were a little more restrained, but they too joined in the hug. For a few minutes there was just a confused jumble of Tracys, then Grandma broke free and took charge, frowning at her grandson's gaunt appearance. She took Virgil's hand and led him into the kitchen where a feast second only to that seen at Christmas awaited.

Virgil's physical recovery was rapid, but his return to emotional stability took longer. There were some difficult times. A few days after his return Jeff had been panicked by the sound of a wail like an animal in pain. Rushing out to the garden he saw Virgil backed up against a wall, shaking, whilst Gordon and Alan stood in front of him, plastic guns and cowboy hats thrown to the ground, desperately apologising and begging their brother to calm down. No one played with toy guns after that.

On the day of Mike's funeral, attended by Jeff and Scott, Virgil locked himself in his room, only opening the door when Scott returned and threatened to break it down. He'd spent the day drawing frantically, ignoring the blisters which formed on his fingers, filling page after page with scenes from the kidnapping. So many that Scott thought that if he put the pictures together and flicked through them he'd find himself watching an animated version of Virgil's experiences.

The pictures had disturbed Jeff, but Agent Adams had been pleased to have them to use at the trial, though he was hoping it wouldn't be necessary. There was plenty of evidence against the three conspirators. Dan and Mike had been caught red-handed and Lena had confessed, realising that her only hope was a reduced sentence for co-operating. She'd returned the money – it nearly killed her, but she knew she'd never get to spend it. The three of them were left in no doubt that if they went to trial Virgil's tape would cause so much revulsion on the part of judge and jury that they could wave goodbye to any hope of leniency. Jeff was also keen to avoid a trial, anxious to save his son the trauma of testifying and the humiliation of having his breakdown broadcast to the world. Fortunately, all three conspirators saw sense and gave themselves up to the mercy of the judge. But there wasn't much to be had. Luke and Lena were jailed for twenty-five years. Dan, Mike's murderer, received a thirty –five year sentence.

John had told Scott that he didn't expect a happy ending and he was partly right. It would take a long time for Virgil to fully recover from all that had happened to him – and even in later years there would be moments when the memories would come rushing back. There would be setbacks – panic attacks, tears and nightmares - but with his family's help he slowly regained his shattered confidence, showing the spirit and determination which would be so valuable to International Rescue in years to come.

Virgil still has a way to go to recover completely, but that's another story...
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