"OK, Bethie, last night I put Mr. Crane's car in the garage and shut the door, like you said - that way it's hidden," Charlie said. "We still need to come up with a plan for getting rid of it though - and Sheridan's brother."
"All right, let me think about this for awhile," Beth said. "I'll come up with something."
"Wha-What are you two whispering about over there?" Mrs. Wallace called out.
"Nothing, Mother, just mind your own business," Beth responded.
Mrs. Wallace started heading toward the pair, ignoring her daughter's command.
"Listen," Charlie said to Beth, "there's something I need right away - a gun."
"A gun!" Mrs. Wallace cried, fear rising in her voice. "What do you want with a gun?!"
"Mother, why don't you go into the kitchen to check on dinner? Now!" Beth ordered.
Mrs. Wallace carefully made her way toward the kitchen door with her walker, but went as slowly as she could to pick up what was being said between the conniving pair.
"It's too hard to control two of them without a gun," Charlie explained. "Blondie's not too bad, being pregnant and all. But her brother's a different story. I don't like the looks of that guy. He doesn't seem trustworthy, you know."
Mrs. Wallace chuckled as she headed into the kitchen. "And you do?"
"That's it! One more word out of her, and she's in the pit too!" Charlie exclaimed, looking at Beth.
"Mother, I told you to get going! Now do it!"
"OK, OK, I'm out of here," Mrs. Wallace said, mumbling under her breath about how what goes around, comes around. She shut the kitchen door behind her.
"Charlie, are you sure you need a gun?" Beth asked. "I've never liked guns."
"It's necessary," Charlie said, "for your safety - and mine."
"OK, well, why don't you go to a gun shop tomorrow and get one?" Beth suggested.
"See, I can't do that," Charlie said. "They have some useless law now that says you have to have a background check to get one. That means I'm out."
"Why?" Beth asked, somewhat fearful about finding out the answer.
"Oh, some little mishap from my past. It's nothing," Charlie answered.
Beth, however, looked worried. "What crime had Charlie committed in the past?" she wondered silently. "What have I gotten myself into?"
"I guess I could get one," Beth said finally, "but isn't there a waiting period on guns?"
"On a handgun, yes," Charlie replied. "That's why you need to get me a rifle."
Beth let out a deep breath. "If you think you really need one, I guess I'll have to get it. I'll do it first thing tomorrow."
"Thanks, Bethie," Charlie said, smiling. "Now any ideas on what to do about the car in the garage?"
"Well, there's something I saw in a movie once," Beth began, her partner in crime nodding, a devilish grin on her face.
Julian awoke and sat up, rubbing his hand against his neck. "Blasted dirt floor!" he cried.
Then looking toward Sheridan, he noticed that she was already awake, sitting up on the lawn cushion, a far-away look on her face.
"Sheridan, how are you feeling?" Julian asked, his voice revealing his concern for his pregnant sister.
"I'm all right," she replied. "I guess I'm pretty used to these accommodations by now. You, however, can't be yet."
"Oh, I'm OK," Julian said. "I've been through a lot worse."
"When?" Sheridan asked. "Julian, your whole life has been nothing but upscale mansion living and first-class hotels."
"Yes, well, some of them weren't so first class," he responded. "Listen, you needn't worry about me. You've got your baby to think about."
"That's always on my mind," Sheridan revealed. "Luis's and my baby - always."
"Sheridan, did you find out the baby was Luis's? I mean, I don't want to hurt you, but I thought you didn't know if it was his or his brother Antonio's."
"Oh, I know now that Luis is the father of my baby," Sheridan said. "I just feel it. When you have a connection like we do, between two people who are deeply in love, you just know things - like Luis knew that I didn't run away. You probably wouldn't understand. Most people don't."
"No, probably not," he said wistfully, his eyes fixed on the ground. Then changing the subject, he said, "I think we need to tell each other everything we know so far about these kidnappers. We need to put all our cards on the table, so to speak. Maybe we can come up with something."
Sheridan nodded. "I already told you there are at least two of them - the large woman who you've seen, plus another woman, more normal size. Both were wearing clown masks."
"Yes, that's right," Julian said. "Is there anything you recognized about them? Anything about their voices maybe?"
"Well, I only heard the large one talk," Sheridan said. "Come to think of it, the other one didn't say anything to me. Do you think that means something?"
"It could," her brother answered. "Maybe she thought you'd recognize her voice."
"Hmmm..." Sheridan pondered the idea. "Maybe that's it. Maybe I know her from somewhere! Julian, we could be onto something!"
"When did you see this silent woman?" Julian asked. "How many times?"
"Only once. It kind of seemed like she was in charge. The other one - the big one - kept going over and whispering to her, as if she was asking her advice or something."
"So the other woman, the small one, might be the boss," Julian said. "Interesting."
"Why so?" asked his sister, her eyes now vibrant with excitement that her brother might be onto something.
"Well, Sheridan," Julian replied, "kidnappings where women are in charge - where women are the only ones involved - are very rare. This just doesn't seem like a normal kidnapping. You heard what they said - that I'm expendable. I'm a billionaire, for God's sake, but they didn't ask for a ransom," he said slowly. "And they didn't ask for a ransom for you either, Sheridan. They're not after money."
"Then what could they be after?" Sheridan asked, her voice becoming alarmed. "What could they possibly want from me if not money?"
"That seems to be the question of the day," Julian said softly. To himself, he wondered, "My God, what could they be after?"
Julian didn't let Sheridan see his worry. "We'll figure something out, Sheridan. You and me together..." he started to say, and then stopped.
"You and me together what?" she asked.
"I was going to say, you and me together can't be beat," he said softly. "That's what Mother used to say when you were really little, do you remember?"
Sheridan shook her head sadly. "I can't remember much about our mother - except what she looked like, and how sweet she was - how much she loved me."
"Oh, she loved you," Julian said, "so much. She used to tell us that apart, bad things could possibly happen to us, but together, we couldn't be beat."
"I never knew that," Sheridan said, smiling warmly.
"I just hope our mother was right," Julian thought to himself. "God, how I hope she was right about that..."