"There you are! Finally!" Beth cried. "I have been wondering when you were going to get here, Charlie."
"What's up, Bethie?" Charlie asked, closing the front door and giving her friend a wink.
"Tonight's the night we have to take the baby," Beth said. "I need to get her used to me before Luis comes. I'm going to call him tomorrow and tell him I had the baby!"
"So you are going through with that Rochester crap?" Charlie asked.
"Yes, I think it will work," Beth said. "It has to."
"Beth, I still don't understand why you are going to go to so much bother to make Luis think this is your baby with him, when we are going to raise her together. It doesn't make any sense."
"Well, see, it's all part of my final revenge against Sheridan," Beth explained. "How could it hurt her more than to think that Luis and I are raising her baby together? It'll be the final nail in that girl's coffin." She clasped her hands together and laughed.
"So you're going to tell her then? You're going to let Sheridan know you are the one who has been keeping her in that pit?"
"I will, right before I kill her!" Beth revealed. "It will be such fun to see the shock on her face when she realizes that Luis and I and her baby will be a family!"
"But that's not really true - right, Beth?" Charlie asked, jealous at her friend's apparent delight in the idea of raising the baby with Luis.
"Of course not, Charlie," Beth said quickly. "I am only going to pretend with Luis for awhile...to hit Sheridan where it really hurts before she dies. I may try to continue it for a little while longer, just so I can step on her grave properly...while carrying her baby! Ha Ha Ha! Then, of course, I will dump Luis, and you and I can raise the baby."
"Well, when are we going to take care of the three losers in the pit?" Charlie asked, worried that she would likely have to do the bulk of the job herself.
"Maybe tomorrow night, after Luis has seen the baby and I tell Sheridan my plan to raise her with him," Beth said. "I think I'll have you shoot them, and then we can fill the dirt back in on top of them. No one will ever know!"
Charlie smiled. "That sounds like a pretty safe plan as far as we're concerned. There's not much risk involved. OK, let's go over all the details before we head down to get the baby."
"It's almost nighttime," Sheridan said. "I always hate the dark down here." She was holding the baby while seated on the cushion. Julian and Eve were sitting nearby.
"It should be getting dark soon," Julian agreed, looking at his watch. "I guess that means we will have to spend yet another night in this hellhole."
"I can't wait to get out of here too," Eve admitted. "I really miss my family." She realized how that sounded to Julian only after the words had already escaped her mouth.
He looked at her quickly, and she saw the pain in his eyes. She could tell he understood, however. She had had her family for over twenty years. Of course she missed them. He hoped it was the girls she was thinking about more than their father, however.
"I know Luis will find us soon; I just know it," Sheridan stated.
"I'm sure he's working on it around the clock," Eve agreed. "And now that I'm missing too, I bet they have put two and two together and realize you've had your baby, Sheridan."
"Do you think so?" she asked. "I had kind of thought that Luis would sense our baby arriving. I've hoped that; I just didn't know."
"You can bet Luis is doing everything he can to find us," Julian said, "especially the baby. There's nothing worse than knowing you have a child out there somewhere that you can't locate and protect."
His eyes met Eve's. She knew he was referring to their child as well as Sheridan's. She wanted more than anything to be reunited with her firstborn, the child created from the greatest love she had experienced in her life.
Julian reached out and grasped Eve's hand. She smiled at him sadly.
Sheridan understood exactly what Julian meant as well, but decided to remain silent on the subject for Eve's sake. She wasn't sure if Eve knew that she was aware of everything now. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt the woman who had done so much to help her.
"I think this little gal needs a diaper change," Sheridan said. "I'll do it this time." She got up and carried the baby over to where the package of diapers was located and began to change her.
Julian turned to look into Eve's eyes. "I'm sorry you are sad about our son," he said. "And I also feel bad that you have to be apart from your family. I've hurt you so much by having you brought here, Eve."
"Don't think that, Julian," Eve said. "There are three big reasons I am glad I was brought to this pit. I was able to save Sheridan's life and the baby's life and..." She paused, looking deeply into his eyes.
"What was the third?" Julian asked softly.
"That I could be with you, Julian," she said, smiling. "Making love with you last night was not only a whole lot of fun - it was also a major turning point in my life. I'm sure of it. This whole experience has been, beginning with me thinking you were dead. That was a horrible couple of days for me, but it got me to open my eyes to what was around me and to look in my heart."
"So you don't have any regrets then, about what happened last night?" Julian asked, wanting to be sure of where she stood.
"Julian, I don't have any regrets," she said. "Maybe that means I'm a horrible person; I don't know. I just know that I am in love with you and thrilled that I was able to show you how much."
He reached up and touched her face with his hand. Oh, how he wanted to take her in his arms again and kiss her... Maybe he could tonight, after Sheridan went to sleep.
"Look at the lovebirds!" boomed a voice from above. "Can't keep their hands off of each other, I see!" Charlie added an evil laugh to reinforce her jab.
Julian quickly lowered his hand and glared at the masked abductors peering over the edge of the pit. "What do you two want?" he asked angrily.
Sheridan had just finished changing her daughter and hurried back with her toward the others.
"Just where do you think you're going so fast, Blondie?" bellowed Charlie. "You can run, but you can't hide." She chuckled hideously.
Sheridan felt chills run down her spine when she heard that evil laugh. She quickly sat down on the cushion and huddled near Julian and Eve.
"We've come for something," Charlie continued. "You can make this easy on yourselves, or you can make it hard. It really doesn't matter to me."
Eve's stomach churned. She feared that she knew what those monsters were after.
She looked at Sheridan. She must have known too, for her eyes were wide with alarm, and she clutched her baby tightly to her chest.
Julian jumped up and faced the kidnappers. "I don't know what you think you're after, but you're not going to get it. So why don't you just turn around right now and go back the way you came?"
"OK, Mr. Rich, you could have made it easy on yourself and them. But since you're not, I think it's time to play hardball." Charlie reached down and picked up her rifle. She aimed it at Julian. "Now, I want you to go over and get the baby from your sister and bring it over here. My partner is lowering the basket right over there as we speak, so I want you to put the baby in the basket real gentle now. Understand?"
Sheridan shrieked in horror from her spot on the cushion. She clutched the baby even tighter and bent down over her, shielding her with her body.
Eve gasped and put her hand over her mouth as the realization sunk in that the kidnappers really had come to take the baby. She reached out and touched Sheridan's arm. "It's gong to be OK," she told the desperate young mother. "We won't let them take your baby."
Julian kept his defiant stance. He wasn't about to comply with the abductor's request.
Charlie cocked the rifle. Julian backed up toward the women and put his arms out to shield them. "Get behind me," he whispered. Eve did as he requested and huddled with Sheridan on the cushion. She too would protect the mother and child.
"You're just delaying the inevitable," Charlie said. "We are not leaving here without the baby."
Beth had lowered the basket to the floor of the pit by this time. She stood in fearful anticipation of what might happen. She couldn't believe they were trying to defy Charlie's orders.
Charlie aimed the rifle at Julian's chest. "This is the last friendly warning you get, pal. Get the baby, put it in the basket, or die."
"Never!" Julian declared. "You'll have to kill me first."
Eve shrieked at Julian's last statement. She knew he meant it.
Sheridan was murmuring something incomprehensible at this point, still not rising up to look at Charlie. She would not cease shielding the baby with her body.
"OK," Charlie said, "we were planning to give you all a little more time to live, but it doesn't really matter now." She prepared to fire the rifle.
"No, wait!" Eve screamed, standing up beside Julian. "Don't kill him!"
"Eve, sit down," Julian ordered. "They're not playing games. This is serious."
"Julian, they're going to shoot you!" Eve cried. "Come over here with us." She grabbed hold of his arm to pull him over to the cushion.
"How do you know I'm going to shoot him?" Charlie snickered. "I just may shoot you instead." She aimed her rifle at Eve. Julian quickly stepped in front of her. The action startled Charlie, who fired, knocking both Julian and Eve down with the blast from her rifle.
Sheridan raised her head to watch her brother and Eve fall to the ground, Julian landing on top of the woman he loved. Neither moved. Sheridan let out a shriek and desperately clung to her child, sobbing uncontrollably.
"Now you've killed both of them," Beth whispered. "And Sheridan is a basket case. You're going to have to go after the baby yourself."
"I will then," Charlie said. "Bethie, you cover me with this rifle. I'll go down and get the baby." She cocked the rifle once more for Beth. "If anyone tries anything, point this right at them and pull the trigger," she said.
Charlie went to retrieve the rope ladder and secured one end to a basement pole. She flung the ladder over the edge of the pit and proceeded to climb down.
Beth aimed the rifle at the two motionless bodies in the center of the pit.
As Charlie neared the bottom of the ladder, she looked at the two cautiously. There was still no movement from Julian or Eve. She jumped to the ground and headed toward Sheridan and the baby.
Suddenly, Julian leaped up and lunged at Charlie. She turned and tried to fight him off. "Now, Beth, shoot!" she cried, dropping to the ground to avoid the shot.
Beth looked through the scope and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Julian in the arm and flung him around. He sank to the floor of the pit in pain. Eve got up from where Julian had whispered for her to stay and rushed to his side. Neither had been wounded before, but this time it was not pretend. Julian had been hit!
Charlie jumped up and ran over to Sheridan. She grabbed hold of her hair, yanking her up off of the baby. Sheridan cried out desperately. The stronger woman ripped the baby from her arms and headed toward the basket. "My baby!" Sheridan cried after her, "My baby!"
Julian tried to get up to stop her, but fell back in pain. Eve managed to leap up and made a valiant attempt to grab the baby out of the kidnapper's arms. Charlie responded by giving her a strong blow to the head with her left arm while holding the baby in her right one. While Eve tumbled backwards toward the ground, Charlie quickly put the baby in the basket and yelled at Beth to pull her up. She did.
Then Charlie quickly began scrambling up the ladder, before Eve and Julian could do anything to stop her. Eve jumped up and headed for the ladder, but Charlie was almost to the top. Pulling herself over the edge of the pit, Charlie shook the ladder furiously as Eve tried to hold onto the ropes and get a foothold. The shaking eventually knocked the doctor off, and Charlie quickly yanked the ladder up. Eve jumped up from the ground and banged her fists against the side of the pit, sobbing. She realized that she had failed in preventing the kidnapping of Sheridan's baby.
Sheridan herself was sobbing hysterically on the cushion. Eve noticed she was lying in a fetal position when she turned around to check.
Julian was lying on the floor, grabbing his arm in pain. His face was deathly white. Eve realized he was going into shock. She rushed to his side. "Julian, let me see," she said, extending his arm out so she could see where the bullet had hit. She quickly removed his shirt so that she could inspect his wound. "You're going to be OK, but I have to stop the bleeding," she said. She noticed he was slowly losing consciousness. "Hold on, honey. Don't you leave me now."
Eve quickly retrieved her medical bag and set to work saving her lover's life. She had to prevent the loss of blood. She applied pressure to the wound and made a tourniquet out of his shirt to help stop the bleeding. The cleansing of the wound and removal of the bullet could come later, she knew. Right now, there were more pressing things to do to save Julian's life.
She looked back at Sheridan as she tightened the tourniquet. She knew she too required immediate medical attention. "Julian," she asked, "how are you doing?"
He was still deathly pale. "Eve..." he murmured, opening his eyes, "Our baby...couldn't save...our baby."
"Oh, God, he's delirious," Eve said. She gave him a shot of a common antibiotic that she kept in her medical bag for emergencies. Then she ran to grab a water bottle and put an acetaminophen tablet in his mouth. She held his head up and gave him a sip of water to wash it down. "That and the shot should help with the fever and preventing infection," she thought. Eve thankfully noted that the loss of blood had stopped. She hoped that she got to him in time to ward off shock. "You're going to be all right, Julian," she said, caressing his cheek. "I won't let anything happen to you."
Eve eased Julian's head gently onto the ground and turned her attention to his sister. Sheridan was in a terrible state. The loss of her baby had hit her hard. Eve bent over the sobbing mother, and tried to talk soothingly to her. Sheridan was in a far-away place, Eve realized. She could hear nothing the doctor said. Eve decided that the best thing to do was sedate the poor girl. She prepared the injection. "Sheridan, I know what you're going through," she said as she gave her the shot. "I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone, not in a million years."
The sedative began to take effect, first calming Sheridan down, and then putting
her to sleep. Eve brushed the hair out of the sleeping woman's eyes and stood
up. She looked from her to Julian. The two siblings, healthy just moments ago,
were now in terrible shape. Eve sighed, realizing that at that moment she was
the only one in the pit who could do anything to get the baby back. She had
no idea what she possibly could do, but knew she would try. She couldn't let
Sheridan suffer like she had all those years ago...