“At least now we know it’s a kidnapping,” Luke explained in a soft tone, “and not just some weirdo snatching up little girls. And kidnapping is well known territory to us. We know the drill.”
“The fact that the note was shoved under this door is telling, for instance. This is the suite next to Natalie’s room. So apparently he knows we’re all gathered here. That means he must be close by,” Lucinda concluded.
“And he knows there’s a lot of money available here,” Reid said. “Or is a million the going rate these days?”
“Good point,” Damian nodded. “I know we’re in Vegas and this floor doesn’t offer the cheapest rooms in town, but still…to ask for a million suggests that the kidnapper knows there’s money to collect in here.”
“They better not hurt her,” Holden whispered, clearly very upset. It made Luke and Reid look at each other. Danny’s horrific past had shone a whole new – unwelcome – light on what some human beings were capable of and it had managed to rub out some of the Snyder Naïveté. Hearing Danny’s story in court had touched them all deeply and it had left some deep scars and triggered some new fears.
“If they know us well enough to know they can ask a million, they must also know us well enough to keep her safe,” Lucinda tried to sound self-assured, but her eyes told a different story. She was scared too.
A happy tune filled the room and Holden quickly answered his phone. The initial hope on his face disappeared.
“I see. Yeah, that is bad news. Did you get my text? A million, yes. Yeah, I’ll stay here. Let me know.”
After he disconnected, he stared at his phone for a few seconds, but Lily’s “And?” pulled his out of his thoughts.
“They found the tracking device. It was in the elevator. Without the bear and obviously without Natalie.”
“The tracker was removed?” Molly frowned. “This gadget hasn’t been long on the market. I knew about it, because we used it in a segment on a show. How would this guy know about it?”
“That is weird,” Luke nodded, looking at his sleeping little brother on Reid’s lap and the bear in his arms. “Especially because the kids didn’t know it was there, so Natalie couldn’t have told him.”
“Maybe it’s someone from Oakdale, who watched your show,” John thought out loud.
“We haven’t seen any familiar faces, have we?”
“Are you suggesting you know every resident of Oakdale?” John’s tease was loving and Lucinda shrugged.
“You have a point. But it’s a disturbing thought that this kidnapper apparently has a lot of inside information.”
“It is,” John agreed, putting his arm around her.
When Jack returned to the room, the spirits were low and he had nothing to offer that would make his family feel better.
“Whoever it is…this guy knows what he’s doing. I’ve just seen several tapes of cameras in the hall and elevator, but there’s nothing there. We do have a little footage of Natalie walking to the vending machine, but the camera is rotating and in the next shot she’s not there anymore. But they used it to show all over the hotel. Let’s hope someone has seen her.”
He accepted the note carefully and after reading it, he shook his head. He didn’t have a clue what was going on and that frustrated him immensely.
“The thing that bothers me the most is that he knew about the tracking device in the bear,” he said and the nodding heads around him made clear they had been talking about this already.
“The common conclusion in this room is that it’s someone who knows this family. Maybe even someone from Oakdale. Molly showed the bear on WOAK…that could be where the kidnapper saw it…”
Jack nodded, giving Carly a quick smile to thank her for the recap.
“Yeah, that could be very possible. I have a meeting with the local authorities in a few minutes and we’ll check airlines and hotels for people from Oakdale.” He looked at the sleeping Ethan and continued, “I suggest that you all try to get some sleep. Nothing you can do now, so get some rest.”
“As if I could sleep,” Lily muttered. “My baby is out there!”
“We need to stay clear headed and that’s not gonna happen without any sleep,” Luke responded with a firm voice. “We don’t help Natalie with drama.”
“I can’t be upset?” Lily snapped, but Luke was not affected.
“You can be upset all you want, but I’m not gonna stay here holding your hand. I’m gonna get some sleep and I won’t feel guilty about it. No matter how outraged you look at me.”
Reid tried hard to hide his smile. He liked this confident Luke. Lily clearly didn’t. She watched Luke in horror, making Reid understand the dynamics of earlier Snyder drama. Lily would turn into a dramatic mess and Luke would be the family’s anchor. And with him stepping back, Lily felt lost. But Luke didn’t abandon ship completely. He asked Faith to bring Ethan to bed and to stay with him. She had been awfully quiet and pale the whole evening, so just to be sure Luke whispered to her that none of this was her fault or responsibility and she gave him a quick smile.
“I was in bed, watching a movie…If I’d known…”
“But you didn’t know. No one could expect that Natalie would go out for a drink. What’s wrong with drinking some water when you’re thirsty?” Luke tried to joke, but neither of them laughed.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Luke said seriously now, “and Natalie is a very smart kid. She’ll figure something out to stay safe.”
“I hope so,” Faith whispered, while she carefully took Ethan and held him close. “She’s just nine…”
“She’s a Snyder,” Reid calmly concluded, “and from what I’ve seen so far, Snyders thrive in difficult circumstances. Luke’s right. Natalie is very smart. I’d put my money on her any day.”
Faith just nodded, gave Reid and Luke a quick kiss on the cheek and left the room with Ethan. It didn’t go unnoticed that Lily nor Holden showed any intention to look after the two kids. Reid wasn’t even sure if they noticed Ethan and Faith had left. He put his arm around Luke, feeling admiration and respect for his partner. Luke was a terrific parent, but he sure hadn’t learned it from Lily and Holden.
Then he saw Emma follow Faith and he smiled. There was the role model. Reassured that Faith and Ethan had back up, he stood up and pulled Luke up.
“Ready to leave?”
“Very,” Luke gave him a telling smile and after wishing everybody a good night, they made their way to their own rooms. The opening of the door woke Lydia up, but she was clear-headed immediately.
“Nope. Not a trace. We did get a ransom note.”
“So it is definitely a kidnapping,” Lydia concluded with a frown.
“It looks that way.”
“Let’s hope he won’t…hurt her…”
“I know,” Luke nodded, already walking to the bedrooms. “Thanks for looking after them.”
“My pleasure,” Lydia yawned and stood up, “I wish someone would have done the same for Nat and Ethan.”
Luke nodded, suddenly feeling very tired. After Lydia left, both fathers watched the sleeping children.
“I hope she’s okay,” Luke whispered and when Reid pulled him in his arms, he broke and finally showed his true feelings. He was scared. Very scared.