It had been two days since Sebastian went missing and there was no sign of him. The police were getting pretty desperate. 48 hours missing was not a good thing. But they weren’t going to give up. Not that I’d let them, nor would any of the Danevbies.
Everyone was doing something. Sebastian’s Uncle Orion had spent almost all this time at the police station working with them despite the fact he was retired. All the other Aunts and Uncles were driving around and calling people they knew, checking in with the police and the hospital. My parents-in-law had taken in the younger kids: Kaylee, the twins, and Mal. Duncan and Serenity stayed with me.
The newspapers had printed the story, mostly because of Zari and Claude–but the why didn’t matter, all that mattered was the fact they did it. And there had been someone at the house with me at all times, usually either Vi or Zari. Julie was usually the one to watch the kids. The one time she did keep me company I discovered something about her when she exploded at a policeman and went on about how useless they all were if they couldn’t find Sebastian. She had a temper! If I wasn’t so depressed, I would have been amused.
“Daddy?” I had been pacing in the living room since I wasn’t sure what I could possibly do. Now I looked up and saw Serenity’s frightened face. “Will Mommy be okay?”
I went over and hugged her tightly. “Mommy will be fine,” I assured her.
“You’re lying!” she cried out, putting her face in my chest.
I just held her, no clue how to respond to this. “I know your mom will be fine,” I finally said. “Because there is no other option.”
How many days had passed? Weeks? None at all? I slept when Doug allowed me to sleep, and that was when he knocked me out somehow. It didn’t take me long to figure out he was knocking me out. He wasn’t even trying to hide it. He’d just tell me to go to sleep, then he’d reach over and touch my head somewhere and I’d black out.
I suspected he left during these times. The first time we had food there was hardly anything there, just some toast and jam. He knocked me out shortly after that and when I woke up, the fridge was full.
I wished he’d just keep me knocked out. Being awake was like a nightmare. When he… made me… I tried sometimes to think of anything else, but he’d twist my emotions around so I wanted him and that was just so horrifying that after each time I’d cry and cry until he grew so angry he just knocked me out.
So I quickly lost track of time. After all, when I woke up and it was still dark out–had it been an hour, or five hours? Or twenty-four hours? I had no clue how long this ability of his worked. I’d know whenever those twins showed up again, since the woman had said about a week before I’d be dragged off and tested with others like Doug.
I wondered if the others were really like him. Cruel, angry, forceful. And what were they, anyway? The woman acted like she had made Doug but that was ridiculous. Genetic manipulation only went so far, they couldn’t just… create a person.
Though, growing up, sometimes it seemed like my grandmother–well, the stories that my family told sometimes made it almost seem like–but that was impossible! Dolls couldn’t become human. That was as inconceivable as–as–as that man being my… what did the woman say? My great-grandfather? That made so much sense, someone closer in age to my son than to me being my great-grandfather.
Maybe all of this was just hallucinations. Maybe Doug could do more than manipulate emotions, maybe he could make me see and hear things. But if that were the case, he’d probably get a kick out of making me think Hal was around. He liked to torture me.
Yes, he loved to torture me. As the days–or just hours–went by, he’d often just sit back and make me feel things. Horrible things. Not just lust for him, but the despair–that was always really bad. Though sometimes I felt very hopeful. Was that his doing? Possibly. He’d just sit in the main room and watch me walk around, trying to find a way out. The windows were too small and high. The door was always locked.
I tried shutting myself up in the bathroom whenever I could, except he’d just manipulate my emotions so badly I always threw open the door and gave up. “Why are you doing this to me?!” I sobbed after he drilled fear into my brain for several minutes straight.
“Punishment,” was his response. “For marrying that fat moron.”
He had taken away my wedding ring long ago. Down the drain, maybe, or he might have just thrown it out into whatever surrounded our cabin. I tried looking through the windows when I could, standing on a chair. I got a vague sense of what was around us. A meadow on one side, thick woods on the three others. No signs of civilization.
And with the door locked, no sign of escape.
It was nothing but dead ends everywhere. The police tried every route, backtracking over Doug’s paper trail. But it never led anywhere. Even his so-called parents didn’t exist. It was just like he showed up one day, out of no where.
The only thing we did find out was that he had worked for the criminal gang in town. But the criminal who confessed to knowing him couldn’t really tell the police anything else, just that he started working one day and continued working for two years.
So a week went by with nothing, and the police started looking for a dead body. I knew he wasn’t dead, though. None of us did. As I had told Serenity, it wasn’t an option. Sebastian would be found alive.
The worst part was telling Duncan and Serenity the truth. Duncan wanted to know everything about what was going on, and I knew I needed to tell him a little bit about his past. And if he knew, I couldn’t keep it from Serenity.
So we sat down, at the end of that first week, and I told them that their mother had been in a relationship with someone else before he and I got together. “He was a bad man, a very bad man, but he kept tricking your mother,” I said. “So it took a long time for your mother to realize that he was a bad man.”
“Are we his kids?” Serenity asked right out and Duncan’s eyes widened. “We are, aren’t we?” she continued, looking directly into my eyes.
“Yes,” I said. “Your mother came here when he was still pregnant with you, Serenity.”
“I don’t remember any of this,” Duncan pouted.
“You were very, very young,” I said, reaching over to tousle his hair. “Just like Mal will not remember this. But I want you two to know that I love you both just as much as I love your brothers and sisters.”
“I know, Daddy,” Serenity said, swinging her legs. “Duncan knows too. Right?” She turned and punched him in the arm.
“Owww!” He rubbed his arm and made a face. “I’m not STUPID! Of course I know that Dad loves us just as much. So… this means the bad man that took Mom is our real dad?”
“He’s not our real dad!” Serenity cried out. “Daddy is our real dad! That bad man is just… just… a bad man!”
“I’m not saying he’s our real dad, I just meant that he’s our–our–” Duncan struggled to find the right word.
“The term is ‘biological’,” I said gently and Duncan stared at me. “Biological father. Or, birth father.”
“Well, I hate him!” Duncan snarled. “He’s a jerk. And if I ever see him I am gonna kick him in the ‘nads!”
“DUNCAN!” I shouted and he immediately looked guilty. “Where did you hear that word?!” It wasn’t really the word that upset me, it was the look on his face. The tone in his voice. “Never mind! It’s not a word you use!”
“I’ll kick him in the crotch?” Duncan offered but I just shook my head. “I’ll… go to my room?” Now I nodded and he slid off the couch, scowling. It was really scary.
“Duncan…” I wanted to beg him to never, ever lose his temper. But how could I explain something like that? “I know it is difficult but try to keep calm…”
“Jeez, dad, I’m almost a teenager and I am going through an emotionally difficult time right now! The least you could do is support my… my…” He frowned, trying to think of the word and when he couldn’t he just threw his hands in the air. “Oh forget it, I’ll be in my room!”
After he left, Serenity looked at me, pressing her lips together and looking concerned about something. I sank down into the seat that had been previously taken by Duncan.
“Daddy… I heard the p’licemen talking when they were here, about the bad man,” she said, toeing the ground and looking nervous. “They said the bad man wasn’t human. Does this mean me an’ Duncan aren’t human?”
I felt terrible that she had overheard this. “Of course you’re human,” I said, hands on her shoulders. “What the policemen meant was that the bad man is a bit different from everyone else.”
“Because I–” She trailed off and sniffled. “I… I… I’ll be in my room!” And she took off running, leaving me wondering what she was trying to tell me.
“…w-wake up… p-p-please wake up…”
I slowly opened my eyes, feeling quite dizzy as I sat up, rubbing my head. There was someone standing next to the bed and I finally focused enough to see it was the male twin. I tried to remember the names that had been thrown around. Benjamin?
“I guess I’m gonna be taken to the lab,” I mumbled, practically falling out of bed.
“No,” he said simply. “M-my sister doesn’t know I’m here. Neither does F-Four-thirteen.”
That got my attention. I looked up at him then around the room. “Doug’s not here?” I asked, taking a few steps towards the living room.
“No,” the man said again. “I w-wanted to talk to you. Alone.”
But I wasn’t paying attention. I trotted into the main room and went straight for the door. Locked. I spun around to look at Benjamin. “Let me out. You have to have a key, so give it to me and let me go!”
“We’re m-miles away from c-civilization,” he stammered, holding up his hands a bit defensively. “I w-want to help you. I’m g-going to try to get you out of here.”
“Why?” I demanded, feeling suspicious. “Why on earth would you want to help me?”
He began rubbing the back of his head. “I’m your g-great-grandfather. Didn’t your m-mother say anything about–about the R-Reddings?”
That name rang a bell. “Yes,” I said. “Mainly along with the word ‘avoid’. I thought your name was… Professor Rood or something?”
“An alias,” he replied. “My name is–well, R-Redding. P-Professor Redding.”
“So I’m supposed to trust someone my mother told me to avoid?” I asked, still not believing he was who he said. Mostly because of his age.
“Who else d-do you have to trust right now?” he asked with a shrug. He has a point, I thought, feeling a bit annoyed. “I want to help,” he said, pressing his hands together, giving me a pleading look.
“Why would you want to help me?” I asked. “Won’t you get in trouble with your… what was it, sister?”
He shrugged again then looked around, as if expecting her to jump out of no where. “You’re a D-Danevbie.
“Why does that even mean any–” I started but he held up his hand.
“D-did 4-13 ever indic-cate what your… family members were th-thinking or f-feeling?” he asked but before I could answer, he shook his head. “No. I d-doubt he did. I know it’s n-not because of your g-g-grandmother’s blood. If it w-was, he could have d-done things to your f-family’s emotions. Or he w-would have stayed. You know him, S-Sebastian. You know how m-much he’d like p-power like that.” He stepped closer, green eyes wide. “But he j-just took you and left. Why? Y-you’re the only one he’s c-connected to… to like that…”
“And wh-when my sister realizes that, you’re going to be in a l-lot of trouble.”