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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:53pm.

Chapter 11

Ron was very conscientious about seeing that Denise was escorted wherever she had need to go and he ran any errands for her that he could keep her from doing herself. The weekend had been quiet thus far, but Denise was feeling like a shut-in, a victim and a prisoner of her own vulnerability. It was Saturday night and Ron had spent the day looking for Ted at his home, the old haunts that Denise said he frequented and any other place he could think to check. There was simply no trace of him. Perhaps he had left town, Ron hoped. He felt he could not count on that to be the case, though. Denise had wanted to go with him on these hunts, but Ron simply asked her what Ted would do if he saw her out. He might follow her and find her ‘safe house’. Barbara, also, chided her for her willingness to rush out into what could be a very real danger. Denise argued that Ted could follow her anytime from her work, but in the end, Ron and Barbara won out-they pleaded so pitifully that she could not deny their concern for her and she felt guilty to insist on having her way.

“I just don’t want to take any more chances than we must until I catch him,” Ron said.

She caught the full implication in the statement. Even after all this time, Ron felt no more comfortable about Ted...perhaps much less than before. He no longer trusted the authorities to catch him, but now felt the need to take the responsibility on himself.

“What will you do to him?” Her voice betrayed a hesitance to have any force used on Ted.

“Denise, how can you be so concerned for him after what he has done to you? I would think that you would want him out of your life totally.”

“I do want him out of my life! I just hate to see anyone hurt in the process—even him.”

“What an ‘angel of mercy’ you are.” He sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders. “Alright, I will do my best to be ‘gentle’, okay?” He said the word with a pronounced degree of sarcasm, but in a humorous way that did not offend her or make her feel she was being patronized. Then softly he added, “For you, anything.” He touched her cheek gently with his outstretched hand and then left quickly.

Barbara put her arms around Denise and hugged her affectionately. “You know this is the right thing to do. All of us want you to be safe. There is plenty for you to do here, if you just put your mind to it. Besides, this isn’t a permanent arrangement, y’know.” She grinned impishly at Denise and added, “Paul and I will eventually want some privacy again.”

Now that they were alone and not to be outdone, Denise quickly retorted, “From the sounds you two were making last night, I wouldn’t have thought privacy was very high on your list of priorities.”

“O-o-oh, Touché,” Barbara returned. A sheepish grin had replaced the look of triumph she had shown a moment before. “Okay, we will try to show some restraint while you are here. Will that do?”

“I might sleep a lot more restfully. Some of those dreams I had last night….”

“Okay, okay! I get the idea.” Barb quickly recovered and continued. “I am supposed to meet Paul at the convention center this evening after he is done with all of his meetings. He is going to wine and dine me in style.” She posed in a faux chic manner that they both smiled about. “So, I’m going to get my shower and have another evening of wild abandon, whether you like it or not.” She shot a pretend scowl at her friend and slid around the corner into the hallway and disappeared. Denise grinned and in a few minutes heard the shower running. Next came the singing. Barb hadn’t changed a bit since college—she still turned on the radio and sang in the shower. Her voice was actually very pleasing and Denise wondered why Barb had never shown interest in singing professionally. Her friends and roommates certainly had prodded her enough, but still she held out. She swore she would never be anything but a shower singer. Denise had threatened then to record her in the shower, if that’s what it took to make her rich and famous. Barb teased that it would only lead to a demand for ‘music videos’ and that could get very embarrassing for all concerned. They’d had a good laugh over that one and agreed it might be better to leave some things alone after all. Still, she had a great voice….

Sitting down on the sofa, Denise picked up a magazine and began to amuse herself, while listening to the melodious strains coming from the other room. Once again, they were roommates, as they had been in college. This time it was more by necessity than by choice. It was all good, though.

Denise felt relatively safe, it was true. She sighed contentedly and was glad that she had listened to the advice given her by the others. She was so content, as a matter of fact, that she never suspected or heard the backdoor latch that was ‘jimmied’, nor did she hear the footsteps that came cautiously from behind her.

When Ron got back to Barb’s house, he was frustrated that he had nothing to report. All the way to the door, he was trying to decide how he could help Denise feel more relaxed when he was making no progress. He never got to the door, for a panicked Barbara burst through it and came running down the walk to find him. To say she was barely dressed in her bathrobe was to state the obvious. He was shocked at the sight until she thrust a paper in his face and began crying hysterically. He read the note silently and it turned his face pale as a ghost. I have taken what is mine and no one will have her if I cannot. It was no wonder Barb had taken no time to cover herself more modestly. It was all he could do to think at a time like this. Denise had been kidnapped!

The police would waste valuable hours in their efforts to study and catalog every piece of evidence at the scene, Ron knew. Note or no note, they would possibly even cast doubt on whether Denise had been in fact kidnapped or whether perhaps she had just gone for a walk and forgotten to tell someone. He could not wait for them to act. He knew that he must take the responsibility for finding her upon himself. He would leave it to Barb to call the police and deal with them after he left.

Acting quickly and decisively, Ron went to the phone and called each of his ‘brothers’ from the corps. These were men who had trusted their lives to one another and they had all been proven worthy of the trust. Friendships like these lasted forever—if he needed help, all he had to do was ask. A day would be needed to plan their work and then they would work their plan. His needs would be made known and ideas would be exchanged.

There would be hell to pay, he vowed. Absolute and swift hell to pay. Ted would wish he had taken Ron’s advice…he would wish he had never met Denise.

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