The Last Resort
Since the release of the girls in Cleveland OH from their kidnapper there have been a lot of question. Chief among them – at first – was why they didn’t escape. Then the details began to come out – the chains, the locked doors, the withheld foods. And of course the beatings.
CBS News did a special report on battered spouses. As if it was something new. And of course, the reporter asked the same questions of the woman they interviewed. It was more understandable from the kidnap victims, but he got the same answers. Why didn’t she call for help? No cell phone. Why didn’t she escape, run? The doors were locked from the outside. He mentioned that many victims take up to seven tries to successfully escape. What he didn’t mention was that it’s also the most dangerous time for the victim. The time when she’s most likely to be killed by her spouse.
How do I know so much? Experience. I was one of the lucky ones, though. It only took two tries for me to escape. Why two tries at all? Well, there’s a pastor who owes me his life, because if I told him the truth when he asked or didn’t go home with my ask, we’d both be dead. Along with all those folks in the church.
When anyone asks me which book I would choose as the best book I’ve ever written, The Last Resort is one of them. Surprisingly, for its topic it’s also fun and heartwarming. I wrote it that way deliberately for several reasons – I wanted to show someone who had moved on, and because I wanted to write an entertaining book that wasn’t preachy. It’s the only book I’ve ever written in the first person, and it has some amazing characters. Real and unreal. I’ll leave you to figure out which is which. *grinning* Someday, as planned, I’ll write the sequel.
Review – Ms Douglas crafts a fine tale of romance, intrigue and suspense. Her characters draw you in and you feel that if you met Carrie on the street you would probably recognize her. Carrie has her own demons to battle as she wages war against the foes of others.
When Jack Spencer, the Head of Security for Fairview Mountain Resort, calls to about a missing coed, computer tech and sometimes troubleshooter Carrie Anderson answers. The last thing the resort needs is bad publicity. Jack knows that on the side Carrie is part of a team that help domestic violence victims escape their homes and abusers.
Complicating things for Carrie is the handsome new attorney that just joined the team.
What she finds, though, will test her skills at making people disappear and put all their lives in danger.
The Lutheran Church, Pastor Charles, bless his heart. He was young and a little too naïve, a big, gangly, lanky man, but he wasn’t a bad pastor. There was one car in the church parking lot. A beat up old Chevy. Not the Pastor’s car. The parsonage for the church was down the street on the other side.
Sometimes it just went like this, nothing for a couple of months, and then suddenly a bunch of calls.
I headed for the door to the church, knocking just as Drew’s Volvo pulled into the lot. He’d wasted no time. That was a good sign. On the other hand, maybe he just wanted to make sure I knew he took this seriously. The thought he was trying to impress me pleased me more than it should have.
It was a small church, with the Pastor’s office and the Sunday school in the basement. I opened the door and held it for Drew.
“What have we got?”
“I don’t know yet,” I said, as I stepped inside the little entryway.
There was a short flight of stairs up into the Sunday school hall, and to the right, a longer flight of stairs down to the pastor’s office in the basement.
Pastor Charles poked his head out of the door at the bottom of the stairs. “We’re down here.”
He stepped out as we came down. “She’s quite upset. Her name is Sandy Miller.”
From the office I heard a bark, a little sharp one. Unmistakable. She’d brought a puppy. I blew out a breath. And what else?
He smiled ruefully. “She brought her dog.”
Oddly enough, I didn’t think that was a good sign.
We stepped inside.
Sandy Miller was a nervous wreck, pacing uneasily. Also, not a good sign. It wasn’t the agitation, victims were usually scared, but something about the quality of her tension. There were two children on the floor, one about eight, one about five, and both were far too quiet. The puppy bounced between them yipping, wanting to play. The children weren’t in a playing mood.
“Pastor,” Sandy blurted, “I’m so scared.”
With his sweet gentleness, he gestured at Drew and I. “These people are here to help you.”
“He’s really bad, really,” she said. “I’m so scared.”
She was moving very stiffly, as if her back hurt her.
“Okay,” I said, gently. “Are you sure you want to leave?”
“Yes, oh, yes,” she said. “Now. We have to hurry. When he finds out we’re gone… He said he was going to check on us. Make sure everything was okay.”
Warning bells were going off. Loudly. I took a deep breath but my heart was suddenly pounding.
“How often? How long ago?”
The look Drew gave me told me he was picking up on the concern in my tone.
She looked at me sorrowfully. “An hour, maybe. He called, just to check on me. I already had everything packed. I grabbed the kids, but they wouldn’t leave the dog, so I ran back inside to get it and then ran out the door.”
Some part of her knew. Oh, shit. Talk about a baptism by fire. Oh, I hoped we had time.
“Pastor, get the puppy if you would, Sandy get the children.”
I was hooking my hands-free over my ear and pushing speed dial. “Code,” was all I said when Moira picked up. I hung up instantly. “Let’s go.”
All of us heard the sound of a car in the parking lot, hitting the gravel in a hurry, a bit of a skid.
One of the kids started crying as instinctively I hit the stairs two at a time, praying to get to the door first. The car door slammed even as I shot the lock home. Drew and the Pastor were both in the hallway.
“Are there any other doors unlocked?” I hissed.
“The front doors.”
“Try to keep the children quiet. Bring everyone out into the hallway so he can’t look through the windows.”
Both my shoes were off and I was sprinting through the building to the front of the church. It was a small church, very local. Come on, come on, I told myself as I tried to figure out how to lock them. Drew reached across from behind me and shot the bolt home. I jumped about a foot. He damn near scared the shit out of me.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, quietly.
“Too many things to explain right now.” I was already heading for the one window that would give me a clear view of the parking area as someone banged on the door.
“Sandy!” a voice shouted. “Sandy! I know you’re in there. Come on, honey. It’s okay. I’ll be good. I just got a little mad. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
He banged on the door again, the force of it belying his words. He was pissed. He’d seen the car and knew she was here.
Carefully, I peered out the window. Looked again. Ready to duck if he looked the wrong way, I took a closer look, trying to keep out of view. He was pacing in front of the door. There was something about the way his jacket was hanging. Then I was running barefooted through the church again, Drew close behind. I gestured him through the basement door and pulled it quietly shut behind me.
A very frightened Sandy Miller crouched with her children at the end of the hall. The Pastor was looking very bewildered.
“Sandy,” I whispered. Please don’t say yes. “Does your husband own a gun?”
Slowly, with big eyes, she nodded.
This was worst case scenario, all my preparations and plans undone. I nodded, hitting speed dial.
“Moira, call them off.”
I hung up. “Does he know where the parsonage is?”
Pastor Charles nodded, his face paling.
I darted quickly into the office, grabbed the phone, and dragged it out of the office.
“Call your wife, tell her to get out of the house. Go to the nearest neighbor’s. She’s to go now.”
If Sandy’s husband got no answer here at the church, that’s where he’d go next.
I dialed 911 on my cell phone.
“There’s a man with a gun at the Lutheran Church in Fall Meadows.”
“Stay on the line, please, I’m relaying to dispatch now.” I hit mute on my end, so I could hear her on the other end but I could still talk.
There was a bathroom down here, if I remembered correctly. No windows and a door. It would be crowded, but it would be one more door between us and him. “Sandy, take your children in the bathroom. It’s the door across from you.”
Pounding on the door upstairs. Thud. Thud. Thud.
“Sandy, I know you’re here. Come out here now.” The voice changed, wheedling. “Come on, Sandy. I’m not mad. I’m not.”
I slipped into the pastor’s office and peered up through the window, looking again, just to be sure. Wanting very badly to be wrong. Drew, standing next to me, was keeping in the shadows, looking up at the man now pacing impatiently away from the door.
Youngish, average height, brown hair, and eyes. A light windbreaker hanging heavily to one side. Something big and weighty in that pocket. He stuck his hand in the pocket, closed his hand around it, and wiggled it around.
“Do you see?” I whispered. He nodded, his eyes steady. Bless that.
We backed quickly away.
“Without seeing it for certain, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is,” I said, softly. “A gun.”
“How did you know?”
I let out a breath. “Instinct, I guess. I didn’t, for certain, but something about the level of fear. The way she ran, and the place she came. She’s young, she has parents, a family. She didn’t go to them, instead she went the one place she thought he might think twice about. Church.”