“I don’t know how you can expect me to believe all this,” she said.
“Fine,” he said, glaring at her, “Don’t believe me. I have a son though. You have to let me see him.”
Susan had to agree even though exposing her young son to Damian who was at best delusional was the last thing she wanted to do. As much as she didn’t want to let Damian see Jesse, she couldn’t see an alternative. Reluctantly she told him he could go back to the house and she’d go get Jesse at Thora’s and meet him there. She felt a sudden urge to go pick up Jesse and flee and Damian must have realized that because he insisted he go with her. “We can pick up my truck later,” he said, indicating the dusty little black pick-up parked on the street.
Susan sighed in resignation and drove to Thora’s house. She looked over at him. He was drumming his fingers against the car door. All the charm and sincerity he’d exhibited earlier seemed to have fled. Now he just seemed angry and urgent about seeing Jesse. It made her uneasy.
Jesse clapped his hands when he saw her in the new adorable way he had picked up recently. Damian didn't smile and melt at the sight of Jesse like Susan thought anyone with a heart would do because he was such a cute baby. Instead, Damian nodded his head approvingly and looked him over like he was a commodity.
When they got back to the lake house, Damian went to the room she showed him where he could sleep and she didn't see him for the rest of the day. While she was feeding and bathing Jesse and watching him play at her feet, she thought about Damian the entire time. What did he want? Granted she hadn't known him very well when they were in Las Vegas. Theirs had been a brief and torrid affair. He had always been a little quirky with his obsessions and late night phone calls and occasionally he would leave for unexplained reasons. It didn't really bother her because she wasn't looking for anything long term. Then she had Jesse. Now she realized that with Jesse here, Damian was long term.
She had asked him how he had found her and he said that she posted a picture of Jesse and her at the lake. At the time, posting the picture had seemed harmless; she had nothing to hide and no one to hide from. Now she had a nagging feeling that Damian finding them was a bad idea.
Susan was finally able to get Jesse settled in bed asleep. She wondered if Damian would like to talk but he was texting on his phone. Finally she said, “I’m going to bed,” and he hardly acknowledged her. As she walked by Jesse’s room on the way to her own, the fleeting thought entered her mind that she should put Jesse in her bedroom for the night but it had been hard enough to get him to sleep in the first place and Damian was obviously not that interested in him. Again she wondered, what does he want?
Susan awakened to loud banging on the door. She groped her way from sleep and grabbed her clock on the bedside table. The numbers glowed 3:45. Who could be at the door?
She pulled a sweatshirt over her head as she walked carefully to the door. She didn’t want Jesse to wake up but she didn’t want to let someone in either. She was grateful that Damian was there too. There was more loud banging as she approached the door.
“Who is it?” Susan called.
“It’s John. Please, open the door. It’s important.”
“John?” she thought wonderingly, but she unlatched the lock and opened the door. John stepped in the house past her. He was wearing his uniform.
“Where is he?” John asked, “Is he still here?”
“Who?” Susan asked, she felt slightly panicked and slightly annoyed.
“Yeah,” Susan said, “I think so. I was asleep.”
“Sorry,” John said briskly, “I really need to see him though. Police business.”
“Is he in some kind of trouble?” Susan asked, she pointed John down the hall to the room where Damian slept. It was empty, the bed looked untouched.
“Is your son--”
Before John could finish asking, Susan ran down the hall to Jesse’s room. It was also empty. Her head started swimming and she felt like she was going to faint. “What’s going on?” she demanded of John.
“Go grab some clothes,” he said, “I’ll tell you in the car.”
Susan looked down at her nightgown that hit her mid-thigh. It occurred to her that in another life she may have been embarrassed but she raced to her room and pulled on some jeans and found some shoes and was quickly ready to go. When she got back to John he was just finishing a phone call.
“I’ll take you down to the station,” he said, “That way you can be in touch with the latest information.”
“What?” Susan said, trying not to shriek, “We aren’t going after him?”
“Don’t worry,” he said, “We have alerted troopers all along Highway 2 and US 97. The border guards are on the lookout too.”
“What is going on?” Susan asked, panic threatening to overtake her.
“Before I lived in Chelan, I was a trooper in Bellingham. During the Vancouver Olympics we were schooled in all sorts of terrorist groups and were expected to know markings and indicators for different groups. When I saw Damian yesterday with you, I noticed the tattoo on his arm.”
“His arms are covered with tattoos,” Susan said.
“There was one right here,” John indicated his upper forearm, “That looked familiar to me. As soon as I had a chance I looked into it and it is a symbol for a militant terror group from Palestine.”
“Damian’s family is Greek!” Susan said. This was making no sense to her and not helping her get Jesse back.
“Right,” John said, “He’s not Palestinian. I did a little more digging though and he has definite ties to this group. He’s on a watch list. He’s wanted in connection with several suspicious activities.”
“But what would that have to do with Jesse?”
“I don’t know,” John said. “I called your dad though, right when I figured out who Damian was.”
“Yes. I know him from back when I worked in Bellingham. I was on the terrorist task force and as U.S. Attorney, he was involved.”
“What?!” This was certainly the strangest night of her life. “You know my dad?”
“Yeah, he’s a good guy.” John said, “He actually called when you were moving here to let me know; he wanted us to keep an eye on things.”
Susan remembered him stopping her for a taillight. She couldn’t believe her dad!
“So your dad has put a major search in motion. I can’t imagine that Damian has any chance of getting very far.”
Inside the Chelan police department, Susan paced up and down the tiny room while John went to the back to make some calls. Before long a car pulled up and two familiar figures climbed out. Her parents!
She ran out to them in the dim morning light and they threw arms around her. “We’ll find him,” her dad said.
The three sat in a row on uncomfortable plastic chairs. They waited. The police office filled steadily as the work day started. A few officers sat nearby and started speculating about Damian. “I wonder if he wants to raise the little boy in the group and then offer him as a martyr. It’s called Shahada and it’s celebrated among some,” an officer with glasses and a too tight uniform said. He looked over at Susan’s father like he was trying to impress the U.S. Attorney with his knowledge.
The woman across from him added, “When they...act as a suicide bomber...it is to the glory of their parents. They have to teach them from a very young age that dying in such a way is heroic. Maybe Damian wanted to take Jesse there to teach him.”
The first officer said, “Maybe it will help him become more a part of the group? I don’t know. Just speculating...” Eyeing Susan’s father and seeing the warning glare being sent, the officer stopped talking.
Within an hour there was a phone call. Damian had been stopped at the border at Sumas. He was in police custody; Jesse was safe.
Susan’s dad stood and shook John’s hand when he heard the news, “Well done,” he said. Then he turned to his wife and daughter and said, “What are you waiting for? We’re going to Sumas.”
Susan looked up at her dad as if she was seeing him for the first time. In the past she’d always seen his severity, his need to be in charge of everyone, his U.S. Attorney-ness. Now she saw the hero that had helped her get her baby back.
“He’s really fine?” Susan asked, “Jesse’s OK?”
“Yes,” John said with a smile. “And when you get back, you owe me a lunch date.”
“You can stop pretending,” Susan said. “I know you were just ‘keeping an eye’ on me.” She was still irritated with her dad and his constant meddling.
“Well yeah,” John said, “But lunch had nothing to do with your dad.” He ducked his head sheepishly, like he’d said too much.
Susan’s mother propelled her to the car. Susan was too stunned by the night’s events to do anything but let her.
“He seems nice,” her mother said in a conspiratorial whisper.