… … …
Chapter One – Knock at the Door
Gillian rushed into The Lightman Group offices, the files from her most recent case tucked under her arm. Cal instantly swept into step beside her as she passed the waiting area.
"Finally, darling! I was gathering a search party."
Sure enough, a glance over her shoulder revealed several staff members dispersing behind them. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Traffic is horrendous and my cell died. The charger must be in your car."
She shot him a pointed look and he had the good grace to look sheepish. "Yeah, I did borrow it," he muttered.
"Give me two minutes to sort this stuff out and I'll be right with you," she smiled at him as they entered her office.
"Two minutes," he agreed, "I'm going to get my coat. You'll be ready to leave when I return."
"Yes, sir," she smirked at him.
"We should still make our reservation," he added as he left.
Gillian dropped her files onto her desk, catching sight of a small pile of envelopes as she did so. She glanced between the work and what were most likely Christmas cards, considering whether or not she had time to open the mail. Feeling the seconds ticking by – and deciding that she deserved a break from work given the journey back to the office – she smiled to herself. She unlocked the drawer of her desk and relocated the files. They could wait.
Two minutes. She could open a few cards and be ready to leave when Cal came back. So, she sat down and lifted the first envelope as she did so. Opening it revealed a snowy landscape, the snow glistening by way of glitter. It was from a recent client, their thanks and appreciation expressed once more inside. Gillian smiled and stood the card on her desk.
The second card was a Christmas tree adorned with red and green decorations. This one was from the law firm in the offices downstairs.
She was in the process of opening the third card (having skipped two items of mail that looked decidedly un-Christmassy) when Cal stepped into her office. He released an exaggerated gasp of disbelief.
"Not work, love!" he pointed out in mock horror.
"I needed to recapture the festive spirit after that traffic jam," she explained, throwing in a little pout for good measure. She removed the card from the envelope while Cal crossed the room and stood in front of her desk. He nosed at the two cards she had already looked at and she turned her attention to the latest: A cheerful image of children round a tree. When she opened it, though, her heart thudded. Fear seized her body as she read the words inside – One, two, buckle my shoe, three, four knock at your door - and she somehow managed to force out, "Cal."
"I was just readi—" No doubt the lack of colour in her face stopped him. "Gill?"
She handed him the card. "Hold it where I am holding it," she instructed, then she moved instantly to the phone on her desk, dialling the nanny's number as quickly as she could. "I'm calling Heather," she told Cal and he immediately took out his cell phone.
"I'll call Ben."
"Heather, it's Gill," she said when the call was answered. She tried her best to sound calm. She didn't want to alarm Heather; she needed her to be thinking clearly. "How is everything?"
"Gill, we're fine. Go and have your romantic evening." She could hear the smile in Heather's tone and heard Emily call from the background. She had apparently arrived early to take over babysitting duties from Heather. "Stop worrying!" Gillian did tend to call two or three – six - times whenever she left William in the evening.
"Heather, I don't want you to panic…"
She could hear Cal on the phone to Ben, arranging for a police car to be sent to her home. Swallowing her fear, she tried to keep her voice steady. "I want you to make sure that all the doors and windows are locked."
She could hear the uncertainty in Heather's voice, but could also hear that she was moving to do as she asked.
"Keep William with you, please, until I get there. I'll explain then. The police are on their way to the house. I'm going to call you back from a different phone in a minute…"
Cal shouted out into the corridor for Loker and Torres.
"… When the police arrive I want you to check with me before opening the door." She relayed what she had heard Cal arrange on the phone.
"All right," Heather agreed. "We're fine here, Gill. Okay? Are you all right?"
"I just want to get home as soon as I can."
Loker and Torres entered the office, their annoyance at being summoned the way they were quickly replaced with worry as soon as they saw Gillian and Cal.
"I'm gonna call you back from Loker's cell…" She gestured for the younger man to hand over said phone. "Okay? Don't answer the door."
She started dialling on Loker's phone before she had even put down the other handset. While she waited for the call to connect, she snatched her purse from the desk and headed for the door. She was vaguely aware of Cal explaining to Loker and Torres as they followed behind her.
"Gill? What's going on? Are you and Dad okay?"
She should have expected that Emily would want to talk to her herself. "We're fine, Em. Just a problem with a case. I just want to be cautious. That's all. Don't worry."
"You're on your way here?"
"Leaving the office now… Stay on the line, please… Is William okay?"
They descended the stairs faster than they ever had before.
"He's oblivious. Do you want to speak to him?"
While the immediate answer to that, in her head, was 'yes', at the same time she was terrified that if she spoke to William she might lose her grip on her control. But, if something were to happen to him before - She shook her head to cut off that line of thinking.
Cal opened the car door for her, resting his hand ever so briefly on her shoulder as she swept inside.
"Er, yes. Please, Emily, put William on."
His "Hi, mommy," brought tears to her eyes but she fought to stop her voice from shaking as she asked him about his day. If he was speaking to her on the phone then he was safe.
She let that comforting thought override all others and spoke to him all the way home.