When the elevator doors opened, he took off without a backward glance, his long strides carrying him swiftly through the dark, damp interior of the underground area. I jogged to keep up with him. He turned so suddenly to the right to approach the door of a dark, sleek Mercedes-Benz that I ran past it and had to backtrack to get around to the passenger side. I momentarily wondered what I would do if he refused to unlock the door and tried to leave the parking lot without me. Before I had a chance to come up with an answer, I heard the click of the door lock and, without hesitation, I grabbed the handle, pulled it open and jumped in just as he put the car in gear and started to back up.
As he expertly made his way out of the garage I held my silence, but as he wended his way through the city streets, constantly changing direction, I couldn’t stay quiet any longer.
“Where are we going?”
“Do you care to enlighten me a bit more?”
“If you have to know, I’m killing time until I hear from Matthew,” he barked at me.
“Thank you. I do have to know.”
I wasn’t able to withhold the sarcasm from my voice. We continued driving in complete silence for a while longer, both of us waiting for something to develop.
We didn’t have very long to wait. Within a few minutes, his phone rang again. He snatched it up and answered.
“Matthew, what’s going on?”
I anxiously listened to the one-sided conversation.
“What?” he continued. “They’re crazy. How could they even think such a thing?”
He stopped to listen.
“Jesus Christ, I don’t believe this. Sean would never even consider it for a moment.”
There was another few moments of silence while Matthew evidently explained why Sean was considering whatever it was he would never normally have considered. Michael’s expression was a mixture of disbelief and despair.
“I agree. I’ll have to find out who…somehow.”
Silence, and then, “Really? All right then. I’ll be in touch.”
He hung up and turned his head to look at me.
“What is it?” I said.
He swallowed hard and clutched the steering wheel tightly.
“It seems someone is trying to frame me for Melissa’s abduction,” he said slowly.
“What? How?” I asked.
“When the police were on their way to question my family, they received an anonymous tip that someone had seen me carrying a small body out of my house. They searched the premises and found articles of clothing hidden in my closet which matched those described by you.”
I was stunned. I could only stare at him, wide-eyed.
Once I gathered my senses, I said, my voice filled with horror, “You took her?”
His head turned sharply toward me and his eyes flashed with anger.
“Of course I didn’t take her,” he said harshly. “What kind of animal do you take me for? I told you. Someone is trying to set me up.”
I didn’t know who to believe. I didn’t know if I should trust him. And then a thought occurred to me.
“But they found her clothes. That means she was either in your house at some point, or someone left her clothes there. There’s some connection to you, whether you did it or not.”
He let out his breath sharply.
“Yes, this whole thing is connected to me somehow. I don’t know why yet, but I will find out.”
“In the meantime,” he continued, “I have to make myself disappear for a while. I won’t be able to prove my innocence from a jail cell, and I’m not about to put my life in someone else’s hands.”
“But, running will only make you look guilty.”
“That’s a chance I’ll have to take. Besides, it’s only temporary. I just need some time to think this whole thing through, and I know exactly where to get it. First, I’ll drop you off somewhere.”
“Drop me off? Oh no, you don’t. I’m going with you.”
“Rebecca, don’t be foolish. This isn’t a game we’re playing. It could be very dangerous.”
“I’m not going to stay behind and walk the floors waiting for the police to deliver Melissa to me. I’ll go crazy. Besides, two heads are better than one. I’ll be able to help you.”
He stared at me for a moment and seemed to come to a decision. He nodded stiffly and drove the car, with what seemed to be a destination in mind.
It was then that it occurred to me we had truly become fugitives. I had thrown myself into it without so much as a second thought. I might regret my decision at some point, but deep down I knew I couldn’t have stayed at home, waiting helplessly, and doing nothing to find Melissa. As I said, Michael Walters was obviously the link between the abductors and Melissa. It may be foolish of me to align myself with him, but I desperately needed to do something and, even though I didn’t trust him or even like him, I instinctively believed he wasn’t involved in the plot to kidnap her. I had cast my die and there was no turning back now.