Parental Advisory Rating: L & V

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Director: Tonya Muir

Writers: Tonya Muir, TNovan and XWPFanatic


Episode Eight: Out of the Closet and Into the Fire

The sun is going down and it will be late by the time we land. I’m not looking forward to it. We’ll have to argue over who drives the rental car and who gets which room in the hotel. The rest of the crew, who are now scattered throughout the plane, will watch and keep silent as they always do.

She requests a glass of water immediately upon boarding. She’s been really irritable today. For someone who spent most of the weekend getting laid, she’s awfully cranky. Apparently, Elizabeth didn’t do it right. I chuckle at the thought as the stewardess approaches.

"Let me get that for you, Ms. Kingsley."

I smile at Teresa as she takes my garment bag with a wink, her fingers caressing the back of my hand. She was kind enough to give me a private tour of the VIP lounge, well at least part of it, before our flight.

Kels shoots me a look as she takes her seat near the window. I ease in next to her, settling my long frame into the cushions. I can feel her eyes on me and I look over. "What?"

"Have you no shame? My God, Harper, you just had sex with that woman in the airport lounge."

"Nah, technically it was," I glance at my watch, "almost an hour ago. And it was more like the supply closet. See, we have something in common, Kels. We’re both recently out of the closet," I whisper this last part.

Kelsey levels a mean stare at me.

Teresa returns, handing Kels a glass of water. She turns and smiles down at me. "Can I get you anything?"

"Else," Kels mumbles behind her glass as she sips. It’s my turn to shoot a look at my partner.

"No, thank you. You’ve done more than enough already." I smile up at the pretty young woman, then turn back to Kels.

It’s odd really. The way we gravitate toward each other. I guess the old saying that opposites attract is true. I’m sure someone would love to do their psychology thesis on the two of us. Although, I’d hate to see what they say about me. I doubt it would be flattering, especially from some Ivy League, no real-life experience, academic. At least, we’ve lightened up on each other. If we hadn’t, our work would have suffered and I’d hate for that to happen. I watch as she pops a pill in her mouth, swallowing a drink of water right behind it.

"What’s up, Little Roo?" I nod to the package she has in her hand.

"Dramamine. I don’t fly well."

"You’re afraid of flying?"

"Not afraid, really. It’s more of a claustrophobic issue."

"Then," I lean over and whisper, "aren’t you glad you came out of the closet?"

"I didn’t come out," she growls as she turns to me. "I told you what I had to in order to get out of a bad situation. Harper ..." She takes my hand, giving it a slight stroke with her thumb. "I’m begging you here. Don’t put me in a bad situation. My contract has a morals clause…"

"Kels, I would never do anything to jeopardize your job. If you don’t believe anything else I tell you, please, believe me capable of that much honesty, at least."

She nods her head as she releases my hand and turns to the window.

I twist in my seat causing my denim shirt to scrape across my nipples. I flinch as my pre-departure activities have left me tender, but it was well worth it. Kels looks back. She must notice me cringe because she flushes red in anger before turning away again.

"Don’t be bitchy just because you’re jealous," I murmur. I know I should shut up but I can’t help myself.

She’s silent but her knuckles turn white as her tense hands clutch the armrests.

I laugh and start digging through my carry-on for reading material. Kelsey continues to stare out the window all through the boarding. "Missing Elizabeth?" I turn a page in my magazine as I ask.

"No. Well, yes, a little. I always do for a few days after she leaves." She admits this quietly as she rests her forehead on the pane of the window. "But it’s not that."

I lay my magazine in my lap and turn to her. "Wanna talk about it?" She shakes her head and, I swear to God, I see her wipe a tear from her eye. I know I’m taking a hell of a chance here, but I lay my hand on her knee. "If you change your mind, umm … well, I’m here, you know."

"Thank you." It’s another almost pitiful answer. Why do I feel so bad for her?

Thirty minutes into the flight, I notice that Kels is sound asleep against the hard wall of the cabin. I ask Teresa for a blanket. I spread it over Kels as I gently pull her so that her head rests on my shoulder. I notice how quickly and easily she snuggles into me, wrapping one arm through mine in her sleep. This is nice.


* * *


I tip the bellhop before closing the door and toss my key card across the room toward the desk. The key slides across the surface to fall behind it and I groan. Figures. First, I wake up with my head on Harper’s shoulder. It was not an unpleasant sensation and that really pissed me off. Then I had to listen to her and the boys all the way to the hotel. I’m working with three overgrown delinquents and one of them makes a really nice pillow.

Stop it, Kelsey Stanton, this very damn minute! You cannot, will not, may not, think that way about her.

The room is icy cold so the first thing I do is turn off the air conditioning. Then I dig in my suitcase for a comfortable pair of sweats and a sweatshirt. Once I feel appropriately bundled up, I open my briefcase and pull out the file.

We’re in Omaha, Nebraska, of all places, checking out a forming cult. It’s situated across the border outside of Council Bluffs, taking up nearly 100 acres. My paperwork tells me it started as a sanctuary of sorts: a place for families to live and find a community atmosphere. Then it started to grow and, most recently, the adherents are getting unruly when they go into town for supplies. Though mostly self sufficient on their plot of land, they still need some more modern items that are bought during weekly shopping trips. And more often than not, these shopping trips have turned into violent escapades. Like most cults, they feel persecuted by those on the outside. So, they retaliate.

As of yet, officials have no reason to go onto their property and try to get the bigger picture. Instead, they’re concentrating on keeping an eye on them during their weekly visits and trying to curtail the violence.

This story was Tabloid’s bright idea. She has a source who said there was cult activity involved, that this could be the next Waco, and she wants a front row seat. She always does. I’ve done a little research with the local clientele and have names of some of the people in the compound and their profiles are included in my folder.

Though I only have a small sampling, they seem to be the typical outcasts from society, searching for a place to call home. If that’s all that has happened here, I certainly can’t begrudge them that.

While I’m reading, my thoughts turn back to Harper. She really has been pretty good about not torturing me over the incident last weekend. It does make me more than a little nervous that I had to let her into my private life. God only knows how she will use it against me, if she chooses to do so. I hope she doesn’t go there.

It doesn’t help my mood that my parents are going back to court again. I received a subpoena to testify only yesterday afternoon. They’ve been divorced nearly twenty years and I’d appreciate it if they stopped filing civil suits against each other. I don’t even know what this one’s about because I haven’t spoken to either of them since the last subpoena.

It’s going to be a long week.


* * *


The compound is surrounded by six foot chain link with barb wire on the top. That’s not cheap with 100 acres of land. The dirt road we’re on dead ends into a guarded gate with a little shack next to it. There’s a scruffy looking man with a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder. He pulls it down into his hands when our microwave truck slows and stops 100 feet from him.

We went to the affiliate early this morning and loaded our equipment into the waiting truck. Jimmy sits silently in the back while Kelsey sits beside me. Once again, Conrad is at the station, waiting for our signal . Nebraska is great for this type of microwave hookup due to the flat terrain and long lines of sight.

I watch the bearded man at the gate curiously, trying to decide what kind of threat he is.

I glance to Kelsey. She’s as quiet as the day we first met, before we went into the library. And though she was bristling with anger and hatred then, all I can sense about her now is an air of defeat. Something’s bothering her and it’s impacting her ability to work. "Buck up, Little Roo, we have a job to concentrate on."

"I’m with you, Tabloid."

I smile a little as we wait for this man. I know this new nickname is supposed to be a slam, but I kinda like it. I also notice that she hasn’t said word one about being called ‘Little Roo.’

"We’ll just go chat with him, ask if they want some airtime, if they have concerns to discuss. If we get in, we’ll go alone, Jims. You stay out here with the truck."

The Korean kid makes some affirmative sound and starts to run through the equipment before pausing to look up at me. "You want the betacam?"

"Not at first," I tell him. "Set up the microcam. If he agrees, I’ll come back for the big one so get it ready."

Kelsey stays belted into her seat as I slide into the back of the truck where Jimmy fits the small camera onto my belt. I’m wearing jeans and a denim shirt again today, unbuttoned to partially reveal a white tank top. Kels has on khaki pants and a button down Oxford shirt. She looks good. She always does, even though she gives off an air of being uncomfortable in her own skin. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of touching that skin. Especially since I found out that my gender was welcome.

She’s on my heels as we approach the hillbilly with the rifle. I like the way she always manages to stay right on top of me when we’re entering the unknown. Just as I’d like to stay right on top of her while entering her unknown.

"Stop," the man calls out, waving the gun at us, encompassing the truck behind us in this gesture. "You with the television?"

I glance back to the white vehicle with the bold multi-colored logo, the big number eight and a fifty foot mast. No, nimrod, we just like the paint scheme. "Yeah," I say aloud. "Heard you guys might want some airtime. We’re a special events crew from LA."

He thinks about this, probably wondering where LA is, dropping one hand from his rifle and scratching at his bearded chin. "Whaddya want?"

"Some interviews, some footage. As much or as little as you want to give. It’s an opportunity for you to speak your minds. Things are brewing in town, pretty soon the cops are going to be asking you questions. This makes it look like you were willing to discuss it first, tell your side of the story."

He’s considering whether to relay our request, I know. He certainly doesn’t want to be the one who turned down free publicity for their group. I wait for him as he ducks inside the shack. The cool morning air is brushing against us where we stand unsheltered and I feel Kelsey shiver slightly next to me. I wish I had an airplane blanket I could drape over her. I smile at the memory.

Our armed host comes back out. "Boss is sending someone down to escort you to his office."

After receiving permission, I go back for the betacam. "You got a sweatshirt, Olson?" I ask as I pull on the equipment vest and check my battery supply. I shove several batteries and even more tapes into my backpack. I also grab a couple extra microphones: two clip ons, a stick mike and shotgun mike, and the 13 gig antenna. Olson hands me a tripod and light kit. Jesus, I’m running out of hands. I’ll have to have Kelsey carry the tripod. No wonder I stay in such excellent shape since I’m a total pack mule on assignments like this. I also grab my leather jacket in case it gets cooler later. These loonies like to go on, I want to be sure I have plenty equipment to capture it all and not freeze my ass off. It’s such a perfect ass, it’d be a shame to waste it.



"Oh." He scrounges behind him and hands me one.

I toss it to Kelsey when I get back to where she’s been waiting and hand her the tripod.


"You’re welcome."

We stand in silence for a few more minutes until a small entourage appears at the gate. When we step forward, we get frisked quickly. I watch the men closely, making sure they aren’t too grabby with Kelsey. This over protective thing I seemed to have developed makes me wonder. Note to self: give this serious consideration later. They seem efficient and business-like, though, and soon we are sheltered within the small group and headed down the dirt road away from the truck.

The gate clangs closed behind us and Kelsey jumps with the sound of it, looking back over her shoulder.

"It’s okay," I reassure her under my breath.

She glances my way and, for the first time since we’ve met, her features soften when she meets my eyes. "Just another story, right?"

"Just another story. We’ll get it in the can and go on to the next one."

She nods tightly and we continue following our ‘hosts’.

A rise in the hill has sheltered the compound itself but now as we crest it, I can see the layout at the end of the dirt road. There are several buildings, all one story, surrounding a large three story structure. All of them are finished in white adobe and red clay roofs and appear to be well maintained. Our friends aren’t hillbillies, anyway.

Behind the buildings are fields of corn and who-knows-what. I’m no farmer. However, I can identify the beasts along the side of the road we’re on as cattle. I think I see a few horses as well, further on.

"You raise your own cattle?" I’m surprised to hear Kelsey’s voice at my left elbow, even if it is a stupid question.

"We have a few sheep and pigs, too. There’s a chicken coop on the far side of the compound. Mostly we use the cattle for milk and hide, sell the meat in town." Surprisingly, the tall man at the head of the group is speaking. I figured we’d get the silent treatment all the way in. He’s dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt and is clean cut. He doesn’t look at us while he speaks.

I poke Kelsey in the arm with my elbow, nodding to her.

"You don’t eat meat?"

The man shrugs, his shoulders broad under the navy fleece. "Some do, some don’t. We don’t presume to make people be one way or another. We all benefit from the animals in some way and we all care for them."

"What’s your name?"

"You talk a lot," he stops the small entourage to turn and look at us for the first time. He doesn’t look amused.

Kelsey, bless her, grins. "I’ve heard that before."

Slowly, a smile spreads across his face and he shakes his head before turning back around and walking again. "Chris."

"Nice to meet you," Kelsey nods. "You been here long, Chris?"

This question is answered by silence and I figure my little partner pushed it too far.

Our group stops in front of the taller building and Chris rests his hand on the knob, hesitating. "Five years."

"That’s a long time," Kelsey responds.

Slowly, Chris turns and looks at us. With a slight wave he dismisses the rest of our escorts and they wander away amiably. "Look ... I’m not sure why he agreed to this. I don’t think we need outside influence. We can handle our disputes internally, just as we’ve handled our successes. But, I like you, so I’ll give you a little warning. Don’t ask him question after question. Don’t bring up subjects unless he’s initiated them. Don’t make him mad."

We’re both staring at the man with more than a little confusion. This is gonna be a shitty interview.

"Does he have a name?" I ask, biting my tongue before I spout out a sarcastic remark like ‘Or should we call him God.’ I can tell that Kelsey expected me to say such a thing because she’s as tense as a board next to me. I chuckle.


These are some pretty generic sounding names.

Chris turns away and opens the door without another word. Then he leads us down a short hallway to a stairwell. From there we make our way upstairs and find ourselves standing outside a heavy grey door. Chris knocks and then pushes it open, waving us inside.

I’m assuming the behemoth before us is Sam. The guy is huge, nearing six and a half feet and maybe half that wide. He’s not a fat man, either. His bulk is muscle and bone. He watches us with steely grey eyes and I don’t like the cold glint they have. Unconsciously, I move closer to Kelsey, only to realize she’s moved closer to me and we’re almost standing on each other’s feet.

Stupidly, the four of us stare for a very long time. Kelsey and I are waiting for one of them to make a move but apparently such a thing is not forthcoming.

So Kelsey steps forward and extends her hand. "Kelsey Stanton." She tilts her head back to me. "My partner, Harper Kingsley."

I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from adding, "In a non-sexual sense."

I think Chris’s eyes may just bug out of his head at the shock of Kelsey’s forwardness. But she is undaunted and stands with that hand extended for several awkward seconds before her small fingers are grasped in the meaty man’s palm.


"Nice to meet you, Sam. Harper and I thought you may want a little good press. Heard things aren’t going so well in town and you guys could tell your side of the story before the cops go Waco on ya."

Now I have to consciously prevent my chin from dropping to the floor. I’ve seen a few sides of Kels before, but risk taker is not one of them. She’s completely disregarded the warning from Chris.

The room is thick with silence as we all wait for Sam’s reaction. He lets us suffer for almost a minute before he laughs deeply and releases Kelsey’s hand. "You’ve got guts, I like that in a broad."

"Hmm," Kelsey purses her lips. "I can think of better labels than ‘broad’, but ‘gutsy’ I like." She pauses. "You up for an interview?"

"That’s why you’re here, little lady," he grins. "Let’s get started."

"Kels," I call softly, watching our hosts. "C’mere a minute and let me set you up."

She moves closer to me and I turn us both so my back is to the two men, as I wire her with the clip on microphone. I try not to be aware of the warmth of her skin as I run the wire up over her shoulder and down her back to the connector. "Why did you do that?"

She shrugs and smiles. It’s the first time she’s done so since we left LA. "It’s a trick my parents used to play to intimidate me: Mom would tell me how angry my Dad was and what I should absolutely not bring up before she pushed me in the room with him. Kinda good cop, bad cop. I picked up pretty quickly that the best way to throw them off was to go right for the forbidden subject."

I laugh at her and tug the ribbed collar of Olson’s shirt. "Good job, Little Roo. You ready?"

She nods and pats the betacam before heading back to where the men are seated.

It takes a little persuasion, but I manage to get Sam to agree to wear a mike like Kelsey is wearing. I don’t linger over thoughts of the warmth of his skin, however. The thought itself is a bit nauseating. Before Kels begins, I set up the lights and mount the betacam on the tripod. I will use the shotgun mike to pick up any comments from the others in the room, often they are the most interesting, I’ve found. Finally, I brace the 13 gig antenna in the window, aiming it back toward the truck so Olson can get the signal. This will allow us to have backup tapes at the truck and the station, just in case. For some reason, I don’t have a great feeling about this all.




God, these men don’t know when to shut up. Kelsey hasn’t had to ask them much of anything, we’ll have to edit the heck out of this to get anything coherent. Jimmy comments on this several times during the interview while he watches the feed in the truck and chatters in my ear.

They’re educated and believe in education. Their children attend school all day and the work for the compound seems to be divided equally among men and women and not across gender lines. I can respect that. They’ve been here five years, Chris was a founder, and it started out as a shelter for battered women and children, mostly.

Chris and Sam were social workers in Lincoln, apparently, and tired of the red tape and the mistreated families (they should come to LA some time) so they came up with this scheme one drunken Saturday night. It seems like a good plan and the people here are willing to be here, no one is held against their will and families come and go all the time.

Sam talked a little bit about the different religious groups and how everyone is free to follow their own beliefs and that his position as ‘caretaker’ is elected.

It sounds pretty cool. I wonder what they think of same sex relationships.

"How many people are here?" Kelsey asks, over an hour into the interview. They’re the first words she’s been able to sneak in.

"A hundred and forty as of last week," Sam replies. "The housing is mostly communal, different family units sharing kitchens and common rooms but having their own sleeping quarters."

"Isn’t that a lot for a piece of land this size?"

Sam shrugs. "We’re not completely self-sufficient when our numbers get that high but we won’t turn people away. We get supplies in town when we need them and we have some profitable ventures here to help us."

"Tell me about these trips to town," Kels prompts.

"We have a group of teenagers responsible for shopping and the selling of our goods. We expect everyone to pull their own weight and it’s a good job for youngsters: teaches them the value of money and social structures."

"But ..." Kelsey prods into the silence Sam has left dangling.

"But we have a couple of young men now who are testing their boundaries, feeling a bit too big for their britches."

"The town thinks you’re a bunch of wackos out here," Kelsey points out.

Oh good, Kelsey, sugarcoat it. I focus in on Sam’s serious face while he ponders the statement.

"We’ve never made an effort to prove we’re not. They think we do all kinds of weird things in here. But, really, it’s none of their business. The boys aren’t necessarily helping our cause right now, but we’re working with them."

"Have you restricted their access to town?"

Sam looks shocked at such a question. "No, of course not. They’re there today."

I meet Kelsey’s curious green gaze over the betacam and I shrug. I’m not a parent. I don’t know crap about disciplining teenaged boys. Now, give me a few teenaged girls and I could come up with something. Well, college girls. Gotta be legal.

I can tell we’re wrapping up this very boring interview and I hear Kelsey ask for permission to film the grounds and talk with some of the residents. Sam agrees easily and asks Chris to show us around.

When I turn off the camera, I get it ready for our short interview work. I will shoot off the shoulder and not bother sending the 13 gig feed back to the truck, it’s too hard to maneuver the pole around with us.

Kelsey saunters over to me and shakes her head. She’s wondering why we came to middle America for nothing and I have to admit, I’m wondering the same. Oh well. Some stories pan out and some don’t. No beer at the bar for my source this time around.

It’s getting late in the afternoon when Kelsey finishes up yet another interview with yet another happy camper. We have gotten some dirty looks from a few and refusals to speak from some others, but that’s not so unusual in the media business.

We’re wrapping up and talking about heading down the dirt road when a loud rumble and dust come over the crest and down into the compound. A red four door pickup screeches to a halt and a handful of young men jump out of the vehicle, laughing loudly and pounding each other on backs.

I suppose we should try to get some words from them before we head back to the hotel. Kelsey’s silent nod tells me she agrees and we’re on our way over.

Kelsey does the intro and permission spiel, which the boys are thrilled to hear. She’s much more professional with this group than she was with Football and the memory makes me grin before I start taping. Jimmy groans in my ear.

"You were in town just now?"

"Yeah," says the apparent leader. "What a blast. Got us some important things back there. We have an important job."

"Did you start anything while you were there? I understand you’ve had some run-ins recently?"

The kid scuffs his toe in the dirt for awhile and shrugs. "We only do what we’re told."

Kelsey raises one fine eyebrow. "What were you told to do?"

"Alan-" a voice from the back of the group calls out in warning but the speaker waves him off.

"It’s almost time, man. I don’t care if the lady knows. We were told to get the town worried about us. Like we were a threat. So we start fights and we talk like we’re all a buncha kooks. No big deal."

"Did Sam tell you to do this?"

"Sam? That bag of wind? He ain’t nothing," Alan shakes his head. "Come on, guys," he motions to his buddies and they start to move to the back of the truck.

I follow them with the camera and continue taping while they pull wrapped bundles from the bed and drop them in the dirt. The packages clatter noisily.

"So who told you to do these things?" Kelsey persists, leaning against the vehicle.

Alan stops his motion and watches my partner and glances at me and the camera before deciding to answer. "See, living here is a lot like living anywhere. You have groups of people who don’t get along and you have minorities who might have better ideas and more promises for the future but the old politics don’t allow for those changes."

I’m struck by how articulate our young friend is, as if he has someone speaking in his ear. Or he’s memorized this speech from previous encounters.

"So it’s a minority leader? Trying for a coup?"

Alan grins. "Something like that, yeah. We have work to do, Ms. Stanton."

She thanks him for his time and comes back over to me.

I lower the betacam from my shoulder, shifting my grip on it. "What do you think?"

"I think we should ask Chris a couple more questions."

I nod my agreement and we head back to the large building where Chris disappeared once deeming us unworthy an escort. We’re barely in the upstairs hallway when we hear a heated argument coming from Sam’s office. I quirk an eyebrow at Kels and turn on the camera so we can at least get sound, and Kels aims the antenna back toward the truck.

"You’re taping nothing," Jimmy’s voice pipes up helpfully in my ear.

"Shut up and listen, Olson," I whisper.

I really can’t pick up much but muffled voices through the thick door. I hear ‘fanatic’ in Sam’s deep booming tones and a higher voice responds with a jumble of words and ‘what the people want.’

Suddenly things are more interesting and I’m grinning again. Kelsey shakes her head but a slight smile graces her features. Jimmy is whining about something in my ear but I pop it out and let it dangle, not wanting to miss the fun in front of me.

We don’t get too much time to respond to this new development because the door bursts open and out stomp Chris, Sam, and a tall skinny man. They’re still yelling at each other and Sam is telling the third man to go home and cool off.

"Then we’ll call a meeting and decide if this is a place for you and your followers to live, Scamp."

Scamp? There’s a classy name if I’ve ever heard one. It fits the man, though. He’s tall and lanky with long hair and a scruffy beard. He’s dressed in denim and flannel and parades a ‘world-be-damned’ attitude if I’ve ever seen one. And I have a pretty good idea of what one looks like since I consider myself a pro.

"That’s what you think, Sam," he grumbles in response.

Interrupting our friendly little gathering, a small group of men comes flying up the stairs and into the hallway.

"Sam! There are cops at the gate. They’re demanding entrance, wielding weapons," the shortest of the group pants while sliding to a halt.

"Do they have a subpoena?" Sam asks reasonably. I’m glad the camera is running and I know Jimmy is getting an eyeful. This must be what he was trying to tell me when I tuned him out. Oh well. I sure hope the kid has enough sense to grab the extra betacam and catch the action at the gate with it.

"No. They said they have probable cause and they’re not taking no for an answer."

As I pan back from Sam’s close-up to take in the whole group, I see an odd smile on Scamp’s thin lips. "And so it begins."


We don’t consider his vague statement for very long before the men in the group that just came up the stairs all pull guns. In a blink of an eye, their short spokesman is shot in the back. Another crack of gunshot leaves Sam on the ground.

"Jesus Christ," I yell. I reach out my free hand towards Kelsey and am relieved when I feel the soft flesh of her hand meet my palm.

I close my fingers and pull her towards me, wanting her close to me and far away from them. When I take the time to focus again through the camera, I see a gun pointed right at us and Scamp grinning behind the barrel.

Jimmy’s babbling in my ear again and I try to tune him out as I tuck Kelsey behind me. She’s not willing to be protected and stubbornly remains at my side.

"You! Camera ladies," Scamp calls out. "You’ll come in handy. Pete, lock ‘em up."

Pete steps forward with a semi-automatic weapon and jabs me in the ribs.

"Turn that off for now," Scamp demands.

I think about arguing with him but something tells me this isn’t wise, and the batteries are almost completely drained by now. Protesting will get me nothing but broken ribs and no good footage. Not a good exchange. I take the camera off my shoulder without stopping it and let it focus on the linoleum at our feet but giving Jimmy all the sound he wants.

"Move it," Pete grabs for Kelsey’s arm but that damn chivalry I find in me when the blonde’s around makes me reach out and knock his hand away.

"Don’t touch us," I warn him. "We’ll do what you want."

Pete eyes me for a long moment, as if determining some kind of response. I wonder briefly if I’ve made a mistake.

"Get moving!" Scamp shouts over Sam’s shouts of pain. "Don’t mess with ‘em, Pete."

Our captor seems to be willing to abide by his leader’s requests and motions to the stairwell with his weapon.

We’re escorted from the building, across the chaotic compound, and to a smaller structure. I switch off the camera now, the antenna won’t work inside the building.

Once inside, our ‘escort’ points to a soiled corner. "Camera goes there."

"No way."

He levels the gun at my midsection. "Camera goes there."

I glance at Kelsey. "Can’t argue with that logic, can I?" I put the camera, the kit, the tripod, the antenna and everything else we’ve been carrying down in the corner gently. That’s a helluva lot of money invested in that squalid space right now.

Pete opens a door and shoves us into a tiny room, slamming the door behind us.

The room is nothing more than an oversized closet and is lit from a bare dangling bulb in the middle. The walls and floor are all seamless grey concrete. Looking up proves to me the ceiling offers no better possibilities. We hear the ominous sound of a deadbolt and chain behind us.

I glance over to Kelsey who is also taking in our surroundings, shaking her head. Slowly our eyes meet and hers look suddenly sad.

"Just another story, huh?" she asks with a raised eyebrow.

<to be continued>


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