Ciara Brady ran through the bushes, heart thumping in terror. After chipping the wall made of rotten wood with her fork she’d managed to squeeze through the hole she’d made; scratching her shoulder and arm rather badly. But she didn't care about the pain- she had to get out of the woods, find a way of getting back to Mum and Dad. She couldn’t let them catch her.
She stopped when she felt a stitch on her side; breathing hard. She had no idea how long she’d been running but she figured she must have covered enough distance. She was far away from the cabin, or at least she hoped so.
‘Mummy...’ she whimpered, tears running down her cheeks. ‘Daddy...’ If she didn't hurry they, whoever they were, will find her, lock her up again!
She hurried on, keeping to the trees. She had to get to the main road!
A light ahead of her indicated that she was getting close... maybe a car will stop... and take her home. Excited, Ciara burst out onto the road and that instant there was a screech of wheels, the car narrowly missing her. Ciara raised her hands to her eyes, blocking the glare of the headlights.
‘Oh my God!’ she heard a woman exclaim and the door opened. ‘Are you alright? What are you doing out here?’
Ciara ran to the stranger, filled with relief. ‘Help me... take me home!’ she begged, grasping her by the waist. ‘Don’t let them take me!’
‘Slow down...’ the woman squatted, holding her face. ‘“Them”?’
‘Bad people... they kidnapped me... I want to go home!’ Ciara sobbed, slipping her arms round the woman’s neck.
The woman shushed her, holding her close. ‘There, there... sweetie. I’ll take you home to your Mum and Dad now. You’re safe with me.’
Ciara nodded and sniffled, feeling much better. ‘Thank you.’
‘Come on,’ picking her up, the stranger carried her to the car, placed her on the front seat and buckled her up. By the interior car light, she saw the bleeding cut on Ciara’s shoulder. ‘We’ll have to do something about that cut first ...’
Bo and his men came back to the station, exhausted. Dean Hartman, one of their best and loyal officers had managed to trace the kidnappers’ latest call but had stupidly gone to their hideout himself, without informing Bo. But then they’d received a distress call from Dean and hurried to the kidnapper’s hideout; an old cabin on the outskirts of Salem. The cabin was in flames and Dean was lying unconscious not far away, shot on the shoulder. For several terrifying minutes Bo thought his daughter was in it but on investigating after the fire was put out, only two charred bodies was found in the ruins.... the kidnappers. According to Dean, after he was revived, one of the kidnappers had shot him but he didn't remember anything else except vaguely hearing the sound of them arguing before passing out. He did however remember seeing a woman in the room.
Hope’s grief and anxiety had grown ten-fold. A few years ago, she had found Zach bleeding to death on their driveway and for a long time she and Bo had been cold strangers. Ciara’s birth had eventually reunited them and the paternity test had sealed the reconciliation. But now their marriage was crumbling; not because of the kidnap but their heated arguments about the kidnapper’s demands. Hope was more than ready to pay the ransom- her entire trust fund if necessary- to get her little girl back- but Bo had refused; according to his last vision if she did, Ciara would die. They had to follow his own methods. Some methods.
‘If you’d only listened to me and let me pay the damned ransom- we’d have her back by now!’ she screamed at Bo, tears pouring down her cheeks. ‘But no, we had do things your way! This is your fault!’
Roman jumped into the fray. ‘Cut it out, now’s not the time to pass blame. Something just went wrong tonight...’
‘Everything’s gone wrong since I was stupid enough to listen to your brother!’ Hope spat. ‘The hell with his damned visions... they’ve gotten us nowhere... NOWHERE! Obviously the third kidnapper took Ciara away before torching the place, God knows what he’s doing to her now, or has already done!’ Bo slipped his arms round her but she fiercely slapped them away. ‘Don't you touch me! If Ciara ends up dead, I’ll never forgive you!’ She began to cry again.
‘If there’s anyone to blame...’ Justin said bitterly, ‘it’s that boy of yours... Dean. He shouldn’t have gone out there without telling you, obviously his mind was on the reward money you promised.’
Bo gritted his teeth; he clearly detected criticism towards him in Justin’s words, not towards Dean. And ever since their daughter was kidnapped Hope has been drifting further and further away, losing her faith in him. But his visions have never failed him; he knew deep in his heart that Ciara was alive and he’d done the right thing. And it was only a matter of time they’ll find her safe and sound. But as for Dean, reward or not, was going to go on suspension when this whole mess was over for not following police protocol. If this was the way he going to behave all the time, his chances of making detective would be a long way off, the stupid, stupid fool!
Justin took Hope’s arm, an action that made Bo’s hackles rise but he said nothing. ‘Come... you need rest. I’ll take you to Mickey and Maggie’s. Come on.’ He glanced at Bo for confirmation and Bo nodded. In time he and Hope would be able to out this episode behind them and be back to the way they were and Justin keeping his hands to himself.
‘What’s the plan now?’ Roman asked as soon as the door closed behind them.
‘Kyle and his sister are dead... I just knew there was a third kidnapper.’ Bo paced the room. ‘He grabbed Ciara after killing them and torching the cabin, to another location. We wait for him to call.’ He rubbed his eyes, thinking about his darling little girl. She must be so frightened right now.
Roman squeezed his arm comfortingly. ‘Bo... You did what you thought was best. We don’t always agree but I believe in you, I always have.’
‘I know and thanks, I appreciate it. And I just hope I’ll be vindicated in Hope’s eyes when this is over. I can’t lose her again.’
‘You won’t. You two have been through worse scenarios, Hope’s just very upset right now. Give her some space and time to relax, she really doesn't blame you.’
‘But Justin obviously does.’ Bo said bitterly.
‘Justin’s an idiot under thousand dollar suits; his opinion doesn't matter so ignore him.’
‘How’s the other idiot?’
‘Lexie says it’s a flesh wound, he’ll be alright. He was more interested in making detective than the reward, or so he kept saying.’
‘He endangered my daughter’s life!’ Bo shouted. ‘He didn't follow procedure and he’s going to pay for it.’
‘He’s dedicated Bo, he’s always been. Maybe he felt the need to prove himself, that’s why he acted on impulse. I’m not defending him; he’s just human; like all of us.’
Bo sighed, rubbing his neck gripped with tension. This whole episode was getting to him in more ways than one; he felt so helpless and alone with the way Hope had distanced herself from him. He needed her more than ever right now. If only...
Soft, tapered fingers sensually working on his shoulders and neck, her soothing voice in his ear. She always knew where the knots of tension were, swiftly smoothing them away. She made everything better... all the time...
‘You okay lil’ brother?’ Roman broke his train of thought.
‘Fine. Just tired.’ Was the gruff reply. He hadn’t thought of her in years, except on very rare occasions and only for a minute before forcibly blocking her face away, refusing to picture of her very happy with a man he hated so much and wishing he’d made a bigger effort to keep her...
No, no... He was not going to think of what might have been. It only broke the heart into two. He loved Hope. She on the other hand belonged in the past.
But she wouldn’t act this way, a voice in his head pointed out. She always believed in you. She never questioned you... you were larger than life to her.
Bo closed his eyes, tightly. This was one of the reasons why he forced back memories of her. She always made him feel better and longing for her now was like wishing for the moon.
‘Don’t eat so fast. You’ll choke in a minute. Here...’ the stranger gently wiped Ciara’s mouth with a paper napkin.
‘Thank you.’ Feeling pleasantly full, Ciara looked at her new friend sitting opposite her. They were at a diner; the woman had insisted they stop to attend to her shoulder and get some food. Borrowing a First-Aid kit from the proprietor, she’d cleaned her wound and bound it with a band-aid as skilfully as a doctor. Then she’d ordered a hot meal, making sure she ate every crumb; taking only coffee herself.
Ciara looked at her carefully. The stranger was pretty, with shoulder length brown hair and bright green eyes and she liked the long dark coat she was wearing.
‘What’s your name?’
The woman smiled warmly. ‘You haven’t told me yours.’
‘Ciara Alice Brady.’ Ciara replied proudly. ‘My Mummy and Daddy are detectives.’
‘That’s very interesting, Ciara. Brady you say.’
Ciara nodded. ‘You know them?’
‘Only your Daddy... but we’ve never met. You have any idea who kidnapped you, Ciara?’
Ciara shifted uneasily in her seat. ‘Mummy and Daddy always told me not to talk to strangers. But... this man, I met him at the park one day.’
‘Did he tell you his name?’
‘Kyle. He gave me a lollipop, he was so nice to me.... he looked nice!’ Ciara said, so ashamed she’d disobeyed her parents.
‘It’s alright.’ The woman soothed her, patting her hand. ‘I’m sure they’ll be too happy to see you to stay mad at you. Go on.’
‘Well... I saw him again at the carnival; I was with Susan, my sitter. He said Mummy was in the hospital, that she was hurt in an accident and Daddy sent him to come get me. I went with him but...’ Ciara gulped, painfully remembering, ‘he drove me to a small house, and he...’ she began sobbing, ‘he blindfolded me and tied my hands behind me, and he put something on my ears... music kept playing, all I heard was music, I couldn't hear them talking.’
‘You’re sure this Kyle wasn't alone?’
‘After he blindfolded me I smelt perfume, I guess the other person was a woman, she touched my cheek... her hand was soft.’
‘I think you’ll make a wonderful detective one day Ciara.’ The woman said, very impressed.
Ciara grinned, feeling better again. No one could’ve paid her a better compliment.
‘But...’ she added, ‘I remember something. I never heard what they said... but I did hear something, something weird.’
‘What was it?’
Ciara wrinkled her face, wondering how to describe the sound. ‘It went click, click, click... I heard it now and then.’
Ciara shook her head. ‘I don't know... it was a weird sound, I never heard it before. Somehow I got my hands out of the rope they used on me and I used my fork to break the wood. I heard them yelling at each other in the other room but I didn't hear much, I just wanted to get out of there.’
‘Mmm...’ the woman frowned thoughtfully. ‘This Kyle was arguing with his partner then. Probably over the ransom they must have gotten from your parents.’
‘What’s a ransom?’
‘Ransom is money kidnappers collect in exchange for the people they take. But why would they kidnap the daughter of two detectives? I don't understand.’
‘My grandpa is very rich... Daddy’s father; Victor Kiriakis.’ Ciara replied. ‘And I know Mummy has some money.’
‘Then that explains it... I’ve heard of your grandfather of course, he’s one of the richest men in this country. Well... you’re safe now. And when we get you back to your family, you will tell your parents exactly what you just told me. These people who abducted you have to be punished and they will be, thanks to you.’ The woman smoothed Ciara’s hair. ‘Let’s get you home now.’
Ciara clung to her new friend’s hand as they walked to her car. Even after what had happened to her, her instinct told Ciara this woman can be trusted. She had the warmest eyes she’d ever seen, as green as the stone...what was it called again... an emerald. Glancing at the hand on hers she noticed something else; her friend was wearing a sliver ring with a strange design; two hands holding a heart. Everything about this strange woman was very interesting. She hoped she would stay in Salem for a long time; she liked her very much already.
‘Thank you for helping me like this.’ she said as they drove off towards town. ‘You don't even know me.’
‘Maybe not, sweetie. But if there’s one thing I hate most are people who kidnap children. They are the worst set of people to walk the earth.’ For an instant, the stranger’s eyes hardened. ‘They deserve to be punished. And whoever did this to you will be punished... a hundred times over.’
Ciara sat back in the leather upholstered seat, even more relaxed. No wonder she felt so safe with her; her new friend sounded a lot like her Daddy.
Even though Bo was a husband, father, grandfather and the Commissioner of Police; to Caroline he would always be the little boy who went to her for comfort whenever he was sad or upset. And her son was clearly very unhappy under the anger he was displaying. As soon as she walked into the office with Victor at her heels the first thing she did on sighting Bo’s haggard face was hold him tightly, silently consoling him like she’d always done. Holding back his tears, Bo hugged her back, loving her so much for being there for him, especially at this time. He felt so alone right now.
‘Has the third person called yet?’ she asked. ‘Roman told me what happened.’
Bo shook his head. ‘But he will, any moment from now.’
‘Bo, you should have allowed Hope or me to pay the ransom instead of offering a reward...’
‘Keep quiet Victor!’ was Caroline Brady’s sharp admonition. ‘Bo knew what he was doing and I won’t stand for your sanctimonious attitude! How dare you question him?’
‘It’s alright Ma.’ Bo didn't give his biological father so much as a glance. ‘His opinions have never mattered.’
Victor bristled at the barely veiled insult. ‘Ciara’s important to me too, all I said was...’
‘I don't care what you were trying to say. Ciara’s my daughter, not yours.’ Bo now faced him, eye to eye. ‘You want to question me my judgment calls, at least I don't spend my time putting my children down, unlike you who make a sport out of it. Get off my back, Victor. I already have enough to worry about.’
‘Allow me pay the ransom, Bo. I’ll double it if necessary.’ Victor said as if Bo hadn’t spoken at all.
‘I won’t let you sign my daughter’s death warrant. Hope will not pay the ransom and neither will you because I said so!’ Bo’s eyes glinted. ‘You stay out of my way, or else.’
Abe, who was in the room swiftly intervened before the two men could come to blows. ‘Bo’s right, Victor; this is official police business. And you don't have the right to question Bo’s methods; he did the right thing whether you think so or not.’
‘I have the right to express my opinion...’
‘You have the right to be silent Victor or I’m going to ask you to leave.’ Abe’s voice was like steel, his face hard. ‘You have no say in the matter; if you won’t respect Bo’s position, you’ll respect mine. Understood?’
Victor glared but didn't reply. Abe Carver has never been intimidated by him or anyone else for that matter.
‘Where’s Hope?’ he asked instead, turning to Roman.
Roman waved his hand impatiently. ‘Justin took her to Mickey and Maggie’s to cool off. She’s better off there in the meantime anyway... We can’t have her make a mistake by telling the kidnapper she wants to pay the ransom. Thanks to that moron Dean... he’ll probably ask for more.’
Bo shook his head, still furious with Dean Hartman for compromising the case. Maybe it would be better if the ransom was paid after all... vision or no. Ciara and Hope were his highest priority and things weren’t going according to plan, he had to vindicate himself somehow.
Then a miracle happened, in the form of Ciara running through the door, straight to him screaming, ‘Daddy... Daddy!’
Disbelief and excruciating joy gripped Bo as he held his daughter in his arms and kissed her, other arms holding her as well; the sounds of laughter and sobbing.
‘Oh thank God... thank God!’ Caroline cried, pressing her face against the child’s face. ‘Are you alright, those people didn't hurt you?’
‘How did you get here, who brought you?’ Bo demanded, brushing back hair from her face. Scrambling down, Ciara ran to the door, hurrying to the woman standing outside with several uniformed officers and grabbed her hand.
‘She saved me... She’s my friend now!’ she beamed up at her as she dragged her inside the office.
Bo gaped at the stranger in shock and amazement. So did Roman, Abe, Caroline and Victor.
‘Carly?’ He exclaimed in disbelief at the sight of his ex fiancée for the first time in several years. He had allowed himself to think about her, now she was standing in front of him in the flesh.
The woman frowned, looking baffled. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘Carly?’ Caroline stepped forward, eyes scanning the familiar face, a face she never thought she would behold again. ‘Don’t you know us?’
She shook her head. ‘I think you’ve got me confused with someone else. I was on my way here and I found your Ciara on the road. My name is Clarice; Clarice Parker.’
Bo felt he was reliving that incredible yet agonizing night all over again as he stared hard at her. When she’d walked up to him and Billie like a ghost from the spirit world after weeks of mourning her death... his joy had turned to horror and helpless anger on realising she didn't know him... her memories of their love completely erased, thanks to Vivian and Lawrence Alamain. It was Carly, it had to be; he would know that beautiful face anywhere. But what happened to her over the years, how come she was answering to the name Clarice now? Most important, why couldn’t she remember him again?
Ciara frowned as well. ‘Why are you calling her Carly? Her name’s Clarice.’ She looked up at her. ‘Isn't it?’
‘Of course it is.’ She turned back to the group, still gaping. Look, I can show you some ID if you want... I’m not this Carly person.’
Victor opened his mouth to speak but Abe swiftly interrupted him. ‘Abe Carver, Mayor.’ He shook her hand. ‘We can’t tell you how glad we are Ciara’s safe and grateful to you for bringing her home... isn’t we?’ he looked meaningfully at Victor. Forcibly, Victor pulled himself together and shook her hand as well. ‘Victor Kiriakis, I’m Ciara’s grandfather. This is Caroline Brady; her grandmother.’
Caroline ignored the hand, hugging her instead. Clarice looked bemused as she pulled back but she smiled shyly.
‘I’m Commander Roman Brady, this Ciara’s father, Bo.’ Roman said, as amazed as the sudden appearance of Bo’s ex. She looked genuinely confused by the name they were calling her. She truly didn't know them and there was something different about her; her clothes. The Carly they knew never wore long dark coats or knee high boots.
‘Pleased to meet you both. I suppose you have questions to ask me, right?’
Roman looked at Bo, wondering if his emotions will allow him do so.
‘Yeah... that’s right.’ Bo said, composing himself as well. ‘Ma, take Ciara to Maggie’s. Sweetie, your Mum’s at your Uncle Mickey and Aunt’s Maggie’s... go there and give her a wonderful surprise, okay? I have to talk to Clarice here.’
‘Okay.’ Kissing him on the cheek, Ciara hugged her new friend round the waist. ‘I’ll see you later?’
The woman smiled. ‘Yes, later dear.’
‘Let’s go, Victor.’ Abe said commandingly as Victor made no move to leave. Victor looked at Bo then at Clarice for one long minute before following them.
‘Sit down, Clarice.’ Bo said as the door closed behind them.
‘Thank you, Commissioner Brady.’ Carly sat down.
Bo sat down opposite her, staring at her hard. What did Larry do to her after they left Salem?
‘I need to ask you where you were coming from, when you found my daughter on the road.’
Carly/Clarice hesitated. ‘I was coming back from Cuba, a mission.’
She hesitated again, and then reached for her purse on the table, opening it and pulled something out. ‘I guess you have to know this at least.’ She held up an ID. Beside the card was an ISA badge.
If Bo was shocked before, it wasn’t compared to how he felt now.
Carly/ Clarice put the ID wallet back in her purse. ‘I was there for two months, barely escaped. Call me paranoid, but when I landed, I chartered a boat and drove the rest of the way. That was when I saw your Ciara.’
Bo stared at her hard. ‘You came back for debriefing then.’
‘Yes.’ She shrugged. ‘I don't know where I’ll be going next for a while. I’m wounded.’
‘You are?’ Bo asked, immediately concerned.
‘I was shot in the back.’ A faint mocking smile was on her face. ‘Occupational hazard. I can’t tell you more than that, Commissioner Brady.’
Bo wanted to ask, why don't you remember me? What happened to you, Princess?
‘Is that all for now?’ Carly/Clarice said, rising. ‘It has been a long trip...’
Bo raised too, eyes on her face, looking for signs of recognition. None at all. She was clearly suffering from severe amnesia, unless she wasn’t Carly after all.
‘Well thank you for my daughter, Agent Parker. But you need come back here tomorrow and give your full statement.’
‘Of course. I’ll be here.’ She held out her hand and he took it, his heart lurching. Not only because of the touch of her hand in his but by what she was wearing on her finger. The silver Claddagh ring he’d given her in ’92 as an early Christmas present.
She was Carly Manning, his Carly. And he still couldn't believe it.