The sound of Rickie's phone rang in the silence. It was an unfamiliar number, but he answered it.
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"En Ahmad?" Leaf's tentative voice sounded nothing like the happy girl he knew.
"Leaf? It's Rickie, how can I help you?"
A small sob was the only thing he heard at first.
"I came home after spending the day at a friend's house, but Meg isn't here and someone trashed our house." There was more sniffling as Rickie gripped the phone harder. The voice sounded even younger. "Can you come here, please? I'm scared."
"Leaf, can you go to your neighbor's house?" Rickie urgently said, his eyes already darting around to find his car keys.
"I knocked on Miss Shel's door, but she's not here, either. I don't know what to do."
JoAnne put a hand on Rickie's arm, seeming to understand that something bad had happened. She spoke in a low tone, "Have her go to a public place nearby, and I'll go get her." Rickie nodded. He strode over to his desk, where he pulled out some note paper.
"Listen to me, Leaf. I want you to grab your important stuff and some clothes and go to that market by your house, okay? Do you remember, the one where I ordered the ice cream for your birthday? I'm going to send my assistant JoAnne to pick you up, while I go and find your sister."
JoAnne motioned for the phone, and Rickie gave it to her as he scribbled the address of the market.
"Leaf, honey, this is JoAnne. Is this your cell phone number? I'm going to call you on mine, and I want us to stay together on the phone until I reach you, okay?"
She gave her number to Leaf, then closed Rickie's phone and handed it back to him.
Rickie's phone immediately rang again. He quickly turned away from JoAnne and opened his phone again, hoping it was Meaghan. Instead, it read "Unavailable". He answered it anyway, and an unfamiliar female voice spoke.
"Good evening, Prince. I hope you're feeling proud of yourself regarding yesterday's events."
"Who are you?" he all but growled.
"I'm just looking for some information from you. And before you hang up, you might want to see this."
A beep on his phone announced the delivery of a video. Rickie was stunned speechless, his heart in his throat. The picture was distorted and wavered a bit, but there was no mistaking what he was seeing.
A featureless interior.
And an unmoving Meaghan, her hands in cuffs with leg irons attached to her ankles.
Rickie felt a howl trying to get out as his free hand curled into a fist. A gasp from behind showed that JoAnne has also seen it.
The video was quickly turned off, and the female voice continued.
"I believe you have something I want. You and I are going to come to an arrangement. I will contact you back later for more details."
The phone immediately went dead.