Sitting up, the Crane businessman shook his head, shrugging off the voice as mere folly. "What's in this brandy?" he asked himself, setting the drink down on the coffee table. Then he heard the haunting sound once more:
"Julian!" the tiny voice chirped. "Bet you can't catch me!" Julian's mind flashed back to a time when Sheridan was no more than five years old. She was wearing a lovely white dress and had some kind of flowers in her hair, yellow flowers. Was it her birthday? No, it was Easter. He remembered she had a basket in her hand. The two of them had once played tag on Easter, he remembered, maybe the only time he had ever really played with his little sister.
Julian smiled at the fond memory. Then he frowned. Was that the only good memory he had of his sister as a child? He searched his mind for more.
There were plenty of sad ones: Sheridan, so small and vulnerable, sobbing at the loss of their mother. Then there was Sheridan at ten, hysterical over what had happened that awful night in the mansion - the night Martin Fitzgerald had "disappeared."
Then there was - he clamped his eyes shut - the time weeks after that horrible incident, when their father had sent Sheridan away. How could he have let that happen? She was so young, and to be placed in an asylum, when there was nothing wrong with her mind - how incredibly terrible was that! "It's best for the family, Julian," he remembered his father saying.
Their father - Julian winced thinking about Alistair. How ruthless could a man be, to do that to his own daughter? My God, he had even tried to - Julian snapped back to the present, opening his eyes. He didn't want to go there, didn't want to think about what had happened two years ago in Bermuda. He couldn't deal with his role in that fiasco. Not now, not when he had recovered a sliver of conscience.
"Julian!!!" the cold voice bellowed from the speakerphone, startling the man who had been deep in thought. Looking up, Julian could not believe his ears. "Good Lord, Father," he said, not even wondering who had answered the phone. Had it rung? "Is my mind not even safe from you?"
Sheridan opened her eyes, wishing that the events of the past week had been just a bad dream, a horrible nightmare like the one she had had on several occasions. As soon as her eyes were open, she knew this was no dream; it was real.
The blackness of the pit enveloped her. She could barely focus her eyes. Standing up slowly, Sheridan stretched her aching legs. They were killing her. Her kidnappers had at least thrown down an old lawn cushion and a couple of blankets. She had slept on the tattered cushion, but was still in a lot of pain.
She looked above her and noticed the faint beam of light. It was daytime, she realized, having no clue of the actual time. She was not wearing a watch, and even if she were, she wondered if it were light enough in the pit to be able to see the hands on a watch. Well, maybe a digital one.
Sheridan's stomach growled. She ran her hands across her belly, trying to comfort the child inside. "It's OK, little one," she said. "We'll get out of here soon. Your daddy will save us."
She thought of Luis, her hero, and smiled. How many times had he rescued her? Five, six? This time would be no different. Realizing she had referred to Luis as the baby's father, Sheridan sighed. Well, he was her baby's father. She was so sure of that now. She reluctantly began her daily routine of exercise - walking in circles around the edge of the pit, her mind staying focused on Luis.
After fifty laps around her prison, Sheridan walked to the center of the pit. Her hunger was now overwhelming. "Please!" she called to the people above. "I'm pregnant. My baby needs something to eat!"
A figure appeared at the top of the pit - the clown! Sheridan had seen this person every day. She was the one who sent food down to her. She had once seen two of them - two people wearing clown masks - and had heard them whispering overhead.
"Well, Blondie," smirked the clown, "I guess your baby will have to be fed. Too bad it means giving you something to eat as well!"
The hideous clown lowered the picnic basket with a rope. "You know the procedure, Blondie," she hissed, as Sheridan untied the rope and set the basket down. The clown then pulled the rope back up to the top. "Enjoy your meal!" she taunted. "Who knows how many more you will get?"
Sheridan opened the basket and removed the food - a sandwich, apple, carrots, and a pint of milk. "At least they are feeding me all right," she thought. "They even gave me prenatal vitamins when I asked for them." Sheridan ate the food hurriedly, and then made her way to the cushion where she found the vitamin container beside it. Opening the vial, she removed a tablet and swallowed, the vitamin going down hard.
Sheridan sank to the cushion
in despair, her eyes filling with tears. Wearied from her time in the pit, she
sobbed. Her hands rubbed her stomach. Somehow this always comforted her. She
knew Luis would rescue her, knew it with all her heart. The only thing she worried
about was if he would get there in time...