We definitely needed to get away.
The day after we'd decided to take a trip to Indiana, and before we could plan a thing, the FBI showed up at Carolyn's door. My heart picked up in speed and adrenaline pulsed through my body when Molly came out to the patio where Eden and I were sitting to tell us. We exchanged confused glances, mine most likely more worried than hers, and followed Molly inside where a heavyset man with dark hair and a tall, African American man, both wearing suits, waited.
"Hello," the heavyset man said, not smiling. "I'm FBI Agent Rivera." He nodded to his right. "This is Agent Glenn. You must be Calder Raynes?" he asked, holding his hand out to me. I nodded and shook both their hands.
"Please, call me Calder. And this is Eden," I said as Eden came up right behind me. She shook their hands, too.
"Nice to meet you two," Agent Rivera said, the serious look still on his face. "We need you two to come down to the local FBI field office where we can interview you. Sound all right to you?"
My hands were suddenly clammy, but I reached out for Eden's anyway. I had no idea what this meant. When I gripped her hand in mine, she looked over at me, a small crease between her eyebrows.
"Is it necessary?" I asked.
"It really is. We're responsible for numerous missing children's cases and we need to close yours out. Plus, we need to discuss a few other things that I'd rather get into when we get to our office."
That last part had my blood pumping swiftly through my veins, but I nodded. What other choice did we have? This is not like last time. This is not like last time. The last time we'd been in a police car for reasons we didn't entirely understand, we'd been coerced, tricked—and we'd been led straight to hell. This was different.
Carolyn came rushing into the room and introduced herself to the detectives. Molly must have told her they were here. "Does my daughter need a lawyer?" Carolyn asked, her eyes darting between them and Eden. I noted that she hadn't mentioned me.
"If she feels more comfortable having her lawyer present, he can meet us at the field office," Agent Rivera said.
"Mom," Eden said, "they just want to close out our case." She looked nervously at me.
Carolyn shook her head. "I'll have my lawyer meet you at the office. It'll make me feel better. It's the smart thing to do."
The detectives nodded and Eden looked annoyed, her lips pressed together as she squeezed my hand.
"Do you want to call a lawyer, too, Calder?" Agent Rivera asked. I glanced at Eden and shook my head and then glanced at Carolyn.
"I don't have anything to hide," I said.
My nerves spiked again as we were escorted to Carolyn's driveway, where a police car waited. This is not the same, this is not the same, I kept repeating. Just the sight of the police cruiser alone made my fight or flight instinct kick in and I pulled Eden to me. She gripped me back. Whether she was scared, too, or whether she was holding me so tightly because she knew I needed it, I wasn't sure. I had thought I had let go of some of the fear of the police after sitting through the questioning about Acadia recently. But in that moment, anxiety assaulted me because I didn't understand what was happening. Once again, I felt like everyone except me had the upper hand.
We sat huddled together in the back of the cruiser as the officer in front drove us to the downtown field office, the agents following behind. I could only imagine that if my blood pressure had been taken right then, it would be sky high.
When we got there, we were hurried in a back door and brought into a small room with nothing more than the table we were sitting at, two chairs, a TV in the corner, and another table with a coffee maker and coffee making ingredients sitting on it.
I scooted my chair closer to Eden's and held her hand under the table. "Are you okay?" I asked, looking at her and forcing myself to take a deep breath.
She squeezed my hand. "Yes, I'm okay. Are you?" She looked worried.
"I will be," I said, managing a small smile.
The door opened and our heads turned in unison as Agent Glenn walked into the room.
He nodded at us as a woman walked through the door right behind him. Agent Glenn said, "This is Agent Malloy. She'll be interviewing Eden."
I frowned and glanced at Eden. "I thought we'd be interviewed together."
"It's easier if we interview you separately," Agent Glenn said. "And it will go a lot more quickly, too. Plus, Eden's lawyer just arrived."
Eden leaned over and kissed my cheek, squeezing my arm. "It'll be fine. I'll see you right outside, okay?"
I let out a harsh exhale. "Okay." I turned to Agent Malloy, "She'll be close by?"
Agent Malloy smiled. "Yup, right next door. It shouldn't take long." I frowned, but nodded and the agent escorted Eden out the door. Eden gave me a small, encouraging smile before she walked out.
I looked back at Agent Glenn. He came and sat down in a chair at the end of the table, directly to my right.
"Calder, I appreciate you being willing to give an additional statement to us. We're happy to be able to close a case that so many of our agents were involved in back when Eden was taken." He looked at me very directly. "We haven't found any evidence that you yourself were abducted from a different family, but I know that you've indicated you believe that to be the case."
I cleared my throat. "I do, but I don't have any concrete evidence. Mostly comments from others who are no longer able to shed any light on what they said to me. Truthfully, Agent Glenn, half the time I don't know what to think."
He nodded. "Please, call me Floyd. And I know, we're having trouble, too. There are no records of those who lived at Acadia, other than the ones Hector kept on the council members. As you already know, it's been three years, but we still haven't identified so many of the adults, and identifying the children who were born there posed even more of an impossibility. As far as society knows, they never even existed."
My heart clenched with pain. I felt responsible for that. "If I would have come forward years ago . . ." I trailed off.
He shook his head. "You wouldn't have been asked to try to identify the bodies. They weren't recognizable." He looked pained. "The list you gave to the police of all the children you remembered, their ages and descriptions, was very helpful. And between you and Eden, you accounted for all of them. We can at least give some of them names now." He studied me for a minute and then stood up and went to the TV in the corner and pressed a few buttons, bringing a remote control back to the table with him. "We don't have the most advanced technology here." He laughed. I forced a small smile back, my heart still pounding way too quickly in my chest.
"I'm going to record this interview, is that all right with you?"
I nodded, bringing my hands together on the table in front of me.
"Would you like a cup of coffee or some water before we start?"
"No. Thank you."
He turned to the TV and pressed a button on the remote and then turned back to me.
"Will you state your name, please?"
"Thank you, Calder. I know you've given a statement to the local police about what happened at Acadia beginning several weeks before and leading up to the murder/suicides that took place there." He looked up at me. "Will you please take us through those steps, beginning with Officer Richter and Officer Owens locating you and bringing you back to Acadia?"
I took a deep breath and went through the details again, beginning with being coerced into Clive's police car, being returned to Acadia, living in that small, dim cell alone for two weeks. I left out my emotions, recounting those weeks as if I was a stranger looking down from above.
The agent asked several questions here and there so that I expounded upon something or cleared something up for him. When I got to the end of the story, and although I'd only gone through the facts, I felt like I'd run a marathon. I was exhausted. I rubbed my palms on my thighs as the agent picked up the remote and clicked off the video recorder.
"That was good. Thank you, Calder." His expression was neutral. "The other reason we wanted to talk with you is because we've been investigating the case against Clive Richter for a little while now. As you know, it was you two coming forward that encouraged his ex-partner, Officer Mike Owens, to seek immunity and offer his testimony. Without that, we wouldn't have the case that we do as far as the drug trafficking and money laundering." He shook his head. "When it comes to dirty cops, he takes the cake."
I let out a breath. "So he'll go away for a long time?"
"For those crimes, I'd bet on yes." He tilted his head. "However, now that Officer Owens is providing testimony against Officer Clive Richter that supports your account of him being at Acadia the day of the flood, Officer Richter is alleging you planned and carried out the deaths at Acadia that day."
I gaped, my body freezing. "What?" I croaked out. My worst fears were being realized. Visions of being carted away to prison as Eden screamed and reached her arms out for me assaulted my brain. Calm down, Calder. Get a grip. My fists clenched and unclenched on my thighs. The very, very worst had happened to me before. Would it happen again now, in a whole new way?
Agent Glenn furrowed his brow. "Officer Richter is claiming he picked Eden up per Hector's request—believing her to be an underage runaway—and that you came along willingly back to Acadia. He claims that on the way there, you were spouting off about killing everyone and leaving with Eden so it looked like you two were dead along with everyone else."
"What?" I croaked out, raking my fingers through my hair, my fight or flight instinct kicking in. "That's a lie!" My eyes flew wildly around the room as I brought my hands into fists on my thighs again. I was trapped in here.
Agent Glenn nodded, his lips coming together for a second. "He says you kicked over the water system once it started raining. He didn't understand at the time what that would do, but he ascertains that since you built it, you did. He says he left, but once everyone took shelter in the cellar, you must have locked the door behind all those people and left with Eden like you threatened."
Cold dread shot through my system. I was sweating. "I did kick over that system," I said. "I told the police. That's true. I did. I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt." Dread shot through my body. Was I going to be culpable for the crime now? Would they believe Clive?
"Am I being charged with something here? Do I need a lawyer?"
He leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder for a brief moment. "No, we are not charging you with anything. Let me make this clear, son. I've personally met Clive Richter. I've interviewed him. I've assisted in the investigation of the crimes he was involved in—not even half of which have been reported on the news. Between you and me, and I have a feeling you'd agree whole-heartedly, Clive Richter is not only a dirty cop, but he's a lying, conniving, manipulative opportunist. Not only do we not believe his assertions, but Officer Owens is corroborating your story, not his." He studied me for a minute before continuing on, "We haven't released this to the news yet, but we exhumed Hector's body and we found the key. He locked those people in; we know that. Eden's and your stories add up and we believe we can finally close out this case." He paused as I digested the news that Hector's body had been exhumed. Emotions were racing through my body. I didn't know what to think.
Agent Glenn continued. "However, it's unlikely we'll be able to prosecute Clive Richter for the crimes against you and Eden. There simply isn't enough evidence after three years. It's Eden's and your word against his. I'm sorry for that." His expression told me that he truly was.
I swallowed heavily and took in a big gulp of air.
"He shot me," I said.
He nodded, frowning slightly. "I know. And if only you'd saved the bullet, this would be a whole other story."
I blinked at him. "Saved the bullet?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yes, each bullet is specific to a gun. If we had the bullet, we could match it to Clive's duty weapon. That would be the piece of evidence that would make it easy to charge him with the crimes against you."
I stared at him. "I did keep the bullet, Floyd," I said. "It's still in my leg."
His eyes opened wide in surprise. He paused for a beat and then a slow smile came over his face. "Well this changes everything," he said.
I released a huge breath. Kristi's friend had said that with the placement of the bullet in my leg, it would be safer just to leave it where it had lodged. Which was lucky considering he didn't have any operating capabilities anyway.
"Are you willing to undergo a small operation?" he asked.
"Hell yes," I said, running my hand through my hair.
Floyd smiled again. "Okay, then." He shook his head in disbelief.
I studied him for a few minutes as he wrote something down. He looked kind, trustworthy. He was on our side. Something inside me relaxed and felt suddenly set free.
He looked back up at me. "You'll probably have to testify against Clive in court."
I looked steadily back at him. "Happily," I said.
He nodded, looking pleased. He tilted his head, studying me. "I come across a lot of cases in my job, Calder. What you and Eden went through . . ." He shook his head. "It's hard to imagine. And I can count on one hand the number of missing kids I've seen returned in my twenty years as an agent." Something moved behind his eyes, sorrow perhaps. He looked at me pointedly. "Treasure the second chance you've been given. Be proud of yourself. You don't hold responsibility for any of it—not one piece. You were victims. But don't live like victims. Live like survivors. I hope you'll take my words to heart."