Candice Fields had my children. I knew it as soon as I realized they were missing, but it was confirmed when I received her little “gift” in the mailbox the next day.
It was a piece of each of the children’s clothing along with locks of their hair. And there was a note:
“I have your brats. You will never see them again unless you resign as Governor, swear you will no longer run for public office, and publically give your support to your brother, Malcolm. After you do that, you will turn yourself over to Me in exchange for your children. I will arrange the transfer once you’ve made your public announcement.”
Julian, who insisted on reading the note aloud, looked at me and said, “Well, it could be worse.”
“Worse! WORSE! What could be worse than the children being kidnapped!”
“She didn’t send body parts to show how serious she is.”
I just stared at him, appalled at his calm acceptance of this and the brutality he felt Candice was capable of.
“So what should we do?” asked Keenan, who snatched the note and read it for himself. Like Julian, he was also calm. He’d gone into police mode.
Their calm just made me more panicked. I imagined all of the horrible things that Candice could do to the children. She hadn’t sent body-parts this time,but if I didn’t do what she asked, she might. She might! “I’m going to call a press conference,” I said. “I want my children back!”
“Lila. Be reasonable. Do you think she is actually going to follow through on what she says?” Julian just shook his head at me. “I keep telling you that you aren’t thinking like a vampire. She doesn’t give a damn about these demands. Think about it.”
“I am thinking about it! How can I not do what she’s asking? You said it yourself. She could have sent body parts. She could be hurting them!”
“If you give in, she’ll definitely hurt them. I promise you she won’t hold up her end of the agreement. The demands are just a way to get you to come to her. They don’t make sense. Yes, she’d love to see you out of office, but why does she care if you support Malcolm? She wants him dead just as much as she wants you.”
“I don’t know! What if she’s changed her mind? What if she and Malcolm are now working together. Maybe he sees this as his only way to get elected.”
“Malcolm isn’t like that. He doesn’t support Mother’s cause. He wants vampire rights, not vampire rule.”
“Then why does she want me to say that I support Malcolm? What will she gain by that?”
“I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. You can’t give in to Mother’s demands. You have to let me and Keenan and the police find the kids and stop her. If you give in, she’ll just kill all of you.”
“But what if you aren’t able to find them and save them?”
Keenan came up behind me, wrapping his arms around me in support…or maybe to hold me back. He gently turned my head. “Julian’s right, Lil. We’ll find them. I swear.”
“Trust us, Lila. Have faith that we can save them.”
In the end I called a press conference not to announce my resignation, but to finally reveal that Julian and Malcolm were my brothers.
“I know that everyone knows that my birth mother was Candice Fields. My story has been well-documented. I was adopted by my aunt, Candice’s twin, Glenna, when I was an infant. I never thought of Candice as my mother. In fact, I never thought of her at all until Glenna and her partner, Sunny Cho, attended Candice’s wedding.
You all know what happened. It made the national news. Candice killed Sunny in a fit of jealous rage. Somehow Candice managed to get released from prison after that heinous act. I didn’t know it until Glenna went missing. For two years the woman I thought of as my mother was being held by Candice Fields and her demented husband, John-Paul. She was tortured and turned into a vampire against her will. Somehow, she managed to escape them, killing John-Paul before she was killed by his father, Royce Harold.
This sordid tale should have ended there, but Candice Fields managed to escape. She went to Bridgeport where apparently she has become the head of the Vampire Mafia.”
Hearing myself say all of this, I felt like I was in a bad movie, but I had to go on. I looked out at the sea of reporters and continued.
“Candice left behind two sons in Barnacle Bay. These were brothers that I didn’t know I had. While I was living with my grandmother, Jeri Fields, these two boys became wards of the state. One of them eventually became a cop. He changed his name so no one would know he was related to the vampire criminals, Candice and John-Paul Kendrick. Julian Harold, my bodyguard, is that man. The other brother also changed his name. He took a different path…one similar to my own. His name is Malcolm Harold.”
As the reporters clicked pictures and spit rapid-fire questions at me, I felt my two brothers come stand beside me. We waited until there was a hush.
“I might not agree with everything my brother Malcolm espouses in politics, but I do agree with one thing: Candice Fields must be stopped. She has committed her last crime. I am asking you, no, I am imploring you to help me find and stop my mother from harming my children.
She has taken them and threatened my whole family. She demands that I step down as Governor in order to get them back. Well, I have called you all here to witness my reply to these demands.”
I looked directly into the nearest television camera and said, “The answer is NO. I will not step down. I will not give up. And if you harm even one hair on my children’s heads, I will strike you down. We will find you, Mother. My brothers and I will not rest until you have been brought to justice!”
Malcolm spoke after me, giving more details about our parentage and the vampire mafia. He explained that crime is crime no matter what. Vampire criminals deserved harsh punishments just as humans received. He assured the public that he did not support different laws for vampires, nor did he condone the actions of Candice and her fellow vampires.
When we returned to the Governor’s mansion, Malcolm came with us.
“So this is what it looks like on the inside,” he joked. “I suppose this will be my only chance to see it now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Lila, if you think I could run against you now, you’re crazy. Once we find the children, you’re a shoe-in. I might as well concede right now.”
“If we find the children…”
“We’ll find them.”
Finding Candice and the children was not something quickly accomplished. After my announcement, I was a wreck. I knew I had done the right thing, but I was terribly worried for my kids. I imagined the worst. Then, two days later, another package arrived in the mail. I didn’t have to imagine what was happening to them any longer. Inside were pictures: each picture more horrible than the next.
“Keenan!” I dropped the photos to the ground, feeling faint. The room started to spin and my vision grew fuzzy.
I felt myself falling and then Keenan’s arms were around me. He was tapping my face. “She’s going to kill them,” I whispered, when I could speak again. I felt his arms tighten around me. I felt his anger through the shaking of his muscles.
“She must be stopped!” he ground out, speaking to Julian, who’d picked up the pictures I’d dropped.
“We’ll stop her,” Julian promised. “She isn’t going to kill them.” Julian put the pictures back in the envelope he’d picked up. Keenan helped me stand.
“She made a mistake sending these. We’re going to find the kids, Lila. She won’t be able to hurt them again,” Julian said.
“How do you know!? How can you know that she won’t hurt or k-kill them?”
“She won’t because if she does, she’ll have lost her only leverage. And, in sending us these, she’s given us a clue to their location. It’ll will make her easier to find.”
“I can’t stand this! You’re so calm. How can you be so fucking calm when my babies are being hurt! Look at the blood Julian! Look at the bites. They’re feeding from my babies!” I sobbed.
“Believe me I’m not calm!” Julian finally exploded. “I see the bites. Mother has crossed the line! No vampire is supposed to feed from children. It’s blasphemous!”
“What if she Turns one of them? Can she do that? Can a child be Turned?”
“You don’t know that. She’s already done this much!”
“We’re close to finding her Lila. We’ve got more leads to follow and Julian’s right that the pictures will provide some clues,” Keenan stroked my hair. His voice was strained. I knew he was just as anxious and worried as I was.
“Keenan and I are going to Bridgeport tomorrow,” Julian said. “We’ll find her.”
“I want to come with you. I can’t stand knowing that they’re hurting and I can’t do anything to help them!”
“Lila, you have to stay here. Candice wants you dead,” Keenan’s grip on me tightened. “I don’t want you to get any closer to her.”
“What makes you think she won’t come here to find me. What makes me safer here?”
In the end, I went with them to Bridgeport. I insisted. I didn’t feel safe anywhere as long as Candice was still out there.
Keenan and Julian coordinated with the Bridgeport PD and the FBI to locate Candice’s hideout. Initially they had two possible locations, but after a few days of surveillance, they thought they knew where she was holding the kids.
“How are you going to get them out of there?” I asked, impatient.
“We have a plan, Lil,” Keenan assured me. “We have to be careful because we want the children to be safe and because we hope to capture Candice alive.”
“Good. I want her to pay for this.”
“Me, too. Me, too. We’ll bring her to justice.”
They didn’t tell me the details of the operation. I tried hard to work while they were planning and getting ready to extract the kids. When they left the hotel we were staying in, none of us said anything. Julian gave me a hug and Keenan kissed me hard on the mouth. I shut the door behind them and just paced.
Eventually I sat down to write a speech for my next speaking engagement, but I couldn’t concentrate. I watched TV for a bit, I tried to exercise, and I used the little kitchenette to make some macaroni that I didn’t eat.
Finally I fell asleep on the couch.
I was awoken by the phone ringing. Panicked, I fumbled to find it.
“No, it’s Julian.”
“Julian, have you got them?”
“Yes. They’re at the hospital right now.” I sagged against the couch cushions with relief.
Julian continued, “I’m on my way to get you and take you there. Don’t go without me.”
“I won’t. Everything is alright, right? I mean, no one is seriously injured?”
“There was a fire, Lila.”
A fire? I started to panic again. “What? What happened?”
“We’re not sure how it started, but it helped us find the children.”
“Was anyone burned?”
“The children are fine. They’re being treated for smoke inhalation as well as the injuries they received from Candice and her minions.”
“Is Keenan with them?”
“He’s at the hospital, too,” Julian said, but he paused and I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me.
“He wasn’t hurt, was he?”
“Lila, he rushed into the building when he saw there was a fire. He didn’t wait for back up.”
“He’s alright, right?” I asked again. What would I do if Keenan had been hurt trying to rescue the children?
“He saved the little ones first,” Julian continued, not really answering my question. “He carried the girls in his arms and GC was piggy-back, holding on like a trooper.”
“What about TJ?”
“Keenan had to go back for TJ. TJ was too hurt to get out on his own.”
“Oh my Sims! What happened to TJ? You said all the children were fine, being treated for smoke inhalation.”
“…and other injuries. Candice had TJ beaten. He’d taken the worst of the abuse to save the triplets. Anyway, Keenan went back for him.”
“And then what happened?”
“They were making their way out when the floor collapsed from underneath them. Keenan and TJ both fell. By then fire crews were already on the scene. Other people had gone in to find survivors. They found Keenan and TJ in the basement. TJ wasn’t hurt much worse than he had been…a few minor burns…but Keenan landed badly.”
“Just tell me Julian. Tell me how bad he’s hurt. Stop being so elusive.”
“It’s bad Lila. They’re not sure if he’s going to make it. He’s in critical condition and he needs surgery on both legs. He broke them in the fall.”
“Hurry up and get here! I need to be at the hospital. I need to be with my family!”
“I’m in the car now, Lila. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Good,” I sighed. Then I remembered that I hadn’t asked what had happened to Candice. I didn’t know if she was still a threat.
“Julian, you never said whether or not you captured Candice. Did she make it out of the fire? Did you capture her?”
There was a pause before Julian said, “We didn’t.”
“She got away?” I immediately started to panic.
“One of the vampires we captured said that she was burned, but he thought she got out. Vampires heal quickly, but a burn’s a burn. Fire hurts vampires just as badly as it does humans.”
“So she’s out there…injured…and probably mad as hell.”
“Yes. But we’re confident we can track her down and take her in.”
“Or she might come and attack us all like a rabid animal.” I shuddered. I hated feeling so vulnerable. I wondered if I’d ever feel safe again.
I was torn as to who I should see first when we got to the hospital. Julian explained that the triplets were together. “They’re probably sleeping, but the doctors say they can be released tomorrow.”
“They want to run some tests. He has some internal injuries from the fall and possibly from the beatings he had taken. He’d lost a lot of blood, too.”
At the hospital, the decision of who to see was taken out of my hands. As soon as I stepped into the building I was greeted by reporters.
“Ms. Fields has no comment at this time,” Julian snarled at them, whisking me to an elevator. He hit the button for the fifth floor.
“Keenan will be going into surgery soon.”
I barely registered anything as I was led to Keenan’s room. There was a doctor present, writing in on a chart. A nurse was on the other side of the bed fiddling with a tube connected to Keenan’s hand.
“Ms. Fields is here to see her husband.”
“Ms. Fields. I’m Dr. Brewer.” I listened as the doctor categorized my husband’s injuries. He explained why they had to perform surgery now instead of later when Keenan was more stable. The doctor firmly told me that things were critical. “If he makes it through the next few days, things will be fine, but we have to do these surgeries now and there is a chance…”
“Just fix him,” I said. I didn’t want to hear that my husband might die. I had already lived through that once. Keenan would not die. I wouldn’t let him.
After signing papers allowing the doctor to operate on Keenan, I followed Julian into TJ’s room. It broke my heart to see my little boy covered in bandages.
“Oh!” I gasped, falling into a chair beside his bed.
“Mom?” I raised my head. TJ’s eyes were open and he seemed to be trying to smile.
“My face hurts.”
“I know Sweetheart.”
“There was a fire. I think…I think I got burned.”
“The doctors are taking care of you.”
“Ok.” TJ’s eyes closed and I thought he had fallen back to sleep. I reached out to hold his hand.
“Don’t blame GC,” TJ whispered, his eyes still closed. “He did it to save me.” Then I felt TJ’s hand go slack. I watched the rise and fall of his chest to reassure myself that he was just asleep. I held his hand still, wondering exactly what he had meant. Why would I blame GC for anything?
After checking on the triplets who were still asleep, I went out into the waiting room to sit with Julian and Ashleigh. She’d come up from Capital City.
“Lila, do you want some coffee?” she asked.
“No.” I just wanted to pace. I felt like I might explode if I tried to sit still, so I just walked, circling the room. I barely registered Julian’s voice as he softly filled Ashleigh in on what had happened.
Eventually I managed to sit for awhile. I thumbed through a book that had been discarded by someone. I have no idea what it was about. I even managed to doze a bit. Julian woke me when Dr. Brewer came out to let us know how Julian’s surgery had gone.
“Ms. Fields,” the doctor looked at me gravely. “The surgery was successful.” Although what he was saying was good news, his face did not look happy. I held my breath, waiting for the rest of what he had to say.
“As I said before, the next few days will determine whether your husband will make it. We repaired his broken limbs and reattached muscles and tendons. His will will determine whether he overcomes his other injuries. His condition is still critical, Ms. Fields.”
“I understand. Can I see him?” I did understand. I also knew that Keenan had more strength of will than most men. Like me he’d been through a lot. I was pretty sure that he’d make it.
“You can go to his room soon. The nurses are getting him situated and cleaned up. One of them will come out and let you know.”
I followed the nurse back to Keenan’s room when she finally came out. There was a chair near his bed much like there had been in TJ’s room. I sat in it, but I was too afraid to take Keenan’s hand. I was also too afraid to speak. He looked so fragile. The only sounds I heard were those of the machines monitoring his vital signs and the drip of the IV bag attached to his hand.
“I love you,” I finally murmured. “Please make it through this.”
My head flew around to peer into a darkened corner. I saw two glowing eyes and then she stepped out.
“Poor little Lila. Lost her mother. Lost her first husband. Lost, lost, lost.” Candice was wearing some sort of uniform, and her face appeared to be smudged with dirt or scabbed over—I couldn’t tell in the dim light. It was the first time I had ever seen her in person. Immediately I knew she was completely insane, and I was very afraid.
“What would be worse?” she continued, seemingly talking to herself, “Losing another husband or losing her life?” Candice shook her head. “I bet she’d rather die.”
Candice looked directly at me, her eyes were like fire in her burned face. “Tell me, Lila. Would you die for him?”
“I would.” I said it with conviction.
She let out an insane chuckle. “Of course you would. I would have died for JP, too. And Glenna.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No!” She glared at me, her eyes shining. “I lived. And that was harder.” Candice started playing with the tube connected to Keenan’s hand. I held my breath.
“Do you know how much I have suffered?” She continued. I shook my head. My eyes darted between her face and her hands twisting the tubes.
“I wanted to live forever. But I always thought I’d be living with Glenna. CandiceandGlenna. GlennaandCandice. That’s how it was supposed to be.”
“No one lives forever.”
“I COULD HAVE!” I flinched as Candice’s voice cut through the noises of the machines. In her rage, she seemed to be glowing. I watched in horror as she yanked the tube out of Keenan’s IV. Water and saline dripped onto the floor as she flew with supernatural speed around Keenan’s bed and flung her hand across the monitors smashing them against the wall. The steady beeping stopped.
“Keenan!” I shouted, rushing over to him.
“I’ve decided to kill you both!” Candice howled, grabbing me before I could reach Keenan’s side.
She pulled me up and shook me like a rag doll, and then I felt her teeth against my throat, puncturing, and her mouth drawing my blood from me. The pain was immediate and intense.
Then I felt nothing.